Karen Jeppe

Danish missionary and social worker

1876-1935

Karen Jeppe was a Danish missionary and social worker, known for her work helping the Armenian nation to recuperate during the Hamidian massacres of 1895 and the period following it. She was born in 1876 in Denmark and was studying medicine at the time of the Hamidian massacres. Learning about the slaughter, she abandoned her education and decided to partake in American and European missionary work. She entered into a correspondence with Johannes Lepsius and Miss Shatik from the US. Karen reached Urfa in 1903, and at just 27 years old was entrusted with the care and upbringing of 300 orphans. She organised food and water for the caravans of desperate Armenians driven through Urfa on their journey to graves in the Syrian Desert. She stayed on despite the unfolding carnage, helping thousands flee by disguising them as Kurds and Arabs. By 1917 she had been sheltering Armenians in her cellar for nearly two years. Sick and on the verge of nervous collapse she returned to Denmark.

In 1921 she returned to Aleppo with the backing of the League of Nations to track down Armenian girls who had been trafficked as slaves during the Genocide. Between 1922 and 1923 she set up search and rescue stations in Aleppo. Using money she raised in Europe she managed to buy back many women and children from their Arab owners. Tragically, some Arabs refused to sell the babies and those mothers chose to remain with their captors. Karen Jeppe was responsible for freeing some 2,000 women from slavery.

Thousands of Armenians in Aleppo received their education at the Armenian High school founded by Karen Jeppe and named in her honor.