• October 20, 1918

    World War I Ends

    Finally admitting defeat, the Ottoman government signs the Armistice of Mudros. The Ottoman Empire had finally collapsed. The Allied Powers, including the United States, begin the process of carving up the Empire’s remains. The Allies install a temporary government in Constantinople that is favorable to their goals.

  • January 19, 1919

    The Paris Peace Conference

    Against this turbulent backdrop, representatives from 27 countries convene in Paris to discuss the terms of peace for the defeated Central Powers. Britain, Italy, France, Greece, and Russia all lay claims to portions of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. President Wilson advocates for a League of Nations to govern emerging countries through a mandate system. Wilson campaigns for the establishment of Armenia as an American mandate.

  • May - June 1919

    Partitioning Begins

    The Allies give the Greek army permission to occupy the historically Greek city of Smyrna on the west coast of the Anatolian Peninsula. The Greek army lands in May, inspiring celebration by ethnic Greeks and anger from ethnic Turks. Greece and Ottoman Turkey are soon embroiled in war.

  • The Treaty of Versailles

    The Treaty of Versailles formally ends hostilities between Germany and the Allies. The Treaty also creates the League of Nations. Although President Wilson is an ardent supporter of the League, the increasingly isolationist United States government chooses not to join. The Greek army remains in Smyrna and the surrounding area after the Treaty is signed.

  • Armenia is to be redeemed, so that at last this great people, struggling through night after night of terror…are now given a promise of safety, a promise of justice…

    President Woodrow Wilson
  • June 1919

    The Rise of Turkish Nationalism

    The conflict in Smyrna helps fuel the rise of Mustafa Kemal Pasha and Turkish Nationalism. A former Ottoman military officer (later known as “Atatürk,” or “Father of the Turks”), Kemal leads a split with the Allied Powers-approved Ottoman government and declares an independent Turkish state. Kemal assembles a competing government, the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and wages the Turkish War of Independence.

  • “It is indispensable that Armenia be annihilated politically and physically.”

    Mustafa Kemal Pasha in a telegram to Kiazim Karabekir, Brigadier General of the Ottoman Army
  • January 1920

    Survivors in Peril

    Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s “Turkey for Turks” program recalls the genocidal plans of the Young Turk government. His troops march upon Marash, an important center of Near East Relief activities in central Anatolia. Dr. Mabel Elliott, a Near East Relief physician on loan from American Women’s Hospitals, flees the city on foot with 5,000 refugees. Nearly half of the refugees die of exposure on the three-day trek to safety.

  • The Proposed Treaty of Sèvres

    The Allies propose the Treaty of Sèvres which parcels Ottoman territories to Allied powers and calls for Turkey to recognize Armenia as an independent state with boundaries determined by the U.S. President. Although the Ottoman Grand signs, the Treaty is never ratified and only serves to inflame Turkish nationalism.

  • Invasion

    The Kemalist army invades the nascent Republic of Armenia. 20,000 children at the Near East Relief complex at Alexandropol are cut off from all supplies until the Bolshevik army arrives in April.

  • 1921

    The Trek to Safety

    France withdraws all troops from the Cilicia region, which it had occupied in anticipation of the ratification of the Treaty of Sèvres. The region is left vulnerable to the Kemalist army. Near East Relief begins the arduous process of moving 12,000 children out of central Anatolia to safety in Syria.

  • September 1922

    The Great Fire

    Suffering repeated defeats against Kemal’s army in Anatolia, the Greek army withdraws from Smyrna. Kemalist forces enter the city on September 9, 1922. Four days later, fires rage through the Christian quarters of the city. Greek and Armenian homes are looted. An estimated 300,000 Greek and Armenian people flee to the docks in an attempt to escape the burning city. Three U.S. ships in the harbor decline to intervene because U.S. policy forbids American involvement in the conflict.

  • An estimated 200,000 refugees are ultimately transported from Smyrna to Greece on Greek military ships. Between 50,000 and 100,000 Greek and Armenian people die as a result of the fires and accompanying massacres.

  • Slideshow: Relief After Smyrna

    The fire not only destroys an ancient multicultural community. It also marks the ascent of the brutal Kemalist government. Near East Relief workers realize that neither they nor their charges are safe in Kemalist Turkey. Near East Relief organizes a mass evacuation of orphans and refugees to safer territories.

  • After the Great Fire of Smyrna, Near East Relief workers found themselves caring for even more children in more desperate circumstance. In the face of these challenges, how would Near East Relief raise a generation of child survivors to adulthood?

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