September 29, 03

Vol. 19 , No. 02   


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Germany and the Secret Genocide: A Documentary Film
J. MICHAEL HAGOPIAN
MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2003

At a time when global issues dominated the political agenda of the world's nations as never before, a regime managed, in the last years of its existence, to perpetrate upon millions of its citizens a program of mass deportation, terrorism, and genocide on a theretofore unrivaled scale. The leaders and their agents who carried out these atrocities did so with astonishingly little intervention-or even, to this day, notice or censure-on the part of other nations. The victims, caught between imperial powers engaged in a world war, were deported to desolate climes, forced into slave labor, and massacred en masse.

Yet it was not Auschwitz or Buchenwald or Dachau or Majdanek or Sobibor that provided the backdrop for this slaughter. Rather, it was in the mountains of Sassun, in the deserts of Mesopotamia and Syria, and in the towns and villages of Asia Minor, that, in 1915, the sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, abetted by an expansionist Germany intent on building a railroad stretching from Berlin to Baghdad, effected its own "ethnic cleansing." In a genocide eerily prefiguring crimes of a generation hence, untold numbers of Armenian men, women, and children perished. (A 1985 United Nations Human Rights Subcommission report put the death toll at "at least one million"-more than half the Armenian population, with the rest being forcibly driven from their homeland.)

Dr. J. Michael Hagopian has dedicated the better part of his life to making documentary films on subjects ranging from environmental devastation to multicultural issues to events of little-known or forgotten history. Among the more than 70 films that he has written, directed, and produced are The Forgotten Genocide (1975) (nominated for two Emmy Awards in production and writing), and a trilogy- of which Germany and the Secret Genocide (2003) is the second film- called The Witnesses. These films involved more than 20 years of research and interviews with 400 survivors-eleven of whom appear in Germany and the Secret Genocide.

Many of Hagopian's earlier films were produced under grants from the U.S. Office of Education and the Ethnic Heritage Program, the California Endowment for the Humanities, and the California State Department of Education. In 1979, Hagopian, who has a doctorate in international relations from Harvard University and a graduate degree in film from USC, established the Armenian Film Foundation, which has produced 13 educational videos and documentary films and gathered a film archive of survivors of the Armenian genocide.

This presentation is cosponsored by the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies and the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights.