1915-07-27-DE-001
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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14087
Publication: DuA Dok. 120 (gk.); 144 (gk.)
Central register: 1915-A-23991
Embassy register: A53a/1915/4563
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 08/14/1915 p.m.
Embassy/consular serial number: K. No. 81/B. No. 1645
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



K. No. 81 / B. No. 1645
Aleppo, 27 July 1915

Confidential

The following has become known to me since my last report dated 17th inst., - No. 79 - concerning the deportation of the Armenians and the way in which it is being carried out:

1) As was to be expected after the dismissal of the local Vali Djelal Bey, the deportation has now been extended to the coastal strip of the Vilayet Aleppo. According to news from an Armenian source, the order for the clearance of Alexandretta, Antioch, Harem, Beilan, Soukluk, Kessab and other towns has been given, but a short term of notice has been granted for carrying this out. The Imperial Vice Consulate in Alexandretta had not received any notification by 17th inst. [28 July. In the meantime, this news has been officially confirmed. Aintab and Killis are also to be cleared, even though they are not situated in the coastal zone.]

2) According to news received by the Catholicos of Sis, 800 to 1,000 men who had been sent from Diyarbekir to the south, never arrived. It is presumed that they have all been murdered. This must refer to an event which happened weeks ago.

3) As was reported to me on 17th inst., it was observed in Rumkaleh, Biredjik and Djerablus that bodies had been floating past on the Euphrates for a total of 25 days. The corpses were all bound together in the same way, two by two, back to back. This regularity indicates that they were not the result of butchery, but had been killed intentionally by the authorities. Rumour has it, and this is probable, that the bodies had been thrown into the river in Adiaman by soldiers. As is reported below, the bodies had stopped floating past for an interval of several days and then began again, in much larger numbers. This time they were mainly the bodies of women and children.

1. As I heard from an elderly Swiss couple, who are definitely trustworthy and have until now been living in Tel Abiad, the Armenians in that town sold their daughters aged between 8 and 12 years, first for 2 medjidis (one medjidi was equivalent to about 3.50 marks), later for 1 medjidi and less or they gave them away for nothing. Apparently they wanted to spare them the fate awaiting them in the desert as a result of the climate and of the Bedouins. The Turks in the village of Tell Abiad came rushing time and time again to barter with the deportees for their children. My informant told me the names of buyers. Those passing through Tell Abiad, the first groups of which came from Zeitun - preliminarily heading for Rakka - had been made apathetic by their fate and silently submitted to everything. Food has been given to them in sufficient quantities, but too irregularly. Where water is scarce to the south of Tell Abiad, the younger children are dying. In any case, many are falling victim to the strain. A whole group has already perished completely through lack of water. They were not able to take any agricultural implements with them. What are the survivors going to do once they reach their destination?

5) In view of the severity of the orders given by the government, the treatment of those on the move depends more or less on the good will of the individual officials and gendarmes through whose district they just happen to be passing. So sometime they are fed, sometimes not.

At present in Aleppo, where the food supplied by the government was sometimes insufficient and after the Catholicos had intervened on behalf of the Armenians, 5 metallics (20 pfennigs) is being paid for each adult, 4 metallics (16 pfennigs) for each child at the order of Djemal Pasha. The number of those currently on the road in Aleppo alone is estimated at an average of several thousands. They are allowed to rest here for a while.

6) The signs are increasing that the government, either intentionally or unintentionally, is permitting the implementation of its measures to be taken off its hands and turned into the slaughter of the Armenians, which seems to be gradually taken over by Circassians and Kurds.

7) More recently, Armenians have been coming via Ras-ul-Ain (the current terminal of the Baghdad Railway) from Harput, Erzurum and Bitlis. The Armenians from Harput are reporting that in one village, some hours to the south of the town, the men were separated from the women. The men were slaughtered to death and lay to the right and left of the road along which the women then had to pass. One group of women and girls was completely plundered between Mardin and Ras-ul-Ain by Bedouins. Those whom the Bedouins liked were dragged off by them. What will happen to those poor souls when they penetrate even deeper into Bedouin country?

8) One local Armenian told me about a family from Harput who is related to him and comprised 17 people. 7 men were dragged off; their fate is unknown. 2 women died as a result of the strain of the journey, 8 people have arrived in Ras-ul-Ain. Even so, the worst part of the route only begins in Ras-ul-Ain.

