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Interpreting the Evidence

Armenian Orphans in Jerusalem, Palestine

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Armenian Orphans, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Interviews with members of the Armenian community in Niagara Falls can be found here.

Document Description
A group of Armenian orphans in Jerusalem, Palestine, 1918.

Historical Context
Between 1915 and 1919, conditions in the Ottoman Empire resulted in a vast humanitarian crisis for Armenians. Among the deportations and mass killings, tens of thousands of children found themselves without parents, shelter, and food and water.
Almost immediately after reports of violence filtered to America, a group of prominent and connected businessmen formed a private committee to raise money for relief efforts in the war-torn area. Shortly thereafter, Congress acted and the Near East Relief agency was begun. By the end of 1915, several committees were operating in the US and funneling funds to areas in Turkey, the Caucuses, and Syria. With concerns mounting over the fate of the many foreign relief agencies and schools already in that part of the world, Americans reacted with an outpouring of donations. The organizations operated with efficiency and urgency, generating supplies and creating a stable climate for hundreds of thousands of desperate Armenians.
At the center of the effort were the children. American schools and hospitals were converted to shelters and orphanages in an attempt to secure a safe zone for helping the thousands of displaced children. Organization and structure were paramount to getting assistance to those who needed it the most. And as increased news spoke of the scale of the destruction and devastation of the Armenian people, the pace and scale of relief efforts broadened as well. Eventually, these relief groups are credited with saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Armenian orphans.

Essential Question
How does war affect children?

Check for Understanding
Describe the condition of these children using evidence from the photograph.

Historical Challenges
Research American philanthropy and determine the nature of the gifts given and to whom the gifts were given.

Interdisciplinary Connections
ELA: Write a report from an orphanage director to someone in the US government describing the situation.