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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14093
Publication: DuA Dok. 290 (gk.) (nur Brief u. Anlage 7)
Central register: 1916-A-21969
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 08/18/1916 p.m.
Embassy/consular serial number: K. No. 79/No. 2135
Translated by: Linda Struck (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/22/2012

From the Consul in Aleppo (Roessler) to the Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg)


K. No. 79 / No. 2135
Aleppo, 29 July 1916
According to news reaching us from all sides, the persecution of the Armenians is continuing unabatied and inexorably. Of the Germans who return to here from Baghdad along the banks of the Euphrates, there is none who has not been most deeply moved by this catastrophe.

1) A high-ranking German official told me on 18 July that the road from Sabkha via Hammam to Meskené is completely strewn with the remains of pieces of clothing. It looked as if an army had retreated along it.

The Turkish military pharmacist in Meskené, who has been stationed there for the past 6 months, told him that in Meskené alone 55000 Armenians had been buried. Quite independent of this, the same number was likewise quoted to him by a Turkish officer’s deputy at the same place.

2) On 16 July, news was received from Der-el-Zor that the Armenians had been ordered to continue their march. On 17th, all clergymen and community leaders were arrested. By 22 July, according the order, all Armenians were to have taken to the road again. After the Central Government had previously decreed that only as many Armenians were allowed to remain in Der-el-Zor as made up 10 percent of the total number of inhabitants, now the remainder were to be eradicated, an amendment which is possibly connected with the fact that the humane Mutesarrif Suad Bey has been transferred to Baghdad and a merciless successor has been appointed.

Defenceless and exhausted women and children are being beaten by gendarmes with whips and clubs. Scenes such as these have often been observed before quite often and have now been confirmed to me again by a German officer who has come from that direction and who has seen the misery with his own eyes.

I have the honour of enclosing a copy of a letter from Araxia Djibedjian to Sister B. Rohner dated 16 /17 July describing these circumstances. Whereas numerous Armenians have been thrown out of spiritual balance by the downfall of their people, have lost their faith and have begun to despair, this letter is a beautiful example of steadfastness and composure in the face of inevitable ruination in its most gruesome form. I also have the honour of enclosing two further letters from the same writer dated 22 June and 12 July which have been translated, as well as two letters from Armenian clergymen from Hamam and Sabkha.

3) The enclosed copy of a letter written by Sister Paula Schaefer to the American missionary, Mr. Peet, in Constantinople describes the way in which the Armenians, who until then had been employed with the permission of the government on the construction of the Baghdad railway in the Amanus area, were deported at the end of June.

4) The German officer who arrived here from Diyarbekr via Urfa told me on 24 July that some time previously a further 2000 Armenian women had been brought from the eastern and northern districts to Urfa. These appeared to be a few of those who had previously been able to stay in hiding or who had been taken in by Muslim families who were now keen to get rid of them.

In the enclosed letter dated 22 July, Deacon Kuenzler from Urfa points out similar circumstances and writes that he has succeeded in helping 150 orphans.

5) Since 12 July, the deportations have stopped in Aleppo, because it seems that a conflict has broken out between the higher authorities over the fact that richer Armenians have succeeded in gaining exemption, whereas the poorer of them have been handed over to the police. Under the silent toleration of the local military Kaymakam about 250 Armenians from Meskené have succeeded in walking back to Aleppo, where they arrived in a pitiful condition. As a result of this, the Vali gave orders to the villages not to let any Armenians return to Aleppo. Should the population be allowed to carry out the official orders, then the Armenians would be reduced to outlaws. One can expect further steps to be taken against them here. I am sending this same report to the Imperial Embassy.


Enclosure 1


Der-el-Zor, 3/16 July 1916

To my dear Sister in God

Miss Beatrice Rohner

I hope you have received our letter of last week. Our work here was just about to bear fruits. Unfortunately, however, the resumption of the deportations has deeply saddened us. Part of the population has already been deported – and for us and the remaining Armenians, the order has already been given by the town crier. We all have no idea when and where we will be going. The misery and suffering of the people is indescribable.

Oh, dear Sister, we are in the night of our lives, but thanks be to God that He shall keep His promises to us. This week, Der-el-Zor has become a desert for the deportees; everybody is trying to prepare for the journey. They are telling us that we will be sent to the banks of the river Chebor...

4/17 July 1916

Oh, my dear Sister, my pen is not capable of describing the misery, the poverty, the dejection of the deportees. Today they arrested all clergymen and male leaders. Some of the people have left, others will be going soon and the order has been given out by the crier that they must all leave by the end of this week. There is also a rumour going around that men and women are to be deported separately. Beatings with whips and canes are the rule of the day in the whole of the town. The persecution and oppression of the homeless has increased over the past few days to such an extent that only one thought fills my heart: who can bring relief to this wretched situation, and who can portray a picture of our condition to those who tolerate such violence and permit it? First, we present the matter to God and then we explain it to you. Can you not do anything at all to relieve this burden? …

Do not think that I have written these words in excitement; I only hope that you will have an opportunity of bringing this matter to attention in the right place. Also I know that you will partake in all our suffering and will make our situation the subject of your intercession.