1. After being expelled from Constantinople, the well-known Armenian Members of Parliament, Zohrab and Vartkes, recently stayed a while in Aleppo. They knew that they would meet their death if the order of the government to banish them to Diyarbekir was carried out. Thus, I informed the Imperial Embassy of all this. According to tales told by the gendarmes who were accompanying them and who have now returned here, whereby they had met robbers who just happened to have shot the two Members of Parliament, there can no longer be any doubt that the government had arranged to have them murdered en route between Urfa and Diyarbekir.

10) My report was as good as complete, when an official of the Baghdad Railway handed me the record of which I am enclosing a copy and to which I now wish to make reference. I do not deem it necessary for me to repeat the gruesome contents here in my report. The official, whose name I can produce if required, [His name is W. Spieker, see Doc 1915-09-03-DE-002]. can vouch for the truth of the record, respectively for the care taken in his investigations. He has been known to me for many years as an absolutely reliable man.

In my humble opinion, the described treatment of the Armenian people deserves particular attention not only for other reasons, but also because it is being put down by wide circles of the population, including the Muslim side, to the influence of the Germans on the Turkish government. It is said that Germany incited the Turkish government to take the decision to crush the Armenian people until they are completely insignificant. The Turkish government will presumably do everything to encourage this attitude. It will be pleased to shift the blame for the odium of its disciplinary actions onto us. But this will mean Germany’s name being dragged through the mud.

The German Consuls in Turkey have received from the Imperial Embassy the order to spread the memorandum of the German white paper on the Russian atrocities in East Prussia as far as possible. But with what success can this order be carried out in the face of a people who, as a result of events, are being forced to compare the actions of their government towards its own subjects with the actions of the Russians in East Prussia?

My previous telegraphic and written reports must have demonstrated that the Turkish government has gone much further than the scope of justified defence measures in an effort to counteract actual and possible subversive Armenian activities, but instead, by extending their decrees, the execution of which they have made the duty of the authorities in an extremely harsh and most brusque manner, to include women and children, are consciously aiming to achieve the downfall of the largest possible proportions of the Armenian people by using methods which are borrowed from antiquity, but which are unworthy of a government that wishes to remain in alliance with Germany. As it is at war with the Entente, and whereas the German ally does not consider the time to be favourable for an objection, it has tried — and of this there can be no doubt — to take advantage of the opportunity to rid itself of the Armenian question for the future by leaving intact as few closed Armenian communities as possible. It has sacrificed a magnitude of innocent people together with the few guilty ones.

Would it not be possible to put a stop to any further atrocities and at least still save the Armenians from the coastal strip of the Vilayet Aleppo who are still due for deportation? If for military reasons their deportation is unavoidable, is it not at least possible to postpone their transport by one or two months and prepare it carefully by providing the necessary pack animals and food supplies? Could they not remain in the towns of Aleppo or Urfa with an already outspoken right granted to them to return later? In a memorandum entitled "The Ottoman government against enemy accusations" published on 9 June in the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, the Turkish government claims that the deportations are temporary. It explained, "If certain Armenians have had to temporarily resettle in other areas of the Empire, then this was because they were living in the areas of war …" Could it be taken at its word? Are Beilan, Sukluk, Kessab, etc., really war areas? Is the presence of women and children dangerous in those areas, if nearly all the men have been called up anyway?

In its first issue of 13 July, No. 192, the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung is publishing a declaration by the official Ottoman news agency "Agence Milli" which protests against the claim by the Gazette de Lausanne that the Ottoman government was providing protection against the excesses committed against the Armenians living in Turkey and these excesses often ended in butchery.

Unfortunately, many things will speak in favour of this claim by the Gazette de Lausanne.

My telegraphic report on the unusually well-witnessed slaughters in Tell Ermen had already been presented at the time of publication of this denial. Major von Mikusch took photographs of the findings and is in a position to submit them. It has been proven that these murders on the part of the Kurds were carried out in the presence of the armed forces of the Turkish government, and probably even with their active participation.

