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Actor Joe Manganiello Recounts Great-Grandmother’s Dramatic Escape During Armenian Genocide


Joe Manganiello Editorial credit DFree Shutterstock.com

Actor Joe Manganiello has shared his great-grandmother’s harrowing survival story from the Armenian Genocide.



In PEOPLE’s exclusive look at Tuesday’s Finding Your Roots episode, the Magic Mike actor shares the heartbreaking events that his great-grandmother previously endured.


“The Turks came into her home in 1915 under the guise of World War I and tried to enact the genocide that they had begun,” he says. “They shot her husband dead, shot her. She laid on the ground, pretended that she was dead while seven other gunshots went off, which were her seven children.”


By playing dead, his great-grandmother was able to evade suspicion from the Turks. “She laid there unmoving and the Turks left the house and left the eighth child, who was an infant in the crib, to starve to death, which is just the way that they did business,” Manganiello explains.


The woman “strapped the baby onto her back” and fled.


“For people who don’t know, there were these death marches where they would just handcuff, chain the Armenians together and march them out to the desert, and release the Kurds, give them military coats, horses and guns, to then go do what they wanted with their mortal enemies, the Armenians,” he says. “She escaped that.”


While fleeing, Manganiello’s great-grandmother had to swim across the Euphrates river. Upon making it to the other side, she discovered her youngest child had drowned on her back.


“She had a bullet in her still, and to my understanding, she lived in a cave with other refugees until she was picked up by the German military,” he says.


In a military camp, Manganiello’s great-grandma became pregnant by a German officer. “She gave birth to a very blonde, half-German child,” the actor adds.


Manganiello’s great-grandmother was his only surviving ancestor from the Armenian Genocide after her home was invaded by Turkish assailants in 1915.


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