1915-12-20-DE-001
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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14089
Central register: 1917-A-00468
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 01/06/1916 p.m.
Embassy/consular serial number: K.No. 116/B.No. 2881
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 03/30/2012


From the Consul in Aleppo (Roessler) to the Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg)

Report



K.No. 116 / B.No. 2881
Aleppo, 20 December 1915
The two articles from the Frankfurter Zeitung from 12 October (weekly issue), transcripts of which I respectfully enclose, give me cause to make the following comments on the Armenian question:

The German public obviously does not know the situation at present in the Armenian question, because otherwise the newspaper could not have written that there was no confirmed news yet on the incidents. It states, “Only the uncouth excesses of the movement must be stopped.” “Any kind of lynch-law by the excited masses must be avoided at all costs.” In this way, it suppresses the main issue and fights against secondary symptoms, thus raising false impressions. In actual fact, this is about something completely different. The Deportation Commissioner sent by the Ministry of the Interior openly stated here, “We want an Armenia without Armenians.” This is the principle on which the government acted and still acts, the implementation of which has caused perhaps 4/5 of the entire Armenian population, including women and children, to be deported from its residences in Asia Minor and sent marching to Mesopotamia and Syria, mainly on foot. As far as is generally known here, only three towns have been completely excluded from this: namely, Constantinople, Smyrna and Aleppo. On these marches lasting weeks and months, the greatest difficulties have naturally arisen with regard to the rations, even in those cases where it was planned and ordered , and a large number of the wanderers have died from hunger, exhaustion and illnesses and are still dying every day, quite apart from their deliberate annihilation by government bodies and the population called upon or encouraged to do so by these bodies. The loss of humans lives has been greater or less, depending on the region from which the deportees come; in eastern Asia Minor generally much greater than in the west. In the East, 75 % of the numerous processions will have died, insofar as women and girls were not abducted to Mohammedan harems or, in more favourable cases, found protection with Mohammedan families. The rest which arrived in Mesopotamia (e.g. in Ras-ul-Ain or Tell Abiad) were so exhausted that a great number of them also died.

Under these circumstances, it seems risky to argue from the very beginning that the figure of 800,000 murdered Armenians published by the British is impossible. The Frankfurter Zeitung writes,

“No one who knows the circumstances in Turkey will believe this figure. According to this figure, over 30 % of all Armenians living in Turkey, including women and children, would have been killed. That is quite impossible.”

Unfortunately, it is not impossible. I have reported again and again during the past few months on the most atrocious incidents and circumstances which have caused or accompanied the annihilation. It can be concluded that after such incidents the number of persons killed must be extremely high. It is estimated in whole, rounded figures as follows by those Armenians who are best informed, who are constantly in touch with the deportees arriving from all parts of the country: total figure of the Armenians in Turkey: 2 ½ million; of these, 1,200,000 in the eastern Vilayets of Erzurum, Van, Bitlis, Diyarbekr, Harput, Sivas. In all of Asia Minor an estimated ½ million have been spared from being deported (for example, in the District of Marasch not even 9,000 were left behind out of 50,000); an estimated half a million have arrived in Syria and Mesopotamia. Special circumstances exist in the province of Van, with perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 Armenians, because it was a theatre of war and, therefore, it is not taken into consideration. The death rate of those who arrived in Syria and Mesopotamia is exceptionally high and will continue to remain so as a direct consequence of the deportation, which has, by no means, come to an end yet. Under these circumstances, a total figure of 800,000 killed is considered probable by circles which must be taken seriously, as they are usually better informed than others; yes, it is even considered possible that the figure is even higher. There is one difference, in that the men, at least those from the eastern provinces, mainly suffered violent deaths, while the deaths of the women and children came about by slower means so that the Turks could say, “They are dying by themselves.” If the figure for the number of Armenians in Turkey is estimated from other sources as being only 1 ½ million, then all of these figures would be correspondingly lower. But the percentage of those killed would remain the same.

The government must have known the consequences of the deportation. This was already pointed out in June, but it continued to deport people. It gradually lost hold of the management because, even if it had wanted to, with its civil administrative body it was organisationally no longer in a position to feed the masses that had been plunged into misery. But through skilful intervention thousands could still be saved even now.

The Chief Censorship Authority sent a letter to the military Censorship Authorities on the treatment of official war reports from our enemies in the German press, which was published in Germany and which closes with the following sentence:

“The fear that official news spread by the enemy could occasionally give cause for concern must be opposed by the consideration that real facts cannot be kept secret forever and that, in the end, lies are always recognised for what they are.”

I respectfully request that Your Excellency graciously tend to consider whether the joint responsibility taken on by Germany through her silence and glossed-over presentation is not too great, both towards the German people as well as the world, and whether the political damage caused by the truth coming to light at a later date (and perhaps at a time that is inconvenient for us) would not be greater than the disadvantage which might arise for us by informing our public now.

I am sending the same report to the Imperial Embassy.


