1915-06-17-DE-001
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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14086
Central register: 1915-A-18628
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
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Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 03/28/2012


From Johannes Lepsius to the Legation Councillor in the German Foreign Office, Rosenberg

Correspondence



Potsdam, 17 June 1915

At the instigation of Mr. von Tiedemann, I enclose a copy of the two letters sent to His Excellency von Wangenheim on 11 June for the German Foreign Office files.

Respectfully,


Johannes Lepsius


Enclosure 1
Potsdam, 11 June 1915

Your Excellency,

Further to the exchange of dispatches with the German Foreign Office, please permit me to present the reasons why a visit to Constantinople at the present time appears to me to be useful in both German and Turkish interests.

Harsh measures against Armenian subjects, which appear to be necessary to suppress espionage and local unrests, are of only episodic importance and do not affect our German interests if, at the same time, it is ensured that the normal relationship between the leading Armenian circles and the Sublime Porte is maintained and reinforced even more.

When plainly assessing the Armenians’ situation in Turkey, it must not be forgotten that only half of the Armenian population lives in Turkey; the other half lives in Russia. It cannot work well if the one half, namely the Russian, is constantly being flattered and courted, while the other half, namely the Turkish, is only exposed to reprisals. In the end, the Armenian nation as a whole will go to that side which, just as in a tug-of-war, uses more strength to pull the other side over. Cutting the rope is impossible. Language, literature, church, customs all form a bond, which cannot be torn. Abdul Hamid’s extermination policy has only tightened the rope. A nation of 4 million cannot be treated as a negligible quantity. The history of Albania has taught us what happens if this is done. The present war will not end the clash between Turkey and Russia.

Before 1895, the fate of the Russian Armenians in the Caucasus was the same as that of the Turkish Armenians in Upper Armenia. Here it was the Kurds, whereas there they were at the mercy of the Tartars. When Vorontsov Dashkov was made governor of the Caucasians in 1905, his precondition for accepting this office was a change in the policy on the treatment of the Armenians. He immediately began to wind up the Armenian rope onto the Russian drum and the outcome was that the Caucasian Armenians now enthusiastically went to war for Russia, something they would have fanatically refused to do in 1895. The leading Armenian circles in Constantinople must be greatly credited for the fact that, despite the nastiest incidents such as in Adana in 1909, and despite the perceptible lack of approval, they continued to stand up for the Committee Party and to give unqualified support to Talaat’s and Enver’s policy. Their fundamental point of view is and remains that the Armenian people can only preserve its national character in language, church and customs as a part of the Ottoman Empire, but not if it is thrown as food to the Russian hunger for nations. It should be one of the principal objectives of Turkey’s domestic policy to strengthen this fundamental philosophy and plant it as a banner for all Armenians.

The present war has forced the Entente to disclose their intentions to divide Turkey, an immeasurable benefit for Germany’s policy, directed at preserving Turkey. In future, the Armenian question can also no longer be used for phoney manoeuvres. This is why, all the more, it demands a satisfying solution in favour of Turkey.

Your Excellency’s successful defence of the Armenian reforms effected a noticeable shift to the Turkish side in the Turkish-Russian tug-of-war, while the dismissal of Hoff and Westenenk caused things to go just as strongly towards the Russian side. The inspectors’ presence would have been sufficient to cut the ground from under the Russian machinations. It is a long road from Constantinople to Erzurum and Van, but only a short one from Tiflis, an evil, which also restricts the influence of the leading Armenian circles in Constantinople. Often they cannot do what they want, because the Russians are there ahead of them and take the wind out of their sails. In those places where there are not enough regular Turkish troops to maintain order, the Armenian villages are ground between the Russian and Kurdish millstones. For this reason, self-defence cannot be held against them. Often enough, Kurds and Russians are in league with one another.

During a war, this inside information could be left to sort itself out alone if, apart from this, the Sublime Porte would give the Armenians support against Russia and instil them with the confidence that everything will be all right again after the war.

The lead that Russia has gained for the past 10 years by pointedly flattering the Armenians has been used by the British, French and Russian pro-Armenia committees (to which no Armenians even belong) to the best of their ability. Agents have been travelling back and forth between Paris, London and Petersburg, trying to obtain large liberation programmes for the Armenians from the Entente governments. Russian and British interests, however, were also divided here. Russia wanted to extend its share of the spoils as far as Alexandretta without granting autonomy, while England demanded autonomy in return for all of the Russian spoils (having at the back of its mind the thought that it would later get the autonomous Greater Armenia back from the Russians).

Now, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush to any reasonable Armenian. But unfortunately, the bird (the Armenian reform plan) had already flown away.

