INTRODUCTION and TEACHING GUIDE for the 25 minute documentary


World War I and the Armenian Genocide

The history of the Armenian Genocide is just as critical to the teaching of World War I as the Holocaust is to the teaching of WWII. The treatment of the Ottoman Armenians was the most significant human rights crisis to have occurred during the war. My Mother’s Voice is a moving account of the Armenian Genocide through the poignant story of a teenage Armenian girl faced with unimaginable life-choices and brings an epic chapter in Armenian history to life. Her voice is that of all the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide...a story that must not be forgotten.

National Center for History in the Schools Standards

Standard 2 Era 8: A Half-Century of Crisis and Achievement 1900-1945

The Causes and global consequences of World War I

Standard 2A: The student understands the causes of World War I:

The student should analyze the degree to which class and other social conflicts in Europe contributed to the outbreak of war.

Standard 2B: The student understands the global scope, outcome, and human costs of the war.

The student needs to analyze the role of nationalism and propaganda in mobilizing civilian populations in support of “total war.”

The student should understand how the Ottoman leadership used that nationalism and the war to commit genocide against its Ottoman Armenian population.

Aftermath of WWI and its lasting impact:

Overview of WWI and its relation to current events:

1. Discuss the global scope of the war and its effect of partitioning the Ottoman Empire?

2. The British and French occupied the territories that became Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The problems in today’s Middle East are the direct result of the of creating artificial borders and introducing new countries by the victorious Allies from World War I whose eyes centered on oil and divided the lands so not one Arab country would control the oil. Unfortunately they never understood the Middle Eastern mentality and its tribal heritage. Today genocide is taking place in those lands as these tribal forces (ISIL) are attempting to claim historic lands they feel belong to them. Students should analyze the cultural and religious divisions in those countries relative to ethnic and ideological conflicts.

3. Student discussions as to how the resulting settlement of those territories fostered the instability that triggered the source of conflicts today in the Middle East.

California Content State Standards-History/Social Science

10th Grade World History: Content Standard 10.5.5:

The course of the First World War should include the Ottoman government’s human rights actions against its Armenian citizens.

Teaching tools and strategies:

1. Power Point Presentation:

Twenty-three slides give a historical overview of the Armenian genocide.

Notes are in the normal view. Email for power point slides.

2. Presentation of the 25 minute film: Prior to showing the video, Teachers may want to present the following questions. Then after viewing the film students can discuss these questions in small groups.

· What were the most memorable images in the video?

· What things did the film make you think about?

· Why did so many people die during the forced deportation to Syria?

· Did the film make you think about the Holocaust in WWII? Why?

· Could you relate to 14 year old Flora?

· How do you think you would have reacted if you were in Flora’s situation?

California State Standards-English Language Arts

Common Core Objectives:


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly. Students must use critical thinking to interpret, analyze and evaluate the following:

  1. My Mother’s Voice is a moving account of the Armenian genocide through the personal story of Flora, a 14 year-old-girl forced to make unimaginable life choices and her story is a reflection of the Holocaust story of Anne Frank. After viewing the film students can meet in groups and compare the story of Anne Frank to Flora’s story. A writing assignment could be a comparison both girls, particularly their similarities by structuring and supporting them with relevant examples.

  1. Teachers can open a discussion by asking students if the film MY MOTHER’S VOICE is neutral or takes a particular position. Students can meet in groups to structure arguments, support them with precise examples, choose two groups to debate and those not debating can challenge their opposing arguments. Each student should write their observation and point of view of the debate as if they are writing an opinion piece for their school paper.

  1. Are human rights universal? How did the film make students think about family and war and how they would have reacted if they had been in a similar deportation situation? Are there lessons to be learned? What role does jingoism play in war and how does it affect the dignity of the individual? Can advanced thinking marginalize that xenophobia? A writing assignment specifies students to choose one of these questions, structure their ideas and arguments and demonstrate their understanding of the topic.

