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USC Shoah Foundation staff members attend genocide commemoration in Armenia

Somber ceremony includes Russian, French presidents and dignitaries from around the world

USC delegation at Armenian Genocide memorial
Ari Zev, Karen Jungblut, Michael Amerian, Stephen Smith, Heather Maio, Richard Hovannisian and Wolf Gruner, from left, pay their respects at the Armenian Genocide memorial April 24. (USC Photo/Areg Balayan)

A delegation from USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education joined the thousands of people who traveled to the Armenian capital of Yerevan last week to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide.

Paying their respects to the 1.5 million Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks in the genocide that started on April 24, 1915, were USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen Smith, Director of Research Karen Jungblut, Director of Administration Ari Zev, Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research Wolf Gruner and Professor Richard Hovannisian, who started the Armenian Studies program at UCLA and is an adjunct professor at USC, advising USC Shoah Foundation on its new Armenian Genocide testimony collection.

Also joining the USC delegation were Armenian Film Foundation board members Carla Garapedian and Michael Amerian.

Presidential presence

During the ceremony at the Armenian Genocide memorial at Tsitsernakaberd, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President François Hollande spoke to an audience packed with dignitaries from all over the world.

Armenian President Serge Sargisyan handed a bloom of forget-me-not flowers to each dignitary, who then solemnly inserted the bloom into a stand. The delicate blue flower is the symbol of the genocide.

Overlooking central Yerevan, the memorial site was cold and windy. The gloom was pierced by the voices of a children’s choir and a haunting solo by a young boy playing the duduk, an ancient Armenian reed instrument.

After a short mass by Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, a survivor of the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide ended the ceremony with a reminder that we must do all we can to learn from the past and prevent future genocides.

The day ended with a dinner hosted by the Ignatius Foundation, bringing together the USC delegation and officials from the Swiss delegation.

New York observation

On Sunday, Shoah director Smith participated in an event in New York organized to demand that the United States officially recognize the genocide.

We stand here together because we know that if you deny the past, you are powerless in the present. And we refuse to be made powerless.

Stephen Smith

“We stand here together because we know that if you deny the past, you are powerless in the present,” Smith said. “And we refuse to be made powerless.

“If you cannot name genocide a hundred years on, how will you name it today? If you do not have strength to confront the evil of the past, how will you confront the evil of present?”

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USC Shoah Foundation staff members attend genocide commemoration in Armenia

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