Day 28 of 30 Days of Testimony: Chris Bohjalian on the testimony of Elsie Taft

In some ways, the one minute we spend with Elsie Hagopian Taft – 56 seconds, to be precise – is a wrenching primer on the Armenian Genocide. It is a poignant and powerful evocation of an innermost ring of Dante’s inferno, and a courageous explanation of why the Armenian Genocide matters today.

There is the chilling foreshadow of the Holocaust: “The worst place I can remember. The people were separated into two groups,” Elsie recalls. The Armenian Auschwitz, Der-el-Zor, is the final destination for those who can’t work. There is the dehumanization and the cavalier disregard for human life. There are the burning bodies.

As we know, there is a direct link between the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian killing fields, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. (As I once heard a scholar observe, impunity begets impunity.)

Elise’s story matters because Turkey does not acknowledge the Genocide.

Her story matters because – to quote Pope Francis in his April 2015 Mass in which he courageously called the slaughter “genocide” – “concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding.” It is a psychic trauma, and the cure begins with recognition.

And her story matters because the world is a better place when we stand up against violence and villainy; when we put righteousness before realpolitik; and when we honor our ancestors whose voices were forever stilled. As Elie Wiesel said, “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

Author: Chris Bohjalian, New York Times Bestselling Author of "The Sandcastle Girls”