LOS ANGELES — “Don’t Let Their Voices Be Forgotten” is the message that the USC Institute of Armenian Studies’ Leadership Council is sending as it invites a cross section of highly respected community leaders and benefactors to a gala banquet on April 15, 2012, in honor of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for championing the Armenian Genocide Digitization Project.
The USC Shoah Foundation Institute, established by Steven Spielberg in 1994, has nearly 52,000 video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust in its Visual History Archive. The Institute is beginning to work with partners around the world to expand its archive with existing and new testimony collections from survivors and witnesses of other genocides. The J. Michael Hagopian/Armenian Film Foundation archive of nearly 400 filmed survivor and eyewitness testimonies will be the first collection in the Armenian Genocide Digitization Project.
Hagopian’s interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses to the Armenian Genocide, filmed around the world, cover the broad landscape of Armenians living in Anatolia (mainly Eastern Turkey) before they were deported and massacred in 1915. The interviews include survivors from Adabazar, Eskisehir, Kharpert, Konia, Sivas, Urfa, Aintab, Marash, Malatia, Dickranagerd, Erzeroum, Van, Bitlis, Smyrna, Erzingan, Musa Dagh, Kessab, Shabin Karahisar, Gurun, Sepastia, Banderma, Yozgat, Everek, Hadjin, Zeitoun, Amassia and Kutahya.
Savey Tufenkian’s, Hacob Shirvanian’s and Kosti Shirvanian’s mother, Verjin Shirvanian, who was from Van, is one of the survivors Hagopian filmed whose voice shall not be forgotten. Flora Dunaians’ aunt Hripsime Kamalian of Banderma is another. Rosemarie and Paul Kalemkiarian Sr’s mother Siran Danelian of Marash is another. Gabriel Aslanian’s grandfather Yervant Derentz of Aintab is another. Lydia and Michael Minassian’s parents, Armenak and Araxie Ajemian, are yet two more voices who shall not be forgotten.
The goal of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies’ Leadership Council is to bring together digital copies of all of the collections of interviews with Armenian Genocide survivors and eyewitnesses, essentially creating what may become the largest archive of Armenian Genocide eyewitness interviews.
In addition to honoring the USC Shoah Foundation Institute on April 15, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies’ Leadership Council will salute the late humanitarian Armin T. Wegner and the late Armenian Film Foundation founder and documentary filmmaker J. Michael Hagopian.
A German with a doctorate in law, Wegner served as a volunteer nurse during World War I. Witnessing the massacre of Armenians in 1915, he took the haunting photographs that today stand as a reminder of the heinous crimes of the Ottoman Turks. His work documenting the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and, subsequently, his open letter to Adolf Hitler denouncing the persecution of the Jews has made him a human rights hero.
Hagopian’s first filmed interview with a witness to the Armenian Genocide was with Wegner, in 1966. That interview is one of the 400 survivor and eyewitness testimonies that will be included in the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive.
The USC Institute of Armenian Studies’ Leadership Council continues to play a primary role in bringing together and enhancing the Armenian community. Ads have been placed in all Armenian community newspapers in Southern California, and invitations and press kits were mailed before the close of February.