To the Right Honourable Undersecretary.
Your Excellency, I have the honour of sending you the reports concerning the Armenian uprising in the eastern part of the empire and the Turkish measures for eliminating the Armenians. These are supplementary to my report of 7 September and I graciously request their perusal.
Constantinople, 22 September 1915
The Armenian Uprising and the Turkish Atrocities.
The bloody measures, which have been taking place in the Asiatic part of Turkey, with no end in sight, have never occurred to such an extent in Turkey. Turks and Armenians are thereby playing reciprocal roles. In the following, the Armenian view is given and only those statements have been taken down which the Armenian Patriarch, Mgr. Sawen, and the Chairman of the Armenian Union, Dr. Tavidjan, submitted as officially accepted material and which were substantiated by eyewitnesses present at the time.
The cause of the Armenian uprising goes back to February of this year. Between 35 and 40 young Armenian conscripts had fled to Zeitun with the intention of evading their military service obligations. The local population took sides for and against the deserters, the common people were expected to help the Turkish government in capturing the deserters. Shooting between the Armenians and the Turkish police began, whereby 14 to 15 of the former were killed.
The Armenian Patriarch in Constantinople called upon Minister Talaat Bey to obtain first-hand information concerning the events there. Using this occasion, the Minister explained to the Patriarch that he was very satisfied with the attitude of the Armenian population in Zeitun.
It must have been disconcerting for the Armenians to find that the entire population of Zeitun, including the women and children, had left Zeitun a few hours after the clashes, with 5000 being deported to Konia and the remaining being forced to Sort, south of Mush. On questioning the Turkish Government, the Patriarch received the answer that this involved an offence similar to that which occurred 40 to 50 years ago and nothing could be done against it while the war was on.
At the end of May, the Armenian population was forced out of Erzurum. The Patriarch asked the Minister of War, Enver Pasha, for the reason and was informed by him that nothing was known about a directive to expel the Armenians from Erzurum. After that, on 2 August O.S., an irade was issued giving all troop commanders the right to remove town and village populations should this serve the interests of the state.
The incumbent American Ambassador in Constantinople, to whom the Patriach had turned and asked for an explanation regarding the fate of those expelled from Ezerum, reported that these Armenians had been exiled to Terdjan. This disclosure has not been confirmed. Instead, on 25 July O.S., 2-300 women from Erzurum arrived in Aleppo. No men accompanied them. The men are said to have been killed on the way.
The following occurred in Van: A national service Armenian conscript was arrested by the Turkish gendarmes on 6 May O.S. in Shabak, south of Van. As they wanted to commit him in Van, several of his friends resisted the committal and freed the young man by force. The General Governor of Van summoned a meeting of the Armenian revolutionary party, Tschanaksuition, and together they passed a resolution that the head of the party with the Chief of the Gendarmery, accompanied by several gendarmes and members of the Armenian Revolutionary Union, should go to Schatak and take the deserter into police custody. On the way to Schatak, the Armenian party head and the members were murdered by the Turkish gendarmes. As the Governor of Van wanted to arrest the other members of Tschanaksuition, part of them put up armed resistance while the others moved into neighbouring villages. During the fighting between the Armenians and the Turkish troops a few hundred Armenians were killed. Ten days later Russian troops appeared in Van, whereupon the Turkish Governor-General, Djevdet Bey, brother-in-law of Enver Pasha, fled. An Armenian Government was appointed in which Kurds also participated. The Russians were later driven out of Van but, as has been reported, have taken control of Van once again and are at present masters of the area.
A woman from Baiburt, north-east of Erzurum, has given the Patriarch here the following statement: The Archbishop of Baiburt and 12 other notables of the city were hanged by the Turks. One hundred Armenians in the said place were sent to the Persian province of Laristan; they have not returned. Within three days almost every male inhabitant had been forced out of the town. The town was then plundered by Turkish tschetes (bazibazuks). They took everything which they could amass. Accompanied by a few men, the women fled with their children and a little money which they had hidden.
