Why did Armin T. Wegner choose to document the genocide against the Armenian people, putting his own life in danger? The government of the Ottoman Empire, which directed the violence against the Armenian people, was an ally of Germany in the First World War.
As a medic in the German army, Wegner was strictly prohibited from speaking out against the actions of the Empire. Yet, through his photographs and his writing, Wegner bore witness to scenes of destruction and despair. He chose not to be a passive bystander. Instead, he took a stand against human rights violations, and became an upstander for human rights.
In the years following the war, Wegner said he was compelled by his conscience to share the truth of what was occurring, in order to try to stop the suffering of the Armenians and to ensure the atrocities would not be forgotten. He took hundreds of photographs in the deportation camps where Armenians were imprisoned.
Wegner was finally able to publish information about the Armenian genocide after the First World War. Throughout the 1920s, he gave lectures about what he had witnessed.
After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Wegner was again compelled to speak out against injustice. Even though the Nazis brutally punished dissent, Wegner wrote a letter to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, imploring him to end discrimination against the Jewish people. This action resulted in his arrest, interrogation and imprisonment, eventually leading him to flee his homeland.
Although his efforts to document the Armenian genocide went unacknowledged for many years, Wegner is now widely recognized as one of the most important chroniclers of the suffering experienced by the Armenian people.