Armin T. Wegner
Posted 08 November 2006 - 12:08 PM
Armin T. Wegner, whose photographic collection documents conditions in Armenian deportation camps in 1915-1916, was born in Germany in 1886. At the outbreak of World War I, he enrolled as a volunteer nurse in Poland during the winter of 1914-1915, and was decorated with the Iron Cross for assisting the wounded under fire. In April 1915, following the military alliance of Germany and Turkey, he was sent to the Middle East as a member of the German Sanitary Corps. Between July and August, he used his leave to investigate the rumors about the Armenian massacres that had reached him from several sources. In the autumn of the same year, with the rank of second-lieutenant in the retinue of Field Marshal Von der Goltz, commander of the 6th Ottoman army in Turkey, he traveled through Asia Minor.
Eluding the strict orders of the Turkish and German authorities (intended to prevent the spread of news, information, correspondence, visual evidence), Wegner collected notes, annotations, documents, letters and took hundreds of photographs in the Armenian deportation camps. With the help of foreign consulates and embassies of other countries, he was able to send some of this material to Germany and the United States. His clandestine mail routes were discovered and Wegner was arrested by the Germans at the request of the Turkish Command-and was put to serve in the cholera wards. Having fallen seriously ill, he left Baghdad for Constantinople in November 1916. Hidden in his belt were his photographic plates and those of other German officers with images of the Armenian Genocide to which he had been a witness. In December of the same year he was recalled to Germany.
Wegner was deeply moved by the tragedy of the Armenian people to which he had been eyewitness in Ottoman Turkey. Between 1918 and 1921, he became an active member of pacifist and anti-military movements while dedicating his literary and poetic output to the search for the truth about himself and his fellow man. On February 23, 1919, Wegner's "Open Letter to President Wilson" appealing for the creation of an independent Armenian state was published in Berliner Tageblatt.
A man of conscience who protested his country's responsibilities in the Armenian Genocide, Wegner was also one of the earliest voices to protest Hitler's treatment of the Jews in Germany. He dedicated a great part of his life to the fight for Armenian and Jewish human rights.
In 1968 he received an invitation to Armenia from the Catholicos of All Armenians and was awarded with the Order of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.
Armin Wegner died in Rome at the age of 92 on May 17, 1978.
Posted 08 November 2006 - 12:10 PM
Armin T. Wegner, the only writer in Nazi Germany ever to raise his voice in public against the persecution of the Jews, was born on October 16, 1886 in the town of Elberfeld/Rhineland (today part of Wuppertal). He was the scion of an old aristocratic Prussian family, with roots reaching back to the time of the Crusades.
After receiving his doctorate in law, the young Wegner tried his hand successively at being (in his own words) a “farmer, dock-worker, student of drama (with Max Reinhardt), private tutor, editor, public speaker, lover and idler, filled with a deep desire for unraveling the mystery of things.” Already at sixteen, he published his first book of poetry, I Have Never Been Older than as a Sixteen-year-old. Between 1909 and 1913, he wrote his cycle of poems, divided into five, Face of the Cities (Antlitz der Städte), which established his reputation as one of the promising pre-expressionist poets. However, the real driving force of his life was a burning moral passion, an unfailing commitment to the causes of justice and humanity, which made him raise his voice whenever he saw these values betrayed or traduced.
The history of the twentieth century provided Wegner with plenty of opportunity to speak out against evil and injustice. On the road to Baghdad in the spring of 1915, serving as an ensign on the staff of German Fieldmarshal von der Golz, he could observe first hand some of the worst atrocities perpetrated by the Turkish army against the Armenian people. The horrendous scenes of dead and emaciated people that he had witnessed in the Armenian refugee camps—visible proof of the first systematic genocide of the twentieth century—continued to haunt him long after. He protested against them in his Road of No Return: a Martyrdom in Letters and in an open letter, which was submitted to American President Woodrow Wilson at the peace conference of 1919.
