1915-11-29-DE-003
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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14089
Central register: 1915-A-35268
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 12/06/1915 p.m.
Embassy/consular serial number: No. 701
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/03/2012


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

Report



No. 701
Pera, 29 November 1915

1 Enclosure

Further to the preliminary report from the 20th inst. – J.No. 10102 [A 34383 found under A 35115.] – and with reference to the reports from the Imperial Consul in Aleppo to Your Excellency from the 8th and 16th inst. (Nos. 2511 [A 35045.] and 2577 [A 35046.]), I have the honour of enclosing for Your Excellency a transcript of the record concerning the Armenian riot in Urfa, presented here by the retired Resident Minister von Oppenheim.


Metternich

Enclosure

The Armenian Riots in Urfa.


The seed of the unrests was sown months ago: it can already be found in the occurrences in Van. News of that caused a certain waiting excitement all the way to Urfa, fanned by propagandists who obviously came over from that seat of rabble-rousers. The excitement grew when, in connection with the general measures of protection against a spread of the Armenian danger, a number of arrests among the leaders of the Armenians were also carried out in Urfa and those persons affected were killed on their way to deportation. This mood was also kept in suspense by means of the transports of Armenians expelled from the areas of Diyarbekir and Van, passing through Urfa in a fairly wretched condition, masses of whom died there of hunger and sickness. For weeks at least nothing was noticed externally of the occurrences in the offing, so that a large-scale deportation of the Armenian population of Urfa was at first not questioned at all. Count Wolffskehl does not assume that the interned enemy nationals played a part in the preparation of the revolts [Last sentence deleted for the distribution list.].

Two clearly determinable occurrences gave the signal for the open outbreak of the unrests. The first happened at the end of the month of August. At that time, half of a gendarmerie patrol searching a house in the Armenian quarter for weapons was shot down; the rest fled. This incident hardly became known in the bazaar and the surrounding Turkish quarter when the outraged Mohammedan population took its revenge on those Armenians to be found in the bazaar and on the streets, of whom about 100 were massacred. Through the intervention of the Mutessarif, however, precautions were quickly taken against further massacres. The Armenians then remained in their quarter for several days, where they barricaded themselves, but otherwise kept quiet. On the other hand, nothing was carried out against them, not even an investigation of the assault on the gendarmerie patrol. Thus, after a certain period of time, things seemed to return to their normal state of affairs.

Then, at the end of September, the second occurrence took place: again, a shooting in the Armenian quarter, the reason for which, however, has not yet been cleared up (nor against whom it was directed). In itself, it was of no importance as obviously no one was hurt, but it resulted in a heavier gendarmerie patrol being sent into the quarter on the next day to investigate the incident. Once again, this patrol was shot at and several gendarmes were killed; the rest escaped by fleeing. Then all of the Armenians who happened to find themselves outside the quarter retreated there at once and in the shortest time possible the entire Armenian district was barricaded and put on defence alert.

The Armenian quarter, almost half of the entire town, is extremely well situated for defence purposes on a hill, which has many caves. In a very clever way, the Armenians had dug accesses to them from their homes, and the stockpile of weapons and ammunition was hidden there as well as in side spots which were pushed open by deep wells (later, after the suppression of the actual revolt, these underground constructions served the last defenders as places of refuge which were extremely difficult to find). All of the houses in the quarter are built of stone, some of them very solidly. Fitting out the houses for defence was also done with indisputably military skill: all of the doors and windows were barricaded, the walls had been broken out to make embrasures, the few streets leading into the quarter from outside were raked down their entire length from houses standing at right angles which were particularly heavily occupied. The same system was also applied over and over again with success and skill further in the interior of the quarter which was full of nooks and crannies: a house which blocked an alley was always fitted out as a special base. The main bases were: in the north, the American mission occupied by force by the Armenians; in the south-west, the Armenian Church, school and surrounding houses; in the east, several groups of particularly solid houses. The entire quarter was divided into individual sections, each of which had its own leader. Most of the leaders probably came from out of town (from Diarbekik, Van, Zeitun). The defenders amounted to about 2000 men able to use arms. They were amply equipped with rifles, also many small-bore rifles, and had a great deal of ammunition. They did not have a machine-gun, but a great many hand grenades they had made themselves. The idea seems to suggest itself that the dynamite necessary for this had been put to one side in the course of time by the many Armenian workers employed by the railway building company.

At the time when the defence began (end of September) there were only 70-80 gendarmes comprising the armed forces on the Turkish side who were, of course, completely powerless. During the first days of October, the first military support arrived in the form of a battalion; but this could not yet consider a serious attack either. On 4 October, Fakri Pasha and Count Wolffskehl [Count Wolffskeel deleted for the distribution list.] arrived. They were followed on the 5th by a further battalion with 2 military guns.

The battle began on 6 October, during which (on the 12th) a third battalion with two 12 cm howitzers appeared. This was followed on the 13th by the main attack from the south, out of the valley and up against the church. On the 14th the latter and the surrounding houses were attacked, on the 15th the American Mission. The actual resistance was thus broken. As already mentioned, the last rabble-rousers retreated to the caves and wells from which they were brought out during the next 14 days; during this, small, individual battles broke out again and again.

A larger number of houses was destroyed by the shell fire; the American Mission was also hit in the workshop and in the dome of its church. A number of houses were also destroyed by fires, which arose. The Armenians probably lost 3 – 400 men in the battles; the rest were taken prisoner and are awaiting further decisions.

The Turkish losses amounted to some 50 dead and 120 – 130 wounded during the battle; there were some further victims during the search for the last few people hidden away.

A few further short remarks on the role of the American Mission and its head. As has already been mentioned briefly, the Armenians occupied the American Mission by force while barricading their quarter. Together with the advantage the solid building offered them for their defence, they obviously also hoped that no one from the Turkish side would dare to shoot at the mission as long as the American missionary was in it; this is why they kept him a prisoner in the mission. The missionary soon attempted to write a letter to the Mutessarif, asking for his help, but the letter was intercepted. A second letter, thrown over the wall of the German factory by a messenger, luckily found its way to the Mutessarif and on to the military. The latter's reply, in which the missionary was told he would have no difficulty in coming out with the foreigners who were with him, orphans, etc. (at that time it was not known that he was being kept a prisoner by the Armenians; rather, it was believed that he was merely afraid to pass the Turkish outposts) was, however, intercepted once again. After nothing happened for several days, the military wrote the same message to the missionary in black letters on a large, white canvas (the distance between the outposts and the mission was no more than 60 paces). This message was read correctly by the missionary; despite his ideas that after this advice the Turkish military no longer had any obligation to spare the mission's building for his sake, the Armenians did not release him now, but rather said to him categorically that he would be shot as soon as he made an attempt to leave the house. The missionary, on his part, was able to write the following words on a large cloth, "They won't let me out." Furthermore, he had to hold out during the entire battle and was only released during the Turks' attack on the mission. He and his people were unscathed.



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