A newly discovered Congressional Record, dated 1945, just came to light, offering insight into one of the more complex and shady political movements of today. The document focuses on the Dashnaks, an Armenian ultranationalist party, founded in 1890 and, currently operating in Armenia, in the Armenian-occupied Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, and in the U.S. as well as in other countries, where Armenian diaspora presence is influential.
In the official document, presented by Congressman Frank E. Hook of Michigan, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, AKA Dashnaks, are described as a “gang with a long record of fascist-terrorist activity.” It cites incidents of blackmail and murder committed against Armenian-Americans, who opposed Dashnaks’ virulently racist agenda and tactics.
Archbishop Leon Tourian, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, was one of Dashnaks’ most outspoken critics. In 1933, while celebrating a Christmas Mass in New York City, the Archbishop was assassinated, stabbed to death by Dashnak operatives.
More disturbing is the Congressional record’s summary of Dashnaks’ widespread sympathy for Adolph Hitler and Nazi-Germany’s anti-Semitic policy, clearly described in Dashnaks’ Boston-based newspaper, Hairenik, as a “gift to mankind.” Hairenik described the mass extermination of Jews during the Holocaust as, “Sometimes it is difficult to eradicate these poisonous elements when they have already struck deep root like a chronic disease. And when it becomes necessary for people to eradicate them in an uncommon method, these attempts and methods are regarded revolutionary. During a surgical operation the flow of blood is a natural thing…Under such conditions dictatorship seems to have the role of a savior.”
These are themost problematic words to read. Yet, they are consistent with Dashnaks’ popular culture, their national philosophy and the heroes they laud.
Garegin Nzhdeh, one of Armenia’s most celebrated war heroes, was also a Dashnak leader and the founder of an Armenian race religion called “Tseghakronism,” modeled after the “Hitler Youth” and mirroring the Nazis’ Aryan supremacy theories. Hence, it is not surprising that Nzhdeh commanded the Wehrmacht’s Armenian Legion, which consisted of tens of thousands of Armenian soldiers, who partook in the Nazi battles in Crimea, the Caucasus, Poland, and France. They also supported the rounding up of Jews, assisted in marching the Jews into the Nazi death camps as well as partook in fighting against the resistance fighters.
Dismissing Nzhdeh’s crimes, Armenia continues to openly glorify him as a “national hero.” In 2016, the government of Armenia unveiled a grand statue of this Nazi collaborator, in the center of the country’s capital city of Yerevan. A square and a metro station in Yerevan are also named after this Dashnak, and Armenian children are taught his legacy in the schools.
With all the above in mind, it is rather alarming to know about the influential power Dashnaks also have today, expressively operating under the U.S. lobby banner ANCA (Armenian National Committee of America). Recently ANCA was in the news for protesting a Smithsonian screening film that did not depict their Nazi collaborator hero, Nzhdeh, favorably.
In some of its recent tweets, ANCA promoted age-old anti-Semitic tropes, such as the painting of the arrest of Jesus, or a Bible verse about Judas betraying Jesus, both used throughout a millennia to justify anti-Semitism and target Jews.
Or, take Sarah Leah Whitson, a well-known ANCA advocate and the former director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, a position she regularly abused in order to play out her own anti-Semitic positions.
Dashnaks have not changed much over the years. Antisemitism is a widespread problem in Armenia as well as in Armenian communities spread around the globe. To get a sense of how pervasive Antisemitism has become, consider the Anti-Defamatioin League’s “Global 100” study, highlighting that the majority of Armenians harbor deeply anti-Semitic sentiments, making Armenia the second-most anti-Semitic nation in Europe. Or, the 2018 Pew Research Center Study, which found that 32 percent of Armenians would not accept Jews as citizens. Consider the role that Armenian-American students have played on college campuses, promoting the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement.
This 1945 Congressional Record and the Dashnaks’ past, as Nazi sympathizers and collaborators, into today when they continue to bully and manipulate in order to maintain their unapologetically racist agenda, reinforces what I already know about them. It would now be appropriate for the modern face of Dashnaks to come forward and condemn their own blemished Nazi past and decry the hateful messages they still espouse. Yet, ANCA has done nothing to this effect and it is rather clear it will continue doing nothing. This is because, as we are unfortunately witnessing and experiencing, ANCA and Dashnaks are still very much the same.
Perhaps, those who actively support ANCA, namely Congresspersons Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff, Judy Chu and Frank Pallone, or, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez should be called out. We need to demand they publicly separate themselves from ANCA and Dashnaks. It may be impossible to expect an apology from ANCA, even to separate themselves from the racist ideology that has been driving them for over a century. However, it is the very least we can expect from United States’ elected officials.