The Danish Peace Academy

Maria Jacobsen and the genocide in Armenia

By Karekin Dickran, 2004 - as pdf-file


Maria Jacobsen, 1910
The town of Harpoot, on the hillside of the mountains can be seen the American buildings serving as residences, hospitals, school and university, 1907

In the 1890s as news of the widespread massacre of Armenians in Turkey spread throughout the world it created a tangible outrage. Christian congregations and church organizations in Europe, moved by the horror of the events, demonstrated their solidarity with the victims by reaching out with offers of help, especially for the widowed women and orphaned children. In 1898 Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis of England, a feminist activist and champion of women’s rights, visited Copenhagen and met with women civic leaders. Under the motto “solidarity among women, help by women for women” she galvanized Danish women to form organizations to help alleviate the plight of women, wherever they might be.

Within two years Danish women established the K.M.A, or Women’s Missionary Workers (K.M.A./Kvindelige Missions Arbejdere (1900)). Its first Board of Directors included Miss Andrea Bøtcher, Baroness Olga Schaffalitzky, Miss Emsy Collet, and Baroness Sigrid Kurck. In the beginning their programs and daily activities consisted of doing local social work, teaching practical skills, and teaching about missionary work. In 1901, for the first time, K.M.A. sent a missionary to the work field in Armenian Anatolia, and between 1901 and 1920, six more missionaries were sent to Armenia to serve in Mezreh, Bitlis, Van, Malatia, Harpoot, and elsewhere. Maria Jacobsen was to be the fifth missionary and was sent to Harpoot in 1907 and remains unique for the many detailed diaries she kept of her experiences.

Jacobsen was born in the small town of Siim, Dover Denmark on November 6, 1883 to a loving Christian family. She spent her childhood in Horsens, Denmark with her parents, her father Jens Jacobsen (born 1853) and her mother Ane Kristine Pedersen (born 1857). In 1898, Maria Jacobsen attended a Christian Congregational meeting organized by Baroness Sigrid Kurck who was campaigning to publicize the sufferings of the Armenians. Fifteen year old Maria Jacobsen was deeply moved by the news of the massacres and persecution of the Armenians and an urge to relieve the sufferings of the people grew in her heart day by day.

In 1905 young nurse Jacobsen was in Copenhagen for her higher education and was soon working in the children’s ward at Sundby’s Hospital. She cared for and loved her little patients, but felt lonely and perplexed. There were few women in that kind of work in those days and she was the only young woman nurse working at the hospital. Then one day she went to the Y.M.C.A. (K.F.U.K) where she met other young women nurses like herself and she was soon selected to lead a study group of young Christian women engaged in missionary work.

In the fall of 1905 she began course work at K.M.A.s mission school and was selected to join K.M.A.'s Armenian Committee. In 1906, after she graduated as a nurse, and after summer vacation, she returned to K.M.A.s mission school then went to London to study. She worked a few months at a polyclinic [emergency ward] in London practicing her nursing skills while studying English.

She became intensely devoted to missionary work, which was quite extensive with many different activities and programs. Inside K.M.A. (Women missionary workers) senior staff members were following her development. One day they offered her a position to travel abroad as a nurse and missionary. But Jacobsen declined. She felt her place was among the sick children at Sundby’s Hospital where she was content leading her small study group. But when she received a personal request from senior KMA staff to travel to the mission field, this time to India, she began to waver.

A personal calling to the work became a stronger and stronger feeling. One Sunday when she was at the Trinitatis Church in Copenhagen praying for guidance, she made her decision. During prayer, she felt as if the Lord had spoken to her and she answered: “Lord, if it is your will, then I will go.” She then stepped up to the alter to confirm her pledge and from that moment on one Danish woman’s destiny was sealed. Twenty-four year old Maria Jacobsen’s fate was formally sealed on October 4, 1907 during a missionary ordination and farewell ceremony at Garnisons Parish Hall where she received her ordination and first field assignment.

During those hard times K.M.A. was able to do much constructive work. To begin with, they had opened a modest home in Mezreh, Turkey, which they named “Emaus” [taken from Luke 24:13-35 signifying faith and renewal] with the purpose of aiding Armenian orphans and others who were persecuted. Its mission was also to provide poor women with financial aid to buy school materials and to teach them skills so they could support themselves financially. Their other mission was to bring Christian revival to souls left in darkness, thus spreading the good news of the Bible to places like Ourfa, Bitlis, Van, Ayntab, Kharpert, and Mardin in Aisa Minor. They sometimes cooperated with other foreign missionary societies such as the American Board. Maria Jacobsen was the fifth woman missionary that K.M.A. had sent to Asia Minor to bring aid to Armenians. In her heart burned a fire of love and compassion toward persecuted women and children.

