In the below photo, Armin Wegner (October 16, 1886 – May 17, 1978) is on his knees in the Armenian Genocide memorial complex in Yerevan. It was 1965, and he was 79 years old.
At a young age, after defending his dissertation on law in Germany, Armin Wegner decided to enter military service as a physician. It would seem like a strange choice for an aspiring young scientist, but this profession promised frequent travel, which he was striving for.
Young and curious, often doing writing and photography, Wegner said:
“I wanted to be the master of my destiny. I had to see Baghdad, the Tigris River, Mosul, Babylon… This is my absolutely conscious choice to be a soldier. For the cause of my soul, I put my life on the line…”
However, Wegner nonetheless distinguished himself on the battlefield, was awarded the Iron Cross “for helping the wounded under fire”, and received the rank of second lieutenant.
The command proudly sent the excellent student to the German medical corps in the Ottoman Empire. By the will of fate, his squad was deployed along the railway in Syria, not far from the famous Deir ez-Zor desert – the final destination of the exiled Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.
Wegner became an eyewitness to the Armenian Genocide. And not only he – his camera, which fixed the atrocities of Turkish soldiers, would become the main weapon in the struggle of Armenians for their rights. The photos taken by Wegner are considered the strongest evidence of the Genocide.
Such activity, of course, wasn’t left out of the attention of the Turks. They used their influence on the allies – namely, the German command – and had Wegner arrested and sent back to Germany. The Turks also confiscated and destroyed all, as it seemed to them, photographic materials. However, Wegner managed to hide many negatives in his belt.
With this, the story just began.
In Germany, Wegner initiated a public-wide condemnation of the actions of the Ottoman Turkish government towards the Armenians, developed documents, wrote letters, and created literary works on the Genocide.
Wegner even managed to become one of the so-called “righteous people of the world” for his heroism in the fight against German fascism. He also addressed Adolf Hitler with a proposal to “save Germany from the greatest injustice and shame, for which it was necessary to stop the persecution of the Jews.” Wegner was himself persecuted in Germany, but he would manage to escape to Italy.
One of Wegner’s letters, containing a call for the independence of the Armenian state, was addressed to US President Woodrow Wilson just at the time of the Paris Peace Conference, at which Wilson was an informal leader.
History is silent about the degree of influence of this appeal on the subsequent actions of the president, but the famous Treaty of Sevres, which became a final point in WWI, implied the passing of historical Armenian territories to independent Armenia. This wouldn’t happen, but this is a completely different story.