1916-04-03-DE-002
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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14091
Central register: 1916-A-09024
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 04/07/1916 a.m.
Embassy/consular serial number: B. Nr. 3749
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 03/23/2012


From the Ambassador in Extraordinary Mission in Constantinople (Wolff-Metternich) to the Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg)

Report



B. No. 3749
Pera, 3 April 1916
In its note dated 22 December 1915 (enclosure to report No. 729 of 23 December 1915), the Turkish government refused to accept any responsibility for damages suffered by citizens of the German Reich due to the persecution of the Armenians. We had raised claims for compensation in our verbal note of 13 September 1915 (enclosure to report No. 6358 of 13 September 1915).

The Turkish government supports the view that relocation measures were not only justified in the eastern provinces, as we have acknowledged, but also in the entire country for military reasons. Both the present government as well as those that follow, unless there is a complete change in the system, will hold this view doggedly. It would be pointless to describe the fact that the Armenians were deported from parts of the country that were not directly affected by the war as the breach of the law which accounts for the claim for compensation. We will only be able to support our claims on the criminal attacks and culpable omissions that were carried out by government authorities during the implementation of the measures. But it will hardly be possible to prove the causal relation between the behaviour of the authorities, which was contrary to their duty, and the pecuniary damage in individual cases. However, one wonders whether, based on the abundance of incriminating evidence, it can be assumed that the damage can be put down to a fault for which the government is responsible.

Concerning the kind of damage to be compensated, according to general principles under international law we would only be able to invoice for direct damages. However, for the most part the damages consist of the fact that the Armenian debtors, formerly solvent, have disappeared or lost their entire fortunes. This cannot be considered direct damages. The question is whether we should claim compensation anyway. Apart from this there are only relatively few cases in which German creditors had a mortgage or similar right to a property, seeds or goods and where the pledged property or article was damaged, destroyed or stolen.

I see no chance of success in negotiating with the Turkish government on the individual cases of damage. There can be no thought of arbitration. There would only be the possibility of bringing the matter up during the settlement of our advances and demanding a lump sum as compensation for the citizens of the Reich who suffered losses during the relocation of the Armenians. I am presuming that it will be possible at all to use the settlement to regulate our claims against the Turkish government. After a superficial estimate, the damages under discussion, including that caused by the disappearance or impoverishment of the Armenian debtors, amounts to:

with the Deutsche Bank ............….............................................1,500,000 M
with the Orient Bank ..................................................................2,000,000 M
with the German-Levantine Cotton Company ……………..........500,000 M
and with the Anatolian Trading Company ………..........................20,000 M

It is difficult to estimate the damage sustained by individual firms. In total, however, hardly more than 5 million marks should be necessary.

However, we should be prepared that our enemies will accuse us, to whom joint responsibility is ascribed for the atrocities committed against the Armenians, of also seizing part of the spoils while no state funds are available to alleviate the poverty among the Armenians themselves. But this need not be a reason for dropping our claims.

There is also the question whether the Turkish government will succeed in obtaining the consent of its parliament for such an expenditure. It must be assumed, however, that they would find of way of doing so. One case consisted of the settlement of our claims arising from the former Armenian unrest (Embassy Report No. 2544 of 22 October 1902 and Decree No. 951 of 20 December 1902).

I request that Your Excellency have me informed whether the treatment of the matter in this manner is to be taken into consideration. With reference to the note of 22 December, I would then reply to the Turkish government that we are upholding our claims in their entirety, which are not based on the relocation measures per se, but rather on the attacks admittedly carried out then by government authorities.


P. Metternich
Enclosure

Le 22 Décembre 1915

En réponse aux communications de l’Ambassade de Sa Majesté l’Empereur d’Allemagne datées des 3 Juillet, 13 Septembre et 16 Novembre 1915, Nos 3659 et 8972 et relatives au déplacement des arméniens, il est porté à sa haute connaissance ce qui suit:

En premier lieu il est à remarquer que les mesures prises à l’égard de la population arménienne de l’Empire rentrent dans le domaine des actes d’administration intérieure du pays; elles ne sauraient donc faire l’objet d’une démarche diplomatique fussent-elles de nature à toucher inévitablement aux intérêts des étrangers y établis. En effet, il est incontestable que tout Etat a le droit de prendre les mesures propres à enrayer un mouvement subversif propagé sur son territoire; surtout lorsque ce mouvement se produit en temps de guerre.