With my best regards I bid you farewell. God exists. He can make a rock into a spring, and it should be easy for Him to prevent the last great deportation. In any case we speak from the bottom of our hearts: Thy will be done!

Your Sister
[Araxia Dschebedjian.]

Enclosure 2

Copy/Letter to Sister B. Rohner

Der-el-Zor, 22 June 1916

The extent of the work here cannot be expressed sufficiently, neither in words nor in writing. One has to see everything with one’s own eyes. Oh, dear Sister, Der-el-Zor needs help, very special help, please pass on the word. Tell our missionaries that their college children, young men and young girls, are dying of starvation here. The sight of them is heart-breaking. We need hands that reach out to help, hands that are willing to bear sacrifices, the hands of dutiful people. Perhaps you are surprised at this cry for help. But in doing so I am not thinking of myself, but of the masses of children out there, crying out for bread, of the many pure young girls who, driven by hunger and desolateness, seek refuge in the homes and at the hearths of Arab men, who are sold to those men for bread, the women, the mothers who, in their despair, search around for bread for their starving children, the young people who, weakened by hunger, stumble around with the help of sticks, looking as aged as old people! The responsibility of having seen all this forces me to write to you. The work that is being done here for these poorest of the poor is very extensive, but nevertheless, it is far from being sufficient. We must buy back at least 3 – 4 girls per day, otherwise they will be sold as rent for dwellings. The number of those pleading for help is endless. One small boy said to his mother: Mother, here is the cooking pan and the lid, why can’t you make us something to eat? The little boy hadn’t eaten for two days. Another child asked: Mother, will there be times again when I can eat as much as I like? The people are slaughtering and eating stray dogs. Recently they even slaughtered a dying man and ate him; that is what I was told by an eye witness.

One woman cut off her hair to sell it for bread. I saw how a woman ate the dried blood of a dead animal on the street. Up to now they all ate grass, but that has also dried up in the meantime. Last week we were in a house where the inhabitants had not eaten for 3 days. The woman held a small child in her arms and tried to give it some bread crumbs to eat. But the child was so weak, it couldn’t swallow any more, so it choked and died in her arms. At that moment, I went up to her with G. – he gave her a pound. The woman took it, then, in a flood of tears, she cried out: Oh, if only you had brought this a day before, my child would still be alive. A family went to bed hungry – the child could not sleep and shouted out for bread. Finally the Arab landlord took mercy and gave the child a piece of bread. The child took it and held it tightly, first it wanted to bite into it, then it thought for a moment and said: If I eat it now, I will be hungry again in the morning, and with the secure feeling of having the bread nearby, went to sleep. One mother threw herself into the Euphrates after she had watched her child die of starvation, a father too. Due to the general rise in prices, poverty is spreading rapidly. If you give people a few medjidies, the people first pay off their bread debts, then they have bread for a few days and then they are hungry again. If there is any help at all and God still needs you and us, with all our heart we are ready for any toil. Dear Sister, if only you could see many of us now, those women and girls whom you used to know! The work that you have begun with God’s help will bear its fruits later. The fruit will be larger than you expect… Over the past few weeks I have visited so many houses with G. that we got to know the whole of Der-el-Zor and all its poor people, very closely. It is not possible at all to remain in hiding. G. works mornings, afternoons and evenings, he is very concerned about the poor and the wretched and time and time again he endangers his own life to save a few.

[Araxia Djibedjian.]
[Notice Embassy]

The situation in Der Sor ist relatively comfortable. North of Der es Sor things are in wretched condition.

Enclosure 3

Copy/Letter from Der-el-Zor dated 12 July 1916 to Sister Rohner.

There is great suffering. The people are living off what we can give them. The people we meet in the street hardly bear any resemblance to human beings any more, hunger has dried them to pieces. If you have any money, you do not need to go out to look for the poor, crowds of them manage to find you. There is no longer any difference between rich and poor. If you went from door to door distributing donations, you could be sure of having not given needlessly. But a morning will follow this dark night, to be sure, but God can only gain a victory if he has faithful watchmen standing guard in the night faithfully fulfilling their duty. May God use you as such.

[Araxia Djibedjian]

Enclosure 4

Copy taken from letter dated 28 June from Hammam to Sister Rohner.

.... Here there are about 1000 tents. As far as health is concerned, we are fine, but much of what we see and experience here gives us reason to write to you. There are many hundreds of poor deserted children, women and men here, weakened by hunger and sick, absolutely wretched figures, wandering aimlessly amongst the tents. At every meal at least 20 – 30 come to beg for a bit of bread. Many families have not eaten anything for days and do not have the courage to go begging. The number of families such as these is increasing from day to day. How will all this end? If it continues like this for long, then the largest part of the population, perhaps all of them, will perish through hunger and deprivation. The people fight for the blood of slaughtered animals which has poured out onto the ground, they nibble at bones they find on manure heaps, they search through horse manure in the hope of finding a few grains of barley and devour them ravenously. They eat the flesh of animals and humans who have died by the wayside. Many of them who cannot stand it any longer throw themselves in the Euphrates, taking their children with them.

