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The following proclamation was issued by Governor of New York State, George E. Pataki, in commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastophe presented to the Holocaust Memorial Observance Committee of Asia Minor on Sunday, October 6, 2002.


P r o c l a m a t i o n

Whereas, the Empire State is home to many ethnic communities whose members benefit from the freedom and democracy upon which our Nation was founded; as a global leader in many areas of basic human and social rights, New York State has a prominent role in acknowledging events in history -- many of them tragic and distressing -- that teach valuable lessons from which our greater society benefits; such events are the destruction of the city of Smyrna and the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontus and Asia Minor, tragedies that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Greek civilians during World War I; and

Whereas, these Greeks, whose ancestors had lived in communities along present-day northern Turkey near the Black Sea for three millennia, were singled out by the Turkish authorities for expulsion from their ancestral lands along with Armenians and Assyrians; from 1915-1923, Greeks of Asia Minor endured immeasurable cruelty during a Turkish Government-sanctioned systematic campaign to displace them; destroying Greek towns and villages and slaughtering additional hundreds of thousands of civilians in areas where Greeks composed a majority, as on the Black Sea coast, Pontus, and areas around Smyrna; those who survived were exiled from Turkey and today they and their descendants live throughout the Greek diaspora; and

Whereas, in 1922, Smyrna, the largest city in Asia Minor called "the jewel of the Mediterranean", a cosmopolitan hub populated by a highly educated Greek community and flourishing commercial and middle-classes, was sacked and burned and its inhabitants massacred by the Turkish forces; the pier of Smyrna became a scene of final desperation as the approaching flames forced many thousands to jump to their death, rather than be consumed by flame; George Horton, the Consul General of the United States in Smyrna at the time of the catastrophe, is quoted as saying, "...the destruction of Smyrna happened, however, in 1922, and no act ever perpetrated by the Turkish race in all its bloodstained history has been characterized by more brutal and lustful features, nor more productive of the worst of human sufferings inflicted on the defenseless and unarmed. It was a fittingly lurid and Satanic finale to the whole dreadful tragedy..."; and

Whereas, it is believed by many that acknowledgment and awareness of this shameful event will not only teach future generations, but also will help mankind prevent such crimes from being repeated; this concept is particularly important as our State works to instill in youth, a universal respect for other cultures, races, religions and viewpoints; and

Whereas, it is fitting that all freedom-loving people worldwide and New Yorkers alike, share in the solemn commemoration of the of Great Catastophe of Asia Minor of 1915-23, and join with the Greek-American community and its many religious, communal and philanthropic organizations as they honor the sacrifices and memory of their noble ancestors;

Now, Therefore, I, George E. Pataki, Governor of the State of New York, do hereby proclaim October 6th, 2002 as the 80th Anniversary of the Commemoration of the Burning of Smyrna and the Persecution of the Greeks of Asia Minor in the Empire State.

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