Lou Ureneck will speak about the burning of Smyrna and the American rescue of Greek refugees today at 7:30 p.m. at the Free Library in Philadelphia.

In September 1922, the richest city of the Mediterranean was burned, and countless numbers of Christian refugees killed. The city was Smyrna, and the event was the final episode of the 20th Century’s first genocide — the slaughter of three million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians of the Ottoman Empire.

The slaughter at Smyrna occurred as warships of the great powers stood by — the United States, Great Britain, France and Italy. The deaths of hundreds of thousands seemed inevitable until an American minister staged a bold rescue with the help of a courageous U.S. naval officer. Now, the forgotten story of one of the great humanitarian acts of history gets told.

Lou Ureneck is the author of The Great Fire, One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide and a professor at Boston University. A former Nieman fellow at Harvard University, Ureneck is a former deputy managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and editor of the Portland Press Herald. In 2011, Ureneck was a Fulbright fellow at the National University in Kiev, where he taught business and economics journalism.