I received a detailed letter dated the 4th inst. [A 28437] which was sent to me here where, at my doctor's urgent recommendation, I am enjoying a short respite for my nerves. I then immediately sent a confidential, informative letter to the newspapers, recommending that they not discuss the Armenian question out of consideration for our national interests. From this spot here I have been unable to follow the press, but I hope that this will put a stop to the matter in the eyes of the German public for the time being. At the same time, I have sent a letter to Director Schreiber from the German Evangelical Missionary-Relief Organisation in which I announce my intention to resign from my post with the D.E.M.H.(Deutsche Evangelische Missionshilfe) [G.E.M.-R.O.: German Evangelical Missionary-Relief Organisation.] should he not succeed in convincing the conferences to drop their plan to engage further circles with the Armenian question. Director Schreiber then visited me here after the conference in Leipzig and informed me that he spoke with Dr. Lepsius and that they agreed to send only a petition to the Reichskanzler. He followed my urgent request to refrain from publishing this petition or even mentioning its being sent off in the press and, as I see from the accompanying letter to the draft of the petition, sent to me and President v. Hegel, the other participants have also accepted this.
Thus, after the firm and consoling assurances of Director Schreiber, I did not take part in the conference. In the meantime, however, Dr. Lepsius has given a lecture to the press in Berlin on the occurrences in Armenia which was not meant for publication, and I respectfully enclose the report on this from our editorial office in Berlin for Your Excellency; from the closing [Note by Rosenberg: The final statement was not made by Lepsius; it is a repetition of statements made by Count Wedel at the press conference on the following day.], which in many cases is literally the same as Your Excellency's letter to me, I see that Dr. L.[Lepsius] obviously had an audience with you between the time of my letter to Your Excellency and his lecture. After this lecture and some things, which Dr. Lepsius experienced and which Dir. Schreiber informed me of verbally, I would be very grateful if I could have the in-depth discussion with you at the end of this week which was taken into consideration in Your Excellency's letter of the 4th inst.
I am returning to Magdeburg in the middle of this week and would be available from Friday noon onwards. After Dr. Lepsius' lecture, which other out-of-town editorial offices will have been informed of by their representatives in Berlin, the publishers are certain to expect a new statement from me. For Your Excellency's confidential information, may I enclose the transcript of the above mentioned letter from Director Schreiber. It is clear from the impression which Dr. Lepsius' presentation made on Dr. Rohrbach, which impression it will make in public and also on newspapermen, because of the political and economical outlook which Dr. Lepsius added to his report. I sensed that from the manner in which my editor-in-chief made remarks on this during a telephone conversation. If Dr. Rohrbach's words have been repeated correctly in Schreiber's letter, the pastor in him has run away with the politician in this environment, because the news from the foreign press is certainly the most unreliable source one can draw upon.
But be that as it may, this matter has many characteristics which strongly affect our feelings and threaten to captivate public opinion in a manner similar to that at the time of the Boers, and for this reason I feel a strong need to neatly carve out the political side of the entire question in a discussion with Your Excellency and to examine which approach our national interests require now and which approach they will require after our fortunate breakthrough through Serbia, in order to confidentially inform the publishers afterwards.
Your Excellency, I close respectfully,
Almost all of the Evangelical charity organisations working in the Orient were fully represented at the Orient Conference today, some of them by several members of their boards, as well as Professors D. Haussleiter and D. Richter and Missionary Director Spiecker from the German Mission-Board, as well as several other personalities, among which I would like to mention Dr. Rohrbach, Professors D. Rade-Marburg, D. Deissmann-Berlin, furthermore Director D. Axenfeld, Missionary Inspector Knodt from the Allgemeinen Ev. Protest. Missionsverein (General Evangelical Protestant Missionary Society). The meeting lasted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with an hour for lunch. It gave those circles working in the Orient plenty of opportunity to exchange their experiences and thus gain more clarity on this most difficult question. The fate of the Armenian people was talked about by everyone. Dr. Lepsius' information, which is based not only on Armenian and American sources and the reports of his own missionary workers, but especially on his personal discussions with Talaat Bey and Enver Bey, were totally effective and confirmed in particular by the rational Director Schuchardt from Frankfurt/Main, Pastor Lohmann's colleague and a Pastor Bauernfeind, who was in Malatia until the beginning of August. The following comments by Dr. Rohrbach, who, unfortunately, was only able to attend our meeting for a short time, had an extremely dramatic effect, "Dr. Lepsius' remarks are all definitely confirmed by the news in the foreign press. These occurrences make it impossible for us to continue to bear the joint responsibility for the Turkish alliance. The military control has ordered us to be silent in public. But we can and must tell the government that we can no longer recognise the alliance as one entered upon between two equal states. When these facts become public, the German people will stand in front of the entire world in the deepest shame. Thus, the government must force Turkey to make amends to the Armenians. We are watching the end of Turkey, which must be sequestered." Dr. Lepsius rightly pointed out the importance of Dr. Rohrbach's words, whom he rightly called, "the prophet of our entire German-Turkish policy". "I take off my hat to him!"