Whether or not individual Turkish Armenians or even Armenian gangs are to be engaged from Russia and England by means of love or money will do as little to change the overall situation as the corruptibility of individual Turks and the attempts by the liberal Unionists to overthrow the government. With regard to the latter, only the Hinchaks among the Armenians were involved, and they have hardly any followers in Turkey. The Dashnaks have no connections with the Turkish opposition party and had nothing to do with the plans to overthrow the government.

The leading Armenian circles, Patriarchate, National Assembly, Dashnaks are still willing to be made use of by Turkey and to win over the Russian Armenians. From Sofia, Dr. Liparit also influenced the Armenian Balkan Committees in this sense and worked against the encouragement of sympathy for Russia. It seems that the pro-Russian movement in the Caucasus is also beginning to wane, because much is promised, but nothing done in any given case.

I do not take the measures of the Ministry of War against the Armenian schools, press, etc., to heart. The closing of the American Colleges will meet with the least resistance from the Patriarchate. Deportations would also be harmless if it were not for the fact that the Turkish administrative techniques (as proven by the Circassians) usually led to the demise of the deportees.

This is all the more reason why care should be taken to ensure that the Turkish Armenians’ confidence in the government is not undermined by measures, the military value of which I cannot judge. Turkey must continue to live with the Armenians after the war, and Germany’s economic policy cannot make do without them. The well-known saying can also be turned around, “Si vis bellum, para pacem” ["the powers of war should prepare peace"].

In my opinion, the following conclusions can already be drawn from the situation:

1. Nothing is to be achieved by closing British-American and French schools; the same number of German schools must be opened, or at least the prospects for a German school policy should not be ruined. If the Armenians, Greeks, Syrians, etc., do not learn German in future, they will continue to speak and think in French and English in future.

2. If the influence of the French-British-Russian pro-Armenia Committees is to be stopped, the efforts of the German-Armenian companies and associations must be supported. They work against these for Turkish interests. We are in danger of losing the sympathy of the Armenian leaders and ethnic groups allied to us if we remain indifferent and passive in critical situations used feverishly by the Entente committees, and have to give up the enforcement of our influence. Just the fact that I would have had the opportunity of having a calming effect in the Patriarchate and among the leading men in Constantinople would suffice to ensure our previous influence and build bridges towards further understanding.

3. If the Entente brings together its Armenian friends with the Turkish Opposition, as Sheriff Pasha is doing in Paris, then we should encourage the Armenians who listen to us even more in their loyalty towards Turkey and support their harmony with the Sublime Porte. It should certainly be possible to prevent our Turkish friends from being peeved by Armenian sympathy, which should all be grist for their mill.

4. Our efforts should not be limited to reconciling the Turkish Armenians with the Sublime Porte. Turkey should also win the sympathy of the Caucasian Armenians. It is ten times more valid to regard the Caucasians, or at least Kars, Erivan and the Araxes Valley as irredenta of Turkish Armenia, rather than passing off Upper Armenia as Russian irredenta.

5. The fact should not be underestimated that, from the very beginning, we have routed German sympathy for Armenia onto Turkish ground. Germany still raises approx. ¾ million annually for orphanages, clinics, schools and workshops, which were founded in the nineties for the victims of Hamid’s period of terror. Even today, every village and every town in Germany still contributes to these institutions. These circles should be spared the alarms of conscience that our German-Turkish alliance could force us to abandon the Christians of the Orient and to withhold from them the support, which they can expect from us as their brothers in faith.

It would also have a calming effect in this respect if I could respond out of my own knowledge to the slanders concerning German Christianity, already being liberally poured out by the Entente press, that Turkey has not surpassed the boundaries of military measures and, furthermore, that it attaches great importance to keeping up a harmonious relationship with its Christian subjects.

Your Excellency’s most respectful


[Dr. Johannes Lepsius]


Enclosure 2

Copy

Potsdam, 11 June 1915

The managing boards of the German Mission for the Orient and the German-Armenian Association, gathered today, would like to express their thanks to Your Excellency for the support often given to their attempts, and trust that in the present critical situation Your Excellency will work towards a fair and moderate treatment of the Christian elements of the population who have been made part of the turmoil. In order to keep up our relationship with the Patriarchate and the leading Armenian circles and reinforce them in their loyal attitude towards the Sublime Porte, it appears to us to be desirable that our Chairman, Dr. Lepsius, travels to Constantinople and, in agreement with Your Excellency, advises our Armenian friends.

(signed) Dr. Paul Rohrbach
Roedenbeck, Superintendant.
Prof. D. Deissmann
Lürssen
P. Winckler
Dr. Johannes Lepsius
Dr. James Greenfield


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