Armenian Golgotha


Readers familiar with the literature of the Holocaust will read Armenian Golgotha with a combination of recognition and estrangement. Many of the events Balakian writes about could be taking place in Poland or the Ukraine 20 years later. Again and again, we hear about how Turkish policemen would tell the residents of a village to assemble for a long journey, herd people into carriages, then drive them to a remote spot, where they would be murdered and their possessions divided up among the murderers. Armenians were told that they were simply being relocated to the Syrian desert province of Der Zor, just as Jews were told that they were being resettled in the East; the name of Der Zor takes on, in Balakian’s account, the same aura of nightmare and death that “the East” did for Jewish victims. Balakian even wonders, as have some Jewish observers of the Holocaust, why more of the victims did not fight back. “They had the psychology of a herd of dumb sheep, going to their death without complaint,” he complains about one group of deportees who failed to seize the chance to flee.

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