The enclosed petition to the Reichskanzler, edited by Dr. Lepsius, D. Axenfeld, D. Richter and myself and examined closely once again after the meeting by the four of us together with Mr. D. Rade, described the result of the discussion, in which the arguments for and against were brought up thoroughly, in a manner which surprised and pleased me greatly. Dr. Lepsius believes with certainty that the petition will also be signed by Dr. Rohrbach. D. Rade took the petition to His Excellency v. Harnack to ask for his signature as well. According to our agreement, I enclose the petition with the request that you give me your permission to sign it as well. Purposefully, only a few copies have been made and, thus, I can only give you the one corrected, hand-written copy I have. I am sending it to Dr. Faber first as I was able to present him with my material and several reports.
It was pointed out with the greatest emphasis that both the petition and all of the negotiations were strictly confidential and none of this was to be made known in public, for the time being not even the fact that a petition was being made.
It was emphasised from various sides, particularly from D. Rade, how grateful everyone was to the G.E.M.-R.O. for organising the meeting. Together with D. Richter, Dr. Lepsius and D. Axenfeld, I was ordered to find some more people who were prepared to sign the petition and to pass on the petition to the Reichskanzler, and I am sure that you will also agree to this. The G.E.M.-R.O. was also asked not only to inform the participants of further events in the matter, but also to organise further meetings of those circles working in the Orient. Today, for the first time, it attempted to fulfil what D. Richter called for in his lecture of 29 January, namely, that "the G.E.M.-R.O. must be an honest middleman between our religious and national world tasks". We have, of course, immediately been placed in front of one of the most difficult tasks, but I was told quite rightly in a private conversation how important and worthwhile the G.E.M.-R.O.'s cooperation is in just this matter. As I have already told both of you personally, my dear sirs, I am extremely sorry that my quick action in this matter without notifying you before caused you some concern. But these matters were pressing and could hardly be carried out by means of correspondence.
One very valuable result of my discussion with you in Wernigerode, my dear doctor, was, among other things, the possibility of meeting you more often here in Berlin.
With respectful greetings, I remain gratefully yours,
[Report by the Editorial Office of the "Magdeburger Zeitung (Magdeburg Newspaper)" in Berlin on Lepsius' Lecture to the Press and the Reply of the German Foreign Office.]
At the beginning of the European war, it was suggested to the Armenians in Erzurum by the members of the Young Turk Committee that they revolutionize the Russian Armenians in the Caucasus (there are 2 million Armenians in Turkey). That did not happen, because the Caucasian Armenians have been treated so well that they went all out for the Russian cause. The Caucasus can never be won by Turkey. At the beginning of the Turkish war, they disarmed all of the Armenians in the Turkish Army and used them only as reinforcements. Then the Armenian people were disarmed fairly hastily, although weapons there are a part of the citizens' equipment in times of peace. In comparison, the Turkish population was armed by the state and Kurd home regiments were set up as well as gangs made up of thousands of prison inmates. From November to April, 4 – 500 Armenian villages were raided and about 26000 Armenians still in their homes were killed. Many of the Armenian reinforcements deserted, because they were often murdered by their Turkish comrades while working. The Armenian leaders had contacted the Turkish authorities at the beginning of the war in order to smooth out difficulties, but despite this the Turks have annihilated half of their Armenians during the past 3 months. At the end of May, as Enver admits, it was ordered that the Armenian population was to be deported from all of the Anatolian vilayets to the Arabian desert. This has been carried out. Naturally, some of them did remain, 100 – 200000 were massacred along the way, 2 – 3000 will have arrived and be killed if they do not receive any assistance. No one in Turkey disputes these facts.
