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J. Michael Hagopian | Told of genocide, 97

J. Michael Hagopian, 97, a survivor of the Armenian genocide who came to the United States from Turkey after World War I, studied filmmaking, and made a series of documentaries based on interviews with hundreds of other survivors, died Dec. 10 at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Historians say that as many as 1.5 million Armenians died in orchestrated killings between 1915 and 1918, amid the chaos of World War I and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies there was a planned genocide, and maintains that 300,000 Armenians and at least that many Turks were killed in civil strife after Armenians rose up against the Ottomans.

Mr. Hagopian made 12 documentaries about the genocide. In 1976, The Forgotten Genocide, his sweeping account of the killings, received Emmy nominations for best documentary writing and production. Since 2000, his Armenian Film Foundation, which he started in 1979, has produced three films about the genocide.

The River Ran Red recounts how three waves of Armenians were forced into the Syrian desert, where most died of starvation. Germany and the Secret Genocide posits that German officials provided cover for the Turks by telling the world that the Armenians had to be deported for their own safety.

Mr. Hagopian appeared in Voices From the Lake, the first film in the trilogy, about the destruction of his hometown. In the closing scene he says, "I remember my mother saying, 'You can kill a people, but their voices will never die."'

In April, the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute, founded by Steven Spielberg after he directed Schindler's List, signed an agreement with Mr. Hagopian under which his archive of testimonies of Armenian genocide survivors and witnesses would be made available for educational purposes.

- N.Y. Times News Service