We encounter such terrible scenes every day and can do nothing more but to plead to God for mercy and help. We regard it as our duty to report to you of all this dreadful misery. Thus, we at least feel that we have discharged our responsibility. Dear Sister, we beg you for Christ’s sake that you arrange for some sort of help to be given to these poor, wretched people and save them from death by starvation. If possible, please send someone who can personally assess the situation. If at all possible, please send immediate and sufficient help and, in particular, permanent help.... Everything is very expensive, a family needs as much as 15 to 20 piasters a day for bread alone.

[Preacher Vartan Geranian]

Enclosure 5

Copy: Letter from Sabkha dated June 1916 to Sister Rohner.

With this letter I address you as a representative of many pleas and desperate cries for help. I am pleading to you in the name of over 2500 poor hungry people, who are dried out down to their bones. Many were here already, crowds of new ones have arrived in the meantime. Many die every day of starvation. The grave-diggers are kept very busy. The moaning and groaning on the market place, in the streets, out there in the quiet desert, leave the heart no peace at all. The children on the manure heaps! Oh, how can I describe it to you? My pen is loathe to do so. In their names I beg you for help, for pity.

[Preacher Der Boghossian]

Enclosure 6
Harunje, 13 July 1916

Dear Mr. Peet, [Note: This letter was never handed over to Mr. Peet.]

Excuse me – if I have not yet found the time and peace to send you a statement on the emergency funds sent. But the new mass deportations of the past 14 days have again caused me a lot of work. You must certainly have wondered about the telegraphic request to send me 1000 Ltq.. But the deportation of all the workers of the B.B. [Handwritten note: Bagdadbau (construction of the Baghdad railway).] Compagnie, with all relatives in Marash and surrounding areas happened so suddenly that I naturally could not have the money on hand! Rapid help was needed – so I have borrowed everywhere from the German engineers working on the railway and can now pay it back as your money has arrived in the meantime! From Mersina I telegraphed to you again – to send the balance of 1000 pounds - I only hope it arrives soon!

Again, several hundred children have remained in the mountains. I have rounded them up, about 150 were found, 50 of them are still in Entilli – I really do not know what to do with them - all our houses are overfilled and we can expect only little help from the government! I am still quite miserable from the journey I made with the deportees from Baghché to Marash! I met all these crowds of people in the mountains – children 4 weeks of age lay under the bushes, 3 – 4 year olds were sitting on the rocks – abandoned – without one piece of bread, their mothers had to leave them there – as they themselves could not go on! We could hardly progress due to the stench of corpses – we rode along for many hours - where 100 - 150 bodies lay – you can’t imagine what the road from Marash to Urfa looks like now?! I sent a carriage out along the route – to collect any abandoned children; it returned as the coachman could not find any children, because the Turks are very keen to get their hands on them, and he said the roads were impassable due to the many dead bodies!

Teachers, Badwellis - everyone was sent separately from the women and children - the misery and wretchedness were heart-rendering. Those poor people were not even allowed to buy one drink of water for 1 Ltq. – the thousands were camped by dirty sewage water which came from the town of Marash, although the Aksu was only 5 minutes away. They were forced to drink this water by which they were camped! A transport of 500 - 1000 had to collect 100 - 200 Lira in one night, if they were to see the morning at all – this was the threat expressed by the cruel soldiers! I went down to the plain, visited the people in their camps – it was terrible to hear what had been done to them en route. It was a dazzling series of robberies and murders on the part of the police and soldiers!

I then went to the government, declared all this to them – they had tried the best they could to rectify matters. But only very few of them will survive this second, for most of them even the third banishment – they will all perish! In short passages I gave you an account of what I had most recently experienced. You can imagine how difficult the work is, because one cannot intervene as one would prefer and should! But I always find consolation in one of Pastor Lohmann's sayings – he said, “We should not try to be more merciful than God, who for so long has been witnessing the misery of a people.“ Of course, there will come a time when it is all paid back! Although I would often have preferred to abandon my work as a result of great despair and despondency, it has become quite clear to me that God has now given me new tasks which I shall gladly perform.

You know of my request regarding the care of the Muhadjir in the hospital. I hope to get a reply to this from you soon.

I would like to thank you for the monthly 60 Ltq. intended for Malatia. Mr. Christoffel will be very pleased indeed.

Now, may God have mercy on us! With very best regards I remain, yours,

[Paula Schaefer]

Enclosure 7

Urfa, 22 July 1916

... Thanks to help from Switzerland, I have succeeded unofficially in helping the survivors of the Armenian people, orphans, about 150 of them, and in saving them from death by starvation. There are even more of them, but there is not enough money to provide for all of them. …

[Jakob Kuenzler]

Imperial Consul, the Honourable Mr. Roessler, Aleppo.

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