L’Ambassade de l’Empire Allié, dans son appréciation éclairée, a bien voulu du reste confirmer la justice de ce point de vue. C’est ainsi qu’elle a reconnu dans son memorandum du 3 Juillet, que les mesures de répression décrétées contre la population arménienne des provinces de l’Anatolie Orientale sont dictées par des raisons militaires et constituent un moyen de légitime défense. En effet partout où les mesures en question ont été appliquées, elles ont été provoquées par les mêmes motifs impérieux.

Pour ce qui est de la responsabilité des dommages que le commerce allemand aurait subis, le Gouvernement Impérial Ottoman ne peut que la décliner; car l’Ambassade de Sa Majesté l’Empereur voudra bien reconnaître elle-même que l’exercice d’un droit légitime ne peut donner lieu à une réclamation quelconque. On pourrait d’autant moins prétendre la responsabilité du Gouvernement Impérial que malgré les soucis de la défense nationale qui doit absorber toute son attention, il fait preuve d’une extrême vigilance afin de réduire aux minima les préjudices qui pourraient résulter du déplacement des personnes susindiquées. C’est dans cet ordre d’idées que la Loi provisoire du 17 Zilkadé 1333, contenant les garanties désirables pour la sauvegarde de tous les intérêtsa été promulgée.

S’il importe de déterminer la responsabilité des dommages et perturbations – lesquels sont ressentis dans la vie économique ottomane dans une mesure incomparablement supérieure – elle ne doit en réalité, être attribuée qu’aux ennemies communs extérieurs qui ont provoqué et encouragé le mouvement révolutionnaire arménien dans l’Empire, ainsi que cela résulte des documents authentiques.

En ce qui concerne les considération de l’Ambassade Impériale relatives aux délais, la Loi du 17 Zikadé étant exécutoire depuis sa publication à l’égard de toute personne intéressée, les sujets étrangers devront s’y conformer aussi bien que les ottomans pour faire valoir leurs réclamations dans les délais imparties.

En conséquence de ce qui précède les réserves formulées par l’Ambassade Impériale d’Allemagne dans les communications susvisées des 3 Juillet, 13 Septembre et 16 Novembre ne peuvent qu’être déclinées.


[Translation by George Shirinian]

Note from the Turkish Government to the Constantinople Embassy

22 December 1915

In response to the communications from the Embassy of His Majesty the Emperor of Germany, dated 3 July, 13 September, and 16 November, Nos. 3659 and 8972 concerning the displacement of the Armenians, the following is brought to your attention:

First, it must be noted that the measures taken concerning the Armenian population of the Empire are part of the acts of the interior administration of the country; they will not be made the object of diplomatic representation were they by nature to touch inevitably on the interests of foreigners established there. In effect, it is incontestable that any state has the right to take proper measures to stop a subversive movement propagated on its own territory, especially when this movement occurs in time of war.

The Embassy of the allied empire, in its clear appreciation, has wanted to confirm the justice of this point of view. Thus it has recognized in its memorandum of July 3, that the repressive measures decreed against the Armenian population in the provinces of Eastern Anatolia are dictated for military reasons and constitute a legitimate means of defense. In effect, everywhere the measures in question have been applied, they have been provoked by the same urgent motives.

As to the responsibility for the losses which German commerce has suffered, the Imperial Ottoman Government can only reject it, because the Embassy of his Majesty the Emperor will recognize that the exercise of a legitimate right can not allow for any claim. One could even less claim the responsibility of the Imperial Government, as, in spite of concerns for national defense, which must absorb all of its attention, it has demonstrated extreme vigilance in order to minimize the prejudices which could result from the displacement of the persons indicated above. It is in keeping with these ideas that the provisory law of 17 Zilkade 1333, containing the desirable guarantees for the safety of all interests was put into place.

If it involves determining the responsibility for the losses and disturbances – those which were felt in Ottoman economic life in an incomparably greater way – it can only be attributed, in reality, to the common exterior enemies who provoked and encouraged the Armenian revolutionary movement within the Empire, of which there are authentic documents.

Concerning the consideration of the Imperial Embassy regarding the delays, the Law of 17 Zilkade being implemented since its publication in regard to all those interested, foreigners must conform to it, just as well as Ottoman citizens, in order to put forward their complaints in the delays granted.

As a result of the foregoing, reservations lodged by the Imperial German Embassy in its communications reviewed above of 3 July, 13 September, and 16 November can only be declined.



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