1916-02-09-DE-001
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Link: http://www.armenocide.net/armenocide/armgende.nsf/$$AllDocs/1916-02-09-DE-001
Source: DE/PA-AA/R14090
Publication: DuA Dok. 235 (ohne Anlage) (gk.)
Central register: 1916-A-05498
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 02/29/1916 a.m.
Embassy/consular serial number: No. 366/K. No. 18
Translated by: Linda Struck (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/22/2012


From the Consul in Aleppo (Roessler) to the Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg)

Report



No. 366 / K. No. 18
Aleppo, 9 February 1916

I feel it is my duty to report on the following details concerning the continual and gradual extermination of a large proportion of the Armenian population, which have come to my attention over the past few weeks:

In November and at the beginning of December large numbers of deportees were to be found along the railway route from Adana to Aleppo, in particular in Islahiye and in Katma. Here they had to be removed for military reasons to keep the military route free and to prevent the army being infected with diseases. The transportation was first done by train to Ras-ul-Ain. But as the deportees in Ras-ul-Ain were doomed to die and also as the railway could not cope with transporting the Armenians simultaneously with the soldiers, the Armenians from Islahiye and Katma were then sent on foot to Akhterin and then from Akhterin to Bab. The distance from Katma to Akhterin is about 30 kms and from there to Bab about the same again. It was, therefore, a relatively easy solution. In Constantinople, Djemal Pasha ordered that the Armenians should remain between Akhterin and Bab. There it would have been possible to obtain provisions for them from the station in Akhterin. But these orders were revoked once again and those poor people were sent on from Bab to Der-el-Zor. I allow myself to present the results of this to you in the enclosed letter from Consul Litten which he wrote to me concerning his journey from Baghdad to Aleppo. As to how things looked between Meskené and Der-el-Zor, I have already submitted a report on 16 November 1915 - K. No. 109 (J. No. 2078) – written by a German. Groups of pitiful people have continued to stream along this route. Amongst others, his Highness Prince Reuss, according to his words, has seen 15 bodies lying there on around 12th January between the stations of Tibne and Sabkha, but his coachman counted even more.

At the beginning of January, a compassionate person picked up 50 children on the wayside between Katma and Killis and brought them to Killis. He wanted to hand them over to the Kaymakam but the latter would not accept them and they consequently had to stay outside. The next morning 30 of those ill and exhausted children had died of exposure. This news comes from an Armenian source, but there is no reason to doubt the truth of it.

An Armenian who has the courage to go to Bab from time to time in disguise in order to bring the poverty stricken a support allowance (German Sisters have not been allowed any activity outside of Aleppo), reports that at the end of January during the 2 ½ days of his stay in Bab, 1029 Armenians died. The worst thing about it was when the weak and ill were forced to get up to walk the next part of the journey. They were driven with whips; their tents were even set alight. He witnessed how a woman was beaten to death with a club. Bearing in mind the events which took place beforehand in the town of Aleppo itself, this tale can also be considered to be true.

A few months ago, 3000 women and widows were sent from Aleppo to Killis where they experienced relatively good conditions and were able at least to lead their lives. In the second week of January, they too were sent on from there.

I will be sending the same report to the Imperial Embassy.


Roessler


Enclosure
Aleppo, 6 February 1916.

Dear Consul!

In compliance with your request, I have the honour of sending you a written account of the impressions I received on the journey from Baghdad to Aleppo. It is mainly a written account of the remarks I jotted in my notebook during the coach drive, with half-frozen fingers and in abbreviated form. They therefore convey the immediate impression I gained on the spot:

On the route from Baghdad to Aleppo one passes through the following stations: Baghdad, Abu Messir, Fallujah, Romedi, Hit, Bagdadi, Hadisse, Fahime, Ane, Nihije, Abu Kemal, Selahije, Mejadin, Der-el-Zor, Tibni, Sabha, Haman, Abu Hureire, Meskené, Der Hafir and Aleppo.