The tchetes followed the refugees and took away from the women all children between 5 and 15, as well as any young women which pleased them. The sister of the eyewitness who was staying in Constantinople was also taken away. She had a child of but a few days with her. The child was snatched from her and thrown away and she was taken off. The Armenian women from Erzurum whose men had been killed also joined up with those from Baiburt. A Turkish woman in a village which the caravan went through asked the accompanying gendarmes if she could not have an Armenian child. As the Armenian woman whose child the Turkish woman wanted refused to give up the child, the gendarme told the Turkish woman that she could have both; the mother and child. The few men who had accompanied this column of women were killed in the following three days by Turkish tchetes. A Turkish woman from Erzurum told a gendarme to bring her an Armenian which she could kill. ”Can you shoot?” asked the gendarme. ”Yes,” answered the woman. Soon afterwards she shot an old Armenian with a revolver. According to the women from Baiburt, unaccompanied children who had fled out of fear were caught by the Turkish gendarmes and thrown into the Euphrates. Two nurses from the German hospital in Erzindjan left their positions as they could no longer bear to see the atrocities: men and women drowning and also being buried alive. A Norwegian, Miss A.Wedel, from Jardsberg [Thora von Wedel-Jarlsberg]. and a German nurse whose name is unknown gave the Patriarch details of the events after she had left Erzindjan.
There is no news from this provinces that one man was saved. The letters which have reached here, have all been written by women.
The extremely competent Armenian Advocate from Constantinople, Sohrab, was expelled and died on the way from Alexandretta to Urfa. He was a Deputy and it is said that he had a heart weakness. The well-known Deputy, Vartkes, whom I know well was in any case fully fit; I was talking to him a few months ago in the Ministry of the Interior, did not arrive at his place of exile in Diyarbekir. His wife, who he had been married to for three years, has managed to reach Germany with the help of a young German and a foreign passport.
Vartkes was a member of the Union of Taschnaksution. His death will certainly be assumed. In Shar Kishla, south-west of Sivas, where the Amasia-Samsun, Cesarea and Malatia roads cross, women and girls were summoned daily by the Kaymakam, violated by him and his gendarmes and then sent back home. The children there were also murdered. Three children from Shar Kishla between the ages of 13 and 15 fled to Constantinople and informed the Armenian Patriarch about the incidents there.
The Kaymakam of Sharkyschla has in the meantime been arrested and taken to Constantinople.
65 young boys from Shabin Kara-Hissar, between Sivas and Erzindjan, have been taken to Angora and converted to Moslems.
The Bishops from Konja and Ismid had sent a telegram to Enver Pasha from Eregli, asking for assistance regarding the expulsions of their Parochians. Enver Pasha replied, we have dispatched the Director for Emigration so that he can accommodate the Armenian refugees in the vicinity of their previous domiciles. The Director arrived in Eregli and explained to the Bishops that all those not accommodated had to be taken to Aleppo. When the Director was shown the telegram from Enver, he answered that it had indeed been Enver Pasha´s intention, but it was simply not possible. In Constantinople, Enver Pasha assured the Patriarch Zaven that those expelled from Constantinople would not be taken to Aleppo, but to Kastamuni.
Armenian priests in Bulgaria have taken measures through their government for the benefit of their fellow believers in Turkey. While a satisfactory answer from Angora had been remitted to Bulgaria, all Armenians in Ajash, west of Angora, had been murdered, according to comments expressed by the police administrator in Constantinople, Bedri Bey, to a well-known Turkish civil servant.
The Director of the German school in Aleppo, Mr. Eduard Graeber, related to the Patriarch that the resident consul had cried bitterly on hearing about the atrocities committed by the Turks on the Armenians there. This weeping will not have been of much effect, as there are namely more effective measures than tears of sympathy.
The Armenian Patriarch has presented his complaints to the American and German Ambassadors including the available official material, appealing for help.
Constantinople, 29 September 1915
In fact, he appeared again as the top commander of five Armenian bands which carried out acts of terrorism in villages around Van and then spread terror through murder and all sorts of disgraceful deeds in Van itself. The Moslem population had chartered seven ships in Van in order to flee by crossing the lake from Van to Adelchivas at the northend of the lake. All seven barges with at least 400 people on each, in total 2800 people, went down with all hands due to explosions.
