Historian Akçam Delves into Controversial Memoir by Armenian Soldier at Clark Talk

WORCESTER — Clark University’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies will present a lecture by Prof. Taner Akçam on April 17, “On Truth and Memoirs: The Case of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Army,” which will explore the subject of a vigorous debate over the authenticity of a memoir recently published in Turkey.

Akҫam will discuss the case of Sarkis Torossian who served as a lieutenant in the Ottoman Army during World War I. According to his memoir, Torossian was a graduate of a military college and a decorated Ottoman officer who served at Gallipoli and other important battlefronts. Learning that his parents and sister were deported and died in the Armenian Genocide, Torossian switched his allegiance. He joined the Arab rebellion in Palestine and Syria and fought with a French battalion against Kemalist forces in Cilicia. Akçam will consider the veracity of Torossian’s account and interpret the public debate surrounding the memoir in Turkey. Turkish scholars Ayhan Aktar and Edhem Eldem will comment and respond.

Torossian immigrated to the United States in 1920.  In 1947, he published his memoirs in English, From Dardanelles to Palestine: A True Story of Five Battle Fronts of Turkey.  Following the Turkish translation published in 2012, reactions in the Turkish press have been intense. Some discredited the memoir as fabricated. Others championed its authenticity. Akҫam will discuss the veracity of Torossian’s account and interpret the public debate surrounding the memoir in Turkey.

A pre-lecture reception, hosted by The Friends of the Armenian Chair at Clark University, will begin at 6 p.m. in the Lurie Conference Room at the Higgins University. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Jdefronzo@clarku.edu.

A professor of history at Clark University, Akçam holds the Robert Aram & Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at the Strassler Center. An internationally recognized human rights activist, he was one of the first Turkish intellectuals to recognize and openly discuss the Armenian Genocide. He is the author of several books, most recently, “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire” (2012), which earned the Middle East Studies Association Albert Hourani Book Award (2013) and was named one of the year’s (2012) best books on the Middle East by Foreign Affairs.

This event is part of the 2013-2014 “Critical History” lecture series at the Strassler Center.

This lecture and discussion is free and open to the public.  It will begin at 7:30 p.m., in Tilton Hall at the Higgins University Center, 950 Main St.

For more information, visit clarku.edu/holocaust online.