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Link: http://www.armenocide.net/armenocide/armgende.nsf/$$AllDocs/1918-09-01-DE-001
Source: DE/PA-AA/R14104
Central register: 1918-A-38986
Embassy register: 10-12/1918/II 5773
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 09/18/1918 a.m.
Embassy/consular serial number: Bericht Nr. 44/J. Nr. Geh. 81
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 03/23/2012

From the Consul in Trebizond (Bergfeld) to the Reichskanzler (Hertling)


Report No. 44 / J. No. secret 81
Trebizond, 1 September 1918
Based on the Armenians’ attitude and convictions at the beginning of the war, their evacuation – not just that of the men, but of entire families – was, in my opinion, a compellingly necessary military measure. The Greek movement on the Black Sea coast proved that the actions of the gangs cannot be stamped out as long as they receive support, accommodation and food from the co-nationals living in the area in which they are active.

Anyone who knows the Orient will agree with me that the Armenians are blessed with hardly a trait that humans find attractive. Despite this, the excesses that took place during their deportation – the mass murders of the men, numerous rapes of women and children, and theft of their possessions – cannot be condemned severely enough. They also offer enemy governments the desired opportunity to appear before their own people and neutral countries as an advocate of general humanity. During the occupation of East Anatolia, Russian military organs repeatedly stated that our enemies will insist that the Armenian question be treated during peace negotiations and demand at least a reparation of the injustice done to the Armenians. We may also expect that the Entente governments will not miss this opportunity to act as the champions of oppressed people, if only for purely tactical reasons. They will be able to count on the sympathy of the entire civilised world.

Against all this, the position of the Sublime Porte will be so difficult that it will hardly be able to give a credible reason to explain or apologise for these excesses to the extent they actually took place. In addition, the differential treatment that is accorded today not only to the few Armenian men still living, but also to their women and children and their possessions, must strengthen the obvious assumption that the Turkish government was at least not unhappy about the attacks against the Armenians that led to their almost complete annihilation in East Anatolia, and still holds this opinion today. This attitude will also make our position more difficult during peace negotiations.

For these reasons, I consider it to be in our interest to urgently request that the Turkish government now makes it clear by means of a more just attitude towards the Armenians that their deportation was an unavoidable military measure, the consequences of which should be toned down as far as possible, providing it does not concern people whose hostile machinations against the state have been proven in court. No doubt the most important decision in this direction would be to return to the Armenian property owners or their heirs the right of disposal over their property. If it is considered impossible to grant them the right to return to their former place of residence, they should at least be given general permission to make use of their properties by selling or leasing them and, to this end, allow them to return to their home towns temporarily. Most of them will, no doubt because of lack of funds and out of fear of accidents on the journey, make no use of such permission, but instead restrict themselves to granting power of attorney to make use of their property. It could be worth considering whether to publicly auction their properties off by the authorities and to pass the proceeds on to the owners or their heirs. However, the occurrences that take place when Armenian movables are sold by the authorities do not encourage such a procedure. The thefts and misappropriations that take place during these measures go far beyond anyone’s imagination. To give just one example: a number of wealthy and well-furnished Armenian families lived in Trebizond. They were forbidden to sell any of their possessions before they were deported, and this ban was carried out with ruthless severity. At the same time, the proceeds from the sale of those few items that had not been lost to the authorities before the auction were not enough to cover the costs of the porters.

Furthermore, the special regulation that applies to Armenians, forbidding them to move from one town to another without the permission of the Ministry of the Interior, should be revoked, at least with regard to women and children. Their parity of treatment with the remaining Turkish subjects who, insofar as there are no reservations, receive a passport from the provincial government, would, in my opinion, take the interests of public safety sufficiently into account and remove the omen of differential treatment for Armenian women and children as well.

If the Sublime Porte would act in this manner merely to give the Armenians their rights, it would at least take away the main foundation, should our enemies stand up for the interests of Turkish Armenians during peace negotiations.

I have sent a report with the same wording to the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople.

Dr. Bergfeld

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