Please allow me to send you in the enclosure a short memorandum concerning the Armenian question as well as a copy of a report dated 5 August to the Imperial Embassy together with five enclosures.
I may perhaps have the opportunity in the course of the Caucasus operation to contact leaders of the Armenian Dashnaktzutiun Party. In doing so it would be useful for me to hear a willing statement by Your Excellency as to whether endeavours in the direction indicated at the end of my memorandum are desirable.
Memorandum concerning the Armenian question
Erzurum, 10 August 1915
The Armenian question, which has been occupying the diplomats of Europe for many decades, is supposed to be solved in the present war. The Turkish government has used the state of war and the opportunity provided by the Armenian uprisings in Van, Mush, Karahissar and other places to forcibly expel the Armenians of Anatolia to Mesopotamia. By the repression of Armenian schools, prohibition of correspondence in the Armenian language and similar measures, it hopes to finally suppress the political and cultural ambitions of the Armenians. Perhaps it also hopes to damage the Armenians economically, so that in future it will no longer be possible for them to lead an independent cultural life. At this stage I will disregard the fact that these measures by the government were carried out in such a way that they meant the absolute extermination of the Armenians. Also, I do not believe that it is possible in any other way to destroy a culture that is older and much higher than that of the Turks. Also the Armenians seem to me to be very resilient as a race, just like the Jews. As a result of their education, their commercial capabilities, which usually go as far as being unscrupulous, their adaptability, they should succeed in regaining their economic strength even under the most unfavourable circumstances. Only a violent extermination policy, a forcible destruction of a whole people, could lead the Turkish government in this way to its longed-for goal, to a "solution" of the Armenian question. But whether a solution of this kind to this question is advantageous both to Turkey as well as to us, I greatly doubt. My reasons are set out in the following:
The inhabitants of Anatolia are mainly made up of Turks, Armenians and Kurds. The Kurds are the lowest as far as culture is concerned, the Armenians the highest. From a moral point of view, the Turks must have the best reputation among the rural population, in an economic respect and as manpower the Armenians. In the towns the Armenians also dominate in the economic sector: almost the whole of trade is in their hands. Because of their extremely distinctive keenness to work and their avariciousness, they do not make a particularly pleasant impression. However, in the latter respect, the Turkish tradesman hardly falls any shorter of them, but is much more inferior in regard to mercantile capabilities, because those Turks who only have a certain amount of education and possibly speak a European language choose to become civil servants and have, at least in the provinces, a contention for the position of a Vali. The surprisingly high educational standard of the Armenians both in the town and in the country, which they owe to the effects of their clergy and to their excellent schools, enables them to familiarise themselves with European culture and technology and to encourage the introduction of these in their home environment. It is important to remark that the influence of French culture on the Armenians is very strong and their sympathies are probably on the French side. The many schools, which are under the directorship of French clergymen, have had a very strong influence in this respect.
Also, as far as politics are concerned, strong propaganda activity has been exercised among the Armenians by the French and English side, but in particular from the Russian side. England and Russia had a political interest in not eliminating the problems arising for Turkey as a result of the Armenian question. They set themselves up as protectors of the Armenians and, in order to relieve their plight, caused them to make claims which were not only justified by their situation, but also such as were of a utopian political nature. In particular I would like to point out in this connection the disastrous activities of the Russian Consuls here and in Van. Their influence, backed by considerable financial means, is in my opinion to blame for the attitude of the Armenians in Van. Also the leaders of the Dashnaktzutiun party, reputed for their political short-sightedness, are completely under Russian influence.
Unfortunately, up to now we have only been able to counteract this activity to a slight extent. The young German Consulate in Erzurum was naturally not able to exercise its influence so far. As far as I know it also had no funds available at all for propaganda purposes. The few Consuls, which the German Reich has sent into this part of Turkey, are not sufficient by far for such an extensive field of work, in particular as far as their political activity is concerned, and this is the type that can mainly be taken into consideration here. Also, unfortunately, the local important position was still vacant at the outbreak of war due to the arrest by the Russians of Consul Anders who was well familiar with the local conditions and politics.