Embarking on her journey, Maria Jacobsen went first to Berlin where she met Laura, a sister missionary from Germany who had already been in the mission field in Anatolia. Through her conversations with Laura, Jacobsen, for the first time, got a glimpse of what was waiting for her in Asia Minor. As the train departed the Berlin station, Sister Laura cried and cried as Jacobsen herself began to understand that its one thing to hear about mission work in a small congregational meeting in Copenhagen, a safe distance from the real events, but something quite different to actually be in the middle of a foreign country where the events are occurring.

From Berlin she went to the harbor town of Constance in Romania then sailed to Constantinople (Istanbul). But she was unprepared for the sight that greeted her in Constantinople. Crowds of frenzied people in ragged clothing, shouting, crying, dragging and pulling their suitcases in a fearful panic, were everywhere. It was so chaotic and strange to her that she was confused and disturbed by these overwhelming impressions. She was relieved when she was able to free herself from the crowds and board the ship that would take her to Samson, a small harbor town on the northern coast of Asia Minor. After landing in Samson, she went shopping for supplies at a local market and saw other missionaries on the way to their respective mission stations who were also buying provisions for their difficult journey—fuel lamps, field beds, blankets, kitchen utensils, etc.

From there she continued her journey to her destination, the small town of Harpoot (Kharpert), in the highlands of Anatolia in the middle of Asia Minor. The journey would take 16 days by baroosh, an open-sided flat wagon drawn by horses that is normally used for freight. A carpet was spread on the wagon for her. It was to be the home of the young nurse for the 16-day journey. Nights were miserable. She slept at lodging-houses and stables that were devoid of sanitary facilities and human comfort. The situation got even worse as she went deeper into Asia Minor’s wilderness.

After a long and tiring journey, as she got nearer to Harpoot the first sign of encouragement that greeted Jacobsen was the American doctor, Dr. Raynolds. He was riding down from the Armenian highlands to greet her and saw the Danish nurse. He immediately raised his hands to heaven and exclaimed, “It is for you that we have been praying for so long to come!” He had been stationed there as a missionary in Armenia for several years and had personally witnessed the massacres of Armenians during 1895-96. He had also fallen into the hands of the Turks himself who had mistreated him severely and had cut off his nose. Fortunately, he was able to sew it back together again himself while standing before a mirror.

The American missionaries had already opened a station at Harpoot along with a small temporary hospital. The hospital had doctors but no nurses, and the arrival of a Danish nurse was the greatest event the staff had experienced for a long time. Maria Jacobsen worked with the physicians, who among themselves had referred to her as the angel of salvation, even before her arrival in Asia Minor. They rode out in small groups to welcome her, and when it was revealed that the same day was her 24th birthday, they celebrated her birthday with great festivities. But the next morning began the serious business of her work.

It usually took missionaries from one to two years to learn the Armenian language, but for Maria Jacobsen things were quite different. She had no time to wait to learn the language. She was needed immediately to begin working the next day. The hospital needed nurses more than anything else. The Mission-station rented a house, and beds were lined up next to each other in one big room. Maria Jacobsen took her lodging in one corner of the room with her field bed and utensils.

An Armenian pharmacist was appointed to teach her Armenian, which could only take place in the evenings, usually after a long, hard working day. Harpoot’s high altitude affected her too; the climate was exhausting. Throughout the winter she struggled with her work and language studies. Not even an hour of respite was granted her. She rode with doctors along high mountains and through plains to assist in births. Sometimes she had to ride for five days in snowstorms to reach villages to help mothers deliver their babies into the world. She never complained nor regretted, even for a second, that she had left a calm and comfortable life back home to devote her life to fatiguing humanitarian work in Asia Minor.