In the 1920s Wegner reached the height of his success as a writer. He became a celebrity with his Russian book, Five Fingers Over You, which foresaw the advent of Stalinism; his travel book, At the Crossroads of the World, sold over 200,000 copies.
In April 1933, he sacrificed it all—his German home, his well-being, his liberty– because he could not bear to be party to the complicity of silence that surrounded the persecution of the Jews in the Third Reich. Wegner’s open letter (“Sendschreiben”) to Hitler was written a few days after April 1, 1933, the date of the general, state-organized boycott against the Jews of Germany. Since no German paper would publish it, Wegner sent the “letter” to the “Brown House” (the headquarters of the Nazi party) in Munich, with the request that it be forwarded to Hitler. The six-page letter—originally titled “For Germany”—constituted an eloquent panegyric on the historical greatness of the Jewish people and their immeasurable contribution to human civilization at large and to Germany in particular. It warned that a continuation of the antisemitic campaign was bound to bring disgrace upon the German people.
The receipt of the letter was acknowledged by the head of the chancellery, Martin Bormann, with the remark that it “would be laid before the Führer shortly.” Instead of an answer, Wegner was arrested a few days later by Gestapo thugs in Berlin and thrown into the dungeons of the infamous Columbia House, where he was tortured and brutalized until he lost consciousness. He would suffer incarceration in seven Nazi concentration camps and prisons before he could make his escape to Italy. After that, he could never again bear to live in Germany and remained in exile for the rest of his long life. He died in Rome in 1978, virtually forgotten by his own people. His obituary gravestone carries the following Latin lines:
Amavi iustitiam odi iniquitatem
Propterea morior in exsilio
(“I loved justice and hated injustice Therefore I die in exile” - lines attributed to Pope Gregory VII as he lay on his deathbed in 1085 A.D.)
On May 23, 1967, Yad Vashem decided to recognize Armin Wegner as Righteous Among the Nations.
Posted 12 November 2006 - 04:30 AM
On November 5, after the recent events in France, another anti-Armenian manifestation was held at a theatre in Milan where an exhibition on the Armenian Genocide was displayed. Jean Eskian from Paris informed that a young Turk Nouri Bastug rushed into the exhibition hall and uttering curses in Turkish, began smashing the exhibited pictures and the books on the Armenian Genocide. The Turk received Italian citizenship only a year ago. The police acted swiftly and the Turk was soon arrested. Pietro Kouchikian, organizer of the exhibition, stated that he doesn’t know whether the Turk acted on his own or was a member of a group.
Posted 05 November 2014 - 12:49 PM
NEW HISTORICAL NOVEL ON ARMIN T. WEGNER LAUNCHED AT FRANKFURT INTERNATIONAL BOOK FAIR
By Contributor on November 4, 2014
By Dorothy Garabedian
Armin T. Wegner was a German intellectual, writer, photographer, Dr.
of Law and, above all, a defender of human rights. He is best known to
Armenians as the man who provided a large cache of visual documentary
proof of the Armenian Genocide through his photographs and detailed
The cover of Die Armenierin (The Armenian Woman)
In Germany, at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, which takes place
every October, a new book was launched by the publishing company,
Salon Literatur Verlag, about one part of the extraordinary life of
Armin T. Wegner. The author, Thomas Hartwig, is a prominent writer,
lecturer, and film and television director. Hartwig and his publisher,
Franz Westner, were special guests of the Armenian community of
Frankfurt for their annual literary program on Oct. 11.
Hartwig read excerpts from his book, explained how it came to light,
and answered questions. Westner also spoke and answered questions.