All these circumstances and their ignorance of Germany and its power have led to the Armenians believing in victory by Russia and its allies and expecting their salvation to come from there. They did not believe the German victories at the beginning of the campaign and the bad Russian defeats, as they had been communicated to them by the Turks. The advance of the Russians in the Caucasus was for them a sign of Russian supremacy. Not until December, when the local position was newly appointed, was it possible to begin the German educational work, And I believe that the calm attitude of the Armenians here was a great success on their part. Unfortunately, it was not possible to convey this educational work to more remote areas - to Van for example. The beginnings of my activity to this effect were overrun by events. Based on my experiences here I must assume that it would have been possible with extended, well-timed and purposeful educational work to prevent the Armenians from taking ill-considered steps and to make it clear to them that their welfare and their future was only to be sought in a Turkey which is strong and thriving as a result of its connections with Germany.
I am of the opinion that now the great majority is convinced of the absurdity of working for Russian interests and is cursing Russia, which has so often betrayed it and is still doing so today. Furthermore, I believe that if our influence in Turkey succeeds in protecting the Armenian people from being destroyed, we will reap gratitude and valuable collaboration from the largest part of them for the development of Anatolia.
On the other hand, if the Armenians are permanently exiled from Anatolia, this country would be robbed of its most valuable manpower. The Turkish people, who are lesser in number, decimated by military service, cannot offer a replacement for them. It would take decades for the Kurds to be taught to work. I also believe that the Armenian people, thirsting as they are for education, could be won for us within a short time through the German schools. As evidence I can relate that when a German school was opened here, 90 percent of the students who registered for it were Armenians.
I am therefore of the opinion that it would be useful for us, apart from the ethical, also for practical reasons to stand up for the fact that the Armenians who have survived expulsion and are loyal should be allowed to return to their former homes after the war. After all, their love of their home country, of the Armenian plateau, which they have inhabited for centuries, forms a basic feature - and indeed the most sympathetic one - of their character. If they were without this love, then they as a people would have been spared much suffering. The Armenians scattered throughout the whole of the East, thanks to their naturally inborn mercantile capabilities, would be in a position to monopolise the whole economic life and, just like the Jews, would play an often useful, but not always desirable role in it.
Furthermore, I do not believe that the Armenian question will have found a solution in a political respect in the enforced expulsion to Mesopotamia. The Armenians who have settled there and those who have fled to Russia will want to come back and, together with the Armenians in the United States, will ask for the support of the European powers. The mass deportation, in combination with the atrocities carried out on the part of Turkey, would therefore only provide a reason for renewed intervention in the internal affairs of Turkey. On a smaller scale, the problem here of the Armenians living on Russian, Turkish and Persian territory is just as difficult as the problem of "Poland“ is for Europe. I would have regarded the best solution to be if the Turks, with the support of the Russian Armenians, had succeeded in conquering the border areas inhabited by the Armenians, thus uniting as one those parts of Armenia, which are under Russian and Turkish supremacy, of which Etchmiadzin could form the focal point. In granting a certain self-administration, the Armenian people could have both felt at ease under fair Turkish government and retained its cultural individuality, which would not have been possible in Russia. A solution of this kind was also the ideal of a group of understanding Armenian politicians. The political short-sightedness both of the Turkish government as well as of the leaders of the Dashnaktzutiun Party has made this solution impossible, has even changed it to the contrary. Whether the initiation at this stage of an understanding between the committee leaders of both sides is possible, is debatable. It seems to be that the difficulty tends to be on the Turkish rather than on the Armenian side.
A statement by the Foreign Office as to whether an attempt in this direction would be desirable, in case I have the opportunity to do so in the course of the Caucasus operation, would be of interest to me.