The Armenian genocide

1915. A group of deported Armenians
1915. Armenian intellectual leaders were murdered or publicly hanged to spread fear among the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire
1915. Survivors of a family stand powerless before a dying family member during the massacres
1915. A group of children lament their torment as they wait to be received into “,” Maria Jacobsen’ children“ home in the town of Harpoot
1915. One of many orphaned Armenian children found naked and starving, drifting aimlessly amid the ruins of a house
Missionary Review, Vol 42, JANUARY 1922
Maria Jacobsen, 1960

In 1915 the massacres of Armenians began all around Maria Jacobsen. She was alarmed by the magnitude of the catastrophe that was spreading day by day. On April 24, 1915, the most important figures of the Armenian community in Constantinople - newspaper editors, writers, churchmen, Armenian intellectual leaders and even parliamentarians, were taken from their homes and summarily deported to remote regions. Most were never heard of again. Armenian society in the Ottoman Empire had just been decapitated.

When the Turks and Kurds carried into effect the horrible massacres and the genocide against the Armenians in 1915, it was more than the little Danish woman could bear. The Turks forced women and children together on death marches and drove them ruthlessly south in endless caravans of human flesh, while missionaries who saw the brutalities stood powerless. Soldiers were posted at doors and on rooftops, and supplications by missionaries to government officials to help the sick was rejected by officials who said they had already sent physicians and nurses with the deportees. But just as sheep are led to slaughter the Armenians were driven out of town, beyond the highlands and plains where, hidden from view, an orgy of death began of terrible abuses and horrible murders. Thousands upon thousands of Armenians were murdered in the most bestial of methods. Dead bodies lay on the roads. There was neither nurses nor doctors to move them, as trucks and wagons drove over the dead.

Missionaries were not permitted to leave the city for six months. When they did venture out they saw thousands of skeletons lining the roads as far as they could see. Places where once they enjoyed Sunday excursions and vacations, they now saw only scenes of horror and desolation. The Turks had beheaded women and children and threw them into the lake. It was evident that not all had died immediately.

The sick, the dying, and the dead piled over each other and spilled into the ditches. The missionaries saw the dead spread along the plains, a hand sticking out of the soil, bodies hastily covered with a handful of soil. Missionaries could do nothing but witness this unspeakable slaughter. Their town was referred to as “the Slaughterhouse” because Armenians from all over Asia Minor were driven there where Turks and Kurds murdered them mercilessly in cold blood and were allowed to do to them whatever they desired. On a single day 30,000 people were driven out of the city and massacred. Almost no one survived.

Maria Jacobsen witnessed the heroic suffering of the Armenian people. Orphans with horror in their eyes wandered around as skeletons, almost maddened by the reign of terror. A little seven-year-old girl that the Turks had sold to a Bedouin family fled and managed to hide in a tree where she clung to the branches with both arms. A Turk gendarme discovered her when the poor child, sick and weak, fell from the tree unconscious. Fortunately, Jacobsen was there at the time it happened and adopted the girl instantly. She was the first child Jacobsen personally adopted. She named her Hansa. The second child she adopted was named Beatrice, and the third was Lilly, whom she found in miserable condition along the side of the road. Very soon Sunday, July 11, 2004Maria Jacobsen had taken over 3600 children under her protection and helped to hide them from the Turks.

The mornings were especially painful. As she came out of her house each day she would find the bodies of 10 to 15 children who had died of hunger or exhaustion during the night. An old Armenian woman buried the dead for her. But the old lady was nearly blind and could not dig the graves deep enough so during the night wild dogs would eat most of the corpses.

All day long new orphans came knocking at Maria Jacobsen’s door and each day she opened her heart and home to them. Some Armenian homes in town had a hole inside their homes that led to an underground shelter or hiding place that was used when danger threatened the family. They took refuge inside these shelters. It was here that Maria Jacobsen placed the children she found. During the night she brought food to the hungry children and divided the food into three rations so the children could have three meals a day, just enough to be life sustaining. When the bread got bad and moldy she would boil the pecked wheat into a kind of soup. The only fuel she had was manure that old Armenian wives gathered and dried for her.

As she recalls:

“We lived this way for a year in fear that all the children would die of hunger. Each day new groups of children stood in front of my door asking for help, but what more could I do? I had nothing more to give them. One day a 13 year old boy stood out among a starved group of children that came to me. His belly was not swollen up with hunger as others so I told him; there are many in worse condition than you who need help. Yours is the least serious, that’s why I am sorry, I can not take you in. The same evening when I came to our kitchen’s fireplace, my eyes caught a child lying crumpled on the warm ashes. It was the boy I sent away the previous day. He had died of hunger. That day I thought I would never be able to smile again. Each day we found ten to fifteen children that had died of famine.”

