Finding out the truth about my grandfather and the genocide

As readers of this blog already know, I am writing a book about my grandfather, Dr. Karnig Kalpakian. This blog came about because as I started researching the history of the Armenian Genocide, I learned that what my high school Sunday School teacher warned us was true: the Turkish government actively denies the fact of the Armenian Genocide. And, sadly, many of our politicians and universities are on the Turkish lobby’s payroll. This blog is simply a means for sharing what I come across each day as I dig deeper into the mountains of evidence that actually do exist, which prove the truth of the Ottoman Turks’ slaughter and brutalization of over 1.5 million Armenians at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Last night I read Neither to Laugh nor to Weep: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide by Father Abraham H. Hartunian. I learned about the book when I read the Ellis Island oral history of his son, Vartan Hartunian. Father Hartunian’s account is brutal and vivid. I shutter to think what horrors he may have edited out of his memory, because his descriptions of the attacks he witnessed and the terror he experienced are raw.

I wanted to read his book because I learned that he led a church congregation in Marash (which is the city where my grandfather lived). I hoped to learn more about what happened in 1920, as my grandfather only glossed over the events in his letters to our family. The only clue I had to the madness is that my grandfather referred to his home burning and that his mother and sisters were taken to the mosque and ‘butchered’. But, I questioned his knowledge and memory of the event because until last night I had not read an account, or spoken with anyone, who knew of the mosque (I kept encountering the recounting of the burning of the churches with their congregations inside).


On pages 136-137 of Neither to Laugh not to Weep, Father Hartunian writes:

On the night of January 23, to the firing, the thundering of the cannons, the din of battle, a more calamitous evil was added—fire! The Turks had begun to set Armenian houses and buildings on fire. Even Turkish buildings were being burned if it seemed possible thus to spread the blaze to the Armenian quarters or one of the military centers. The flames rose everywhere; the city glowed beneath their light. From every side, bullets were incessantly whizzing like hail, and no one knew when he might be hit. Every moment there was danger of a fierce attack on any center where the Armenians had gathered. The fire horrified us. It was impossible to withstand it. I do not know a battle on a field or in the air, but I do know that a battle in a city is a hellish thing!

In the other centers the situation was the same or even worse. But no horrors can ever parallel the experience of the Armenians in the Armenian quarters and in their houses. These were tortured without respite and without pity and then slaughtered. A well-known and supposedly good-hearted Turk, Murad Bey, was in the Great Mosque, Ooloo Jami, where the murderers were at work. Some Armenian women and children, watching the slaughter and awaiting their turn, pleaded, “Please tell them to shoot us and not cut our throats with the knife!” and our kind Turk answered, “Don’t be afraid. The knives have been sharpened well and you will not suffer much.”

The city’s greatest Hoca was there too, Dayi Zade Hoca, and the Turks turned to him saying, “Hoca, shall we slaughter the small children too?” Does the Koran give us permission?” “Yes,” he answered, “slaughter them too. The Koran permits. We must kill the offspring of the scorpions, too, that they may not grow and sting us.”

Now, I know the fate of my grandfather’s mother, Mary Mesrobian Kalpakian; and his sisters, Anais Kalpakian (13 or 14 years old), and Armenouhi Kalpakian (9 or 10 years old).

The more I read, the more my grandfather’s words are verified as fact. This history is no ‘myth’ as Turkish government spokespeople continue to allege. But, I wish they were right.

4 Responses to Finding out the truth about my grandfather and the genocide

  1. ShirleyC says:

    I read this book, too, excellent. It was interesting to me because he went through Aintab where my mother was born. One day, I want to go to Eastern Turkey and view my mother’s birthplace.

  2. Raffi says:

    You need to get a copy of the Armenian Golghota by Balakian. Definitely read the narrations.

  3. auntsherisays says:


    Thank you for your contribution to this blog. Yes, I agree, Armenian Golgotha is a must read. After seeing the author’s nephew, Peter Balakian, present a talk about the book in NYC last year, I was inspired to start this blog and to write a book about my grandfather and the many Armenians our family knew who survived the Armenian Genocide.

  4. SasunMarash says:

    My father’s family comes from Marash, so I applaud your efforts. Have you read “Lions of Marash”? I’m trying to get my hands on a copy. I have a book, in Armenian, that depicts a history of Marash, as well as the massacres. One of the problems I found was that survivors were too traumatized to talk about the events. My grandmother always clammed up when I directed the questions in this direction. Not only did she survive the Genocide as did her husband as children, when married and with a new born, her husband was shot in the back by some brave Turk! So yes, getting the info is difficult.

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