The Turkish government has driven its Armenian subjects, the innocent ones, mark you, into the desert in thousands upon thousands, [Up until the middle of July, more than 30,000 from the Vilayets Adana and Mutesarriflik Marash. The deportations are being extended considerably.] under the pretext of having to remove them from the war areas, exempting neither the sick nor pregnant women nor the families of conscripted men, has given them both food and water in insufficient quantities and irregularly, has done nothing against the epidemics which have broken out amongst them, has driven the women to such desperation that they set out their babies and newborns by the wayside, has sold their adolescent daughters, with the result that they have thrown themselves even with their small children into the river. It has left them to the mercy of their guards and therefore to dishonour; an escort which dragged away the girls and sold them. It has driven them into the hands of the Bedouins, who have plundered and kidnapped them. It has had the men illegally shot in desolate places and has the bodies of its victims fed to the dogs and birds of prey. It is supposed to have arranged for the murders of the representatives whom it had sent into exile. It has released prisoners from the prisons, put them in soldiers’ uniforms and sent them to the areas where the deportees would be passing through. It has called up Circassian volunteers and set them onto the Armenians. But what does it offer as semi-official explanations? "The Ottoman government ... is extending its benevolent protection to all honest Christians living peacefully in Turkey..."

I was not able to believe my own eyes when I saw this explanation and I can find no words to describe the depth of this untruth. For the Turkish government will not be able to deny responsibility for all that has happened, for the results of the lack of welfare and foresight, for the corruptness of the performing bodies and for the conditions in the eastern parts of their area that border on anarchy. After all, it has indeed intentionally driven the deportees into this chaos. It will have no choice but to bear the responsibility, even if it should lose control over the elements it has called, as is particularly likely to happen in the Vilayet Diyarbekir. Just like the destruction of the Armenians is implied in this country as being a result of German incitement, the Turkish government is trying to hide its behaviour from the European public behind our authority.

I wish to recommend Your Excellency to consider whether Turkish explanations of the Armenian question are still suitable for publication in the German press and whether or not there is a danger of our being compromised by our allies.

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


Roessler

Enclosure


Aleppo, 27 July 1915

Record

Enclosure to No. 81

On Saturday, 24 July 1915, I brought with me 8 Armenians from the road to Ras-ul-Ain; 3 women, 1 fourteen-year-old girl and 4 girls aged between 5 - 8 years. One of the women whose husband had been killed and burned before her eyes between Harput and Ras-ul-Ain, had been so badly violated in the station at Touem by staff of the railway (7 - 8 men) that it was doubted whether she would survive at all - for 2 days she kept falling into unconsciousness and is now in my home, being cared for by my wife and receiving medical treatment. We buried her 7-month-old child, her only son, who was starved to the bone, in Nuss Tell at Engineer Linsmeyer’s. I found the second woman with her two daughters in a workers’ tent in a stone quarry. Sitting in front of the tent in a semi-circle, its front facing the open side of the tent in which the woman, as the only person, was cowering in a corner, was 1 sergeant and about 15 soldiers. Engineer Linsmeyer had given me a gendarme to accompany me and he fetched the woman forcibly from the tent. We brought her as quickly as possible to Nuss Tell to safety. We found the 14-year-old girl at the station at Hodja in the hut of a 22 - 25 year-old station leader who is unmarried. He had tried to rape the girl, but she had resisted for 2 days. On the third day, the station leader left the girl for 24 hours without food in order to make her bend to his lust. The girl was handed over to us by Engineer Linsmeyer, who had threatened to report the matter to Director Hasenfratz by telegraph. In Ras-ul-Ain, there are about 1,600 women and children at present, the remainder of several thousands who were expelled from Harput and the surrounding area together with their husbands. Among these 1,600 persons there is no longer one single man or male person over the age of 12 years. The healthy as well as the sick have to lie in the sun, without any food or protection of any kind in temperatures of 43° C, at the mercy of the accompanying soldiers. Engineer Linsmeyer, who last month had spoken to me of the "Armenian scum," said to me literally, "I am not a man who is moved easily, but at the sight of these poor people I was not able to hold back the tears. I did not think it possible that something like this could happen in our century." A sergeant by the name of Suleman abducted 18 women and girls and sold them to Arabs and Kurds for 2 - 3 medjidies. A Turkish inspector said to me, "We no longer have any idea how many women and girls have been abducted by Arabs and Kurds, either by force or with the approval of the government. This time we have done our job on the Armenians in a way we have desired for a long time; out of every ten, we have not left nine alive."