As far as the question of guilt is concerned, the lecturer believed that he was able to acquit the Armenians completely. In some places they were still able to defend themselves, but at that time, for example in Van, they knew nothing of the movements along the Russian border and were surprised when the Russians came, whom, naturally, they greeted as their liberators. Incidentally, the Armenian Central Committee had given orders to avoid everything which could give rise to offence, because it was feared that Abdul Hamid's old programme of persecution of the Christians would be taken up again at this opportunity. A high-ranking public official said to the lecturer, "We would have to be blind not to use this opportunity to rid ourselves of the Armenians."
What is the Turks' motive? Enver listed a number of strategic reasons to the lecturer: the Armenians had to be removed from the borders and the military roads in the interior protected against danger. The author's note that all of the able-bodied men had been drafted as reinforcements does not entirely refute these apprehensions. Enver also believes that the 40 million Turks want their national life to be guaranteed at long last and, thus, to disperse the Armenians in such a manner that they will not live together in larger numbers anywhere, similar to the way it is here with the Jews. "If you could turn Polish people into Prussians," he said, "wouldn't you do so? You can no longer do this, but we still can." The American ambassador made an offer to Talaat to send all of the remaining Armenians, apart from the 7000 already sent, on ships to the United States, even if it were an entire million people, because they could use this industrious and business-minded population over there. Talaat spoke to Enver, but he stated, "Then the rich would emigrate and the poor would stay here." In the lecturer's opinion, the well-to-do Armenian people, who held trade and craftsmanship in their hands together with the Jews and Greeks everywhere, but in the interior mainly by themselves, are being methodically robbed. Thus, the result of the deportation is first of all the economic ruin of Anatolia, and in this manner Turkey is also ruining itself economically. This has a most direct importance on our trade, as the entire import lies in Armenian hands. But, in every respect, German export is a credit transaction, and if the economic circles in the interior now no longer pay, then the merchants in Constantinople will also not pay. Thus, a great deal of German money is already being lost. There are no Turkish importers in Constantinople. Export is carried out by Greeks and Jews. And the Turks will never be able to take over the business, because they have no talent at all for any kind of economic activity, as is generally known everywhere. The government is not sufficiently aware of conditions in the Asian part of Turkey, because those Young Turks at the wheel are Macedonians, mainly from Salonika. They are carrying out a purely ideological, Turkish-nationalist policy.
But on that soil, nationalism is a good imported from Europe, for Islam neutralises countries. This is why the Holy War was a washout, because the other Islamic countries aren't the least bit interested in Turkish nationalism, which, in truth, was the reason for this Holy War, and they feel more comfortable among the Russians and the British than among the Turks. Should peace be achieved before we have moved to Suez, England's position in southern Turkey will be exceptionally strengthened. The Arabs are situated there, and their conflict with the Turks has never disappeared. Jemal Bey, the Supreme Commander in Syria, an Arab who has the same importance for the south as Enver for the north and who, extremely unwillingly, gave up troops to the north, would immediately make peace with the British if the affair in the Dardanelles went wrong. The war is not a war of the believers versus the infidels, but simply a Turkish war, albeit against all non-Turks. The Americans, for example, have a university in Beirut with 22 large palaces in which all of the doctors, pharmacists, etc., working in Syria were trained; suddenly, a short while ago, the language of instruction was to be Turkish. The Americans, however, stated this time that there were no Turkish textbooks and three-quarters of their students did not understand Turkish. Admittedly, the last Balkan wars showed how successful this policy of turkification was in Albania and in the entire European part of Turkey. This policy can also endanger the existence of the Asian part of Turkey.
But up to a certain point, this policy is also aimed against us, at least far more than is known here. Naturally, the Old Turks are very anti-German, because we brought the Young Turk government into the war. And when the wounded return to the country from the Dardanelles, the population breaks out in curses against the Germans. But the Young Turks also want to regard us only as servants. Indeed, the German Foreign Office also regretted that Enver recently stated in such an arrogant manner to Mr. Emil Ludwig from B.T. that he did not require the assistance of German troops. The 16 German university professors were only appointed to Constantinople so that Jäckh's idea of a German university in Constantinople would no longer be discussed. They had to agree in writing to teach in Turkish in one year's time; that is impossible, however, as it takes several years to learn Turkish; thus, if they cannot fulfil their promise, they can be given the push at the end of a year. On the other hand, the Turkish population is beside itself over the closing of the French schools, and after the war they will be immediately reopened. The author has no doubt whatsoever that once peace has been made the Turks will start their old game with the British, the French and the Russians, and we will be left standing out in the rain. At present, of course, it is a vital issue for us that we do our utmost to keep Turkey as an ally, and this is also his opinion. But when we have marched through Serbia and can reach Constantinople, he considers the time right when we must use stronger instruments of power than we now have in Constantinople to prevent our being done out of the entire proceeds of the war in Asia Minor. Recently, in a meeting at which Lepsius also gave a lecture, Gwinner completely confirmed his statements and only added that at present there was nothing we could do about it.
