Motivated by the memory of the atrocities committed against them at the beginning of the 20th century, Armenians were among the rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. These acts of rescue took place where the Armenians fled subsequent to the Genocide - Ukraine, Crimea, France, Hungary, and Austria.
In 1963, Yad Vashem (Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust), embarked upon a worldwide project to pay tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. This represents a unique and unprecedented attempt by the victims to honor individuals from within the nations of perpetrators, collaborators and bystanders, who stood by the victims' side and acted in stark contrast to the mainstream of indifference and hostility that prevailed in the darkest time of history.
In his “Righteous Saviors and Fighters” book, prominent genocide researcher, prof. Yair Auron says that Armenians, being a small nation themselves, rescued more Jews than representatives of any other nationality did.
It’s absolutely futile to speculate whose pain is stronger, Auron assures, but it’s extremely important to reconcile and preserve a common memory about ‘people who saved other people.’
“We just did our bit”
Josef and Shura-Rivka Khasin lived in Odessa with their two children, Rosa, born 1924, and Avraham, born 1930. They enjoyed good relations with their neighbors, especially an Armenian woman named Peruza Bagdasarian and her son Sarkis. Her husband had been accused by the Soviet authorities as an enemy of the state and sent away to Kazakhstan.
In summer 1941, when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Josef, who was disabled, refused to believe the rumors about the Nazi atrocities and decided not to flee. On October 16, 1941, the Romanians entered the city and the persecution of Jews began. Following a bombing of the Romanian headquarters, many Jews, including Josef and his wife, were arrested. Their children were taken in by Peruza, who cared for them and, when necessary, hid them in the attic. Peruza and her son also brought food to the parents in prison.
After one month in prison, Josef and Shura-Rivka were released and returned home. By that time, the mass murder of Jews had started, and many were killed; others were deported to the Domanioka district, where many died because of terrible conditions. Most neighbors sympathized with the Khasins and tried to help as much as they could, but the janitor was very hostile: his daughter wanted to have the Khasin apartment. Thus, whenever Romanians or Germans passed by the building, the janitor complained about the Jewish residents. During the raids that followed, the Khasins sent their children to stay with Peruza and Sarkis, who helped his mother a lot despite his young age.
On January 11, 1942, the Jews of Odessa were ordered to move to the ghetto in the Slobodka neighborhood. Knowing that the janitor would never let them stay, the Khasins moved to the ghetto. They had to sell their belongings to buy food, and when nothing was left, Rosa secretly left the ghetto to go to the former neighbors to get provision.
In April 1942, Josef Khasin was arrested and charged of hiding gold. He died of torture. One month later, Shura-Rivka and her two children were deported to Karlovka in the Domaniovka district. They managed to survive and returned to Odessa in March 1944, when the city was liberated. Their apartment was destroyed, and they lived Peruza Bagdasarian’s house for several months until Shura-Rivak found an apartment. The two families remained friends for many years. The Khasins wanted to have them honored, but Peruza and her son refused, saying they had only been doing their duty. After the passing of Peruza in 1998 and Sarkis in 2001, Rosa and Avraham submitted the request to honor their rescuers.
On August 20, 2013 Yad Vashem recognized Peruza Badasarian and her son Sarkis as Righteous Among the Nations.
"Having witnessed the Armenian Genocide, we decided to save them”
Grigori and Pran Tashchiyan lived in Turkey, where they survived the Armenian Genocide during World War I. Pran’s first husband, her two children and most of her relatives were murdered. Fleeing the slaughter, they settled in Simferopol, Crimea, and got married. The district where they lived was populated by Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and others, including a Kucherenko family, whose daughter Evgenia was married to a Jew named David Goldberg. The couple had two children: Anatoly (born 1935) and Rita (born 1938).
When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Goldberg was conscripted to the Red Army. Simferopol was occupied on November 1, 1941, and six weeks later the massacre of Jews began. Most of the local Jews were killed, with David’s parents among them. Evgenia returned to her father’s home, but the danger to her half Jewish children was great. During four months, the children were taken from one family to another, until Pran, Evgenia’s neighbor offered to hide them in her home. Her garden was surrounded by a wall, the gate that was always locked, while the compound was guarded by dogs. Thus, from February 1942 until April 1944, Pran and Grigori Tashchiyan cared for the kids in their house. The couple’s two children Tigran (born 1929) and Hasmik (born 1925) were on the watch and warned Anatoly and Rita when Germans were coming near. Then the children would hide in the cellar or the storeroom, or the attic, or even in the dog’s kennel. The situation lasted for more than two years, until the city was liberated on April 13, 1944. After then, Anatoly and Rita were reunited with their parents.
Following the Liberation in June, the Soviet authorities deported the Tashchiyan family to a collective farm (kolkhoz) in the distant district of Kemerovo. In 1947, Grigori, and his children Tigran and Hasmik, escaped to Armenia, but two years later they were arrested and sent back to Kemerovo. In 1956, they were forced to Armenia again, but were not allowed to have back their house in Crimea. During those hard times, and for many years afterwards, the survivors remained in contact with their rescuers. Hasmik Mkhikyan (Tashchiyan) said that her mother told her that they rescued the kids motivated by her personal experience and the persecution of her people: "Having witnessed the Armenian Genocide, we decided to save them”, she said.
On November 21, 2002, Yad Vashem recognized Grigori and Pran Tashchiyan, as well as their children Hasmik Mkhikyan (Tashchiyan) and Tigran Tashchiyan as Righteous Among the Nations.
In all, 22 Armenians were honored as Righteous Among the Nations.