  1. In the struggle of memory against forgetting, the history of the Armenian Genocide is just as critical in the teaching of World War I as is the profound teaching of the Holocaust during WWII. Students can meet in groups of four to analyze and develop a line of reasoning about the Armenian genocide becoming the template for the Holocaust. The perpetrators of the Armenian genocide were never held accountable for their actions, and Adolf Hitler in a speech to his commanders in 1939 said, Who, after all, speaks today of the extermination of the Armenians. Students can choose to write a paper defending or negating the German reasoning and discuss the probability that Hitler felt his actions against the Jews would also not be questioned.

Since the early 1800’s, American missionaries were everywhere in the Ottoman Empire. They owned and directed 1000 primary schools, 46 high schools, 6 colleges, 6 seminaries, 1 university, and 13 hospitals. Their greatest allegiance was to the Ottoman Armenian community. What was the global response to the Armenian Genocide in America? What role did American missionaries and their Near East Relief play in rescuing and educating Armenian orphans? Research the Near East Association, their missionaries in the Ottoman Empire before WWI, and how and where the Near East Association is concentrated today. Students can learn more about this first world humanitarian project in response to the Armenian genocide through the link for the Near East online museum.


Ambassador Henry Morgenthau: (1856-1946) The U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian genocide. Morgenthau sent reports to Washington D.C. that “a carefully planned scheme to thoroughly extinguish the Armenian race…a campaign of race extermination is in progress.”

Genocide: The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political or ethnic group…ancient Greek-genos (race or tribe) and the Latin-cide (killing). The word was coined by Rapael Lemkin in 1944 (The United Nations Convention of the Prevention and of the Crime of genocide describes genocide as

“acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”)

Nationalism- Loyalty and devotion to a nation, especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

Ottoman Empire-An empire which lasted from 1453-1922 ruled by Seljuk Turks in South East Asia. At its height, the Empire stretched from Eastern Europe to North Africa. The Empire ended with the formation of modern turkey.

“Turkification”- The process of destroying cultures of non-Turkic origin within the Ottoman Empire during the final years of the Ottoman Empire and the early years of modern Turkey.

Xenophobia-fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.

Exterminate-to remove or eliminate something completely by killing it at its roots or source.

Jingoism-patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy. Jingoism also refers to a country’s advocacy for the use of threats or actual force, as opposed to peaceful relations, in efforts to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests.

Massacre- to kill a large number of people violently, indiscriminately, and without due cause. The term is cited regularly in connection with acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Deportee-a person who has been ordered to leave his or her homeland by government authorities or an occupying power.

Diaspora-The dispersion or “breaking up” of a group of people, causing them to settle far from their ancestral home or lands they have inhabited for a period of time.

Near East Relief-a US-based aid organization based on the Protestant philanthropic tradition, founded in 1915 in response to the dire humanitarian crisis caused by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. It was previously known as The American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief.

Talaat Pasha: (1847-1921) The principal architect of the Armenian Genocide. In 1909 he was appointed Minister of the Interior and then by 1913 Secretary General.

After the genocide, Talaat fled to Germany and in 1921 was murdered by an Armenian who lost his family to the genocide.

Sultan: The title of a ruler or king of a Muslim state. It was the title used for leaders of the Ottoman Empire.


1. 1914-start of World War I

2. 1915, April 24th-300 Armenian writer, leaders, and professionals are deported and killed. The date is remembered as Armenian Genocide Day today.

3. 1915-1916-Armenian “death march” to Deir-ez-Zor thousands die along that way and are executed.

4. 1918-End of World War I

More Activities

1. Geography-using an outline historic atlas and modern atlas ask students to complete the following activities:

On an outline map of the Europe and the Middle East locate the following:

a. Armenia

b. Turkey

c. Syria

d. Yerevan

On the same outline map draw in:

a. The Ottoman Empire

b. Ancient Armenia

On the same outline map draw the route from Hadjin to Deir-ez-Zor.

