With the most respectful reference to my report dated 5 August 1915 [A 28584 (15)] from Erzurum and the resulting directive by Your Excellency, taking into account my statement on the Armenian question and the contents of which were sent to me in Mosul on 28 October 1915 by the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople, I take the liberty of very obediently reporting the following:
I based my attempt to initiate a modus vivendi at the last moment between the representatives of the Turkish committee and the Armenians who are dealing with this question on the assumption that I would be supported by the General Inspector of the Turkish Committee for Unity and Progress, Omer Nadji, with whom I was personally well acquainted and who accompanied me to Azerbaijan and the eastern Caucasus, since I knew that he did not condone the rigorous measures of the other committee members. He was rightly afraid that this action would also have a disadvantageous effect on the leaders of the Caucasian Party, Fidai.
I hoped to be able to convince him further of the foolishness of the measures against the Armenians on our mutual journey. In addition, I counted on my presence at least preventing the troops provided for Omer Nadji would be misused in a manner similar to Halil’s troops to start a massacre of the Christians in northern Persia under the influence of some of the other committee members who were travelling with us, including Dr. Fuad, whom I knew to be one of the instigators of the Armenian massacres in Vilayet Trebizond.
I am pleased to note that my assumptions were correct.
Omer Nadji himself was pleased to find in me a German officer who supported his moderate attitude towards the other committee members.
The atrocious sight of the slain Armenians in the devastated villages of the areas we travelled through as far as Bitlis did not fail to have the desired effect on the other gentlemen as well. They obviously found it embarrassing that I and my German companions were witnesses to the work of like-minded persons and continuously attempted to soften the bad impression we had received by means of explanations which placed all the blame on the Kurds.
I sent a report on what I had seen on this journey through the Imperial Consulate in Mosul, as far as I deemed this to be necessary. In individual cases, for example in Bitlis, I was able to give relief to those who had remained behind, Armenian women and children, who were being cared for by American female missionaries, and also to give aid to the latter.
I would like to mention the following typical incident:
On the way to Mosul we passed through the newly created area of command of the 6th Army. Omer Nadji’s and my units were given the order to attack and punish an Armenian village near Hesak in which supposedly rebellious Armenians had barricaded themselves. I discovered in time that the so-called ”rebels” were people who had barricaded themselves for fear of being massacred and who would have gladly been prepared to give up their weapons if only they were assured of being left alive. An attempt at mediation offered by the administrator of the German consulate in Mosul and me was rejected on the part of the Supreme Command of the 6th Army, to whom I had presented the facts.
I evaded the conflict I was threatened with by ordering the Germans, officers and men under my command, to Mosul and by passing command of the Turkish troops entrusted to me to one of my Turkish officers, explaining that this was an ”inner Turkish” matter and, thus, I did not consider it to be correct that Germans should have command of Turkish troops carrying out ”gendarme service”.
My conduct was later approved of by Field Marshall v. d. Goltz. The Turkish side also acknowledged it as being ”elegant”. The disappointment, which became apparent gives grounds for the assumption that the order given to me was an attempt on the part of Halil Bey to drag me and the Germans accompanying me in a compromising manner into the Armenian matter.
The later assignment of my unit to the newly created Mosul group and my consequent military subordination to the command of the Vali of Mosul, Haidar Bey, naturally placed great restraint on me with regard to intervening in the Armenian question.
Despite the difficulties of my position I was also able to achieve that massacres or exceptional oppressiveness against the Oriental Christians there no longer took place during the entire time that I was with the Turkish troops operating in northern Persia.
I would like to point out in particular that, during the capture of Sautshbulag, together with Omer Nadji I was able to protect the non-Mohammedan population there including the party supporters of Russia from massacres and rapes as had taken place during earlier occupations of the town by Turkish troops resp. irregulars.
This has also been acknowledged by the American missionary living in Sautshbulag, Fossum, and the German female missionary, Meta v. d. Schulenburg.
Attempts to initiate an understanding with those Armenian leaders fighting on the Russian side, whom I had hoped to win over with the help of Syrian Christians, were broken off by the Russian offensive and connected military operations.
I was able to determine, however, from statements made by prisoners and other news which reached me that the moderate actions of the Turkish troops this time astonished the enemy and, thus, it effectively wiped away, at least in part, the bad impression left by former Turkish offensives in northern Persia and the eastern Caucasus.
The advance of the Russian troops in May of this year, whereby the weak Turkish forces had to retreat, as well as my other military employment put a temporary end to my efforts in this matter.
I respectfully request permission to point out the following in connection with this.
