Armenian Genocide Manuscript Discovered in San Francisco

Carla Garapedian, left, shows the Mugerditchian manuscript to USC Shoah Foundation writer Robin Migdol, center, and Diana Hekimian. (Source: USC Shoah Foundation)
Carla Garapedian, left, shows the Mugerditchian manuscript to USC Shoah Foundation writer Robin Migdol, center, and Diana Hekimian. (Source: USC Shoah Foundation)

Carla Garapedian, left, shows the Mugerditchian manuscript to USC Shoah Foundation writer Robin Migdol, center, and Diana Hekimian. (Source: USC Shoah Foundation)

SAN FRANCISCO (USC Shoah Foundation)—When a cousin of Diana Hekimian’s in San Francisco mentioned that she had found an old manuscript in the basement of her apartment building two months ago, Hekimian didn’t know what to think.

Then she saw the manuscript. With its faded type, handwritten notes, and photographs taped to the pages, “it looked like a very important document,” she said. So, she brought it to the Armenian Film Foundation for help figuring out what it was.

Hekimian, a founding member of the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance and board member of the Armenian International Women’s Association, had actually just stumbled upon an original copy of one of the earliest reports of the 1915 genocide in Armenia: The Diyarbekir Massacres and Kurdish Atrocities. It was written by British Pro-Consul Thomas Mugerditchian and published in 1919.

People all over the world can get a personal glimpse into Mugerditchian’s life through the testimony of his daughter, Alice Mugerditchian Shipley, which is integrated into the Visual History Archive as part of USC Shoah Foundation’s Armenian Genocide testimony collection. The testimony was originally filmed by documentarian J. Michael Hagopian and collected by the Armenian Film Foundation.

The Mugerditchian family lived in comfort and prestige in Diyarbekir, Turkey, until World War I began and Alice, her mother and siblings were forced to flee. They attempted to stay alive in Kharpert (Harput) until finally deciding to escape through the mountains of Dersim and into Russian controlled Erzincan. Thomas Mugerditchian was still in Diyarbekir when he wrote his report and later served as a diplomat in Egypt. The family was finally reunited in California in 1921.

The Diyarbekir Massacres and Kurdish Atrocities is significant because it was one of the first written reports of violence committed against Armenian men, women and children in May 1914 leading up to the beginning of the Armenian Genocide in 1915, said Carla Garapedian, board member of the Armenian Film Foundation. The acts of violence and persecution against innocent civilians that Mugerditchian describes provide clues that a genocide was about to begin.

“You don’t suddenly attack a population,” Garapedian said.

Mugerditchian’s report is based on his own personal observations as well as accounts from four other witnesses.

The book’s content is truly harrowing. Mugerditchian describes babies being thrown off bridges, entire village populations marched off into the desert and massacred, and rivers flowing red with blood from murdered civilians.

Mugerditchian compiled his report, made four carbon copies (one of which is Hekimian’s) and sent it to the U.S. State Department. It was published in 1919. In 2013, it was translated to English from the original Armenian; it can be purchased on Amazon.

In 1983, Shipley wrote her own memoir, We Walked, Then Ran, about her family’s story of survival. Hagopian interviewed her for his collection of Armenian Genocide survivor and witness testimonies in 1985.

Hekimian hopes to donate the manuscript to an Armenian cultural institution or museum.

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  1. Sylva~MD~poetry said:

    Another story from Dekranagerd (Diyarbakir)…

    Genocide Victims in My Family
    The story of our family. My grandfather, Mihran Dabbaghian (head of the customs department in Diyarbakir province), left for work and was never to be seen again. His uncle, Garabed Dabbaghian, famous lawyer/judge, given the short name Natick Effendi (“Mr. Speaker” in Turkish)—he and all his extended family where slaughtered in Diyarbakir. We still have the official papers (Called Tappo in Turkish) that state we are owners of many lands in Diyarbakir.
    Other related families are the Abrahamian (changed their surname to Sabri to save their life—we recently discovered that their real surname name was Abrahamian before the massacres of 1915), Chilingirian, Kazandjian, Ouzounian, Misakian, and Simsarian (owners of silk factory in Diyarbakir).
    My granduncle’s wife, Katrina, the only survivor from Yousif Karagulla’s family (feudal lord in Mardin), had a brother, Numan Karagulla, who was graduated from the medical school of Harvard (1905?), and married to an American woman named Stella. They raped his wife in front of him then slaughtered him, his wife, and their son Philip. The genocide survivors are American citizens. There are endless stories, so which one to tell?
    My father’s family in Baghdad never experienced the same situation. However, in Turkey, his two cousins (from the Ohanessian family) who were medical students in Vienna (Austria) vanished when they came home in April to Diyarbakir for
    the Easter holiday.
    From my poetry collection “A poetic soulshined of genocides” (2008)
    The poetry book includes poems …not only about Armenian genocide but many genocides …after our genocide…

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