Armenian genocide came before the Holocaust

Next year, 2015, will mark the 100th anniversary of the Turkish genocide in Armenia. Vilnius, the cultural and financial capital of Lithuania, known as Vilna in Yiddish, was run by the Russian tsars until 1914. During the First World War, Vilna was occupied by Germans. At the close of the War, it became the capital of the new free country of Lithuania.

The White House will display a controversial historical artifact known as the Armenian Orphan Rug. The rug was woven by Armenian orphans in the 1920s and presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, in gratitude to the U.S. for aiding Armenians the 1915 genocide, in which 1 million to 1.5 million lost their lives. Armenian groups hope that the display of the artifact, will be accompanied by the official U.S. usage of the term “genocide” in discussion of the atrocities. To date, sensitive relations with modern Turkey have prevented such a designation. The rug was to have been exhibited at a Smithsonian Institution event in December, which was canceled when White House decided against releasing it.

Partisans of Vilna chronicles the 20,000 to 30,000 Lithuanian and Polish Jews who fought in resistance to the holocaust that threatened their city in the early 1940’s. As ethnic cleansing is unfortunately still with us, it is hoped the conversation surrounding this cultural acquisition by the White House, will serve as a reminder that no genocide, whether suffered by Armenians, Native Americans, or Eastern European Jews, should be brushed under the proverbial rug.

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