NEW YORK – The East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented the 4th Annual Commemoration of the Burning of Smyrna on Its 100th Anniversary panel discussion on September 11. The moving and informative discussion was moderated by EMBCA’s President Lou Katsos who gave the opening remarks which included a moment of silence to also commemorate the 21st solemn anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
The distinguished panel included writer/artist Thea Halo, author of Not Even My Name; Professor Ismini Lamb, the Director of the Modern Greek Program in the Department of Classics at Georgetown University and co- author of the new book The Gentle American: George Horton’s Odyssey and His True Account of the Smyrna Catastrophe; author/writer Lou Ureneck, Professor of Journalism (retired) at Boston University and author of Smyrna, September 1922: The American Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide; author/engineer Savvas “Sam” Koktzoglou, co-author of The Greek Genocide in American Naval War Diaries – Naval Commanders Report and Protest Death Marches and Massacres in Turkey’s Pontus Region, 1921-1922; sculptor George Petrides whose bronze sculpture entitled The Refugee relating to the Smyrna burning will be erected in a 100th anniversary ceremony in Athens on September 14; and Peter Stavrianidis, PhD, educator/community leader in Hellenic Genocide Issues. Video of the event is available on YouTube: https://bit.ly/3U4bP8r.
Katsos noted that: “This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Burning of Smyrna, and part of the final chapter in what has been described in authors Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi book as ‘The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities 1894- 1924.’”
“The Burning of Smyrna/Smyrna Catastrophe (in the Hellenic – Καταστροφή της Σμύρνης) refers to the deliberately set fire four days after Turkish forces entered and captured the port city of cosmopolitan Smyrna in Asia Minor and which completely destroyed its Hellenic and Armenian quarters,” Katsos continued. “The fire was started September 13 and extinguished September 22 in 1922. Turkish troops per eyewitnesses systematically cordoned off the Quay to contain the Hellenes and Armenians within their fire zone quarters and prevented them from fleeing. The estimated Hellenic and Armenian deaths resulting from the fire range up to 100,000.” “Approximately up to 400,000 Hellenic and Armenian refugees were in the city from other parts of Asia Minor, to escape the Turkish Troops and irregulars, cramming its waterfront and quays to escape from the horrific flames,” he noted. “Eyewitness reports describe panic-stricken civilian refugees diving into the water to escape the flames and that their terrified screaming could be heard miles away. They were forced to remain there under harsh conditions and were periodically robbed for two weeks and after having had massacres and atrocities committed on them before the outbreak of the fire. Women were raped and tens of thousands of Hellenic and Armenian men were subsequently deported into the interior of Anatolia, where many died in harsh and brutal conditions.”
“After the Smyrna Catastrophe, the Hellenic city founded over 3,000 years before, a jewel and major city of the Eastern Mediterranean, ceased in any meaningful way to have Hellenic residents,” Katsos said.
Thea Halo discussed the history leading up to the Catastrophe and shared her insights. It should be noted that in 2000 she published her book Not Even My Name, the memoir of her mother who belonged to Turkey’s Pontic Greek minority.
Professor Ismini Lamb spoke about George Horton, the American diplomat best known for writing The Blight of Asia which detailed Turkey’s atrocities against its non-Muslim minorities leading up to and including the Smyrna Catastrophe.
Professor Lou Ureneck highlighted the ethical and geopolitical aspects of Greece’s ill-fated attempt to annex those areas of Asia Minor where Greeks had lived for 3000 years, noting the vision of a larger Greece that had begun in 1821 continued for a century, that Greece “was a continuing project in terms of its land mass,” and the promises made to Greece by the British during World War I, essentially promising Smyrna to Greece in exchange for joining the war on their side.
Savvas Koktzoglou discussed the role of the Department of State’s senior U.S. representative in Constantinople and Horton’s superior, Admiral Mark Bristol, who had a “detrimental effect on the conditions for Greeks” by suppressing reports from reaching the State Department.
George Petrides spoke about the upcoming dedication of his sculpture in Athens on September 14 and the inspiration for the dynamic work.
Peter Stavrianidis added his insights into the history of the Asia Minor campaign and the Megali Idea, the irredentist vision of Greece reclaiming the lands that belonged to the Byzantine Empire that were still inhabited by Hellenes.
For those in the Washington, DC area on Saturday, September 17, Georgetown University’s Modern Greek Studies Program and Hellenic Association host A Centennial Symposium to Memorialize and Illuminate the 1922 Asia Minor Catastrophe. The Symposium, co-sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute, the Armenian National Institute, and the Embassy of the Hellenic Republic, will be from 2:30-7 PM at Georgetown’s Intercultural Center and will include a screening of the acclaimed film Smyrna My Beloved starring Mimi Denissi, Rupert Graves, Daphne Alexander, and Burak Hakki. EMBCA’s President Lou Katsos will make the opening remarks at Georgetown’s Centennial Symposium and introduce the panelists, and the film will be introduced by Hellenic Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou. Sign up for the event online: https://sforce.co/3KIyV0s.