They lie about 60 kms apart from one another. From one to another, it takes on average 6 to 8 hours by coach, alternating between trotting and walking at pace, i.e. a day’s journey. On the other hand, people on foot would probably take three days to walk from one station to the next.

Between the individual stations there is completely uninhabited desert country, only partly covered with low shrubs. At several stations, even the single traveller can find no food or bread. The route runs along the Euphrates, but does not follow each bend; rather, it cuts across. Some stations are miles away from the river. At the stations, there are usually wells. The pedestrian, however, who is on the march three days from one station to another, must take water with him if he is not to die of thirst.

On 17 January of this year, I departed from Baghdad. On 23 January, I arrived in Hadisse. There I saw the first transportation of Armenians, about 50 persons, nearly all men; they were wearing Turkish farmers' clothes and black-and-white striped jackets.

On 24 January I arrived at Ane. On the way I met about 30 Armenians under gendarmerie surveillance. The khan at Ane was occupied by about 40 Armenians, all in Turkish farmers' clothes.

On 25 January I overtook a convoy of about 50 Armenians, only men, who were on the way to Der-el-Zor accompanied by gendarmes. Our coachman said that it was good that the weather was so cold, as otherwise one would not have been able to stand the smell along this route which came from the decaying bodies of Armenians. Almost each of the Armenians had one or two pack animals with him which was laden only with foodstuffs. The driver said that as long as the provisions of dates on the backs of those animals lasted, then the Armenians were alright. But as soon as they were finished, they would probably starve to death because, even if someone could be found who was willing to sell an Armenian anything at an almost exorbitant price, the foodstuffs which could be found en route would not be sufficient for even one-tenth of the number of deportees.

As a result of the bitter cold, the coachman fell ill with pneumonia, so I had to drive the coach myself. At the next station I employed a young Arab to help me out.

On the 26th I overtook a transport of about 50 men. In Abu Kemal, one of the “larger” stations (most of them consist only of two to three buildings) a 16-year-old Armenian boy, Artin from Zeitun, served us in the khan. Many Armenians were accommodated in the khan and all the stables as well as in the whole of the surrounding buildings. Also some women and children.

On the 28th I met four German officers in Selahije travelling to Baghdad, who assured me that they had seen many things during the war in the East and West, but what their eyes had witnessed on the road between Aleppo and Der-el-Zor was the most terrible thing they had ever seen.

On the 29th in Mejadin. In the khan, which was closely occupied with Armenians, I perceived a strong smell of decay. The driver of the baggage coach went down with fever. My servant took over the driving.

On 30 January at Der-el-Zor. This is the largest town along the route. Here were many Armenians, more than 2000 to be sure. All the houses and khans were full of them. In the khan in which I stayed, again that foul smell just like in Mejadin. Overfilled with Armenians. Many women, delousing themselves. Also many young girls and small children. On the streets of the clean little town there are many Armenians of all ages and of both sexes in Turkish farmers' clothes, but also many in European civilian clothing, obviously belonging to higher classes. Young girls in well-fitting European clothes.

Here I met five German officers and a German doctor who were travelling to Baghdad. They told me that on the road between Aleppo and Der-el-Zor many had perished from typhoid fever. The men had counted 64 bodies in 3 hours, lying by the wayside. Also a mother with her three-year-old child, lying by the road, both dead. Many of the Armenians came from Constantinople(?). Der-el-Zor is a friendly little town with straight streets and pavements. The Armenians were enjoying complete freedom there, could do just as they liked ... also in the way of food which they had to buy themselves. Anyone who had no money, could not buy anything. Andon from Angora sold me his golden watch for 1 [The author uses the Roman I for 1 throughout. This has been altered in transposition.] Turkish pound, Stepan from Brussa a medallion with a picture of the Madonna for 3 meshidiyes. When I tried to give these family heirlooms back to them on their departure, both Armenians had disappeared and could not be found, even after intensive searching. They seemed to be afraid that I wished to revoke the purchases. After all, the money could prolong their lives at least for a few days. I handed over both objects to the consulate in Aleppo to be deposited on behalf of the rightful owners, renouncing any claim to them myself. The more distinguished Armenians gathered in the village library in Der-el-Zor, a doctor, two priests and several businessmen. An Armenian landlord was a qualified economist there. Professor Kuelz, passing through on the way to Baghdad, treated my coachman for his pneumonia. The crisis was already overcome. I made the coachman put on three woollen shirts; he had to take over the coach again: the Arabian boy I had engaged as a temporary coachman ran away and disappeared without trace and no-one in Der-el-Zor was prepared to continue the journey with us ... because beyond Der-el-Zor the Trail of Horror began.

