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Franz Werfel 1890 - 1945

the writer who wrote "The 40 Days of the Mussa Dagh"

Franz Werfel

Franz Werfel

Austrian novelist, dramatist and poet of Jewish origin, Franz Werfel was born in Prague in 1890. In his youth he belonged to revolutionary pacifist groups, he founded an anti-militarist league and held pacifist meetings in Bern, Prague and Davos.

From his acquaintance with Johannes Lepsius and Armin Wegner he learnt of the drama of the Armenian people. In 1929, during a stay in Syria, he saw with his own eyes the starving, mutilated and sick Armenian refugee children working at the carpet looms. He was deeply shocked and in 1933 published the most famous novel about the drama of the Armenians ever written: "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh".

Because of his Jewish origin and his progressivism he was expelled from the Prussian Academy and his books were burnt. In 1940 he fled to France where, to honour a vow, he wrote the novel The Song of Bernadette about the life of the saint of Lourdes. He then moved to Spain and Portugal, from where he set sail for New York.

Chapter V of his The Forty Days of Musa Dagh is entitled "Intermezzo of the Gods" and is dedicated to the dramatic dialogue, which actually took place, between Lepsius and the persecutor Enver Pasha. It is one of the most harrowing passages in modern literature.

Werfel died in California in 1945.

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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

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