Soghomon Tehlirian was born on April 15, 1896, in Kemakh, in the province of Pakarish. World War I broke out while Tehlirian was attending university in Europe, compelling him to return to Armenia to join General Antranig’s army. Tehlirian’s family – including his mother, siblings, and young niece - was deported and killed in the Armenian Genocide.
Tehlirian eventually became part of “Operation Nemesis,” a group formed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) specifically to avenge the deaths of the 1.5 million Armenians killed in the Armenian Genocide. As part of the “Office in Charge of Assassinations,” Tehlirian’s first assignment was to assassinate an Armenian traitor, Mkhtar Haroutioun Megerditchian.
Tehlirian later was chosen by Operation Nemesis to carry out the assassination of Talaat Pasha, the former Interior Minister of the Ottoman Empire. Talaat Pasha is considered the main architect of the Armenian Genocide – he ordered the arrest and deportation of Armenian community leaders from Constantinople on April 24, 1915, and subsequently issued the order for the Temporary Deportation Law that made possible the mass deportation of Armenians and laid the groundwork for the Genocide.
On May 15, 1921, Tehlirian assassinated Talaat Pasha on the sidewalk of Hardenburgstrasse in Berlin. Tehlirian readily admitted that he had killed Talaat Pasha, but he did not consider himself a murderer. In his murder trial, Tehlirian’s attorney’s focused on the atrocities of the Genocide and the impact this had on Tehlirian. A jury acquitted Tehlirian of murder, attributing his actions to temporary insanity caused by his experiences in the Genocide.
After his acquittal, Tehlirian settled in Yugoslavia, where he married and had two sons. After World War II, he moved to San Francisco. Upon his death in 1960, he was buried at Ararat Armenian Cemetery. One year later, his body was moved to Masis Ararat Armenian Cemetery, where a large monument was erected in his honor. He was laid to rest for the second time beneath the monument. His wife was interred with him upon her death.
Soghomon Tehlirian is revered by Armenians as a national hero. Visitors come from throughout California and the United States to visit his monument and pay their respects.