When America entered the First World War in June 1917, Americans were compelled to leave Turkey. Maria Jacobsen alone stayed to run the hospital and to care for the children patients who were totally cut off from the rest of the world.

When the war ended and American missionaries from the Near East Relief returned in 1919 they brought with them 20 heavily loaded automobiles packed with all kinds of food, provisions and clothing to distribute among the children. By then Maria Jacobsen was caring for and administering the provisions for over 3,600 orphans, most of whom were hidden by Armenian widows among ruined houses and cemeteries scattered throughout the area The American Near East Relief would now assume the care and responsibility for them. In the fall of 1919, Jacobsen returned to Denmark to recuperate and to report on her work, and to lecture on the continuing needs in the field.

Jacobsen saw the terrible suffering of so many people that she could not simply watch without interfering. Chaos ruled Turkey and the battlefronts. For several months, soldiers stayed in town just to survive the hardships. There were thousands of sick or wounded soldiers that hadn’t even the means of transportation back to their homes. Most of them who tried to reach home died like flies on the way, and corpses lay all over the roads. They had neither money nor food, nor warm clothing while winter was raging with snowstorms. Even here, Maria Jacobsen brought aid and help where she found even the slightest sign of life. One of her plans was to open shelters along the way, but it did not succeed for her. She herself wrapped both her hands and feet with naphthalene bandages to protect against infection, but her precautions were to no avail. She came down with typhus fever and cerebrospinal meningitis. For six months she was sick in bed and followed the horrors of war from her window. She saw executions, blindfolded men shot and their bodies carried away. K.M.A's archives includes letters, reports, eyewitness accounts, and personal experiences written by Danish missionaries corresponding back home, which describe everyday life inside “Emaus” and the national tragedy of endless persecutions and killing orgies, specially in the period of 1914 - 1922 when it was the hardest and darkest times for the survival of the Armenian nation.

When Jacobsen regained her health, she retuned to Denmark but the stories of her work inside Turkey as mother to 3,600 children had already reached the United States. People were eager to see and hear this extraordinary woman. It was difficult for many to grasp how it could have been possible to save 3,600 children under such conditions. Maria Jacobsen traveled to the United States in October 1920 and for seven months, until the spring of 1921, she toured the country telling her incredible story of the heavy burden she carried in Turkish Armenia. She served as a catalyst that helped to raise materials and money for Armenian refugees still being driven toward the Mesopotamian desert and further down to the Middle East.

The Bird’s Nest

When she returned to Denmark from America, she learned that the Turks were intensifying their persecution of the remainder of the Armenians. But before the final round of massacres occurred, American missionaries and the Near East Relief were permitted to take 110,000 orphans out of Turkey. Some were transferred to Greece, to Russian Armenia, and others to Syria (Lebanon). With the transfer of so many orphans to Syria and Lebanon, and in order to continue the great task entrusted to her and Sister Karen Marie Petersen, who was already deeply affected by the sufferings of the Armenians, Jacobsen returned to the work field on January 17, 1922 and greeted the new refugees in Beirut. The situation was nearly indescribable. Everything was in chaos. Mobs of people with bundles on their backs were suddenly gathered in one place where they had to raise tents or find a corner to sleep, or gather their families, find food or do cooking amid rain and mud as pools of water flowed everywhere.

Near East Relief had gathered orphans from different refugee camps and entrusted their care to Maria Jacobsen. By July 3, 1922 she was entrusted with 208 children from Cilicia who found a new home at Zouk Michail between the cities of Byblos and Beirut. This was the seed that was to become the “Bird’s Nest” in Sidon. Other missionaries arrived in refugee camps and did tremendous work for the Armenians. By opening workshops, clinics, soup kitchens, kindergartens, skill centers and Bible schools they fulfilled a desperate need for both physical and spiritual care. The number of Danish missionaries grew as more medical specialists came.

The home at Zouk Michail grew so rapidly that many practical problems developed. The shortage of water forced Jacobsen to search for a better home for the children. A Druze prince helped her by renting her his huge villa in Sidon [Saida]. She moved there with the entire household on May 1, 1923.

