Watertown remembers what the ADL chooses to forget

Watertown remembers what the ADL chooses to forget

By Joe Fitzgerald
Boston Herald Columnist
Monday, August 20, 2007 – Updated: 12:16 AM EST

If ever there was an organization unworthy of its heritage, it has
to be the Anti-Defamation League, founded more than 90 years ago to
root out the kind of blind hatred that eventually led to the

If any governing body has become an embarrassment to its
forebears, it has to be those ADL grand pooh-bahs to whom the deaths
of 1.5 million Armenians is not that big a deal, at least not big
enough to be regarded by them as one of history’s most infamous acts
of genocide.

The cruel irony is inescapable. If any group ought to be sensitive to
the trauma inflicted by revisionists who’d deny the legitimacy of
someone else’s horror, you would think it would be the descendants of
those whose dying plea was, `Never forget!’

Yet the ADL will not acknowledge a genocide took place, which is
why the town fathers of Watertown, home to 8,000 Armenians, chose not
to be honored as one of its No Place For Hate communities. Who can
blame them? As the adage puts it, the friend of my enemy is my enemy.

Faithful Armenians, not unlike faithful Jews, feel an inherent
responsibility to be keepers of a flame, living reminders of real
events and of lives extinguished during the course of those events.

When asked why he relentlessly pursued Nazi war criminals into his
90s, Simon Wiesenthal, who lost 89 relatives to the evils of the Third
Reich, replied, `It’s a debt we, the living, owe to the dead; if we
forget, it will be as if they died again.’

How can the ADL not understand that, especially when personal
testimonies abound?

`I can still see my mother crying,’ Medford’s John Baronian
recalled here two years ago on the 90th anniversary of the Armenian

`She would try to hide it, but we’d catch her crying all the time,
and whenever she’d try to talk about it she’d break down and cry
again, unable to continue. She could still hear the voices of those
little kids, the sisters and brother I never knew, pleading for
something to eat or drink as they died in her arms out there in the

She and John’s father lived in Turkey in a place called Harput.

`He was a farmer,’ Baronian recalled. `Armenians had lived there
for centuries. When the genocide began, the Turks were immediately
brutal. Women were beaten and raped by Turkish soldiers while men
were hanged in the square or shot in the woods, just for being
Armenians. That was all the reason the Turks needed.

`Then came the death march. That’s what we call it, though the
Turks called it a relocation march, which was ridiculous because
thousands were forced into the Der El Zor desert with no food, no
water, no nothing.

`My mother was among them with my sisters, Helen and Azadouhi, and
my brother, Sirak, all under 5. All around her, decent people were
dying needlessly while her own children kept crying from hunger and
thirst until they died, too. My poor mother would hear those cries
every day for the rest of her life.’

By Wiesenthal’s reasoning, the ADL would have them die again,
which is almost unfathomable, given its mission to combat hatred,
particularly anti-Semitism.

`Just before he began slaughtering Jews, Hitler asked, `Who
remembers what happened to the Armenians?’ ‘ Baronian said. `In other
words, people will eventually forget whatever you do. What a
devastating comment. I can assure you, all around the world Armenians
have never forgotten.

`And that’s why I tell the story. God forbid anyone forgets.’

The people of Watertown obviously haven’t forgotten.

Good for them.

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