During the discussion the great danger to our economic life and our future plan for Antwerp-Baghdad was emphasised. As is known, the Turk is an idler; for this reason, others in his country play such a role that he is not comfortable with this. However, he cannot replace them and this is important for us. The Armenians are the most business-minded elements, especially along the Anatolian and Baghdad railways, or at least they were. In addition to the general problem of our position in Turkey, what we all know, but occasionally forget, must constantly be made clear: that with the exception of Talaat and Enver there are, in fact, no pro-German friends in the entire Young Turk Committee, because the Committee is a French plant and most of the Young Turks were educated in Paris, although they consider ours to be a reactionary nation. Even during the war, Dschawid Bey expressed his aversion to the war here in Berlin and made no secret of his liking for the French. Yes, even though this is not valid everywhere, it has been confirmed for some offices that Turkish civil servants now often hide behind the “Deutschtum” (German nationality) when dealing with the public, whereby this harms the Deutschtum – thus, for example, in some areas it has been spread that the government did not want the Armenian massacres at all, but that the German emperor urged it to do this – but otherwise they do not let the impression arise that we gave valuable assistance. The Germans, for example our voluntary medical corps, often even had difficulties when they wanted to hiss the German flag!
Response from the German Foreign Office: The latest version on Germany's instigation of the Armenian atrocities was not generally widespread in Turkey. Naturally, Turkey did not begin the war for our sake, but a part of the country, even if only a small part, was, however, convinced that the Turkish goals could only be reached together with us, and we must be glad that we have won over these few and that they presently have decisive influence. We know that our officers down there are fighting a lost cause and that the disappointment of the Turkish people, should the Dardanelles be taken, would turn against them, and it is probable that we might never see them again. But that is how war is. The greatest problems, not just present, but also future ones, the economic problems, were not discussed further from our side. Concerning the Armenians in particular, the German government had it pointed out to the Armenians when Turkey entered the war that the time had now come when they could prove their loyalty to Turkey through their actions and lay the foundation for a secure future. In part, the Armenians turned a deaf ear to this advice, due to the instigation of the Entente and Russian and English money. During the first months of the war, the Turkish government acted in a correct and calm manner towards the Armenians. According to the information of this office, it did not disarm the Armenians at the very beginning. But very cruel measures were taken when the Armenian revolt broke out behind the Turkish troops. Through the fault of the Russian Armenians, the Turkish ones suffered with them. That fault, for example, consisted of more than 150000 Mohammedans becoming victims of the revolt within only a few days. The Entente press mentions nothing about this bloodbath. But on 23 September, the "Daily Chronicle" wrote about "Our seventh Allied", namely the Armenians, and praised the Armenian people which had moved over to the side of the Entente from the very beginning. Our Foreign Office naturally declared the riots, which took place during the evacuation to be deplorable, but understandable, because the Central Government had only little influence on the provinces. It would be considered extremely unfortunate if our missionary organisations were to turn themselves into the battering-ram in the Armenian question. Our relationship with Turkey would suffer and this would probably harm the Armenians more than it would help them. For a long time, our representation in Turkey had been doing everything possible to ease the fate of the Armenians, without ecclesiastical demands being necessary. Our own comrades are closer to us than the Armenians, whose hard battle is indirectly eased by Turkey. The Christian feeling of solidarity found here could also be applied somewhere else, for example towards the extermination of the Germans in Morocco, the abduction of our East Prussians, and finally, the devastation of Poland. If the coloured and heathen hoards which our enemies lead into fire against us have not deflowered German women and laid waste to places marking a thousand years of German culture, then we do not have our opponents' and the neutrals' high regard for humanity and Christianity which they display towards the Armenians to thank for this; the press should keep silent about the entire question; previously, we became far too involved in the inner affairs, for example, in Italy, but even in Austria, while England never bothered about such matters with its allies. Lately, the Americans have officially taken up the Armenian question and, under certain circumstances, when they were finished with the submarine question they would attempt to start an argument with us concerning the Armenians.
Accordingly, it seems to me that our position is quite a matter of course at the moment, but on the other hand, it could lead to such large and difficult problems in future that the German press might have to handle these matters even before any peace agreement in order to give our diplomacy support in the certainly most difficult task of speaking bluntly with the Turks at the appropriate time.