From the Publisher
“A fascinating first-hand testimony to a monumental crime.”
—The New Yorker
“Gripping. . . . A powerful and important book. . . . It takes its place as one of the key first-hand sources for understanding the Armenian Genocide.”
—Mark Mazower, The New Republic
“Powerful. . . . Riveting. . . . A poignant, often harrowing story about the resiliency of the human spirit [and] a window on a moment in history that most Americans only dimly understand.”
—Chris Bohjalian, Washington Post
“An immensely moving, harrowing memoir that instantly takes its place as a classic alongside Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz and Elie Wiesel’s Night.”
—Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“Read this heartbreaking book. Armenian Golgotha describes the suffering, agony and massacre of innumerable Armenian families almost a century ago; its memory must remain a lesson for more than one generation.”
—Elie Wiesel, author of Night
“An appalling and magnificent book. . . . It owes its existence to [Balakian’s] determination to survive to write it . . . a sacred task that gives him the strength to persevere through the impossible circumstances that killed well over a million of his countrymen.”
—Benjamin Moser, Harper’s
“Shocking and brilliant. . . . Exquisitely rendered. . . . This book has the feel of a classic about it, and I suspect that future writers on historical trauma and its representation will turn eagerly to Armenian Golgotha. It’s a massively important contribution to this field.”
—Jay Parini, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“An extraordinary narrative . . . beautifully translated. . . . Armenian Golgotha will influence Armenian genocide studies for decades.”
—John A. C. Greppin, The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Monumental. . . . Balakian provides strong evidence that these gruesome proceedings were carried out under official orders from the highest level. . . . For generations to come Armenian Golgotha will remain a first-hand documentation of a historic tragedy written from the perspective of a talented scholar.”
—Henry Morgenthau, III, Boston Sunday Globe
“[A work] of exceptional interest and scholarship.”
—Christopher Hitchens, Slate
“The translation and publication of Armenian Golgotha in English is long overdue. It constitutes a thundering historical proof that those who deny the Armenian Genocide are engages in a massive deception.”
—Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory
“Groundbreaking. . . . Comprehensive. . . . Sobering. . . . Armenian Golgotha is replete with narratives that focus on collective suffering, marking this memoir as one of the few to explicate the true nature of the crime. . . . Balakian’s memory is extraordinary, but so, too, are his intellect, his compassion and his ethical obligation to immortalize his beloved co-nationals.”
—Donna-Lee Frieze, The Jewish Daily Forward
“An Armenian equivalent to the testimonies of Holocaust survivors like Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel.”
—Adam Kirsch, Nextbook
“The descriptions of the Armenian genocide are striking and the author spares his readers none of the gruesome details. . . . A riveting and powerful indictment of a genocide that became a paradigm for future genocides.”
—Holger H. Herwig, The Gazette (Montreal)
“An essential memoir, a lively and extraordinary life story. . . . This is more than an eyewitness account, it is a masterful history in its own right.”
—Seth J. Frantzman, The Jerusalem Post
“Weighted with eyewitness accounts and distinguished by Balakian’s prodigiously sharp memory, this book is not a scholar’s history, of course, but an educated prelate’s, with an enviable grasp of Ottoman and European history. . . . Memory and hope for the future live in seminal texts such as Armenian Golgotha.”
—Keith Garebian, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“A powerful, moving account of the Armenian Genocide, a story that needs to be known, and is told here with a sweep of experience and wealth of detail that is as disturbing as it is irrefutable.”
—Sir Martin Gilbert
“Extraordinary. . . . This book will become a classic, both for its depiction of a much denied genocide and its humane and brilliant witness to what human beings can endure and overcome.”
—Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
“Witness literature of the highest order, to be put aside the great testimony from the Shoah. . . . Required reading for those who wish to comprehend the 20th century.”
—Robert Leiter, The Jewish Exponent
“An astonishing memoir. . . . An important primary document concerning the Armenian Genocide. . . . A major addition to the literature of witness and testimony.”
—Robert Melson, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal
…a powerful memoir…In addition to being a poignant, often harrowing story about the resiliency of the human spirit, Armenian Golgotha is also a window on a moment in history that most Americans only dimly understand…I hope that Armenian Golgotha will be widely read, both as a riveting tale of one man's survival and as a historical document.
The Washington Post
Grigoris Balakian (1876-1934), a cultural and religious leader in Istanbul's Armenian community, was arrested in April 1914 with 250 other leaders and began almost four years of deportation, forced march to the Syrian desert, and abusive treatment. Thus was launched the Turkish government's program to rid the country of Armenians. Hundreds of thousands were viciously murdered or died of cold and starvation, but Balakian's fierce will to live and his encounters with a few generous people allowed him to survive and tell the story. This memoir, which Balakian published in Armenian in 1922, vividly portrays Turkish brutality as it provides his and others' stories along with well-informed commentary on Turkey's actions. Peter Balakian (English, Colgate Univ.; The Burning Tigris), the author's grandnephew, has translated this rich historical document and provided scholarly support, making available a readable and moving account that will be welcomed by both the English-speaking Armenian community and a broader audience committed to witnessing and understanding the massive cruelty and suffering that characterized widespread crimes against humanity in the 20th century. Important for readers who want to judge whether or not this was the first genocide in modern times.