As far as I could see, it was divided into two sections: the first section from Der-el-Zor to Sabha, along which I could gain an impression of what had happened here from the position of the bodies, the state of their decay and their clothing as well as from the rags of linen, pieces of clothing and parts of household utensils that were strewn in the road: how the stragglers had been wandering alone in the desert, had finally collapsed and, with their faces tortured and distorted with pain, had met their death in despair; and how others were relieved more quickly thanks to the severe night frost and passed away peacefully in their sleep; how some had been unclothed by Arabian robbers, whereas the clothing of others had been torn from their bodies in rags by dogs and other vermin; how others had only lost their shoes and outerwear; and others had only a short time ago finally collapsed and died next to their baggage, completely clothed ... probably during the last transportation, while the bloody and half-bleached skeletons remind one of previous transports. In the second section from Sabha to Meskené, where I no longer needed to guess the individual fates, but had to behold the misery with my own eyes: a large transport of Armenians passed me by just beyond Sabha, driven by the gendarmerie guards to walk faster and faster, and then the whole misery of the stragglers became apparent in live form. I saw by the wayside hungry, thirsting, sick, dying, freshly deceased, mourners beside fresh bodies, and those who could not part quickly enough from their relatives, endangered their own lives, because the next station or oasis was three days' march away for those on foot. Weakened by hunger, disease, pain they staggered on, fell and lay still on the ground.

My provisions of bread, water, anything drinkable and edible were long used up. I tried to give a thirsty person money. But he fetched out his money himself and offered me one medshidiye, about four marks, for a glass of water. But I had nothing left myself.

Not until I was between Meskené and Aleppo did I see no more Armenians and no more bodies since generally the transports did not touch Aleppo at all, but were re-routed via Bab.

On 31 January at 11 a.m., I left Der-el-Zor. For three hours I spotted not a single body and hoped that the tales I had heard were perhaps exaggerated after all.

But then began the horrific parade of bodies:

1 p.m.: On the left of the road lay a young woman. Naked, only brown socks on her feet. Her back upwards. Head buried in crossed arms.

1.30 a(fternoon). [The method of writing the time has been standardised throughout.] : On the right of the road in a ditch an old man with white beard. Naked. Lying on his back. Two steps further on, a young boy. Back upwards. Left buttock ripped away.

2.00 hrs: 5 fresh graves. On the right: a clothed man, with his genitals exposed.

2.05 hrs: r [On the right]: 1 man, abdomen and bleeding genitals exposed.

2.07 hrs: r: 1 man in a state of decay.

2.08 hrs: r: 1 man, completely clothed, lying on his back, mouth wide open, head pushed backwards, face distorted with pain.

2.10 hrs: r:1 man, abdomen clothed, chest partly eaten away.

2.15 hrs: Traces of a cooking place. Shreds of linen strewn all over the road.

2.25 hrs: l [On the left] by the road: 1 woman, lying on her back, the upper part of her body covered by a shawl wrapped around her shoulders, lower half eaten away, only bloody thigh bones protrude from the shawl.

2.27 hrs: Many shreds of linen.

2.45 hrs: Many shreds of linen.