On one sunny day Maria Jacobsen stood on the steps of the new home surrounded by three hundred orphans. In her hands she had a bag filled with candy that she was going to distribute to them. The children immediately became excited and crowded around her. Anxious to reach her, they shouted “Mama,” “Mama” (mother, mother) and stretched their hands out desperately trying to grab the candy. Suddenly the picture of the children with all their hands outstretched struck her with a vivid image. “They are like newly hatched Birds,” she thought. From that day on she named the new home the “Bird’s Nest.” And that name is now known not only in Denmark, but also all over the Middle East. Maria Jacobsen finally succeeded in creating a safe haven for her small Armenian children and it has lived on in the memory of all those she helped and their children.

In 1928 K.M.A. purchased property from the American Near East Relief, which from 1922 to 1928 had run an Armenian orphanage on the grounds of Djoubeil (Byblos). Finally, the Danish missionaries established the long dreamed of “Danish Bird’s Nest” home, creating the solid foundation for a real home. A Summer Home was established in the village of Terzaya in 1930, high up in the mountains that was used as a health resort for the children during summer vacations. Since then the Danish “Bird’s Nest” has become legendary in the Middle East.

K.M.A. encountered some problems during World War II when all communications were cut. Through the aid of other Christian organizations, especially the aid from American-Armenians, closure of the home was prevented.

New missionaries arrived at the end of the war to normalize and strengthen the weakened parts of the work and to expand the work by establishing a scouting movement, F.D.F, in 1948, improving the educational standards and establishing the “After Care Foundation” in 1953, for the higher education of Bird’s Nest graduates, and expanding Danish personnel to eight missionaries. Besides Maria Jacobsen there was now Pastor Oluf Emil Paaske with his Norwegian wife ("Tante") Kirsten Elizabeth Ask Paaske and (Aunty) Magda Sørensen. Jacobsen’s sister, Anna Jacobsen, was already hired in 1931, and many others soon followed.

In 1950 Maria Jacobsen received the Danish Kingdom’s Gold Medal Award in appreciation for her humanitarian work. And on December 14, 1954, for her 50th Jubilee celebration at the American University in Beirut, she was presented with the Gold Medal of Honor by the Lebanese government, the Protestant Congregation, and the Gregorian community, as appreciation for her work among the Armenians.

From her post in Lebanon she toured Denmark in 1957 to report on her activities to friends of Armenians in Denmark, where she told them, “I think this will be the last time I see Denmark.” She knew that she would live and die among her beloved Armenian people and that her home was now the Bird’ Nest. Although physically weakened, she was still at her post writing letters to raise funds for the Bird’s Nest, even up to her death.

By the end of the last week in April 1957 and every Sunday evening thereafter, Jacobsen began to recount her life story and her experiences in Harpoot (Turkey) to the children of the “Danish Bird’s Nest”. I was eleven years old then and still remember her telling us the vivid and emotional stories that are now documented in her diary. She felt compelled to explain to us why she wrote so intensely in her diary. The diary functioned as her only sanctuary to take refuge from the daily inhumanity practiced by the Turks and Kurds against Armenians. The atrocities she witnessed during the Armenian massacres had so appalled her that she could only talk about them them in her diary.

While I was doing research for a book about K.M.A's Danish Bird’s Nest; I was puzzled over a book of 112 pages published in Danish in 1920, entitled “In the Shadow Valley” by Maria Dinesen, who was a writer and a member of KMA. In the book she recounts the memoirs of a woman by the name of Grace Dickson who had returned from Harpoot. I did a lot of research on Grace Dickson’s existence with no results. No one in K.M.A. had even heard of a woman with that name and I never saw that name while researching the archives. However, while I was reading Dickson’s sad stories, they reminded me of the stories Maria Jacobsen had told us about the massacres she witnessed. Only than did I realize that it was Maria Jacobsen herself who used the pseudonym of Grace Dickson. But more importantly, I understood why. Her experiences with the Turks had been so terrifying that even after she returned to her safe home in Denmark, she still did not wish to reveal her name or the existence of her diaries, probably because of her determination to return to her field work among the Armenians. She must have believed it necessary to keep her discretion as the servant of God and not act as a political commentator. That also explains why no one knew about her diaries, because they only appeared ten years after her death.