While I have been writing this, my wife has returned from a walk through the town and tells me with tears in her eyes that she has just met a transport of about 800 Armenians, barefooted and torn, dragging themselves along with their few possessions on their backs.

In Besnije, the entire population of about 1,800 women and children and only a few men was deported; they were supposed to be transported to Urfa. By the river Goeksu, a tributary of the Euphrates, they had to take off their clothes, were then all massacred and thrown into the river.

During the last few days, corpses were seen floating down the river, about 170 on one day, on others 50, 60 and more. Engineer Awdis spotted about 40 corpses while taking a short ride out with his chief accountant. The corpses which had drifted onto the banks were eaten by dogs and those that landed on sandbanks, etc. in the river became food for the vultures. Most recently the bodies are mainly those of women and children.

The above-mentioned 800 Armenians had been expelled from the area around Marash, from Doengeli and Tschueruekkos. They were told they would be brought to Aintab and should take enough provisions with them for 2 days. When they approached Aintab, they were told there had been some mistake. They were destined for Nisib, but in Nisib: you are to continue to Bumbudsch, in B.: you are to go to Bab, etc. And finally, after 17 days, they arrived in Aleppo. In those 17 days, they received no food whatsoever from the government, they had to exchange their few belongings for bread, near Nisib to sell belongings for 5 Turkish pounds and hand the proceeds over to the accompanying gendarmes. They were threatened that otherwise the women and children would be abducted for the night and violated.

The women who arrived in Ras-ul-Ain had to undress completely several times during their journey before the eyes of the accompanying gendarmes. Their clothes were searched for money, even their hair and … private parts were examined to see whether they had hidden money there.

One woman’s eldest daughter was taken away from her forcefully. In desperation she took her two remaining children and threw herself into the Euphrates. A businessman told me that he had seen with his own eyes how a woman was delivered of a child by the river. She then took the baby and threw it in desperation into the river.

Said, an immigrant from Tripoli, groom for Mr. Linsmeyer for the past 4 years, employed at a monthly salary of 400 piasters, volunteered for war service in order, as he said, to also be able to "slaughter" some Armenians. As his pay, he was promised a house in A., an Armenian village near Urfa. Two Circassians employed by the storeman Seemann in Tell Abiad also volunteered for the same reason. The village elder in Tschadakli, a Circassian village near Goeksun, explained to an acquaintance of mine: Ew jikmak itschün giderler (they are going out there to ruin families).

In Arab-Pounar, a German-speaking Turkish Major explained to me: I and my brother have each brought an Armenian girl with us from Ras-ul-Ain. We found them on our journey. We are very "angry" with the Germans for doing this sort of thing. When I contradicted him he said: Our general staff officer is a German, v. d. Goltz is a Commander and so many German officers are in our army - our Koran does not allow the sort of treatment that the Armenians are having to tolerate at present. In Nuss Tell, a Muslim supervisor said similar things to an accountant (Elias Salfetty). When I took him to task in the presence of others, he replied, "Effendim, it is not just me who is saying such things, everyone here is saying the same." Recently a Mulsim shopowner told me after the news of a victory on the part of the Turks: The Vali is not making the victory publicly known yet, he is afraid that the Muslims would attack Christians (meaning the Syrians, but not the Armenians) in their joy.


[Name]

[Zimmermann to the Embassy in Constantinople, 18 August]

No. 1547

Please make the best possible use of Report No. 1645 from Aleppo at the most suitable time and in the most appropriate form without unmasking the Imperial Consul before the Porte and express your conviction that the action taken against the Armenians is contrary to the Turks’ intentions and instructions. Our friends in the Turkish Cabinet will understand that we are seriously interested in the forceful suppression of the excesses, mainly because of our being accused of instigation. The strong sense of humanness and culture which is characteristic of the Turkish method of warfare, in contrast to that of the enemy, provides us with the guarantee that our ally will establish the same principles within the affairs of the interior.

Consul Roessler should please be informed and pacified by Your Excellency as far as possible with reference to the subversive activities of the Armenians and the steps we have nevertheless taken to help them.



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