3.10 hrs: Traces of a cooking place and a campsite. Many shreds of linen. Remains of campfires, 1 coal scuttle. 6 male bodies, clothed only in trousers, chests bare, lying around the site of a campfire.

3.22 hrs: 22 fresh graves.

3.25 hrs: r: 1 clothed man

3.28 hrs: l: 1 naked man, eaten at.

3.45 hrs: Bloody skeleton of a girl about 10 years old, long blond hair still attached, lying with wide open arms and legs in the middle of the road.

3.50 hrs: Many shreds of clothing.

3.55 hrs: l: Completely clothed man with black beard, lying on his back in the middle of the road, as if he had just fallen from the huge rock which was standing to the left of the road.

4.03 hrs: r: 1 woman, wrapped in a cloth, cowering next to her a child, about 3 years old, wearing a blue cotton dress. The child had probably starved to death next to the exhausted mother.

4.10 hrs: 17 fresh graves.

5.02 hrs: A dog devouring a human skeleton.

5.03 hrs: Arrival in Tibni. Only one khan, otherwise no houses. No Armenians.


1 February 1916:

8.22 hrs m[orning]: Departure from Tibni, temporarily employed a new boy as coachman.

8.33 hrs: l: 1 naked boy. Close by the traces of a campsite, children’s shoes, women’s shoes, overshoes, trousers, shreds of linen, which will not be repeated in the following as the road was always full of them.

9.04 hrs: l: 1 body in a state of decay.

11.00 hrs: l: 1 blood-covered skeleton.

11.03 hrs: l: 1 blood-covered skeleton

11.33 hrs: l: 1 blood-covered skeleton

12.05 hrs: Traces of a campsite, many pieces of clothing, metal pots, old bedcovers, 1 child’s bonnet

12.07 hrs: 1 skeleton. Because of the icy wind from the right, I had to close the curtains on one side of the coach, so I could no longer see the bodies which were lying on the right side of the road that day.

4.30 hrs: Arrival in Sabha. Village full of Armenian families who had obviously come there quite a while beforehand and had built themselves small stone cottages. All khans filled to bursting with Armenians. I drove through the village so that I could sleep outside it in the coach; finally, I was accommodated in the school by the Mudir and was given a good room there. In the village also some young women and girls, who appeared to belong to better classes; the children of these families were dressed in good European woollen clothing. The stone cottages in the village were occupied by the families of higher standing. Around the outskirts of the village the poorer ones were camping in huts and tents. 1 campsite close to the village, about 150 tents. The huts made of boards from old crates. The doorkeeper at the school complained about the great increase in prices caused to the village by the deportation of the Armenians. Before one could buy 6 eggs for one metallic, now one single egg cost three to four metallics. The richer Armenians bought food at any price, to be able to preserve their families; the poorer ones had to starve. For their houses, they had to pay rent to the owners.


2 February 1916:

9.00 hrs m[orning]: Departure from Sabha.

9.45 hrs: l. 1 human skull. The boy I had employed as a temporary coachman let the horses bolt with the luggage carriage, but they were caught again a few minutes later away from the road.

1.55 hrs a[fternoon]: 1 transportation of Armenians. Over 20 ox-carts, laden with sacks and household items. On top of those, women and children. Also many on foot with sacks on their backs. Would it not have been better to use the carts for transporting munitions? The transport had just come to a halt. A woman lies groaning on a sack on the ground. Some, in their despair, claimed they were Persian subjects, because of my fur cap they considered me to be a Persian official. The gendarmes, armed with whips, were urging the people to continue their march.

2.05 hrs: A boy collapsed by the wayside under the burden of his pack; he was still moving his legs.

2.07 hrs: An old woman was leading a girl of about 12 by the hand, both severely exhausted.

2.08 hrs: A boy passed with tent poles and heavy luggage on his back. Behind him an old man, wrapped in a small tablecloth.