200 Muslim families were massacred by Armenian brigands in Van. The elderly, women and children were not spared. In the American hospital in Van, several hundred Muslim women and children sought refuge. They were discovered, petrol was poured over them and set light to.
On the third day after the appearance of the Armenian brigands, Russian irregulars, later also troops, came and took part in the massacres. Djevdet Bey, the General Governor of Van and brother-in-law of Enver Pasha, remained as long as possible and defended the positions with the stationed gendarmes.
Aknuni Pasha, a friend of Pastermadjans, was appointed Governor of Van and circulated a manifesto in which he warned all the inhabitants of the province to keep in with the Turks while emphasising the Russian Czar as the liberator of the country.
[Nine lines indecipherable]
Especially elaborate flags from the Caucasus and also from Boston bearing the inscription ”Fédération révolutionaire armenienne” and a dagger, a feather and a spade on a red globe in gold stitching were presented to Aknuni Pasha. I saw a large picture taken in Ismid with 8 mutilated young Muslim women, an old Turkish gendarme from Adapazar with his stomach cut open and his entrails torn out. A large cache of weapons and bombs from Amassia, Sivas, Caesarea, Marsivan, and Soucheir in Vilayet Sivas fell into Turkish hands. The rifles were mostly Mauser repeater rifles, but also Manlicher and Legras.
In Adana an incendiary device had been installed on the church. The finds in Diyarbekir of dynamite and bombs were quite substantial; many bombs and weapons were also found in Ismid.
Essad Bey disclosed that the number of Muslims who had become victims of Armenian revenge came to 200000 individuals. There was no clear indication for such a figure; therefore, the figure seemed to be well exaggerated.
Constantinople, 30 September 1915
The Valis of Smyrna, Rahmi Bey and from Adrianople, Hadji Adil Bey, explained that they did not wish to expel the Armenians. After arriving to give their reports to the Minister both stuck to their decisions. Also a sign of inconsistency in the Committee. Talaat is extreme. What he wants has up until now happened. Rahmi has learnt more than Talaat, he has seen more of the world. He has a practical, but also humane character whose clear judgements, as Deputy, concerning different political questions, were repeatedly cited by myself and found great resonance. He has a large following in the committee.
In general, not much attention is paid to alarming rumours in Turkey, because everyone knows that a great deal will be exaggerated, but also because the present government is given as much free reign as possible. Very unjustly, the present government has been given the reputation of being liberal. It is anything but that. It is more absolute and dictatorial than that of Abdul Hamid’s. The press is gagged and knows only how to praise the present ruler. Journalists from friendly countries report these praises with good intentions, but have very little specialised knowledge.
The strict measures practised by the government against the Armenians due to the uprising in Van were spoken of as a kind of self-help which the state was compelled to use in order to restore order. Armenian guilt appeared even greater as they were found to be in a pact with the national enemy, Russia, who supported the Armenian revolutionary uprising in Van.
The government has the right to intervene resolutely and vanquish that which wishes to break away, because the country consists of many disparate elements which are merely waiting for the appropriate moment to follow the Armenians’ lead. Nothing could be more disadvantageous than to show weakness in situations where only strength is capable of enhancing the reputation of the government. But it has to draw a line and recognise restrictions, if the idea of freedom is not to be turned into a mockery. To punish the guilty, the government must not annihilate the innocent and helpless just because they belong to the same race as the insurrectors.
Today, victims are concerned in numbers unknown to a Turkish history, which is not lacking in incidents of acts of violence. That is the shattering truth. Help is required from all those in a position to help.
Whether the sacrifices endured by the Armenians exceed 500000 or fall short of it, is in principle of no importance. Enough crimes have been committed on both sides. What is of crucial importance, is the calm and matter of course with which these persecutions take place. This shows a self-conceit which ridicules any outside interference.
It was not the Armenians who evoked my intense interest in the causes and the consequences of the Turkish government’s actions to appear as a representative of law and humanity¸ but rather the Turkish senators of the local Senate: men of great service and immaculate character who felt extreme repugnance at acts which their government carried out with unshakeable calm and as a matter of course.
