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19 Dic 2018 XX CENTURY: Genocide - Genocide Introduction to the Convention by Michele Wegner

XX CENTURY: Genocide - Genocide
Introduction to the Convention by Michele Wegner,
and biographical notes on Armin T.Wegner
on the occasion of the initiative "XX Century: Genocide - Genocide"
Palazzo Valentini, Roma, 03/05/2000
Why can the Armenian Tragedy touch us so closely? Why can understanding the other tragedy of yesterday can help to avoid our personal tragedy of the domains? Why are the tragedy of the individual and the tragedy of a people determined in the same way?

I had a father whose conscience matured beyond the space of time, because he was an eyewitness to tragic and extraordinary events.

I had to reach full maturity because my profound curiosity of the origins and motivations came out into the open, then becoming a moral commitment in the search for the compression of the future life of my father and with it the historical events that were crossed by him.

Thus, with my father, an intermittent dialogue was born, which plan has formed a mosaic of answers to the aforementioned questions. At a presentation in Pistoia of the exhibition "Armin T. Wegner and the Armenians in Anatolia", a group of young people expressed to me the curiosity to know the why and how of my son so involved in his father's past.

I told them that there was nothing special, but that all the children will have their day, when they became adults footprint will ask parents to ask questions that most of the time will respond Only voice from within, the voice of unconscious memory, handed down to us heredity.

For a long and slow passage of time, in fact, we do not all travel the space of our childhood and youth. Then comes a day when we are surprised to see that something has changed, not suddenly but slowly, without losing consciousness for a long time. As children we became fathers, parents of a new generation.

We are both a son and a father at the same time. We follow a road on which our parents have already passed, and our children will come behind us. However, the distance between them is such that it is no longer possible to call oneself and hear oneself.

And when we can no longer talk to our children about their parents, who have now completed the cycle of their lives, we will realize that many questions will remain unanswered. But there will be many feelings that we will try, as if part of the father and mother continued to live in and through us.

In this connection with our predecessors we will discover the continuity of the inheritance of physical and psychic resemblance, but even more the intellectual belonging and traditions that characterize the family, the family clan, then the lineage and with it the language and the nation.

The destruction of this belonging has been, over the centuries, the true great tragedy that has united men from their earliest times to this day. The men as a whole, in the becoming and the end of the individual, determine the rise of a nation and later its sunset.

When the sunset occurs due to violent destruction by another culture, the tragedy is collective. This tragedy of losing the identification with something that characterizes us as belonging to a well-defined community, like an umbilical cut that involves the death of the individual first and then the community, is the tragedy of genocide. Genocide does not destroy only living beings, but even worse their history, their memory, traditions and customs, those particularities that make the very existence of humanity so rich.

This drama, as mentioned, has accompanied humanity since its emergence, but if on one side it has destroyed, from that same ashes it has also gushed forth new life, new fervor and new creativity. Convincing of these certainties helps to act and to act from that part of the collective conscience that is committed to avoiding new abuses and destruction of individuals, and acts preventively, because it has matured the conviction of the bond that integrates and unites the destiny of the individual making the destiny of the nations.


Armin Theophil Wegner was born in Wuppertal, Germany in 1886 and died in Rome in 1978. A lawyer, writer, poet deeply struck by the tragedy of the Armenian people who had been eyewitnesses in Ottoman Turkey, he devoted much of his life to battle for human rights and its literary and poetic commitment to the search for truth about oneself and men.

At the outbreak of the First World War, in the framework of the military alliance between Germany and Turkey (the Young Turk government), he was sent to the Middle East as a member of the German health service in the wake of General Von Der Goltz, in the Mesopotamian campaign of 1915 - 1916.

Wegner, passing through Asia Minor, is witness to the genocide of the Armenian people, the first "ethnic cleansing" of the twentieth century. Eluding the strict ordinances and bans of the Turkish and German authorities, he shoots hundreds of photographs in the camps of deportees, collects letters of petition he tries to deliver to the embassies, sends letters to Germany, writes diaries, collects notes and notations, succeeding in getting of material in Germany and the United States.

He discovered his clandestine activity, was expelled from Turkey and recalled to Germany in November 1916. He took with him, hidden under his belt, the photographic plates of the genocide of the Armenian people to which he had witnessed impotent.

In Germany he intensely works to spread the tragedy of the Armenians. Organize conferences to debates; publishes the letters sent to his mother and friends from the desert of Dier es Zor in the book entitled "the way without return. A martyrdom in letters ".

In 1919 he sends an open letter to US President Woodrow Wilson, in which he denounces the extermination of the Armenian nation and hopes for a homeland for the survivors. In 1933, in the aftermath of the lockout against the Jews, he directed Adolf Hitler a letter of protest against the regime's anti-Jewish and anti-human behavior.

He is arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and incarcerated. Freed, after several wanderings, he took refuge between 1936 and 1937 in Italy, in Postano. He will live in our country, in Rome and Stromboli, until the end of his days, trying to continue his work as a writer, but without ever being able to adapt to his condition as an exile.

Wegner has married twice, had two sons, Sibyl and Misha, still alive.
Only in 1965, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the press discovered its photographic documentation. His role as a witness to the Armenian genocide and defender of the rights of peoples, Armenians and Jews is finally recognized internationally.

In 1968 he was pursued by the title of "Just" from Yad Vashen in Israel and the Order of St. Gregory, in Yerevan, the capital of Caucasian Armenia, where a street bears his name. Here in 1996, its ashes were buried in the wall of memory, in "Tsitsernakaberd", the "hill of the swallows", where stands the Monument to the Genocide of the Armenians.

Armin T. Wegner died in Rome at the age of 92, on May 17, 1978. In Stromboli, on the ceiling of the tower's work room these words are engraved: "We have been entrusted with the task of working on a piece of art , but we can not complete it ".

Essential bibliography on the theme of the Armenian people's genocide
"Guerini" series of Armenian cards
AA.VV., "Armin T. Wegner and the Armenians in Anatolia, 1915. Images and testimonies" (catalog of the exhibition with photographs by Wegner), Guerini, Milan, 1996
F. Amabile, M. Tosati, "The True History del Mussa Dagh ", Guerini, Mi, 2003
A. Arslan, L. Pisanello," Husher, Italian Voices of Armenian Survivors ", Guerini, Mi, 2000
A. Bakunts" Tales from Silence "Guerini, Milan, 2002
D. Dedeyan ( edited by): "History of the Armenians", Guerini, Milan, 2002
A. Ferrerai: "The Wars of David Beck", Guerini, Milan, 1997
M. Impagliazzo, "A window on the massacre", Guerini, Milan, 2000
C Mutafian: "Metz Yeghern, short history of the genocide of the Armenians", Guerini Mi, 1997
P. Kuciukian: "The lands of Nairi, Journey in armenia", Guerini Mi, 1994
P. Kuciukian: "Journey among the Christians of the East", Guerini Mi, 1997
P. Kuciukian: "Dispers, Journey among the Armenian communities in the world", Guerini Mi, 1998
P. Kuciukian: "voices in the desert. Righteous and witnesses for the Armenians ", Guerini Mi, 2000
A. Ricardi:" Mediterraneo "(Vatican archives on the genocide) Guerini, Mi, 1997
D. Varujan:" The song of bread "(poems), Guerini, Mi, 1992, edited by A. Arslan
B.L. Zekiyan: "Armenia and the Armenians", Guerini, Mi, 2000