2.30 hrs: A sick Armenian with a rolled-up cloth around his chest offered me money in vain for a drink of water. But I did not have a drop left.

2.31 hrs: A driverless cart with two horses. Laden with sacks. On the sacks, a groaning young woman with her eyes closed.

2.32 hrs: l: An old lady crying by the wayside.

2.33 hrs: l: Two men apathetically staring blankly ahead, sitting by the wayside.

2.34 hrs: A woman sobbing, about 25 years old, cowering beside a man of about 30 years. He was only clothed in a shirt and trousers, had just died, stretched out.

2.57 hrs: l: 1 old man, naked, whose left leg had been eaten away.

3.30 hrs: r: 1 small boy, clothed only with a shirt, next to him a dog. His tunic lay somewhat further away.

3.33 hrs: l: 1 open grave.

3.35 hrs: r: 1 boy of about 4 years in a blue shirt.

3.36 hrs: To the left of the road a large camp of about 500 tents could be seen. 20 fresh graves. 1 women with a baby in her arms, both dead.

3.37 hrs: l: 5 fresh graves. 1 man dead.

3.38 hrs: Arrival in Hamam. Only consisted of two houses: the gendarme station and the khan. The Armenians, about 5000 of them, were accommodated in the above-mentioned campsite. In the middle of the “village,” a hut which was just being built. Next to it a dead man. Two war volunteers who had been here for 15 days had taken over command of the gendarme station in Hamam. They complained about the bad conditions they were having to face helplessly. Every day new Armenians would arrive, whom they had to order to move on. But there was nothing to eat. Therefore there was nothing to do other than to send the starving on as soon as possible so that the bodies would at least not be lying in the village. In answer to my question as to why the Armenians did not at least bury the dead who were lying close to the camp, I was told they had no strength left to do so, especially as the ground was now frozen hard. Most of them had typhus fever. The Turkish burial troops were working from morning till late at night to keep up with the work. An old gendarme told me he had been here for 25 days. He thought the Armenians deserved their punishment because some of them had worked against the Padishah. If that was the case, then one should sentence them and shoot them and not slowly martyr them to death. He could not stand it any longer and would most certainly go mad if he had to continue looking at this boundless misery any more. Upon my question to the two commanding officers as to why they did not report the matter, I received the characteristic reply: “Effendim, hükümetin emri! Basch üstüne!” (Sir, government orders. Yes, the orders will be carried out, sir!)


3 February 1916:

8.20 m[orning]. Departure from Hamam. Freezing cold. All puddles are frozen over. Three men, who had been sitting at the gate in the sun the day before, had frozen to death. I bought up the complete stocks of bread which were left, i.e. 6 loaves.

8.50 hrs: l: 1 body in a state of decay.

9.01 hrs: l: 1 skeleton with stockings on.

9.40 hrs: l: 1 clothed fresh body.

10.10 hrs: l: 1 clothed fresh body, face black.

10.20 hrs: l: 1 clothed fresh body, legs half eaten away, face black.

10.26 hrs: l: 1 clothed fresh body, face covered

10.30 hrs: r: 1 clothed fresh body, face black.

10.31 hrs: l: 1 horse with saddle standing by the road without a rider.

10.57 hrs: 1 body, covered with a cloth

11.48 hrs: l: 1 young woman, still quite fresh. Blue baggy breeches, black jacket. A peaceful expression on her face which was brown. My coachboy had collected stones and began stoning the bodies of the “non-believers.” He is given a good thrashing by my Persian servant.

12.05 hrs: l: 1 body badly mutilated. 1 completely clothed leg. The other, eaten away down to the bone, lying a little farther away. 1 open grave next to it.

12.25 hrs: 10 fresh graves.

12.35 hrs: r: 1 naked boy, head already a skull. The luggage cart overturned. A horse was rendered useless due to a broken leg. The Arabian coachboy was given a good thrashing by me personally and no longer addressed me as Effendi, but as Bey.