2. Ask the students to write an editorial why the Allied Nations in World War I (France and England) must come to the aid of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Students should give ethical and strategic reasons for such action. (The US was not yet in the war at the time of the genocide)

3. Ask the students to interview an Armenian American, if possible, or even a descendent of one who immigrated to the United States. Ask that individual if the Armenian genocide had an effect upon them as they were growing up and their present attitude about living in the United States. If there are no Armenians in their area they could interview anyone they know…a relative, neighbor, or even a teacher. The interview should include questions that cover why the person left their nation of origin, why the person chose to live the United States, what sacrifices did he or she have to make in order to move, and what problems did he or she face in adjusting to life in a new country?

4. Ask the students to read the United Nations Convention on Genocide that passed after World War II. Conduct a class discussion about the following: Would such an agreement have helped the Armenians in 1915? Today, should the United Nations send troops into nations violating this agreement? Should the United States allow refugees from nations experiencing genocide to come to this country?

(Online sources for this assignment)

SIX HANDOUTS (Listed Below):

a. Ask students to read Handout #1 and answer the following question: According to Viscount Bryce, how were Armenians in pre-war Ottoman Empire treated?

Have the students make a graphic organizer showing how the attitudes associated with of nationalism and imperialism might have led to genocide.

b. Ask students to read Handout #2 and answer the following questions:

§ What could American citizens do to support the resolution against the Armenian genocide?

§ Why would the government of the United States be reluctant to intervene militarily in May of 1915?

c. Ask students to read Handout #3 and answer the following questions:

§ What is Saroyan telling us about the Armenian people?

§ What other ethnic groups have survived genocides in the past?

What groups in the world today are facing genocide?

d. Ask students to read Handout #4 and answer the following questions?

§ Why did Germany not want to “interfere in the affairs of Turkey?”

§ How did the US Congress in 1915 feel about entering the war in Europe? How would their attitude affect President Wilson’s policy regarding the Armenian genocide?

e. Ask students to read Handout #5 and complete this assignment:

Create a Cause and Effect graphic organizer that shows how the Armenian Genocide, and the U.S. and global response, might have led Hitler to the Holocaust during WWII.

f. Letter describing the river running red for student review.

Ask students to write an op-ed piece about the brutality of man with the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi: "Must man always be brute first and man after, if at all?

Websites about the Armenian Genocide

Armenian Genocide Resource Library for Teachers-

Excellent link to resources for teachers: Includes documents, map, photos and newspaper accounts.

Armenian Education Center

Armenian National Institute

Great link to documents, maps and videos dealing with the Armenian Genocide (direct link to 194 New York Time articles written between 1915-1922)

Armenian Genocide Contemporary Articles

Very useful compilation of articles written during the Armenian Genocide

The Forgotten (

The information on the site is brief and dynamically displayed.

The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute: the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia:

Genocide 1915: Armenian Genocide Information:

BOOKS Recommended:

The first two books are specifically designed for Teachers: The third book is written by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. the American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-1916. The others are mostly personal stories from survivors.

1. Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians

By Facing History and Ourselves

2. The Armenian Genocide: 1915-1923: A Handbook for Students and Teachers

By Simon Payaslian

3. Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story: A Personal Account of the Armenian Genocide by Henry Morgenthau

4. My Mother’s Voice: Oral history of a teenage girl by Kay Mouradia

5. Vergeen: A young survivor of the Armenian Genocide by Mae M. Derdarian

6. Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian

7. The Knock at the Door: A Mother’s Survival of the Armenian Genocide by Margaret Ahnert

8. Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide by Donald Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller

9. The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

10. Three Apples Fell From Heaven by Micheline Aharonian Marcom

11. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

12. The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts from the American Press: 1915-1922 by Richard Kloian

13. The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn Anahid MacKeen

14. Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

15. Black Dog of Fate by Peter Balakian


The New York Times published 194 articles between 1915-1922 on the Armenian atrocities. Richard Kloian was the editor for: The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922 . Link for the digitized New York Times articles:

California’s AB1915 requires survivor, rescuer, liberator, and witness oral testimony into the teaching of human rights. Students should be encouraged to research firsthand Armenian eye witness accounts in video, DVD, or online video. The USC Shoah Link is a good start:

Few Americans know of the relationship of American missionaries with the Turkish Armenian community. American Missionaries were everywhere in the Ottoman Empire. They built and owned their American compounds which included 1000 primary schools, 46 high schools, 6 colleges, 6 Seminaries, 1 university and 13 hospitals. Their primary allegiance was to the Armenian community.

