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Link: http://www.armenocide.net/armenocide/armgende.nsf/$$AllDocs/1918-03-19-DE-001
Source: DE/PA-AA/R14099
Publication: DuA Dok. 377 (re. gk.)
Central register: 1918-A-11280
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Embassy/consular serial number:
Translated by: Linda Struck (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/22/2012

Notes by the Foreign Office

Berlin, 19 March 1918 [Goeppert’s note: This memorandum served as a basis for the explanations which the Deputy Secretary of State gave to the Reichstag on 21 and 22 March.]

The former Secretary of State, Mr. Zimmermann, gave detailed information on the causes and the course of the Turkish anti-Armenian measures during a committee meeting on 29 September 1916. I will therefore refrain from relating all the details once more. There is just one thing that I would like to emphasise once again: the Turkish government was by no means unfavourable towards the Armenians at the outbreak of the World War, given the fact that the Armenians had fought on the side of the Young Turks against the Hamidian regime. But when Turkey joined in the War, it soon became obvious that the majority of the Armenian people were sympathising with the enemies of Turkey. This tendency was, of course, emphatically supported by London, Paris and Petersburg. Significant in this respect is the article in the Daily Chronicle dated 23 September 1915, which commends the Armenian people for having aligned itself since the very beginning of the War with the Entente, from the very beginning having fought on the side of the Entente without any haggling and bargaining and, thus, having gained the right to be regarded as a seventh ally. The further development of local disorders in East Anatolia up to the general revolution in the province of Van is sufficiently well-known. This consequently led to the issuing of the Turkish deportation orders. However, originally the Turkish rulers neither intended nor foresaw that the execution of the resettlement measures would lead to the destruction of a large proportion of the Armenian people. The definitely deplorable course that things took seems understandable, to a certain extent, if one takes into consideration the primitiveness of internal Turkish conditions, the overall lack of organisation, roads, means of transport, the minimal influence of the central government over the more distant provinces and, finally, the racial and religious conflicts.

From the beginning of the Armenian crisis, the Foreign Office and the imperial representatives in Turkey did all that was diplomatically possible to alleviate the ill-fate of the Armenians. The German Imperial government went to the absolute limits with its pressure on the Turkish government. No German government would have taken on the responsibility of exposing the south-east flank of our global war position in our world-wide battle by causing a breach with Turkey on the grounds of the Armenian issue and, therefore, of leading our armies, which at the time were involved in heavy fighting in the East and the West, into a precarious situation.

When, after conclusion of the cease-fire of Brest-Litowsk, the possibility of an evacuation of the Eastern Anatolian provinces, occupied at that time by the Russians, became imminent, we immediately contacted the Turkish statesmen regarding the question of the treatment of the Armenians and told them how important it was, in the interest of Turkey, also for its relations with her allies, that on the re-entry of the Turkish troops, attacks on the Armenian people be avoided and that from the very beginning the foundations be laid for a peaceful relationship between the Christian and Muslim elements. The Minister of Finance and the Foreign Minister, with whom talks to this effect had been held in January during their stay in Berlin, showed their full appreciation and also declared that they were basically in agreement that after the recapture of East Anatolia, German charitable organisations would take care of the Armenians there.

At the beginning of February, the news leaked through that the Russian troops had withdrawn from East Anatolia but that, in the area they had left, Armenian bands had formed under the leadership of English and probably French officers and were ravaging even worse than the Bolshevik bands in the Baltic provinces. Details of their misdeeds were published by the official Turkish telegraph services. In many cases this news was not believed in other countries and was understood to mean that the Turkish government was trying to make excuses in advance for their intended, ruthless acts against the Armenians. There is no justification for this view. Although other telegraphic messages from the Caucasus managed to penetrate other countries, up to now no enemy or neutral paper has published any news about Turkish excesses. Even the Swiss Aid Committee for Armenia has not received any such message. A telegram from the Geneva group of the Armenian Socialists to the International Socialist Office in Geneva, which relates new Turkish massacres following the evacuation of the country by the Russians, is not based on actual reports, but seemingly only on apprehensions. The fears are quite understandable in view of the events of 1915 and of the rage, which the latest atrocities by the Armenian bands must be provoking in the Turks. The German government has, therefore, not let any opportunity pass by of reminding the Turkish government of the significance of the Armenian issue and has made certain suggestions as to how further bloodshed can be avoided and long-term peaceful conditions restored. In particular, it strongly recommended that the advancing troops should be kept under strict disciplinary control, that the Armenian bands be ordered to submit voluntarily, that they be granted amnesty if they do so, that equal consideration be given for the Armenians and the Muslims during the intended relief campaign for the East Anatolian provinces, furthermore, that the return of those who were exiled to the inner provinces of the Empire be at least resolved and initiated, inasmuch as such a return is not possible at the moment due to the current transport problems. The Turkish government has at least shown willingness to consider such propositions. After the binding assurances that the Grand Vizier, the Foreign Minister and his representative, Halil Bey, have given the Chancellor, the Secretary of State, von Kuehlmann, and the Imperial Ambassador, we are entitled to have confidence that the government has decided to show leniency to the Armenians, will not hold the uninvolved population responsible for the atrocities committed by the bands, and will know how to avoid occurrences similar to those that happened during 1915. The imminent proclamation of an amnesty has been approved.

A prerequisite for the restoration of a peaceful state of affairs is, of course, that the Armenians abandon their efforts towards independence; they should now realise the futility of these efforts and accept the reconciliation being offered by the Turks. According to reports from Constantinople, the Armenian side has even expressed a request for negotiations with the Turkish government. On the other hand, we hear from Switzerland that there, at the beginning of March, representatives of the Armenian associations passed a resolution to call upon their compatriots in the Anatolian provinces to put up their strongest possible resistance to Turkey. Telegrams to this effect have been sent via England to the Armenian committees in Tiflis. Apart from this, the representative of the Armenian Catholicos in Paris, Boghos Nubar Pasha, has been requested by telegram to ask the English government to support the fighting Armenians by sending in officers and troops. It is true that there are already French and English officers with the bands. It is obvious that the fate of the Armenian people in Eastern Anatolia is being gravely endangered by the irresponsible acts of the agitators. There is also a danger that, in the neighbouring districts of Kars and Ardahan, which, according to the Peace Treaty of Brest, are to be evacuated by the Russians and whose people should decide on their future for themselves, conflicts will arise between Armenians and Muslims, which, as the Armenians are also in the minority here, will probably turn out to their disadvantage.

It would give us great satisfaction if the German friends of the Armenians could use their influence to warn them of useless resistance, which would be tantamount to suicide, and persuade them to negotiate with the Turks about their submission.

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