The book, entitled Die Armenierin (The Armenian Woman), is a stirring
historical novel about Wegner during the two years he spent serving
as a medic in Anatolia from 1915-17. He was attracted to the Orient
and signed up as a volunteer with the German Sanitary Corps. Before
his very eyes, he saw a horrific holocaust unfold. And although the
Ottoman and German governments were trying to keep information on
the atrocities and the mass expulsion of Christian ethnic groups from
seeping out, Wegner--thanks to his courage and convictions--documented
in photographs and writings what he was witnessing, and smuggled
In Die Armenierin, the story of the Armenian Genocide is depicted
in detail, with plenty of documentary proof, and revolves around
a developing love between Wegner and a young woman named Anush
Tokatliyan.* Their story begins when they meet at a ball in the
shimmering capital of Constantinople. Tumult, deportations, and
killings soon follow.
Hartwig became interested in the Armenian Genocide in the 1980's while
he was doing documentary research for another film that led him to
Lola Landau, Wegner's first wife. He interviewed her in Israel, where
she had lived since the 1930's (then Palestine). She, in turn, was
insistent that Hartwig read Wegner's works on the Armenian Genocide.
He followed her advice. The more he read, the deeper his interest
grew. He wanted to know more.
Hartwig spent several years researching the subject, including in
archives in Syria and Turkey. His intent was to make a film, yet
found that raising funds for the project was next to impossible. After
interviewing Wegner's children, he decided to write a book instead,
which also took a few years. Eventually he found a good publisher
who was drawn into the narrative and wanted excerpts. More and more
excerpts were requested until the manuscript turned into an 800-page
When asked what motivated him to persevere the lengthy project,
Hartwig said he was deeply moved by Wegner's steadfast moral
conscientiousness throughout his life and how he confronted the
destructive powers of his time. His pacifism and staunch defense of
human rights never faltered. The Armenian Genocide profoundly affected
Wegner for the rest of his life. He wrote a passionate plea, in vain,
to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. A few years later, he saw the same
thing happening in his own country with the Jewish Holocaust. He stood
steadfastly against Nazi policies and also wrote a passionate plea to
Adolf Hitler. That only landed him in a prison camp for several months.
This is the centenary of the start of World War I. Commemorations
throughout Europe are evident, through many new documentary films,
books, discussions, and exhibits. The public is being reminded of this
devastating Great War that changed the face of the earth. Hundreds
of millions of people died or were left severely wounded, left
without family, destitute; cities and towns were destroyed, and four
centuries-old empires crashed. The soldiers and civilians who lived
through this era may be dead, but the devastating and far-reaching
consequences of this war are very much alive as international events
today are proving: They are eerily similar. This book could not have
come out at a more appropriate time.
*There actually was a love story; however, the object of Wegner's
affections was a Greek woman.
Die Armenierin by Thomas Hartwig (in the German language) is
Frankfurt International Book Fair
Every year for one week in mid-October, Frankfurt am Main is buzzing
with literary activity. About 300,000 visitors and some 7,000
exhibitors from more than 100 countries around the globe pour into
the city for the largest and most important trade fair for books in
the world. The first three days are for trade only; the last two are
open to the public.
This is where the industry worldwide gathers to make deals, launch
books, and network--from publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians,
academics, authors, translators, antiquarians, illustrators, film
producers, and every aspect concerning the business of books and
multi-media. Forums, conferences, and special programs take place
throughout the week and the literary activity spills out into the
local cafes, bars, and restaurants. Local community organizations
sponsor special literary programs with guest authors in town, and
the Armenian community of Frankfurt is one of them.
The Republic of Armenia usually occupies a miniscule stand with
limited material. On the first open day for the public, a Saturday,
the local Armenian community hosts a reception at the stand to welcome
visitors. Later a literary evening takes place at their center.
The history of the Frankfurt Book Fair dates back more than 500 years
after Johannes Gutenberg developed printing in movable letters in
Mainz near Frankfurt. The fair was a local event until the late 17th
century, when it became the most important book fair in Europe. For
a while Leipzig became the center for the book fair, but Frankfurt
retook its place again after World War II. To learn more, visit
www.buchmesse.de or www.gutenberg.de.
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