Commentary: Dr. Vartan Gregorian Speaks at Temple Emmanu-El in NYC - 1992

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Vartan Gregorian Speaks at Temple Emmanu-El in New York City

Commentary by C.K. Garabed

Published in the Armenian Weekly

May 2, 1992

NEW YORK – Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of Brown University, delivered the first Miriam and Henry Goldberg Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, April 29, to an audience of close to 300 people at Leon Lowenstein Auditorium of Congregation Emmanu-El of New York City. The lecture series was established in order to present a series of distinguished scholars addressing significant contemporary moral, social and cultural issues. The subject of Dr. Gregorian’s lecture was “The Assassination of Memory: Historical Revisionism and Amnesia.”

The thrust of Dr. Gregorian’s lecture was that there are forces at work, both in this country and abroad, who attempt to revise 20th century history, particularly as it relates to the subject of Genocide. Dr. Gregorian dwelled mainly on the subject of the Jewish Holocaust and those who deny it. He singled out Bradley Smith, Director of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, who attempted to place paid advertisements in newspapers at major universities, Brown University among them. Dr. Gregorian defended the university’s decision to refuse to accept the ad for publication, on grounds that it contained factual error. On the question of academic freedom, he upheld Smith’s right to hold his views, but that it did not obligate the university to air those views.

Other revisionists specifically singled out for criticism were David Irving of England, Robert Faurisson of France, Carlo Matonio of Italy, and Arthur Butz, Fred Leuchter, and Mark Weber of the United States, along with the California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR). Gregorian gave no indication as to whether or now those he identified as revionists who deny the Jewish Holocaust also deny the Armenian Genocide. The closest he came to approaching the subject was to state that the IHR denies the validity of the infamous quote on the Armenians attributed to Adolf Hitler*.

Although Dr. Gregorian included the Armenian Genocide within the purview of his lecture, he failed to mention historians such as Shaw, McCarthy, and Lowry, who have denied the Armenian Genocide. He did hit home with his criticism of the New York Times for downgrading the Armenian Genocide to the category of “massacre.” Yet, he missed the opportunity to give his audience reason to reflect, by failing to identify as a revisionist the sorry figure of Congressman Stephen Solarz from Brooklyn, himself a Jew and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Commission, who has worked against Congressional resolutions to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, citing certain unnamed historians who have cast serious doubts on the nature of the events that befell the Armenians during and following World War I.

It was apparent that Dr.Gregorian’s lecture was geared to his audience, who for the most part were probably the congregants of the Temple Emmanu-El. The few Armenians that were present must, no doubt, have been disappointed with his performance.

  • Hitler is reported to have said in 1939, “Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?” The statement is often used to illustrate Hitler’s confidence that a genocide could go unpunished, and more specifically, that a German paln to exterminate the Jews could succeed.”