12.45 hrs: 6 ox-carts with Armenian families and luggage and many people on foot passed us. To the right of the road, two large campsites, altogether about 600 tents, 6000 people. Both sites in the process of packing up. Children, women, the dead, the diseased, all mixed up. In between all that, piles of rubbish. No latrines. Some men were going round, kicking anyone who was lying on the ground to see if he or she was already dead or not. Those who were able to pack their belongings together, took with them household objects, tents, blankets etc., whereas on the more distant routes, the people carried mainly only foodstuffs with them and on their animals.

13.00 hrs: Arrival in Abu Hureire. By the Euphrates. Armenians from the campsites came with buckets and scooped water from the Euphrates. I went down to the river and fished two sheets of ice from the Euphrates. This proves how cold it was at night there. Two young girls came with two buckets. They were elegantly clothed, wore European, dark blue, so-called costumes. Their hands were swollen and dark red from the unaccustomed work in cold water. Three boys aged about 6, 5, 4 years accompanied them. Apart from Turkish the girls spoke some French, were suspicious, would not say where they had come from. They appeared to have been camping here a few days with their families and to have forgotten the trials of the march. Their food stocks would have lasted until today, but they were rich people and Papa wanted to buy provisions again at the next station to last the next few days. But to Hamam, which had already been eaten empty by 6000 people and where there was nothing left, it takes two days for people on foot and the slow plodding ox-carts, and to Sabha another three days! So the next station in which Papa could “do some shopping” was five days‘ march away, and they would perhaps have to starve for five days. I only have 1 ½ loaves of bread left. When I explained to them that there was nothing left to buy at the next station, they accepted the offer under the condition that they would pass it on to others if there was something to buy after all. They bade farewell with a short word of thanks.

1.52 hrs: Departure from Abu Hureire.

2.27 hrs: l: Body wrapped in white cloth.

2.30 hrs: l: 3 bodies. 1 already partly eaten away, 1 fresh, with naked chest, 1 already in a state of decay.

2.35 hrs: l: 1 man, clothed in a shirt and blue trousers, just passed away. Two girls sitting crying next to him.

2.36 hrs: l: 1 girl with reddish blonde hair, black blouse and grey trousers, lying on her stomach.

2.40 hrs: l: 1 decaying body. 1 vulture sitting on it.

2.47 hrs: l: body of a small girl, torn apart by vermin. Black hair. The bones of her legs lay all around. Pieces of flesh had been torn away. A vulture circling over it.

2.52 hrs: l: 1 body wrapped in cloth. Legs eaten away.

2.53 hrs: l: A boy lying on his baggage, near to death. His legs are still moving in fits. Next to him, a dog was just disembowelling a body.

2.55 hrs: l: Body of a still fully clothed boy.

2.58 hrs: l: 2 human skulls and skeleton bones torn apart.

2.59 hrs: l: Body of a man, clothed in a white shirt and black trousers. A tunic next to it.

3.00 hrs: l: A fat dog roaming around. Shreds of padded quilts and pieces of clothing.

3.01 hrs: r: 1 old man. Backbone exposed, legs eaten away.

3.02 hrs: In the middle of the road, a backbone and a human skull.

3.03 hrs: l: Woman with brown trousers, fresh. Torn quilt.

3.09 hrs: 1 body. Head still intact. Face black. Legs eaten away. Stomach and chest cavities open and disembowelled. White cloth around the cheeks.

3.13 hrs: l: Large white dog, tearing the tunic away from a body and then mutilating the face.

3.15 hrs: r: Skeleton with pleura intact. Legs non-existent from the knees downwards. Pelvis exposed. Only the bones left of the upper thighs.

3.24 hrs: l: 1 clothed man. 1 woman, clothed, white hair. In the middle of the road, a girl about 15 years of age, a beautiful figure, lying as if asleep, but as we continued, we could see that the right arm was missing as it had been torn out of bleeding socket.

