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Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Armenian Golgotha




Armenian Golgotha
Grigoris Balakian, Alfred e. Knopf
2009

While studying in Germany at a theological seminary in Berlin, Grigoris Balakian, found himself getting caught up in the days events. Events in Austria-Hungary and Serbia started the war. Turkey and Germany were on the same side. In the midst of his studies Grigoris Balakian is summoned back to Turkey. While making his way back Grigoris make several poignant observations. The Germans mistreat people of foreign decent, especially if they are from enemy countries. Taking the ship back Grigoris realized that it was to his advantage to praise the Germans and the Turks. This made traveling g easier and may have even saved his life.

Upon arriving in Istanbul Grigoris makes several observations, about both the Turks and the Armenians and their political parties. He views things intelligently and with a critical eye. As World War I is looming most countries are keeping quiet and holding their cards close to their chest. The Armenians are the opposite they are loudly proclaiming support for Britain and France, the enemies of Turkey and Germany. Grigoris senses quite accurately that the Turkish government is preparing something big for the Armenians and feels that Armenian actions are just provoking Turkish ire and giving them man excuse for what they plan to do.

April 24, 1915 along with other leaders and intellectuals of the Armenian nation, Grigoris finds himself arrested and being deported to the interior of Turkey. The Destination is Chatirli. The trek in a caravan drives Komitas insane. Other intellectuals die along the way. This book is testament to what Grigoris Balakian was forced to endure. The ultimate aim of the Turkish government was to annihilate the Armenian nation. Along with arresting the intellectuals young men of fighting age were drafted as soldiers and then placed into labor battalions. After being place into a labor battalion they were disarmed worked to death and then finally executed at a mass grave. Turkish military also searched the homes of Armenian families confiscating what ever weapon they could find. Most Armenians did not have weapons so the Turks ended up confiscating kitchen knives. Later on the elderly, women and children were marched through the desert al the way to Dar es Zor a fiery hot desert.

The march was a death march. The Armenians were marched under the hot blazing sun and exposed to the elements. They were deprived of food and water. When they made enough distance from population centers the caravans of Armenians were set upon by violent criminals called "Chetes". They were released from Turkish prison with the sole purpose of annihilation of the Armenian population. They not only stole from the Armenians but they butchered the Armenians ruthlessly like savages.

Grigoris Balakian eventually escapes by working for a German rail road company. Disguised as a German he makes his way make to Constantinople or Istanbul. He eventually settled in Paris, France.

This is one document that demands to be read. It is a first hand account of the horrors experienced by the Armenian nation and it is filled with plenty of background knowledge. Grigoris Balakian does not just state the facts of tell a story. He informs the reader and analyzed everything with a critical eye. The man survived by his wits.

Grigoris tells us well the nature of the Turk and their brutal way of life. They have no education yet they persecute the Armenians for having an education. Their way of life is depredation and thieving. They thieve not only from Armenians but also from other Muslims. It was Armenians who were the craftsmen, farmers, doctors, intellectuals and financiers. When the Armenians were annihilated the Turks lost everything. They had no doctors to cure the sick, no one to harvest the grain, no craftsmen to repair needed tools. The Armenians were the pillar of Ottoman society.

The Germans who were Christians like the Armenians yet allied with the Turks were just as disdainful toward the Armenians as the Turks were. They stopped people from giving Armenian refugees food and they held very negative opinions towards the Armenians. The German military supported and even promoted the Ottoman campaign against the Armenians.

The Armenian leadership does not escape unscathed by his critical eye either. Many like the Nalbandian profited from the Genocide because the Turks gave them confiscated Armenian property and wealth. The Patriarchate was infiltrated with traitors who informed the Young Turks of everything that transpired. Many Armenians helped turn over other Armenians to the Turks and even helped the Turks draw up lists of Armenian community leaders. Other Armenians who were in the Turkish government knew in advance about the Young Turks plans and did not do anything to warn their fellow Armenians.

This book gets a five star rating.

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