Group photo of the children of the Home, mailed as a Christmas gift to the Danish “fathers” (supporters) of the Bird’s Nest
On December 14, 1954, at the American University in Beirut, Maria Jacobsen was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor by the Lebanese government, the protestant congregation and the Gregorian community as appreciation for her humanitarian work among the Armenians

Maria Jacobsen died on April 6, 1960 after a long and fruitful life dedicated to helping others. Although physically weakened, she was still at her post writing letters to raise funds for the Bird’s Nest, even up to her death. Whether having good or bad days she always remained a missionary and worked to save souls which for her was her greatest task. As mother to thousands of orphan children she felt a special call to help them and to show them the way to Christ. She was entombed in a special chamber the way the old Phoenician Kings were buried.

Her last task was to strengthen the bond between the Bird’s Nest children and the friends of the Bird’s Nest around the world. For her last Christmas she wrote over 600 letters, quite a task in her old age, something few could achieve. The memory of Maria Jacobsen is still alive and her name is legendary among Armenians. She was a beacon of light and hope when only darkness filled the nights and days and she set an example for many others to follow. After she passed away, her sister Anna Jacobsen took charge of The Bird’s Nest. She came to The Bird’s Nest in 1931 to just spend a holiday with her sister, but that “holiday” lasted until May, 1967.

After the death of Maria (Mama) Jacobsen in 1960, and throughout the sixties, work at the Bird’s Nest concentrated on building and renovation activities as well as reforming the entire educational and children’s pedagogical system by modernizing the Home to the standards of the surrounding community. New missionaries and specialists arrived to carry out diverse plans. They forged new agreements and developed contacts with other institutions of higher learning. With the purchase of property in Beirut they constructed a building that was to be used for social events and club activities for former Bird’s Nest students. That building became the home of the “After Care” organization built to strengthen the social and spiritual needs of youngsters in the transitional period from childhood to independence.

In 1970, K.M.A.s Chairman Sister Kirsten Vind, transferred the responsibility of the Bird’s Nest to the Cilician Armenian Patriarchate with its headquarters in Antelias, Lebanon. In 1980 K.M.A. formally ended its association with Mission work. In its place, “Folkekirkens Nødhjælp” in Denmark took up the responsibility of transferring donations from the friends of the Bird’s Nest in Denmark to the Bird’s Nest.

As for Maria Jacobsen, “What she has done for one of these little children, she has done for me,” says Jesus, and she will in turn receive her merit.

Regarding Maria Jacobsen’s diaries published by Gomidas

The translation of Maria Jacobsen’s Diaries was undertaken by K.M.A. under the supervision of Sister Kirsten Vind, the last chairman for K.M.A. I had great pleasure in cooperating with her on Bird’s Nest matters for the last three decades, Kirsten Vind even entrusted the original manuscripts of Maria Jacobsen’s diaries to me after being assured that I consider them our national heritage.

Although Maria Jacobsen was not the first woman K.M.A sent to the missionary field in Armenia, she remains unique. She was the only one to keep such detailed records of events in “secret” diaries, which did not come to light for fifty years. She recorded almost daily the genocide against the Armenians and by 1919 she had produced one of the most detailed primary accounts of the genocide ever written. In fact, the largest part of her diaries, over 600 pages in the original Danish, covers the period of the genocide. These were hand-written in four books and constitute an important record of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. They were published as a book in 2001 by Gomidas Books ( as, “Maria Jacobsen, Diaries of a Danish Missionary: Harpoot, 1907–1919”. See: - Karekin Dickran, Aarhus, Denmark, 2004.


The translation and publication of Maria Jacobsen’s Diaries saw the fulfillment of one major goal of the work and documentation I have been involved in. I am especially indebted to Ara Sarafian of the Gomidas Institute for recognizing the importance of Maria Jacobsen’s diaries and for publishing them as a book in 2001. Without him the book in English would never have seen the light of day. Richard Kloian of the Armenian Genocide Resource Center in California deserves special thanks for putting this entire project in motion from the very beginning in 1997. He was the first person from the U.S to contact me about Maria Jacobsen and the Danish missionaries and helped to keep the momentum for the project going. He introduced me to a number of key people who have been instrumental in helping to further the work and to bring attention to the role of Danish Missionaries during the Armenian Genocide, These include Ara Sarafian of the Gomidas Institute and Eric Markusen of the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, who contacted me about KMA archives in 2001. Since then, with Richard Kloian's assistance, the Center has undertaken a pilot study of the holdings of the KMA Archives under the sponsorship of the Zoryan Institute of Canada. Karekin Dickran

Another objective of my work has been the collection of photos in a CD-ROM as a heritage toward the friendship of the Danish and Armenian people, that it may be a modest contribution to enrich the holdings of “the Armenian Genocide Resource Centers”. The CD-ROM photo album of the Danish Bird’s Nest complements the material in Jacobsen book, illustrating nearly all key events during the 1900—1970 period. Furthermore, the 15 CD-ROMs in my possession include portraits of Danish missionaries and Armenian children who, during their childhood, grew up in the homes of Mezreh, Zouk Michael, Saida and Djoubeil.

