The Mount Davidson Cross serves as a memorial to the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Under cover of World War I, the Young Turk government embarked on the systematic extermination of its Armenian citizens, resulting in the elimination of the Armenian people from its ancient homeland of several millennia.
Each year on April 24th, Armenians worldwide commemorate those who perished in the Armenian Genocide. Bay Area Armenians gather at the Mt. Davidson Cross, which is lit not only to remember the victims, but also to symbolize the resolve of the Armenian-American community to win official recognition of the genocide.
History of the Armenian Genocide
With the outbreak of war in 1914, the Turkish government took steps to implement a racist, pan-Turkic ideology that envisioned a greater Turkish state linking Ottoman Turkey to Turkic lands in the Caucasus and Central Asia - from which Ottoman Turks had come hundreds of years earlier in a series of invasions. The historic Armenian homeland, with its large Armenian population, lay between, and thus served as a serious obstacle to a homogenous Turkish state. A decision was taken, therefore, to annihilate the Armenians.
Armenian males, from teens to men of 46, were drafted into the army and segregated into labor battalions before being taken aside and killed. On April 24, 1915, several hundred Armenian community leaders and intellectuals were arrested in the capital, exiled to the interior, and murdered. Thus deprived of its leadership and men, the remaining Armenian population was deported from their homes and forced on death marches to the Syrian desert. The Turkish government emptied its prisons to create mobile death squads (known as “The Special Organization”) to help attack and kill the deportees. Women, children, and the elderly were starved, raped, tortured and mutilated before being massacred by the hundreds of thousands. In all, an estimated 1,500,000 Armenians were murdered in what U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau called “a campaign of race extermination.”
Exiled from their homeland, survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their descendants are today scattered around the world. Western Armenia (today’s eastern Turkey) has been depopulated of its native Armenian inhabitants, and their cultural monuments, schools, churches and homes have largely been destroyed. (Eastern Armenia, which was under Russian control, survives as the Republic of Armenia, comprising only about a tenth of historical Armenia.) Unlike Germany, which made substantial reparations for the Holocaust, Turkey today denies having committed genocide, while benefiting from the stolen land, property, businesses, and wealth of the Armenians. By engaging in denial, the last stage of genocide according to scholars, the Republic of Turkey perpetuates this deadly legacy. Sadly, a multi-million dollar campaign of genocide denial and threats (see link to “State of Denial”) has thus far resulted in the failure of the United States government to join over forty American states and twenty countries in formally affirming the Armenian Genocide.