1916-03-03-DE-001
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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14090
Publication: DuA Dok. 246 (gk.)
Central register: 1916-A-05914
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 03/04/1916 p.m.
Embassy/consular serial number:
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/22/2012


From MP Matthias Erzberger, to the Legation Councillor in the Foreign Office, Rosenberg

Correspondence



Berlin, 3 March 1916

Copy

My Lord,

Enclosed please find:

1.) the copy of a letter which I sent yesterday to the Reichskanzler at the Supreme Headquarters concerning the suggestion on the purchase of the Coenaculum,

2.) the memorandum that I have drafted to give to Enver Pasha and Talaat, to the latter in a French translation. I will discuss this memorandum with Cardinal von Hartmann next Monday in Cologne.

Should you have any wishes with regard to changes, I would be pleased to receive them today.

I remain,

Yours very respectfully,


[M. Erzberger]


Enclosure

Memorandum on the Measures on Behalf of the Christians in Turkey.

III. The Situation of the Catholic Armenians.


1. The Catholic Armenians, whom some reckon as reaching a figure close to 100000 while others consider the figure to be higher, must be strictly distinguished from the so-called Gregorian or Orthodox, as well as from the Protestant Armenians. They have their own patriarch, have been recognised by the Turkish government as a millet and, in a national respect, they have never given cause for complaint. It is just their aversion to nationalistic endeavours, which is generally recognised, that has drawn the particular hatred of their fellow countrymen against them and especially great hostility against their patriarch who forbid nationalistic activities. The Orthodox Armenians who were on good standing with the Russians, were the supporters of the idea of national Armenian independence, tolerating the Russian emissaries among themselves, and on the other hand those Armenians who had been raised in the American schools and who usually adopted with the religion of the Protestant American missionaries their democratic views, often undertook journeys to the United States and then returned as ”enlighteners”.

2. Despite the loyal attitude of the Catholic Armenians and despite the assurances they were given, the same fate befell them as their fellow countrymen. Relatively speaking, their losses of lives and goods were just as high as those of the others; the only difference that was usually made in their case was that executions and deportations were put off for a few days or weeks. The reports brought by non-Armenian witnesses from the heart of the country are so appalling that they cannot be written down. Merely the current state of the Armenian-Catholic Church is set down as follows.

3. Of the 15 dioceses, 11 no longer exist: Adana, Angora, Kaisara, Diyarbekir, Erzurum, Harput, Malatia, Mardin, Mush, Sivas, Trebizond. Two dioceses have been partly destroyed: Marash and Aleppo. Only the dioceses of Constantinople and Brussa remain intact, although they, too, have suffered some losses. Thus, for example, the Catholic Armenians in Ismid were driven out in the same manner as the Gregorians, their district was burned down, their possessions sold, supposedly for the benefit of the expellees, but in truth to enrich the Turkish officials. With particular regard to the destroyed dioceses, Diyarbekir, Harput, Malatia, Mardin, Mush and Erzurum, in part, have lost their inhabitants through slaughters, the rest due to deportation.

4. It could be assumed that deportation is a milder form of punishment than murder. In fact, there is little difference between the former and the latter. While namely some people always escape, remain hidden or flee to the mountains during the general massacres, there is very little chance of survival in the case of deportation. The people are driven like herds of animals for weeks and months to their destination and only in the rarest cases has the necessary food been provided for. Thus, these poor people fall prey in huge numbers to hunger and disease. Once they reach their destination they do not remain there, either, but are driven to a new destination and from here to another one, thus never having a chance to rest. In other cases, the families in Turkish towns are dispersed and, as the men are usually separated from the women, the latter are completely left to themselves in finding a living. Hunger and threats drive them into the hands of the Turks. The children then become Turkish on their own or, as so-called ”war orphans”, they are made into Turks by the authorities.

5. After the promises given to the apostolic delegate by the Turkish government, it was hoped that the rest of the Catholic Armenians would be allowed to return. None of them, in fact, did so. On the contrary. According to news from reliable sources received during the last few days, action is now being taken against those Armenians who stayed behind in Marash, Aintab and Aleppo.

In the interests of the Turkish government a number of measures will be carried out even during the war to reassure the Entente press with regard to their accusations and assertions. The following such measures are suggested, to be carried out immediately:

1.) Possibility of directly approaching the deported, not by private persons, but by a mission of the Order of the Knights of St. John which will be fitted out in Germany and work free of charge. Bread and other necessary means of subsistence will be delivered by this mission, but supplied by the German or Turkish government.

2.) Gradual transport of the deported back to their place of origin and relocation there, possibly close to the railroad lines so that, on the one hand a better watch can be kept on them and, on the other hand, it will be simpler to provide supplies. At any rate, those areas are out of the question, which are considered as being part of the war zone. However, the settlement may only be extended over Asia Minor, and not Syria and Arabia. It is to be carried out in built-up areas. The government will give those Armenians returning home as much land of the same quality as they owned previously. They will be reimbursed for the loss of their homes and possessions by receiving building materials, agricultural implements and seeds free of charge. Transport back to their place of origin and relocation will be carried out by the delegation of the Order of the Knights of St. John.

3.) Satisfaction of the Armenians’ religious needs. In Angora, for example, there are still 2000 Catholic Armenians without a bishop and priest even though many steps have been taken to send them a priest. Those churches, which were closed must be reopened, the church’s property returned and the return to their church not made impossible for those Armenians who converted to Islam out of fear.

4.) Urban Armenians may return to their towns, insofar as they are not part of the war zone.

5.) The law on liquidation will be suspended or at least inapplicable for the returning Armenians.

6.) As it has been generally acknowledged that the Catholic Armenians refrained from revolutionary activities, they should be taken into consideration first with regard to the transport back to their place of origin.

7.) The Turkish government has been requested to recognise the patriarch of the Catholic Armenians, Monseigneur Terzian, according to ecclesiastical Catholic principles.

The implementation of these measures would ensure that the agitation also to be found among the Christians of those countries not involved in the war would die away. The Order of the Knights of St. John is particularly suited to carry out these measures. The necessary funds would have to be supplied by the German government and charged to the Turkish government.

These suggestions arise from the attempt to eliminate the obstacles preventing the achievement of the Turkish war objectives. We believe that all of the Turkish government’s legitimate claims have largely been taken into account. On the other hand, these suggestions give the foreign and indigenous Catholics in Turkey a guarantee for complete religious freedom.



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