Elizabeth R. Hayford
The first English translation of a seminal personal account of the first modern genocide..Balakian (1873–1934) was a prominent intellectual and priest of the Armenian Church in Turkey at the outbreak of World War I. The Ottoman Empire was publicly neutral but secretly allied with Germany. Turkey's long-persecuted Armenian minority favored Russia and her allies, because Czar Nicholas II had long been an unofficial, and ineffective, protector of Armenian Christians under Ottoman rule. This proved disastrous when Russia declared war on Turkey in November 1914, and Ottoman officials decided that the entire Armenian population represented a fifth column. There had been earlier massacres of Armenians in Turkey, but nothing like the nightmare that began with the April 1915 arrest in Constantinople of 250 Armenian intellectuals, including Balakian. In a text originally published in 1922, he relates their Kafka-like ordeal, in which humiliating abuse alternated with occasional kindness, and the release of a few was counterpointed by occasional killing of others. After ten months, the remnant of Balakian's group was ordered to march west, joining hundreds of thousands of additional victims. While ordinary Germans' acceptance of Jewish persecution was mostly passive, Balakian describes the Turkish population, civilian and military, enthusiastically falling upon the Armenians in an orgy of torture, slaughter, rape and robbery. More than a million Armenians died. With luck, the aid of comrades and a few sympathetic officials, Balakian survived to write this memoir, which combines extensive research, an account of his own experiences and testimony from eyewitnesses, both victims and perpetrators. Poet,memoirist and Armenian holocaust historian Peter Balakian (The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response, 2005, etc.), Grigoris's great-nephew, collaborated with professional translator Sevag to render the blistering Armenian text into modern English..An important historical document, though its relentless depiction of atrocity make this a hard slog for the average reader..Agent: Eric Simonoff/Janklow & Nesbit.
Read an Excerpt
The Night of Gethsemane
On the night of Saturday, April 11/24, 1915, the Armenians of the capital city, exhausted from the Easter celebrations that had come to an end a few days earlier, were snoring in a calm sleep. Meanwhile on the heights of Stambul, near Ayesofia, a highly secret activity was taking place in the palatial central police station.
Groups of Armenians had just been arrested in the suburbs and neighborhoods of the capital; blood-colored military buses were now transporting them to the central prison. Weeks earlier Bedri,* chief of police in Constantinople, had sent official sealed orders to all the guardhouses, with the instruction that they not be opened until the designated day and that they then be carried out with precision and in secrecy. The orders were warrants to arrest the Armenians whose names were on the blacklist, a list compiled with the help of Armenian traitors, particularly Artin Megerdichian, who worked with the neighborhood Ittihad clubs.† Condemned to death were Armenians who were prominent and active in either revolutionary or nonpartisan Armenian organizations and who were deemed liable to incite revolution or resistance.‡
On this Saturday night I, along with eight friends from Scutari, was transported by a small steamboat from the quay of the huge armory of Selimiye to Sirkedji. The night smelled of death; the sea was rough, and our hearts were full of terror. We prisoners were under strict police guard, not allowed to speak to one another. We had no idea where we were going.
We arrived at the central prison, and here behind gigantic walls and large bolted gates, they put us in a wooden pavilion in the courtyard, which was said by some to have once served as a school. We sat there, quiet and somber, on the bare wooden floor under the faint light of a flickering lantern, too stunned and confused to make sense of what was happening.
We had barely begun to sink into fear and despair when the giant iron gates of the prison creaked open again and a multitude of new faces were pushed inside. They were all familiar faces—revolutionary and political leaders, public figures, and nonpartisan and even antipartisan intellectuals.
From the deep silence of the night until morning, every few hours Armenians were brought to the prison. And so behind these high walls, the jostling and commotion increased as the crowd of prisoners became denser. It was as if all the prominent Armenian public figures—assemblymen, representatives, revolutionaries, editors, teachers, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, merchants, bankers, and others in the capital city—had made an appointment to meet in these dim prison cells. Some even appeared in their nightclothes and slippers. The more those familiar faces kept appearing, the more the chatter abated and our anxiety grew.
Before long everyone looked solemn, our hearts heavy and full of worry about an impending storm. Not one of us understood why we had been arrested, and no one could assess the consequences. As the night’s hours slipped by, our distress mounted. Except for a few rare stoics, we were in a state of spiritual anguish, terrified of the unknown and longing for comfort.
Right through till morning new Armenian prisoners arrived, and each time we heard the roar of the military cars, we hurried to the windows to see who they were. The new arrivals had contemptuous smiles on their faces, but when they saw hundreds of other well-known Armenians old and young around them, they too sank into fear. We were all searching for answers, asking what all of this meant, and pondering our fate.
*See Biographical Glossary.
†Meeting places for members of the local Ittihad Party committees throughout the empire.—trans.
‡Revolutionary here refers to reform-oriented political workers.—trans.
From the Hardcover edition.