In Memoriam: Hagop Manjikian

Hagop Manjikian speaks at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in 1975
Hagop Manjikian speaks at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in 1975

Hagop Manjikian speaks at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in 1975

Funeral services for the veteran Armenian Revolutionary Federation leader and community organizer Hagop Manjikian are scheduled for Saturday, November 2. Below are brief biographical notes from Manjikian’s storied life a servant of the Armenian Nation.

Born less than a decade after the Armenian Genocide, Hagop Manjikian heard the stories of the Turkish deportations and massacres of his people, and they left an indelible mark on his memory. So much so that he dedicated his life to making sure that the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the Genocide would never be forgotten.

Manjikian was born to Garabed and Victoria Manjikian in 1924. After graduating from the Ousoumnasirats High School of Kessab and attending a French technical school in Lattakia, Manjikian worked in various countries in the Middle East in the business of construction machinery. In December 1950, he left his cherished parents and brother, Vahan, and his beloved Kessab and set sail for America, arriving in New York just before Christmas and setting foot in California on New Year’s Day 1951.

Hagop Manjikian at the opening of the Montebello Armenian Martyrs Monument in April, 1968

Hagop Manjikian at the opening of the Montebello Armenian Martyrs Monument in April, 1968

A skilled machinist, Manjikian started his own business, Armo Machine Company, in South Gate, California, in 1952, making precision parts for oil exploration machinery and the aerospace industry. During the 50 years he operated Armo Machine Co., he made precision parts for the Army, Navy and Air Force, including specialty parts for the Space Shuttle program.

While Manjikian worked as a precision parts subcontractor by day, every moment of his spare time was spent helping put together an organizational infrastructure for the burgeoning Armenian community in Southern California.

A member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Manjikian’s first endeavor was serving as chairman of the board of Armenian Center Inc. at 1501 Venice Boulevard. That Armenian Center was the hub of activity for a newly growing community of Armenian immigrants that arrived from Germany and others who fled the Middle East after the Arab-Israeli conflict – until 1970, when the center was sold due to the changing demographics of the area where it was located.

Hagop Manjikian with his wife, Knar, and Rep. Adam Schiff

Hagop Manjikian with his wife, Knar, and Rep. Adam Schiff

In 1953 Manjikian was appointed director of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia in California. The ACIA, founded by Vahan Cardashian in 1919, was the precursor to the Armenian National Committee. In his position, Manjikian reached out to governmental officials to stand by the political needs of Armenians. In 1955, California Governor Goodwin Knight and his wife accepted Manjikian’s invitation to attend the New Year’s Eve Celebration at the Armenian Center, and in 1958, he and a small delegation of ACIA members met with gubernatorial candidate Pat Brown.

In late 1957, he returned to Kessab and during a visit with a close friend in Aleppo, he met his life’s partner, Knar Rita Avedian, and they married.

Returning to the U.S. in early 1958, Manjikian found Knar to be a ready, willing and capable partner in his “Hayrenaseeragan” endeavors. As one of the founders of the Kessab Educational Association of Los Angeles in 1957, he wrote the organization’s by-laws. The first KEA of L.A. yearbook was published in January 1960 with Knar handwriting all of the addresses on Thanksgiving in time to deliver to the printer the following day.

In 1958, the ARF created a central committee in the Western U.S., with Soghomon Tehlirian as vice chairman. Tehlirian, hailed as a hero for assassinating the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, Talaat Pasha, in 1921, moved to San Francisco, California, after the courts found him not guilty. With his parents an ocean and a continent away, Manjikian, who was a member of the central committee, was particularly close with and very fond of Tehlirian, and the two worked together with great diligence.

After Tehlirian’s death, Manjikian directed the project to build the Soghomon Tehlirian Monument. The very first Armenian martyrs monument in the U.S., it was designed by architect Harmik Hagopian and built in Fresno, California.

Manjikian also is one of the founders of the Armenian Monument Council that built the Armenian Genocide Monument in Montebello’s Bicknell Park. “We wanted to present a united Armenian front to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and it took us some time to create a committee that included all factions of the Armenian community,” he says. “We recruited Saldana and Levy Public Relations to help us find a location, and they suggested Montebello.”

A nonpartisan Armenian was elected to chair the monument committee, and Manjikian and his 11 counterparts raised $120,000 to build the monument, which was designed by architect Hrant Agbabian. Through a stroke of good luck, Catholicos Vazken I announced he would be traveling to the U.S., and the committee asked him to participate in the unveiling of the monument in 1968. Addressing a crowd of 15,000, Manjikian introduced the Catholicos, who delivered a rousing speech that tore down the political barriers that had factionalized the Armenian community in the U.S.

In addition to the aforementioned committees, Manjikian made an impact in other realms of the Armenian community, including:

  • Armenian National Committee, Western Region, founding chairman in 1969
  • Hamazkayin Cultural Association in California, founding board member
  • Homenetmen Athletic Union in California, founding board member
  • Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School in Encino, board member
  • Chairman of the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committees for the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians

Not only did he serve on boards, but he rolled up his sleeves and worked in the organizations he helped launch. Manjikian founded the Armenian National Radio Hour in 1978, and for one-and-a-half years he and his wife, Knar, recorded the weekly show that consisted of news announcements, classical Armenian music and other cultural content. He and his wife have ardently supported the Asbarez Armenian newspaper by writing articles over the past 50 years.

Manjikian embarked on a massive project toward the close of the 20th century at the directive of the ARF. He and Knar traveled to Paris and to Boston to search through archives of thousands of pictures as they compiled the biographies of 650 key Armenian freedom fighters. In 1992 they produced the massive and epic Houshamatyan Commemorative Album-Atlas of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, 1890-1914. The companion volume was published in 2001, and in 2006 the English-language version of volume 1 was printed.

After he worked on those volumes, Manjikian decided it was time to bring the tragic stories of the Armenian Genocide to the fore of the English-speaking world. He wanted to make the vivid eyewitness accounts of the horrific events of 1915 accessible to Armenian youth that did not know their mother tongue and to the English-speaking people of the world so that they could comprehend the injustice of the first genocide of modern times, the Armenian Genocide.

Manjikian remembered a particularly tragic memoir that he read as a youth written by a Genocide survivor named Armen Anoush, and he and Knar decided to have the book translated to English so that it would be accessible to a broad audience. Published in 2005, that book, Passage Through Hell, is in its third printing, and the Manjikians have published six memoirs in the Genocide Library Book Series that they started: Passage Through Hell by Armen Anoush, The Fatal Night by Mikayel Shamtanchian, Death March by Shahen Derderian, The Crime of the Ages by Sebuh Aguni, Defying Fate: the Memoirs of Aram and Dirouhi Avedian and Our Cross by M. Salpi.

Manjikian has received several honors for his life’s work:

  • Catholicos Aram I endowed Hagop Manjikian with the Mesrob Mashdotz Medal in 2001 for his dedication to serving his people.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives paid tribute on June 7, 2005 to Hagop and Knar Manjikian for publishing Passage Through Hell by Armen Anush. Congressman Howard Berman entered a resolution into the Congressional Record of the United States honoring them for their work.
  • On May 21, 2014, Congressman Adam Schiff honored Hagop and Knar Manjikian for publishing 5 additional Armenian Genocide memoirs, entering the names of each one into the Congressional Record of the United States.
  • On April 23, 2014, the Los Angeles City Council recognized Hagop Manjikian for his dedicated service to the Armenian-American community, most notably his endeavors to bring awareness and recognition of the Armenian Genocide by meeting with city, state and national leaders and by spearheading the building of the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument in Montebello.
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