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AHI Hosts Capitol Hill Event in Commemoration of the Smyrna Catastrophe of 1922 with Featured Guest Giles Milton Presenting His Recently Published Book Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922
October 8, 2008—No. 65 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Capitol Hill Event in Commemoration of the Smyrna Catastrophe of 1922 with Featured Guest Giles Milton Presenting His Recently Published Book Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922

WASHINGTON, DC — On September 24, AHI hosted a Capitol Hill event in commemoration of the Smyrna catastrophe of 1922. The event featured guest speaker Giles Milton, author of Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922.  The event was in cooperation with Greek America Magazine.

Paradise Lost is a book revolving around Smyrna in 1922 and the culminating events leading to the destruction of the city and what Mr. Milton refers to “as one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the twentieth century.”

Smyrna was unique in that is was a thriving metropolis within the Ottoman Empire. It was known to have been one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities of its time. Smyrna, today’s Izmir, was inhabited by a Greek majority who lived in harmony with Turks, Armenians, Jews, and Levantines. Of the approximate 1,600,000 Greeks in Asia Minor, 320,000 resided in Smyrna which is said to have been double that of Athens at the time. Unfortunately, Mr. Milton states, “And herein lays the problem…To Muslims, Smyrna had always been the city of the infidel.” According to Mr. Milton, when Mustafa Kemal’s (Atatürk) Ottoman army arrived at the border of the city, the citizens of Smyrna were confident that no harm would come their way because in Smyrna’s bay docked 21 allied battleships from the U.S., England, and Italy. Disappointingly, there was no protection from the allies’ battleships, nor was any mercy shown by Atatürk and his invading Ottoman army and the city was burned to the ground except for the Turkish quarter. Mr. Milton states that an Armenian teacher bore witness to groups of Turkish troops wheeling barrels of petroleum from the back of lorries and poured them onto the buildings. There are various accounts of Turkish soldiers killing and raping Greeks and Armenians, while looting and pillaging their homes and stores. More than 100,000 Greek and Armenian civilians were killed by the invading Turkish army. U.S. Consul to Smyrna at the time, George Horton, was one of the last to leave the burning city in September of 1922. He later wrote in his book, “The Blight of Asia,” “One of the keenest impressions which I brought away from Smyrna was a feeling of shame that I belong to the human race.” In his book Consul Horton provides a personal eye witness accounts of the human tragedy that unfolded.

Mr. Milton’s book is based heavily on the Levantines account of the destruction of the city. Mr. Milton stated that he chose to investigate the Levantines perspective of the catastrophe because they would have been the most politically neutral people living in Smyrna. The Levantines were of British and European decent but had been in the land since the reign of George III. They were the wealthiest and most business savvy people living in the city. According to Mr. Milton, the Levantines did not care whether the city was ruled by Greeks or Ottomans, their main interest was financial. Therefore, Mr. Milton by researching and reading unpublished letters and diaries of the Levantine families; he has retold this tragic story through new eyes and from unheard mouths.

Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire, England in 1966. He is a journalists and New York Times best-selling author, who has written 5 previous non-fiction novels accompanied by numerous articles in both British and foreign publications. Currently he resides in London; there he is a member of the Hakluyt Society. This society is devoted to reprinting the works of voyagers and explorers.

Mr. Milton’s presentation attracted a full house in the Rayburn House office building on Capitol Hill. He read passages with great emotion and subsequently answered questions from the audience. A review regarding Paradise Lost stated, “Milton has written an immensely powerful description of one the greatest calamities of the twentieth century. Milton conducts rigorous research and demonstrates a discerning command of the subject’s Western-language literature,” stated The National Herald.

At the event, greetings were also offered by the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Congresswoman Carolyn Malone (D-NY). AHI’s Executive Director Nick Larigakis moderated the event. Additionally, audience members included other Members of Congress and Congressional staff.

“We were honored to have Mr. Milton with us this evening and I wish to also thank Greg Pappas and Greek America Magazine for helping to organize this program.  We applaud Mr. Milton for writing about this very important topic, which has helped to resonate in this contemporary period this tragic genocide of over 80 years ago.  Events like this are important to commemorate because they help to remind us of man’s inhumanity to man and hopefully serve as a deterrent for other such atrocities,” said Nick Larigakis.

“But unfortunately, even today we see the continuing abuse of human rights in such places as Darfur.  The leading governments of the world have a responsibility to not allow this to happen and not stand idle, as they did in Smyrna Bay in 1922.  It was a bad precedent that started earlier with the Armenian genocide, and carried throughout the 20th  century with the Pontian genocide, the Jewish Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide by Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, and the “butcher of Uganda,” Edi Amin, and others. This is a plague that must stop, and you begin with remembering the past, therefore we were pleased to have hosted this event which speaks to a time and place that is short of being forgotten,” concluded Nick Larigakis.

From Left to right: Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Congresswoman Carolyn Malone (D-NY), Giles Milton, Nick Larigakis.



Giles Milton.




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