Friday, January 29, 2016

Book review: "Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide" by Eric Bogosian

This was the first book that I checked out of the library in 2016. It took me awhile to actually get finished (no lunch breaks at work for almost a week because of pure insanity time? Yes, that cuts down on the reading time.) But it's finally finished and I'm happy to be sitting here reviewing this little piece of history that I'm shocked doesn't get more "press".

The first thing we need to do is talk about the two major players in our story. The countries of Armenia and Turkey. Let's take a gander at the map, shall we?

You could fill books (and people have) about  the relationship between Armenia and Turkey. The things they have in common and the things that are dramatically different. Since this post would have to be incredibly long let's just say that relations between these two countries were bad. Again, we don't have the time (and I don't have the knowledge) to tell you all the history of the Ottoman Empire.(#oversimplificationalert,) And then the Armenian genocide happened.

There will never be a for-sure-officially verified number, but it is believed that 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1923. Most of it is stomach churningly violent a gruesome. In many cases, some variety of this this scenario happened. The Turks would come into a village and tell the occupants that they were being resettled and that they had a short amount of time to gather their things and get into a caravan. The caravans would go for miles, without food or water being given, many people would die on the way. At some point the men would be separated from the women and children. The men would all be killed. Then the captors would tell the women and children that they could go back to their village. The women and children would start to head back (after they had been relieved of all of their possessions. One of the captains in this killing brigade said "If we had killed the women and children in the cities, then we wouldn't have known where the valuables were being kept...for this reason we "allowed" them to take all the jewelry with them.") and their captors would ride ahead to the villages they would be passing and encouraged the locals to attack the group. This was only one scenario. Other times some tactics are grossly familiar to people who are familiar with the Nazi killings that happened outside of concentration camps. The worst thing, I think I read in the book was that a group of women were made to strip naked, and then forced to lay on top of each other in pairs, and then beheaded. One swing of a weapon, 2 murders.

Sigh. The ugly, terrifying things and events in history are important to remember. Even if makes you feel sick.

Armenians had been scattered, literally around the world during this time and almost all wanted vengeance. And that's where Operation Nemesis (and one "lone wolf") came in. A group of Armenians (some in America, some still in Europe) organized in a clandestine group to hunt down the leaders of the Armenian genocide and kill them. (As an aside, you might be wondering about what other nations thought of what was happening. There was no one who was like "Don't worry Armenia, we will come to your rescue." So if the Armenians wanted justice they probably weren't going to get their version of the Nuremberg trials, at least not in the same way. Though afterward there was a lot of movies made and stories written about it).

I don't want to give too much away, but Operation Nemesis had success. Was it nearly enough to avenge 1.5 million people? No, but would that ever be possible?

This was not always an easy read but I learned SO much (maybe not surprising since my knowledge base was pretty small) and the book was written in an approachable easy to understand way. Also, that is a powerful cover it grabbed me practically from the other side of the library! I will give it 3.75 stars out of 5!



  1. This sounds very interesting. I really need to read more about the Armenian genocide, and this might be a good one to start with. I've also been meaning to read The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjahlian.

    1. It's a good overview of a pretty complicated situation. It never felt overly scholarly and unapproachable. I've only read his "Skeletons at the Feast" and really liked it, maybe I'll have to pick up Sandcastle Girls too!

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    3. Good idea, now that you have the historical background for the story fresh in your mind!

  2. This sounds like one of the many tough but worthwhile reads that I can have a hard time making myself pick up. Thanks for sharing your review!

    1. It is one of those books. I try to space those books out between a lot of other books so as to not get depressed


Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!