The fear I spoke of in my report from Erzurum, namely that the evacuation of the Armenians would be tantamount to their annihilation resp. that this was the purpose behind it, has unfortunately turned out to be true. Those evacuees of this tribe who are still living in Mesopotamia are in a desolate condition. It would not be saying too much if I tell you that the Turkish Armenians, with the exception of several hundred thousand living in Constantinople and other larger cities, have been practically wiped out.
It would be going too far to go into the causes of the extermination of the Armenians and the political and economical effects of this measure for Turkey.
Unfortunately, this matter is closed for the time being and our care and our interest can only be applied to easing the situation of the survivors located in Mesopotamia.
On the other hand, I feel obliged to direct Your Excellency’s attention to the following: a number of discussions with leading Turkish personalities left me with the following impressions:
A large part of the Young Turkish Committee is of the opinion that the Ottoman Empire should only be built upon a purely Mohammedan, pan-Turkish foundation. Those inhabitants who are neither Mohammedan nor Turkish should be made to become so by force or, if that is not possible, annihilated.
For these gentlemen, the present time seems to be the most suitable to put this plan into effect.
The first item on their programme was the execution of the Armenians.
A supposedly prepared revolution of the Dashnak Party was put forward as a pretext for those powers, who are allied with Turkey. Furthermore, local unrest and self-protection measures on the part of the Armenians were exaggerated and taken as an excuse to justify the evacuation of the Armenians from endangered border districts. At the instigation of the committee, the Armenians were murdered along the way by Kurd and Turkish gangs, in places also by gendarmes.
2.) At about the same time, the Nestorians in eastern Kurdistan, after brave resistance, were turned out of their domiciles by the Vali from Mosul, Haidar Bey, and annihilated in part. Their fields and homes were ravaged. The survivors fled to the Russians and are now fighting in their ranks against Turkey.
3.) Halil Bey’s campaign in northern Persia resulted in the massacre of his Armenian and Syrian battalions and the expulsion of the Armenian, Syrian and Persian population from northern Persia. It left behind a great bitterness towards the Turks.
4.) Revenge against the Arabs is also being considered, but the presently unfavourable military situation made it apparent that this was not yet the right moment. In the meantime, a suitable substitute was attempted by heavily recruiting Arabs and dispatching Arabian troops with the most inadequate equipment in climatically unfavourable areas (winter campaign 1914 Erzurum, 1915 northern Persia).
5.) A ridiculous overestimation of the strength and the long-distance effect of pan-Turkish ideas as well as an underestimation of the influence of the Caucasian Armenians led to the belief that the Mohammedans from the Caucasus could be won over to join Turkey and to revolt against Russia. It is only slowly becoming clear that this plan has lost much of its probability through the action against the Armenians and the conduct of Turkish-Kurd irregulars in the Caucasian border areas. German propaganda among the Caucasians is not appreciated and often hampered.
Summarising my impressions on the question of the relationship of the Turks to the other nations living there (which I have collected until the end of August 1916), I would like to point out the following with regard to the future:
It seems to me to be just possible that an attempt will be made in the district of the 6th army to boost the morale of the Kurds fighting on the side of the Turks, to re-ignite their fanaticism and to give them a free hand against the Christian population there.
A similar play-off of the Sunnite Kurds against the Shiite Persians could, under certain circumstances, take place in northern and central Persia and, thus, apart from the economical consequences, give rise to a permanent conflict between those involved which would also harm our interests most severely.
I have finally come to the conclusion, that our restraint in the Armenian question has caused visible damage to our reputation in Turkey and Persia, because many considered it to be a sign of weakness. More decisive action against the rigorous attempts of the Young Turkish Committee would be of help to our reputation, and not only the non-Mohammedans and the Arabs, but also the Old Turks and the present minority of the Young Turks would like us much more.
Considering the instability of the Turkish political situation, I consider it appropriate to take the mood of those circles with influence in the country into account as well.
”If we, the Turks, bleed to death in this battle for the existence of the Ottoman Empire, then there shall be no other nations in this empire either.” This remark by a Young Turkish politician characterises best the point of view held by the circles of the Young Turkish Committee. And the logical consequence of the weakening of pure Turkishness (the Anatolians), appearing more and more mainly because of a lack of organisation and foresight, is the violent annihilation of the other nations living in Turkey.
It appears to me to be in our political and economical interest to turn our attention to this process of annihilation and to counteract it wherever possible.
The opinion that too great a restraint in the Armenian question would damage our reputation with the Young Turkish rulers as well, cannot be denied.