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Bodil Katharine Biørn 1871 - 1960

the nurse who documented the Armenian Genocide

Bodil Biørn

Bodil Biørn Bodil Biørn/National Archives of Norway

Bodil Katharine Biørn was born in 1871 in the Norwegian town of Kragerø. 

In 1905 she was sent to the Ottoman Empire by the “Women Missionary Workers” association, for which she worked as a nurse. She first went to Mezereh and then to Mush, where she mainly encountered widows and orphans. 

In 1915-16 she witnessed the Armenian Genocide and documented the massacres by taking photographs and collecting first-hand accounts. 

In 1917 she returned to Norway for a brief stay before leaving for the newly-founded Armenian Republic, where she set up an orphanage and took care of Armenians who had escaped the genocide. She also travelled to Syria to form another orphanage for the survivors of the city of Aleppo. Right up until 1934, she continued her work on behalf of the Armenian people and the orphans of the massacres in Lebanon and Syria. Bodil Biørn died in Oslo in 1960, leaving an indelible memory in the hearts of the Armenian people. 

On 22 July 2008, in Yerevan, at the Genocide Museum on the Dzidzernagapert, a memorial stone to Bodil Biørn was laid in the Wall of Remembrance dedicated to the “Righteous for the Armenians”.

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Righteous for the Armenians

remembered in the Wall of Remembrance of Yerevan

Every year on 24 April, the anniversary of the outbreak of Metz Yeghérn (the "Great Evil", that is to say the genocide against the Armenian people in 1915-1916) Armenians remember their rescuers with a procession to Dzidzernagapert, the “Hill of Swallows”, where the Mausoleum in memory of the victims of extermination was erected.
Since 1996 the ashes or the grave earth of the Righteous and rescuers or witnesses who tried to stop the massacres or risked their lives to denounce the Young Turks' genocidal plan and its execution are interred in the Remembrance Wall.
Pietro Kuciukian, founder of the International Committee of the Righteous for the Armenians,has been researching the Righteous figures into the survivors' pieces of testimony, the tales of their children, the writings by the eyewitnesses, the diplomatic documents and the broad literature that accompanies the events related to this genocide. He retraces their walks of life, he revives their memory by visiting the places where they are buried, he meets with the relatives and descendants who keep family memories of great intensity and then he transports their ashes or handfuls of their burial earth on the "Hill of Swallows" of Yerevan. The stones with the names of the "RIghteous for the Armenians", gathered in the Wall of Remembrance, are the tangible sign of the gratitude of the Armenian people and take on a universal kind of exemplary value.

Tales and testimony

Metz Yeghern stories

other exemplary stories featured by Gariwo