BY FLORENCE AVAKIAN
PARAMUS, NJ — Dr. Hilmar Kaiser, the eminent German historian, will present a fascinating lecture on his extensive research into the Humanitarian Resistance to the Armenian Genocide.
The special event sponsored by the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), will take place at the Armenian Presbyterian Church, located at 140 Forest Avenue, Paramus, NJ, on September 6, starting at 7:30 P.M. A reception will follow the lecture.
Hilmar Kaiser was one of the first German historians to delve intimately into the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide. He also was one of the few who did critical research in the Ottoman archives between 1991 and 1995.
In 1996, for political reasons, he was banned from the archives by the Turkish government for ten years. His important research into this material had uncovered crucial details on key points of the Genocide.
This most likely led to him receiving a lifetime ban by the Turkish authorities. It also resulted in international scholars, politicians and Armenians around the globe demanding his readmission to the archives.
The ban against Dr. Kaiser was eventually lifted, and the archives have officially been reopened. However, some collections of the Turkish Prime Minister’s Ottoman archives still remain closed.
Hilmar Kaiser has referred to himself as an “archive digger.”
A noted scholar at Yerevan State University for Armenian Studies, he completed his Ph.D. at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, with his focus on Ottoman Social and Economic History, and Ottoman-German relations.
Regarded as a scholar on the Armenian Genocide, he has conducted research in more than 60 archives which include the Turkish-Ottoman Archives in Istanbul.
Closeness To Armenians
Born in Germany, his family who was Protestant, owned a bakery where an elderly woman who had before worked in hospitals in the Middle East, “was a part of the wider household. In other words, Lepsius and Armenians were known to me way before my 10th birthday,” he said in a short interview.
Living across from a multi-apartment house where most of the apartments were occupied with migrants from Greece and Turkey, he grew up with Middle Eastern food, and often wandered “…into the kitchens of the friendly neighbors. It also meant that my familiarity with Muslims and to some extent Turkish, became a given,” he recalled.
“Since 1982, I visit Turkey and my neighbors there in their hometowns. I saw Van and other formerly Armenian places, including villages with pillaged graveyards, destroyed or converted churches, Armenian irrigation systems, and the like. By that time, I had studied history, and slowly changed to Turkish history.”
September 6 Focus
During his lecture on September 6 at the Armenian Presbyterian Church in Paramus, NJ, Dr. Kaiser will high-light aspects of the relief work and its importance that go beyond the work in Aleppo, Syria. “Once again, I will emphasize its Armenian character which has been lost in discussions of missionary work and the Near East Relief.” In addition, his talk will deal with the Ottoman context.
“In a certain sense, it is setting the record straight, and re-appropriating a piece of Armenian history during the Genocide that has been lost,” he revealed.
Dr. Kaiser pointed out that the AMAA “is the most suitable host for the September 6 talk, as it stands in the tradition of the 1915-1918 humanitarian resistance, and carries on the work in our days which is most needed.”