NEW YORK — The new memoir, Forced into Genocide: Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army, recalls Yervant Alexanian’s death-defying experiences in the center of the Armenian Genocide.
Like other Armenians of his generation, he was an eyewitness to the massacre and dislocation of his family and fellow countrymen in Ottoman Turkey during World War I. Alexanian was conscripted into the Turkish army — but unlike others so conscripted, he survived.
Alexanian was forced to become an onlooker while he watched the atrocities unfold. His story of resourceful action and fateful turns is a suspenseful “insider’s account” of a Genocide survivor. From his singular position, Alexanian was able to document the tragedy of his people in his journals and diaries, but he also offers us a behind-the-scenes look into the motivations and actions of Turkish military officials as they committed the atrocities. His story continues after the war as we follow the trail of his journey through Europe and finally to America, where he found solace and was able to start anew with fellow survivors.
No comparable account exists in the literature of the Armenian Genocide. This edition, translated from Alexanian’s hand-written Armenian-language chronicle, includes never-before-seen documents and photos that the author preserved. Through his eyes we relive the astonishing cruelty of the Genocide’s perpetrators — but also rare, unexpected acts of humanity between victim and oppressor.
The book was edited by his daughter, Adrienne G. Alexanian. She is a 2010 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal, an educator, and the daughter of Yervant Alexanian.
The introduction is by Sergio La Porta, the Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno.