William S. Parsons, Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum & Co- editor of Centuries of Genocide :
“In his book entitled Tadem, My Father’s Village: Extinguished during the 1915 Armenian Genocide, Robert Aram Kaloosdian has taken a unique approach to writing about what happened to Armenians living in a small town in the Ottoman Empire, basically between 1894 and 1924. The book documents how local and national perpetrators, killers, and bystanders were complicit in destroying the Armenians of Tadem, and in a sense, the book is a form of remembrance for an entire community that was targeted for extinction. Throughout the descriptions of the horrific events and deeds that were inflicted on Tadem, the author reminds the reader that what occurred in Tadem was typical of hundreds of other Armenian communities throughout the Ottoman Empire.
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One of the intriguing aspects of how this story has been told is that while the author wants the reader to understand the scope and scale of the genocide beyond Tadem, the main focus of the book is to try and capture the life or death decisions and terrible experiences the Armenians faced during this period. Documenting a genocide tends to focus on masses of victims, numerous victimizers, statistics, and countries, but this book concentrates on the agonizing choices loved ones had to make with regard to one another or a stranger in need. The use of eyewitness accounts throughout the text personalizes the history and accentuates the constant struggle for survival and the effort to regain what it means to be human when confronting evil behavior; for example, like the mother on the deportation death march who handed her child over to a stranger with the hope that the child would survive, yet knowing that the chances were that she would never see her child again; or the priest who had a chance to reach safety but chose to remain with the women, children, and the elderly who were about to be deported.
Another theme that underlies many of the episodes in the book is that amidst the despair there was a hunger for hope and rebirth as in the case of those who fled to countries like America after the 1894 massacres and formed an organization called the Educational Society that built a school in Tadem as a symbol of what the community valued for the future. Hope turned to despair when the school was destroyed as part of the actions of local officials and their collaborators during the genocide.
By presenting this history of abuse, deportations, and massacres from a local perspective, one often had to rely on questionable information and rumors to make decisions for survival. When officials ordered all Armenian men from Tadem who had served in the Ottoman military to hand in their weapons and report for labor battalion duty, they didn’t know that they were destined to be worked to death or outright murdered.
At every stage of the genocide carried out during World War One, the Armenians throughout the Empire were deceived by the Government, which used the cover of war and the justification that the Government can do anything necessary to win the war, including eliminating “non-Turkish” groups from the Empire. When the Ottoman military suffered a devastating defeat by the Russian military, the Government blamed their Armenian minority which included the village of Tadem. Armenian males living and working in Tadem were then ordered to prepare themselves to be relocated. In reality, the intent of this order was to remove them to be killed out of sight. Finally, the remaining youth and women many who were in hiding were rounded up for deportation and many were forced into servitude.
Armenians were massacred while officials did nothing to prevent the killings. The world expressed horror and outrage, but the wave of protest and concern faded. What we’ve learned is that perpetrators distort history to fit their needs; the problem is that these distortions often reappear in future generations as “truths.”
The overall strength of the book is the author’s descriptions of what happened, which are so understated and straightforward that the events and the voices of the eyewitnesses leave lasting images. The author’s father was among a handful of eyewitnesses who survived and escaped from Tadem across Siberia to Japan to the United States, and they kept the stories of the people of Tadem from being forgotten or denied by the perpetrators who thought they could bury their deeds along with the victims.”
Taner Akçam, Ph.D., Professor of History and Armenian Genocide Studies, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University :
“Aram Kaloosdian has etched his name on a significant achievement. He has written the story of an Armenian village called Tadem, which combines oral history records with his own research. This is a new step and adds a new piece of local history to Armenian historical writings. Before, all one could look to were the memoirs written by survivors.
Even if they were describing a collective catastrophe, in the end each represented an individual memory about the event. Kaloosdian has documented the collective memory of anyone and everyone that he could reach who had lived in a specific region. Taking each of these personal accounts and combining it with research that he conducted, he has developed a new form of local history. The book you hold in your hands contains the collective memory of an Armenian village called Tadem and it is a significant achievement for this reason.
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“Tadem is only one of the thousands of Armenian villages that were destroyed without leaving behind a trace. It is a small example of the forced removal from their homes and annihilation of the Armenians who had lived on their own land for centuries and it presents a microcosm of what happened to Armenians in what was then the Ottoman Empire, Turkey today.
“The example that Tadem presents, teaches us what a destructive weapon religious hatred and prejudice can be. The destruction of a people does not rely on orders coming from a central authority. Even when such a thing exists, it’s the presence of people in the local levels willing to do the bidding of these orders that’s the determinative factor. There were people who jumped at the opportunity to terrorize and murder the Armenians in Tadem. What this shows us is that the origin of the “Armenian problem” was not the Sultan alone, nor was it his ministers and generals or the lack of governmental responsibility. The problem in Tadem, as in hundreds of other villages and towns that were plundered and burned, and whose inhabitants were murdered by the thousands, was the local people who were given protective cover by the Ottoman authorities to terrorize, rob and subjugate the Armenians. This is a book that you must read.”
Richard G. Hovannisian, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, & Shoah Foundation Institute :
“The story of Tadem, a village in the Golden Plain of Kharpert [Armenia], its daily lifestyle and routines, and the violent disruption of that familiar rhythm in 1915 mirrors the tale of hundreds of other Armenian towns and villages in the Ottoman Empire. Robert Aram Kaloosdian has made a lasting contribution through his meticulous combination of historical sources, memoirs, and oral histories to offer a glimpse into the life and death of his father’s beloved village—Tadem.”
Hilmar Kaiser, Ph.D., historian specializing in late Ottoman social and economic history and the author of The Extermination of Armenians in the Diarbekir Region :
“Aram Kaloosdian’s oral history of Tadem is an outstanding contribution. In 1915 most Ottoman Armenians lived in rural villages but both official Ottoman and western documents rarely cover such places. Thus, this micro-history of the Armenian Genocide closes a critical gap in our knowledge. This very readable account offers important new information and insights. It tells the story of survival against all odds. In sum, it is mandatory reading for all scholars and students of the Armenian Genocide.”
James R. Russell, Ph.D., Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, Harvard University :
“Armenian America is not only the immigrant success story of hard working photoengravers, shoemakers, farmers, and grocers; of brilliant musicians, movie directors, writers, professors, and surgeons. It is also the ghostly echo and image of the hundreds of towns and villages devastated by the genocide of 1895-1922. Enjoy this book, but piously avert your eyes as you hurry past the sinister hill of the Shvod spirit and its dark spring. Welcome to Tadem!”