“Karen Jeppe: Light in the darkness of terror, one nation’s struggle” – a children’s book by Danish author and journalist Kåre Bluitgen tracks the story of Karen Jeppe, a Danish woman who saved thousands of Armenians during the 1915 genocide in the Ottoman Empire. The book has been translated into Armenian, but is yet to be published.
In 1877, when Karen Jeppe was one-year old, doctors had little hope she would survive, but despite all predictions, she had to live to save the lives of others.
Karen Jeppe, a Danish missionary and social worker, is directly or indirectly responsible for the survival of thousands of Armenians.
Many books have been written about Karen Jeppe. The one authored by Danish writer journalist Kåre Bluitgen is meant for children. The author says it’s important to educate young people about Jeppe because she did an outstanding work in helping people.
Unfortunately, he says “it’s a forgotten history.” “This is a children’s book with some pictures from the time of the genocide and some modern drawing. It’s meant to teach student about the history of Armenia and Tureky.”
In the future Kåre Bluitgen is planning to write a novel based on the story of Karen Jebbe’s life and historical facts.
The Armenian Genocide is not a theme in itself in Danish history books.
“In big history books it will be mentions in a few sentences about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, about the first World War. It’s not a theme in itself. It’s not something really taken seriously compared to how seriously it was,” Mr. Bluitgen said.
“Everybody in Denmark will know about the Jewish Holocaust, but very few people will know about the Armenian Genocide,” he added.
Denmark has so far not recognized the Armenian Genocide. Although the Parliament passed a resolution on Armenian Genocide, noting that the best path to reconciliation will be an open dialogue and release of all official documents from the period. It noted, however, that the Parliament maintains its parliamentary tradition not to issue judgments about historical events.”
Kåre Bluitgen says Denmark does not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide not because they don’t accept the true story. It’s not even relations with Turkey hindering the recognition, because the ties are not that good anyway. According to him, there are as many people in Denmark as in France or the Netherlands that accept the fact, but the Parliament will not recognize it out of principle.
“I think it’s a principle about not recognizing any kind of genocide. The common opinion is that it’s not for the state to do this. They don’t even recognize the Holocaust,” the author said.
In 2015 Armenians gathered in Karen Jebbe’s birthplace in Gylling to pay tribute and raise a memorial to her.
For Kåre Bluitgen, who is paying his first visit to Armenia, it’s a nice experience to see the people he has written a book about.
“It’s nice to be here. When you have written about this region and this people, it’s nice to be here. I like Yerevan, it is a calm city. The mentality is calm and nice,” he said.
The book has been translated into Armenian by Shaliko Amiryan, but is yet to be published.
During the Armenian Genocide Karen Jeppe organized food and water for the caravans of desperate Armenians driven through Urfa on their journey to graves in the Syrian Desert. She stayed on despite the unfolding carnage, helping thousands flee by disguising them as Kurds and Arabs.
Karen Jeppe died on July 7, 1935. Upon her request, her funeral ritual was held according to the traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church. She was buried in the National Armenian Commentary of Aleppo. In 1947 the orphanage of Aleppo which was established by Jeppe was turned to high school and continues its work up today, but in 2015 it came under Islamic State attack.