3.25 hrs: l: 2 men, clothed, black faces.

3.30 hrs: l: 1 woman in a blue dress, naked legs, black socks, very fresh. r: large white dog.

3.34 hrs: r: Bleached skull and bones in between shreds of linen and clothing.

3.37 hrs: r: 1 man, clothed, black all over.

3.43 hrs: r: 1 child with red-and-white striped trousers, covered with a brown men’s tunic. Half to the left a fat dog.

3.45 hrs: r: 6 large Armenians camps, about 600 tents, 6000 people. Armenians gathering bits of firewood.

3.53 hrs: r: 1 body with black trousers and yellow pinafore, face black.

3.59 hrs: r: 1 body, face black, white shirt, white underpants.

4.03 hrs: r: 1 man, barefooted, black suit, tunic lifted.

4.04 hrs: 1 skeleton on the road, close to the wheels of the carriage. Teeth and flesh on lower half of the face still existent. Facial expression therefore a broad smile over bared teeth. A frightening sight. l: On a small rise, therefore roughly on a level with my eyes, a female child of about two years, only clothed with a red bodice which is pulled up. Bleeding genitals revealed and facing the street.

4.08 hrs: l: 1 woman, yellow trousers, black stockings.

4.12 hrs: l: 1 small boy, white trousers. Black face, otherwise quite fresh.

4.13 hrs: l: 1 small boy with arms folded, black suit, white stockings.

4.23 hrs: l: 1 little girl, checked trousers, grey skirt, brown hair.

4.24 hrs: l: 1 young man, quite fresh, completely clothed. Shoes made of sacking linen, laces round his shins.

4.37 hrs: l: 1 body, wrapped in white sheet and black blanket. Head black.

4.50 hrs: r: 1 woman, black trousers, brown jacket.

4.55 hrs: l: 1 woman in the middle of the road, black jacket, black hair, hand covering her eyes.

6.10 hrs: Arrival in Meskené. Before Meskené a large campsite with over 2000 tents. More than 10000 people. A complete town of tents. Apparently no latrines. All around the town and the campsite a broad belt of human excrement and refuse, through which my carriage also had to drive for a while. I spent the night in the carriage, since in the town, which was completely congested, there was no accommodation at all to be found. The only room at the gendarmerie station was occupied by 6 Turkish military doctors who had come from Constantinople and were on the way to Baghdad. They told us that there were no dead bodies on the road between Aleppo and Meskené. I wondered whether they would report to Constantinople on the impressions they would get from Meskené onwards?


4 February 1916:

3.00 hrs. m[orning]: Departure from Meskené.

11 hrs: 2 male bodies, one to the right, one to the left of the road.

5.05 hrs a[fternoon]: Arrival in Aleppo.

5 February 1916: Rainy weather.

6 February 1916: Heavy snowfall.

Summary: I have seen with my own eyes about 100 bodies and almost just as many fresh graves on the road from Der-el-Zor to Meskené. I have not counted the graves which in some towns were combined to form cemeteries. I have seen around 20000 Armenians. I have restricted all my estimations of numbers to those I have actually seen for myself. I have never turned off the road and, for example in Der-el-Zor, I did not visit the more distant parts of the town. So the number of really deported persons must be considerably higher. Furthermore, I have not seen those who were on the other bank of the Euphrates. The route along which I travelled is said to be only part of the march. To the north of Meskené in the direction of Bab and to the north of Der-el-Zor in the direction of Rebel Ain there are said to be significant camps where Armenians are awaiting their further deportation. It is, therefore, not out of the question that travellers along the same route a few weeks later will count ten times as many bodies as I did. Everywhere in Turkey where the desert sand borders on occupied areas, similar tragic dramas such as these are said to be being played at this very time, with hundreds of thousands of actors.