Roessler

Enclosure 1


Transcript

Frankfurter Zeitung Weekly No. 41, page 2, from 12 October 1915

Reports have come from the Americans in Armenia that the Turks there were guilty of atrocities against the rebellious Armenians. Lord Cromer also spoke of these incidents in the British House of Lords. Although he was of the opinion that it was hardly believable that the number of victims actually amounted to 800,000, as had been claimed, the true British despicableness then broke through. For Lord Cromer was of the opinion that, although there was no credible report on hand concerning Germany’s complicity in the murders, she was still jointly responsible because her influence in Constantinople was undisputed. Lord Bruce [Bryce] answered that it was necessary to inform the entire world of the report. The consuls reported on an extremely deplorable situation in their reports. Lord Bruce added that he considered the figure of 800,000 dead, which Lord Cromer considered implausible, to be possible. As in everything that is happening in the world, the Germans are now also being held jointly responsible by the British for the incidents in Armenia, on which no credible news has yet been received. Yes, in a report from Cairo the Times even published the brazen lie that German consuls in Asia Minor had led and encouraged the slaughters. Supposedly, Roessler, the German consul in Aleppo, had gone to Aintab to personally supervise this matter. In actual fact, the matter was exactly the other way around. The German consuls and the German missions have done their very best to prevent hardships which might have happened during the suppression of the unrests, or at least to alleviate them, and thus, it is perfectly clear that the German consul’s journey to Aleppo was not for the purpose of supervising the atrocities, but of preventing them as far as possible. But the British, who have until now not said one word of disapproval against the slaughtering of the Jews, the murder, plundering and ill treatment of the Germans by their Russian allies, would now like to pin the supposed atrocities in Armenia on the Germans, using their well-known method. As far as this concerns us, we do not need to defend ourselves against this latest British propaganda. But we would like to point out that the Armenians must only blame themselves if the Turks were hard on them and that, if there have been riots in Armenia at the instigation of the Europeans, it is not Germany that is to blame, but our enemies, who have induced the Armenians in Turkey to revolt by agitating and paying them. During this revolt, many thousands of Mohammedans were first slaughtered by the Armenians, and even on 23 September an article in the London Daily Chronicle called Armenia the seventh ally of the Entente. If the Turks then took harsh counter-measures, it is the fault of the rebellious Armenians themselves; the joint responsibility, however, does not lie with Germany, but rather with British, Russian and French rabble-rousers.


Enclosure 2

Frankfurter Zeitung Weekly No. 41, page 5, from 12 October 1915


The Armenian Question in Turkey

Even since the time of Abdul Hamid it had been the custom of all the elements with a centrifugal effect in Turkey to attract Europe’s “interest” in order to win advantages for their own desire for autonomy or political endeavours of all kinds from the resulting intervention. It was a very simple plan, and because England was always prepared to take a personal interest in the fate of the distressed on this earth – and such “distressed” were usually even created by her agents – in order to outwardly have the right to become involved and walk off with the greatest advantage for herself, the Armenian question is nothing more than the gate which England has always enthusiastically held open to give herself free entrance to Turkish policy. At the time, England even went so far as to have the poor and unsuspecting people in Armenia informed by her agents that a British army would come by airship to assist them and destroy the power of the Padischah, except that … the Armenians would first have to begin the revolution.

An unparalleled incitement has taken place during the past 20 years and it is a fact that during the World War an entire series of treasonous acts were committed by Armenians in England’s pay. During the battles of the Turks in the Vilayet of Erzurum, the Armenians spied for the Russians; near Alexandretta, the Armenians associated with the cruiser “Doris” lying in the roads for treasonous purposes; in Constantinople, Armenians were involved in the conspiracy to overthrow the Turkish government. In addition, the Armenian is the most hated man in the Orient because, due to his higher intellect and his greater commercial talent and in his role as dealer, farmer general, banker and agent, he constantly cheats the slow Turk, becoming rich in doing so while the Turk becomes poorer. In many cases this is not unjustified. But despite this, to generalise is wrong.

It is, however, perfectly understandable that the uneducated people in Anatolia and, at its head, the partly-educated public officials, fanatic clergymen and superior chauvinists become victims of such generalisations and kill the innocent with the guilty. Let us imagine what the French would do if a tribe lived among them that sympathised openly with us Germans, carried out secret service for us and attempted to murder Joffre and Poincaré! Would the French government succeed in suppressing the anger of its own people against such a disloyal tribe? It doesn’t even succeed in protecting our German prisoners of war from the vilest insults of a brutal crowd which obviously believes it is fulfilling a patriotic duty by carrying out such “cultural deeds”.

When Lord Cromer speaks of 800,000 murdered Armenians in the British House of Lords, this is a figure which has a political effect. That is the main point. The Lord pays a small tribute to his personal sense of decency by claiming that he himself does not believe this figure. No one who knows the circumstances in Turkey will believe this figure. According to this figure, over 30 % of all Armenians living in Turkey, including women and children, would have been killed. That is completely impossible. But even if there were considerably fewer victims and among them a number of innocent people, then everyone in Germany would deeply regret the incidents. All of the hypocritical malice of our enemies lies in the fact that it is now being said that we Germans assist the Turkish rabble in its pogroms. Quite the opposite is the case. We are attempting to calm the “Anatolian people’s soul” which has gone berserk and to protect the innocent.

The difficulties which are arising for the Turkish government in the Armenian question should not be underestimated. The state influence of the masses works very slowly, considering the bad connections in Asia Minor, the mid-level civil service with its total lack of initiative and the anger of the people against the spy and traitor which it always regards more as a member of a foreign tribe than an individual. In Turkey, it is very difficult, particularly when the army has moved out, to quickly gain control of any movements, and doubly so if the motives of such a movement are basically patriotic and only its rabble-like excesses must be stopped.

Despite these difficulties, the Turkish government must get things under its control. Any type of lynch justice by the excited masses must be avoided under all circumstances. The government has the absolute right to have each individual who is caught in the act shot by its executive bodies – quick punishment is the best punishment – and also the right to bring any suspect in front of a court-martial; but all of these governmental acts must be carried out in the name of the Sultan and by executive bodies of the state authority, not in the name of the rabble or by Kurd robbers and all kinds of riff-raff. Public opinion in Germany is absolutely confident that the Turkish and friendly government, after having shown its external strength in such splendid fashion to the world, will now also prove its internal strength.



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