The book, Diaries of a Danish Missionary. Harpoot, 1907-1919 (release date, September 2001) is just one part of the Gomidas Institute's Armenian Genocide Documentation Series, alongside such titles as Tracy Atkinson, The German, the Turk and the Devil Made a Triple Alliance; Harpoot Diaries, 1907-1917; Henry Riggs, Days of Tragedy in Armenia: Personal Experiences in Harpoot, 1915-17; James Barton, “Turkish Atrocities, Statements of American Missionaries on the Destruction of Christian Communities in Ottoman Turkey, 1915-1917; and Beatrice Morley, Marsovan 1915. The Gomidas Institute is a leading institute publishing original primary accounts of the Armenian Genocide.

I hope that forthcoming generations of Armenians and Danes continue to forge a bond of lasting friendship, one that began in tragic circumstances but one that continues with hope and mutual respect so that together we can create a better human future for all. Although Turkey still denies the Armenian genocide I appeal to the Turkish Government and to the world community to restore the properties that belonged to the “deportees” to their families or ancestors, or pay compensation to the present Armenian government for their illegal confiscation.

Project Save “Bird’s Nest” Photo Archives

An archive devoted to collecting, documenting, preserving, and presenting the history of the “Bird’s Nest” and its photos from 1900-1970. A resource that includes photographs and the complete history of the “Danish Bird’s Nest” (in Danish). We have already produced 15 CD-ROM photo albums, containing more than 2500 photographs, portraits, panoramic vistas, and images of many subjects. All photographs were re-scanned in high resolution (600 or 800 dpi).

The photo CD-ROM albums of Danish Bird’s Nest complements the contents of the book, illustrating almost all major events in the period 1900-1970. Furthermore the CD-ROM includes portraits of Danish missionaries and Armenian children who spent their childhood and grew up in the Homes in Mezreh, (Turkey). Zouk Michael, Saida and Djoubeil in Lebanon.

The aim of “Project Save “Bird’s Nest” Photo Archives” is to collect photos from all available private sources, to scan the photos onto CD-ROMs, and donate them to the present “Armenian Bird’s Nest”. All photo’s sent to me will be returned to their owners after scanning.

I suggest to all who wish to support the project to send related photographs to the address below. The final stage of the project is to establish an archive at the present “Armenian Bird’s Nest” and to be able to make a donation to them of a powerful new computer so that it can be a place for all to connect to the past, while considering the present, thus creating a future for everyone.


Dickran, Karekin: Various Titles of Publications related to Northern resources by one or another way
Lous, Eva: Karen Jeppe - Denmark's First Peace Philosopher

For more information please visit or e-mail us at

Gomidas London; Ara Sarafian. 7 Tower Close, Reading, Berks RG4 8UU, England. Fax/phone: (0118) 9464196.

Contact Person: Ara Sarafian Gomidas Institute (UK) PO Box 32665 London W14 0XA Tel: (020) 7602 7990 Email: Web:

Karekin Dickran was instrumental in bringing this project together.

Contact person in Danmark: Karekin Dickran Hans Broges Gade 45, 8000 Aarhus C. Denmark. e-mail: Telphone: 45 + 86 13 90 54

K.M.A.’s Danish Bird’s Nest

Compiled By Karekin Dickran (In Danish)

A third objective of my work has been the compilation of a book about the Bird’s Nest, to tell the story of the orphanage, its history, the role the 1890s Armenian massacres played in the establishment of the K.M.A. and the Danish missionary presence in Asia Minor. The book is also about the missionaries and workers who served tens of thousands of orphans who went through its doors, but it’s also about some of the families and the orphans themselves. It recounts from the archives of the Bird’s Nest a number of personal stories recorded by missionaries as told by the survivors during their stay at the Birds Nest. Perhaps of even more significance, since there were thousands of orphans who came and went through its doors, and many families with mothers and children, many of whom since have lost track of or contact with each other, the archives will also serve as a repository of information, along with hundreds of photographs with family names and names of orphans and parents, so that children of survivors and their descendants can find information on lost relatives, even today. This is an invaluable resource for those interested in finding information on distant relatives to establish family linkages lost during those turbulent times.

