This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Anthony Krafft-Bonnard (June 15, 1869)

Less known than some of his European colleagues, Anthony Krafft-Bonnard was a longtime defender of Armenian humanitarian and political causes in Switzerland. 

He was born on June 15, 1869, in Aigle (canton of Vaud, Switzerland). He studied at the Faculty of Theology of the Free Church of Lausanne, where he met his wife Helène Bonnard, who was his support and right arm in his struggle for the Armenians. 

Pastor Krafft-Bonnard was among the first to delve into aid for Armenia following the news about the Hamidian massacres in 1895-1896. In fall 1896, the different committees organized in many Swiss cantons united to form the Conference of Swiss Committees of Aid to Armenians, presided by Prof. Georges Godet, and send assistance to be distributed in place by American missionaries. In the same meeting, another initiative saw the light, which would last about half a century: to move Armenian orphans to Switzerland, where they would be received by families who would take care of the financial and educational burden. Krafft-Bonnard, who chaired the committee in charge, received the first orphan in 1897.  

In December 1918, after the armistice that ended World War I, a new reorganization took place and the Federation of Swiss Committees Friend of Armenians was born. Kraft-Bonnard became its general secretary. He was the driving force behind the Philo-Armenian International League, created in the summer of 1920 in Paris, becoming first its secretary and then president. He was an indefatigable defender of Armenian rights, denouncing the betrayal of the promises made to Armeinans after the war. He published about twenty books and booklets in French on Armenian issues alone between 1919 and 1935.  

In 1921, due to the influx of Armenian refugees in Switzerland, Krafft-Bonnard suggested to the Central Committee the creation of an Armenian home to host needy refugees. The committee refused to take the administrative and financial responsibility and suggested creating a special committee. The association “Le Foyer Arménien” was created in June 1921 as an initiative of Krafft-Bonnard, and a house bought to that end in Begnins, near Geneva, received its first refugees a month later. In 1922, the Swiss orphanage of Sivas, which had already found refuge in Constantinople due to the Kemalist threat, was moved to Switzerland. After 1922, 250 refugees and 174 orphans found safe shelter in the Armenian home. Soon, a second home was created in Geneva. 

Anthony KrafftBonnard resigned from his parish duties to devote himself entirely to the Armenian orphans in Switzerland, who continued arriving until 1929.  

Begnins was an elementary school bound to give a formation to Armenian children in their mother language, culture, and traditions. Armenian teachers gave courses in Armenian. The program was also adapted to correspond to Swiss public education. Krafft-Bonnard’s primary goal was to create an elite that could replace the losses of the Genocide: “The Armenian school of Begnins-Geneva represents the beginning of the struggle against the danger of denationalization (…). Its goal is to give him [the Armenian student] a higher education, a national culture, and a professional instruction that may allow him becoming a good servant of his nation, an element of national reconstruction.” The home of Begnins admitted children until the age of fifteen or sixteen, and then they moved to the home of Geneva to continue their studies.  

Anthony Krafft-Bonnard passed away on October 14, 1945, in Geneva.