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Interpreting the Evidence

Armenian Refugee Children, Valley of Sorek

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    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 Refugee Children, Valley of Sorek, 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A group of Armenian refugee children with the American Red Cross in the Valley of Sorek, 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 hit American and international news agencies, a broad movement to raise funds and bring relief to the war-torn area began. The American Red Cross and later the International Red Cross were the first to bring relief efforts to parts of Armenia. The American government responded by forming the Near East Relief organization and the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities.
Wealthy and connected philanthropists secured millions of dollars to ensure help to displaced Armenians. Additionally, the Near East Relief organized orphanages all across the region. Among the important priorities were reclaiming females from Turk families that either adopted or enslaved them, training the children for self-support, setting up schools and demonstration centers to train them for occupations, and relocating administrations to help find permanent communities in the area and abroad. All told, these groups and efforts of individuals are credited with saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Armenian orphans.

Essential Question
How are children affected by war?

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

Historical Challenges
Research the experiences of orphans during other instances of mass killing (ie The Holocaust, Bosnia, Rwanda) and compare the historical circumstances and outcomes.

Interdisciplinary Connections
ELA: Write a journal entry from the point of view of an orphan or refugee from war.

ELA: Write an editorial asking for intervention to help orphans.