The story of the Bird’s Nest began in 1900 when the "Women’s Missionary Workers" (Kvindelige Missions Arbejdere) K.M.A. was established in Scandinavia, in Denmark. Since 1902 and for many years thereafter K.M.A. sent many missionaries to help and serve the Armenian people. The book of nearly 350 pages contains 15 chapters, an index, and more than two-dozen photographs. One chapter of the book discusses the political arena in Asia Minor during 1895-96 and includes several pages from a book by Aage Mejer Benedictsen, “Armenien” —about Sultan Abdul-Hamid’s massacre of Armenians during that period, which created the need for the relief work that followed. Other chapters discuss the foundation and organization of the Women's Missionary Workers, or K.M.A, and their work among Armenians in Anatolia (Western Armenia) where Danish missionaries were stationed at Harpoot, Mezreh (Vilayet Mamuret-ul- Aziz), Bitlis, Van, and Malatia in 1901- 1919.

Another chapter addresses Armenia and World War I with news and articles from K.M.A. archives discussing the impact of World War I on Armenia. In this respect, the Danish version of the Bird’s Nest book also contains Maria Jacobsen’s diaries in Danish (edited Danish version by Britta June Johnsen). Still another chapter includes accounts by Karen Marie Peterson regarding the fate of several orphans and Armenian families she had personally known. Jacobsen herself also recounts the fate of several families and orphans that she had recorded in her notes. Also moving is a memorandum record from Malatia: “Land of Tears, - by missionary Jensine Ørtz.

After the genocide Danish missionaries helped to care for thousands of orphans and widows transferred to Lebanon, where the Danish Bird’s Nest was finally established. One chapter describes the hardships of the transfer of orphans to Syria and Lebanon after the end of the war. Included in the Story of the Bird’s Nest are many documents representing statements by American and German missionaries and German military officials on the destruction of Christians in Turkey. Another chapter describes annual summer fundraisers with Danish youngsters in Denmark that raised funds and collected provisions and clothing for Armenian orphans. The last few chapters describe the creation of the Armenian diaspora, the return of missionaries to Denmark, Maria Jacobsen’s visit to the USA, the American Near East Relief orphanages in Asia Minor and Lebanon, the first K.M.A. orphanage in Lebanon at Zouk Mikhail, and the purchase of property by K.M.A. from the American Near East Relief at Djoubeil (Byblos) which would become the permanent home of the Danish Bird’s Nest. And finally, for the period 1950-1970 the book includes K.M.A’s annual reports describing in chronological order the last years of the home 1968-1970 when K.M.A’s chairman Sister Kirsten Vind negotiated to transfer all of K.M.A.’s assets in Lebanon to The Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias because of the 1967 war between the Arabs and Israel.

Although the book on the Bird’s Nest is now complete it is only in Danish at the moment. It is to be hoped that one day someone will come forward to support its publication and translation into English for all to read. The work of Danish missionaries in this period is too important not to share with the rest of the world. It is a testament to the humanitarian work of Danish missionaries who saved tens of thousands of Armenians and who forever have exemplified the highest calling to which anyone can achieve.

I hope that future generations of Armenians and Danes continue to forge a bond of lasting friendship, one that began in tragic circumstances but one that continues with hope and mutual respect so that together we can create a better human future for all. Although Turkey still denies the Armenian Genocide I appeal to the Turkish Government and to the world community to restore the properties that belonged to the “deportees" to their families or ancestors, or pay compensation to the present Armenian government for their illegal confiscation.

The completion of the “Story of the Danish Bird’s Nest” and the Project Save Bird’s Nest Photo Archives is one way of saying thanks to the Danish people for the tremendous work they did for Armenians in times of our national desperation. It also serves to pay modest homage to those thousands of unknown Armenians who died for their faith. Gratitude alone is not enough to express our deep appreciation to the Danish people for the humanitarian work done for Armenians during the years of our national suffering. As for the unknown countless Armenians who died for their faith, we will never forget you!

Contact: Karekin Dickran Hans Broges Gade 45, 8000 Aarhus C. Denmark. e-mail: Telphone: 45 + 86 13 90 54

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