When the war ended those missionaries returned to Turkey under the auspices of the Near East Relief Foundation to rescue those who survived, including 132,000 orphans. The missionaries fed, housed, built orphanages, educated, and helped those “Starving Armenians” find their way to America, Canada and France.

Students can learn more about this first world humanitarian project in response to the Armenian genocide through the link for the Near East online museum.

Power Point introduction to the history of the Armenian genocide:

Contact filmmaker Kay Mouradian for the attachment:


The following pages include handouts the teacher can give to the students.

Handout #1

The following is an excerpt from “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1916” written by English Viscount Bryce. It describes the status of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I.

A traveler entering Turkey by the Oriental Railway from Central Europe would have begun to encounter Armenians at Philippopolis in Bulgaria, and then at Adrianople, the first Ottoman city across the frontier. Had he visited any of the lesser towns of Thrace, he would have found much of the local trade and business in Armenian hands, and when he arrived at Constantinople he would have become aware that the Armenians were one of the most important elements in the Ottoman Empire. He would have seen them as financiers, as export and import merchants, as organizers of wholesale stores; and when he crossed the Bosphorus and explored the suburban districts on the Asiatic side, he might even have fancied that the Armenian population in the Empire was numerically equal to the Turkish. The coast of the Sea of Marmora was overlooked by flourishing Armenian villages; at Armasha, above Ismid, there was a large Theological Seminary of the Gregorian Church, and there were important Swiss and American institutions at Bardizag (Baghtehedjik) and Adapazar. At Adapazar alone the Armenian population numbered 25,000.

Handout #2

The following resolution was passed at a meeting in New York sponsored by the well known Americans and Armenians Americans held in May of 1915. Among those supporting the resolution were several members of the clergy, both Jewish and Christian.

New York Times, October 18, 1915

The resolutions adopted read as follows:

Whereas, the civilized world has been shocked by a series of massacres and deportations of Armenians in the Turkish Empire; and, these crimes and outrages committed upon an industrious, thrifty, and peace-loving people, find no justification, viewed either in the light of law or humanity; and

Whereas, Those Armenians who survive are in great need of succor and relief, be it hereby

Resolved, That as American citizens, we make our most solemn protest against these cruel and inhuman practices and implore all officials and others having influence in the Turkish Empire, to put an end to these wrongs and to render every aid to the American Ambassador and others who would rescue and repatriate a people, who, by their history and achievements have been a credit to the empire,

Resolved, further that war, whereof and by whatsoever nation waged, affords no warrant for inhumanity toward innocent persons. The slaughter of noncombatant men, the tortures, mutilations, and outrages committed upon women and children wherever committed have given to the fairest places upon the earth the semblance of hell. In the name of the God of Nations and our common humanity, we call upon the nations at war to cease these crimes against civilization and morality.

The New York Times printed more than 194 articles pertaining to the Armenian genocide during World War I.

Handout #3

The following is a quotation from the prize winning Armenian American author William Saroyan. Many of his stories and plays reflect Armenian American life in his native Fresno, California.

I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia. -- William Saroyan

“The Armenian & the Armenian," Inhale & Exhale, New York: Random House, 1936.

Handout #4

The following is from a cable sent to the New York Times in 1915 regarding the lack of action by the German government regarding atrocities committed by its World War I ally the Ottoman Empire.

Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

LONDON, Monday, Aug. 21.-The Rev. Harold Buxton, Secretary of the Armenian Refugees Fund, has just returned to England after devoting three months to relief work in the devastated villages. In an interview the Rev. Mr. Buxton gave details which entirely confirm the grave statements made by Lord Bryce some months ago in the House of Lords. Asked whether he had any proof that the deportation of Armenians last summer was due to German instigation, he said:

"All I can say is that the German Government did nothing to stop the massacres. During the whole business German influence was supreme at Constantinople, and German Consuls were at their posts in all the chief centers through Asia Minor. Besides, the people were swept away with a methodical thoroughness which one does not expect from the Turk, who, when left to himself, acts rather with sudden spasms of fury.

"I have evidence from an American missionary that certain of the German Consuls did their best on behalf of the Armenian people. For instance, the German Consul at Erzurum wired to his Ambassador in Constantinople vigorously protesting at the order of deportation. He received a reply in these words: 'We cannot interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey'.

"I don't think there has been any exaggeration as to losses as published in England. The Armenian race numbered over 4,000,000, of who 2,000,000 were Turkish Armenians, and of these perhaps 1,000,000 have been deported and 500,000 massacred. Only 200,000 escaped into the mountains, and so across to Russian soil. There are some hundreds of thousands in concentration camps between Aleppo and Mosul and in the neighboring regions of Mesopotamia, where Turkey continues to be supreme over their fate.

"To this considerable population we have no access, and it is still in danger. According to reports which come through, it is being ravaged by sickness, famine, privations of all kinds, outrages, and murder, all of which means high mortality among the victims."

New York Times on Wire

Handout #5


August, 1939

I have issued the command - and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad - that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness - for the present only in the East - with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the extermination of the Armenians?"Kevork B. Bardakjian, Hitler and the Armenian Genocide (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Zoryan Institute, 1985). 

OPERATION NEMESIS by ERIC BOGOSIAN: Little, Brown and Co. 2015 page 220

It is possible that hundreds of German soldiers who served in the Ottoman Empire during World War 1 went on to become Schutzstaffel or “SS” officers in Nazi Germany? Is it probable the decision to exterminate the Polish Jews in 1939 became a military consideration because the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide were never held accountable for their attempt to ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­exterminate the Ottoman Armenian community?




Ambassador Morgenthau had a conversation with Turkish officials about sending the Armenians to America! A conversation between American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and the German Ambassador, Baron Von Wangenheim, in one of their discussions regarding the Armenian deportations: Constantinople, October 7, 1915

Wangenheim told me that the Armenians had shown themselves as enemies to the Turks and that the two peoples could never live together and that we ought to take them to America and Germany would send some to Poland and send Jewish Poles here if they agreed not to work in Zionist schemes. He said Jews in Poland are not desirable citizens at the German frontier.

Handout #6


In 1916 one of my mother’s relatives survived a monumental bloodbath. His letter describing that awful day was found 80 years later in my deceased uncle’s personal effects. These are his words:

We knew very well we were going to die. Soldiers like wild beasts opened fire on us. The cries and the begging of hundreds of women and innocent children were heartbreaking....all begging for help, but God was Deaf.

Thirteen thousand half killed trying to run away. Only 25 of us were able to throw ourselves into the river in hopes of surviving. On the other side of the river another group of soldiers who had hatchets, guns and swords and they attacked and killed us. I was wounded and fell into the river. Even the air I breathed was deadly. They thought I was dead and tied rocks to everyone’s feet and threw us in the river. I was in the river for eight hours. The river turned red with blood. Thousands of corpses attached to each other were carried away by the river's current. I had no food or water for eight days. No one else was there, only the shrubs that surrounded me day and night.

My wounds became infected with maggots. I could not wait any longer. I started walking. Fear was in my heart. Was the wild animal Turk still pursuing me? Even the noise of the wind frightened me. I had no more strength and fell unconscious. Two Arabs found me. They bandaged my wounds and took me with them.

I am writing this letter with tears in my eyes. Your uncles and their wives are all dead. The bodies of my loved ones follow and call to me. They are looking for me in the river. They want to hug and take me with them. I cannot sleep. I'm sorry to be alive.

An eyewitness to that inhuman brutality, my uncle was tormented until the day he died, wondering why he survived when so many others perished.