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Telling Tehlirian’s Story: ‘Assignment Berlin’ Director Hrayr Toukhanian Honored

DETROIT, Mich.—In his lifetime as a print photographer and film producer, Hrayr Toukhanian has earned an impressive list of awards and tributes for pursuing a dedication that took birth in Lebanon.

Soghomon Tehlirian

Now 83, the Beirut-born Toukhanian still receives tributes for past accomplishments and his continuing service to the entire Armenian community.

Most recently the Tekeyan Cultural Association honored Toukhanian with a symbolic award for having directed and produced the historic film “Assignment Berlin” that relived the 1923 assassination of Talaat Pasha, the notorious Turkish official who plotted the massacre of more than 1.5 million Armenians in the haunting years of 1915-23.

In recognizing Toukhanian for his dedicated services to the Armenian cause for justice, Edmond Azadian, the newly elected president of the national Tekeyan association said, “tonight we  honor a talented man for his professional talent and dedication we emphasize for the pioneering venture in perpetuating Soghomon Tehlirian’s immortal deed and serving the entire Armenian community without any distinction.”

Joining Azadian in bestowing tributes “to a fellow Vanetzi” was Vaughn Mesropian, national executive of the Vasbouragan Society of America, who stressed “this latest tribute from the community is for a beloved Vanetzi who serves the Armenian cause as his priority in life. We thank his mentors and parted love ones.”

In relating his latest accolade my friend emphasizes that the 1982 filming of “Assignment Berlin” was achieved with the talent of his late wife Sona, a Syracuse University graduate who drafted the script of the movie.

Then Govorner of Michigan William Milliken honored Toukhanian with an executive proclamation, which praised the film director for having shot the entire movie in Michigan. Scenes of “Assignment Berlin” were filmed in old German sections of Detroit and its suburbs. The reenactment of Tehlirian’s trial was filmed in the historic Masonic Temple.

A still from ‘Assignment Berlin.’ Tehlirian (Eddie Mekka) is on the left.

Noted television actor Eddie Mekka portrayed Tehlirian in the dramatic film, the first of its kind to be shown publically on the silver screen,

When we asked Hrayr about his mentors in life he responded: “My father for teaching me the skills of photography. He was one of the best in Beirut. And Simon Vratzian, my teacher at the Beirut Djemaran, who instilled my pride at being an Armenian.”

Vratzian was prime minister of the First Armenian Republic. “To us he was more than a teacher. He was the godfather of our Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) youth group,” Toukhanian said.

In addition to a lengthy list of awards the founder of MUSE Productions earned in his lifetime, Toukhanian was awarded gold medals in the New York and Florence, Italy film festivals.

But for Toukhanian, the filming of “Assignment Berlin” was a personal triumph knowing that the film dealt with the Armenian cause for justice.

 

Mitch Kehetian is a retired editor of the Macomb Daily and former governing board trustee at Central Michigan University.

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