Then an intimate Armenian friend of mine, Agop Hamandjan Effendi, a civil inspector in the Ministry of the Interior, was suddenly removed from his office without any pension rights. This man had served 26 years as Conseiller legiste, as representative of Governors and Governor-Generals and all that with great enthusiasm and steadfast loyalty. I demanded an explanation, as a more damaging step for the life of the family could follow the first.
On 14 September of that year, I received the following answer from an acquaintance of mine, a director in the Ministry of the Interior, Hassan Fehmy Bey.
”The honesty of your friend is not doubted. However, as a result of an accepted universally applicable directive, he will be retired.”
This is how an all-encompassing justification is made. This man is the most able, the best worker and, as officially confirmed, of proven honesty. He has a very large family and is the only bread-winner and can any moment be sent to the provinces from where he will not return.
On the 20th of this month Hassan Fehmy Bey explained to me that Minister Talaat Bey wanted to see all Armenians removed from the Ministry of the Interior, because the Turkish civil servants no longer wanted to work with them. The Turkish refusal could only have a detrimental effect on the office organisation and, if continued, could result in more difficulties in the inner administration. The Minister of Inner Affairs decided to relieve all Armenians in his resort from duty, irrespective of the person. In the inner administration, the Armenians have the opportunity, more than in any other Ministry, to work out common plans and to instigate insurrections. The Armenians have to be cleared out as they have a revengeful character and, as they are courageous, they are at the same time elements of potential danger to the state.
In reply to my objection that Armenians were to be found in other Ministries, for example Justice, Finance, Public Works and Forestry and Agriculture, as well as the Conseil d’État, I was informed that the problem of the Armenians had to be settled once and for all. A start had to be made in the Ministry of the Interior and after a while the other public authorities would follow.
Consequently, in Turkey it is a resolved policy to remove the Armenians from all state departments and to further develop the Ottoman empire on a solid Turkish foundation.
The Turkish plan of forcing all Armenians out of the provinces and relocating them in Mesopotamia has been superseded according to a brochure by Dr. Rohrbach. The Turks did not trust the Armenians as neighbours of the Russians. An official reason for carrying out the expulsion of the Armenians was the uprising in Van. A man like Talaat Bey, possessing such an iron will, tends towards the most extreme measures when he believes them to be right. He will not let himself be influenced by anyone and favours any kind of report if it brings him closer to his goal. For this man the expulsion of the Armenians after the uprising in Van became a necessity.
The resulting injustices and hardships are of no importance. Talaat Bey is the optimist par excellence, especially regarding his own decisions. In the same way as he gives commands he accepts all complaints quite indifferently. Until recently, in fact at the beginning of this year, the Armenians were regarded as the most reliable element, indeed the only reliable people within the Christian elements in Turkey. One could read it in all the newspapers and the important Turkish dignitaries confirmed this on every occasion, which presented itself.
Since March, an about-turn has taken place which is as general and consequent as if the Turks had never known up until now what dangerous people had been living within their midst.
Where actions are not regulated and determined by experience, despotism and restlessness take hold. Djemal Pasha, as Minister of Naval Affairs, was the most enthusiastic supporter of the Turkish-French Committee. Golden bridges were also to be built for the deadly enemy, Russia. Take Jonesku, the frequently-mentioned Rumanian Minister of the Interior, was Talaat Bey's closest friend.
What could the common interest be for the Armenians to break away from Turkey? They have no connection to their kingdom, like the Bulgarians, the Greeks or the Serbs, and they see too clearly to trust the Russians. The weapons, which the Turks found among the Armenians were mostly those which they had received from the Turks in 1908 so that they could help the Committee defend themselves against reactionaries.
It is understandable for the Turks not to trust the Armenians who were living near the Russian border, but why did they deport with the same harshness those living in areas far from the border, such as from Jalova, Angora, Brussa and Kastamuni? From these places alone, 250000 Armenians were expelled. Within 48 hours they had to leave their homes and begin their exile to Aleppo, Hama, Mosul and even Hauran.
Nothing was undertaken on the part of the Turkish government to transport the expelled to their place of exile. The trains were occupied by the transportation of troops. No Armenian found space there. For the journey, no security measures were taken to ensure their safety.