The Armenians are not being described by the Turks as prisoners, but as “emigrants” (muhajir) and that is what they are calling themselves. “Transfer of population” is the name given by the official report to this most terrible of all ways of dying! Officially everything is at its best. Not a penny is being stolen or taken away from them by force ... not from the living. They can buy what they like ... if they can find anything to buy! And nobody can easily pin-point the actual murderers!

“What will become of them?” I asked many a Turk on my journey. “They will all die” was the answer I received.

They will all die. The blind obedience of the gendarmes, faithful to their government, to whom it never seems to have occurred that the oath of service can often mean a commitment to temporary disobedience and the request to change an order. The icy winter frost, the unbearable heat of the summer, typhus fever, the shortage of food are all guarantees for this.

Those who have died by the wayside and perished were Ottoman citizens and Christians. The capitulations have been revoked; we in Turkey are all equal to the Ottoman citizens of the Christian faith; we cannot demand any more than equal rights!

But they are not all doing to die. Some who are very strong in health, have a cunningness and rich resources, will survive. They will have come eye to eye with death, their nerves will be like steel and, if nothing else happens, they will have stored up an irreparable hatred towards Turkey and the German Reich inside them. With this power of life in their veins, they will perhaps produce numerous descendants.

We can, therefore, perhaps count on an Armenian population in the future that will live on the eastern borders of Turkey, not only in the north by the Black Sea along the border to Persia together with the Kurds, but also in the south on the banks of the Euphrates as far as Mesopotamia, at feud with the Arabs, that will, therefore, be resettled by the banks of the Euphrates from the source to the Schatt el Arab.

Should we not take some precautions? Every Armenian who has attended one of the many French mission schools speaks fluent French and has been educated in the French spirit. On the other hand, I know of German mission schools for Armenians in which no German is taught, but where lessons are given in Armenian, where teachers do not plant the German spirit into their pupils, but on the contrary, are themselves influenced by the Armenian schoolchildren and drawn into the nets of Armenian propaganda, so that they unconsciously become bearers and defenders of Armenian politics.

Individuals in these institutions are suffering deprivation. I know of one which paid all the expenses for 2 teachers and more than 60 children, including salaries and food, for 8000 marks per year. Should it not be possible to arrange supervision by the government of the Reich by granting legal aid to these German missions in Armenia and to the developing New Armenia? This should be gradually tightened to such an extent that the spreading of the German language and the German spirit is definitely guaranteed and the exploitation of the missions for subversive political activities is eliminated.

Is it not time to begin already with this German-national work, before the French Pâtres and Russian Popes or their front men return and stir up the animosity of the Armenians against German nature and against Turkey?

It is also most regrettable, from a purely practical point of view, that so many living working hands are being destroyed en route from Aleppo to Baghdad. Along this route, one can see everywhere the beginnings of a man-made road, fairly well advanced. The Armenians would love to finish building this road. They would not even demand pay for it. But bread, the salvation from death by starvation. The almost completely built-up embankment, often already covered with gravel, chains of hills already cut through, partly finished, partly begun stone bridges, all crying out for the road to be completed! And in the midst of this job, spread along the whole length of the route, there are over 20000 willing workers, sitting and starving!

It would not even be necessary to extend this artificially created road according to the original plans. It would be sufficient just to improve and repair it in some places so that, within a short space of time, the road could be in a suitable condition for driving lorries from Aleppo to Baghdad along it quite easily within 5 days, a journey that at present takes 20 days.

In Baghdad Railway circles I heard people complaining about the lack of workers. 12000 workers, who will be needed in the near future, are difficult to get. And in the Aleppo-Mosul-Baghdad triangle there are hundreds of thousands of Armenian workers not being put to good use!

But in Persia our compatriots are risking their necks and waiting impatiently with empty cartridge belts for the munitions that, due to the miserable conditions on the Turkish military roads, have been delayed somewhere between Constantinople and Baghdad on an overfilled part of the route.

With the assurance that my statements have been made to the best of my knowledge, I remain, yours faithfully,


Wilhelm Litten.



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