Your Excellency, I respectfully enclose the report of a German (whom I recently had to send to Der-el-Zor on official business that had nothing to do with the Armenian question) on the fate of Armenians migrating to or having arrived at their destination. These are observations, which became perfectly obvious along the way.
Dr. Schacht, a captain in the medical corps, who chose the route along the river on his way from here to Baghdad, wrote to me on 3 November from Der-el-Zor, "I have seen many bad things along the way. What people are saying is true."
Accordingly, the military road from Aleppo to Der-el-Zor, which is the land route to Baghdad, is infected with typhus fever. And the same must then also apply to the water route.
I am sending the same report to the Imperial Embassy.
On the journey to Der-el-Zor you inevitably reach the trails of the deported Armenians. The first trace is already found in Der Hafir: previously having one small general store, it now has three of them with the sole purpose of taking advantage of the Armenians' predicament by charging high prices (goat's meat 1 occa 5-6 piasters, bread 4-5, eggs 10 para and so on). This nonsense can be observed as far as Der-el-Zor. As thousands of Armenians are passing by the khans along the road to Baghdad, the sparsely stocked stores, carrying actually hardly any goods at all, are all empty and the salesman finds hungry buyers for high prices. Only extremely muddy water from the river Euphrates, polluted by corpses, manure and scraps, is to be had at the camps. Supplies of provisions with the transports have not been arranged, although this would be possible. Watering spots containing stale, clean water could easily be set up for those permanently passing by. Thus, apart from their burdens, their children, their sick and their illnesses, the deported must also lug along food and even water for the long marches. In some places there is no fuel whatsoever. Those arriving late in the evening search high and low, their strength exhausted, for liquorice roots, so difficult to pull out, to use them as fuel.
For months, all of the wayside places of rest have been turned into the most disgusting state by masses of human excrements, garbage, scraps and manure, and this will not change until the final troop has passed through. One after the other, the paths travelled upon along the river and the road to Baghdad show signs of this migration: wagons left behind because the livestock pulling them have died; broken wagons, remnants of clothes and scraps which will no longer hang on a person's body, animal corpses and human corpses in every stage of decomposition. Thank goodness that nature's scavengers make short shrift of removing these carcasses. We found a small group of people left behind in Meskené … including a sitting corpse, starting to decay, a dying woman and 2 sick. Militia and pack animals crowded the khan and its dirty surroundings, and everyone had other things to worry about than cleaning up these tragic spots.
Abu Hrere on the river Euphrates ... equipped with a Handji and a shopkeeper only a short while ago … at present a huge human pile of fertiliser, 5 animal corpses, manure, scraps, millions of flies … a real place of death, and then for hours only desert … A little, old, emaciated mother sat, deserted, in this tragic place. The light blue eyes, the shining white hair, the features revealed a better past … everything continued to pass on … she wailed crazily for the children … perhaps a sunset … then, then she can be sure of her release. We had her brought into the khan – a horrible, deserted place with nothing but 2 soldiers. Beyond Abu Hrere, where the path moves off through the waterless desert, we found the corpses of 3 boys, 1 man and 1 woman at the roadside, apart from numerous animal corpses and scraps of clothes.
Hamam ... has two large khans … full of muck, 3 large Armenian camps: a) boatsmen with 7 wooden boats, b) drivers with their vehicles, c) pedestrians in wretched condition with the remainder of their possessions. They started off again before dawn. … 8 to 900 people from Antiochia, Zeitun, from the area around Marash, Killis, Susli. 3 hours beyond Hamam the path branched off from our road and probably approached the bank of the river while the road led off over the desert cliffs.
Sabcha ... the first settlers' station. Formerly having several hundred inhabitants, it presently registers 7000 people (statement by the Nahié Mudir). The village is situated between the rocky drops of the desert and the course of the river … the old part of the village with some gardens is on the bank of the river … the settlement has now grown towards the mountain crest … in streets that have been laid out straight at right angles; thousands of hands working with the greatest zeal; long rows of undressed stones are stored there … over 100 new houses have been erected. A further 250 houses are to be completed shortly. The first settlers arrived from Zeitun in July and August. Many still live in rented houses (with a rent of 3-4 Medjidije), most still in camps and on farms. The authorities have given the land for building and permitted stones to be cut. Bread and flour is distributed in quantities, which are hardly sufficient, leading to complaints. The settlers have set up a smithy, the sale of meat, 1 plumber and 2-3 small general stores. Many Armenians die from illness. Those in the camps, forced to protect themselves, banish the sick – mostly women – from the camp and leave them to nature. Without food, a doctor or care they lie whimpering and begging for bread until a kind fate lets them die … (approx. 40 dreadfully disfigured people). I counted 12 corpses washed ashore across from the crossing point; their dreadful smell does not rouse a single soul to bury them. According to the statement by the head of the district council, many more thousands of "settlers" are coming. His actual words were, "We let them come! To cultivate the land." Up- and downstream there is, however, fertil land for the survivors. Medical aid is absolutely necessary there.
The main place of settlement is Der-el-Zor. The entrance alone immediately displays the settlers' main occupation: burying the dead, dull brooding, laborious, sick, half-dead movement. Der-el-Zor itself is not an ugly city, with lovely, wide streets. Previously 14000 inhabitants, presently 25-30000. There are no organisational arrangements for the huge, accumulated mass of people. There is insufficient food (for hours the bakers have no bread), a steam-driven mill clacks insufficiently day and night, a shortage of bread and vegetables was determined. 3 hospitals are crowded with over a thousand sick people. 1 local doctor, 1 government doctor, pharmacy almost empty. The local doctor just left town for a few days on a business trip. The mortality rate is 150-200 persons per day (in the words of the local doctor). Only in this way is it possible that thousands of settlers can still be brought in. A large camp above and below the town. On the left bank of the river next to the pontoon bridge masses of dying people have been camped in huts made of foliage typical for this area. They are the forgotten whose only liberator is death.
No linguistic expression of thought can even come close to describing the reality of this human misery; so indescribable are the occurrences there. And this tragic heap is continually building up. According to the statements of other pedestrians, hundreds of unburied corpses, dragged off, then lie further away! The gendarme on duty answered, "What should we do? They all die by themselves."
The authorities carefully clean all the corners and streets every day, build new residential areas such as in Sabcha, distribute money among the people as well as bread and flour and yet, with some exceptions, death is preferential to life. As in Sabcha, every other human settlement is many hours away from Der-el-Zor … edge of the desert.
The Armenians are stoned by the Arabs, beaten, jeered and laughed at, examples of which we saw ourselves.
For example, in Maden on the river Euphrates, three corpses were drifting along the bank. The Arabs threw stones at them and spit on them, laughing the whole time. (One corpse had had its head chopped off.)
During our stay the police forbid several Armenians to approach us and speak to us (the government is there for this purpose, not the Germans!).
What kind of work is available for the survivors: farming and gardening along the river where there is, however, fertile land, crafts and some trade.