The tchetes, the old bazibazuks from the war of 1877/8, were found once again where easy spoils and murder were to be had without any risk involved. As brave and humane in thought as the Turkish soldier is when he is not spurred on by religion, so cowardly is the irregular. It will certainly be claimed that the tchetes were instigated and led by Young Turks.
In the places where the massacres against the Armenians took place, for example in Baiburt, Marash, Shabbin-Karahissar, Angora and Malatia, the men were separated from the families. The women carried what they could hurriedly collect together. The tchetes followed this caravan of defenceless people and robbed, raped and murdered as they pleased. A Turkish lieutenant colonel, who had served in the Dardanelles and was in the capital city on a short holiday, tearfully described what his relatives from Trebizond and Sivas had related to him concerning the Turkish massacres of the Armenians.
With regard to the higher Armenian religious leaders, we know only that the Bishop of Smyrna is still alive. The Patriarch fears that they must prepare themselves to hear of the murder of most of the others. No one knows what has happened to the Armenian churches and the treasures collected over the centuries. All the Armenian Patriarch’s enquiries to the Minister of the Interior remain unanswered.
It is really time to put an end to this completely superfluous gushing for the Turks. There are already plans to introduce the Turkish language as a subject in the high schools in Hesse. This at a time when one wanders through the streets unable to find the way by means of the solely Turkish inscriptions on the signs. More so, as the Turks send all acknowledgements concerning incoming registered consignments to Europeans, even the person’s name, in Turkish, so that one is unable to know whether one is the authorised recipient or not. Indeed, one need not go too far into the realms of sentimentality to supply those suffering from delusions of grandeur with even more material for their unjustified conceit. A government-inspired article in the Hilal demands that German professors who wish to lecture at the local university not bring their own translators from home, but look for them here. Furthermore, to lecture with success they will have to make some endeavours to learn Turkish, whereby they convey the subjects in this language. Another leading article in the Hilal compared Enver Pasha´s decision-making skills, willpower, and genial execution to that of Hindenburg´s.
Without any prejudice, the situation appears completely different. The expedition to the Suez had to fail as it was undertaken at the wrong time and with insufficient materials. Like the insufficient number of heavy artillery as well as pack animals and camels, the delivery of which one should have arranged on time.
In Arabian Iraq, the Turks were surprised by the British advances and had had no knowledge of the long preparation of the expedition by the British in Basra. The expedition to the Caucasus ensued with insufficiently clothed troops whose needs were not met. The outbreak of typhus, which took as many victims as men found in an army corps, can be attributed to the arduous strains which the troops were put through without reason and without result. Van is still in the hands of the Russians, who are also in the vicinity of Erzurum.
A lot has happened for the protection of the Dardanelles. The troops are well equipped and well provided for. The power of Turkey will be judged according to the extraordinary results in the Dardanelles, executed before the eyes of Europe. But still the situation would be very different there if the Turks were in sole command. The daring of the troops alone is not sufficient to obtain a victory. The Turks are not systematic. Most of the generals do not know how to command. They are unable to work with the deputy leaders. They require a teacher to show them how the individual can only act successfully within the framework of the whole, hence increasing their awareness for offensives. At present this (concept) is foreign to them. German expertise, at this point, can have a great effect. Their unforgettable old master, v.d.Goltz Pasha, should again take the reigns in his firm hands and force unity into the system. Enver Pasha’s contribution to equipping this model army in the Dardanelles should certainly not be belittled. He achieved what could be produced with goodwill, hard work and commitment to a profession. But without the Germans it would not have turned out as it did.
Therefore, people in Germany should be on their guard against overflowing feelings of praise and admiration. This does not lead to gratitude. Already today, Germans employed in different military areas are complaining about Turkish presumptuousness. If these superfluous gushings continue, the difficulty of dealing with Turkey will grow, and the advantages which Germany will and must have from such dealings will diminish. ”There is nothing harder to bear than a string of fine days.” This is especially valid where happiness and honour fall, so to speak, without self-criticism overnight from heaven, clouding healthy judgement.