The undersigned takes the liberty of sending you a number of notices he has received from absolutely reliable persons, which give a fairly clear picture of the way in which the Turkish authorities proceed against the Armenian people. The enclosed reports were written by Germans. I am sending them to you in duplicate and request that you pass one copy on to the Embassy in Constantinople.
I would further like to request that the government arranges through the German Embassy that our schools keep the teachers needed to continue their work.
In the interest of our work in future, it appears to me that it is absolutely necessary that we deal in person with the Embassy in Constantinople, and therefore, I plan to travel to Constantinople in September.
Thus, I would like to request that you kindly send me a pass, as you did for our nuns, and letters of recommendation to the embassies in consideration (Austrian-Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Turkish) as soon as possible.
I will take the liberty of sending you further detailed reports.
I would like to thank you in advance for all your efforts and sign, respectfully yours,
Marash, April 6, 1915.
Dear Mr. Schuchardt,
You will certainly have noticed from the news, which has reached you by now, that we find ourselves in a very serious situation here. We have an opportunity today to describe the situation in somewhat more detail to you.
Since the beginning of March, things have been difficult here for the Christians, for several gendarmes were killed in a clash between the government and the robbers (Eschkjar) who are always in the hills of Zeitun.
This caused so much agitation among the Islamic population that, if the Lord had not worked a miracle, a great slaughter would definitely have taken place. In general, these past weeks since the mobilisation have been very turbulent, for, by conscripting soldiers and requisitioning the animals, the government often heavily oppressed the Christians in particular, who always kept quiet, even though sighing about it. Finally a time arrived when the pressure became too heavy and people began to defend themselves. Many Christians who had been conscripted to do military service deserted, because they were not treated properly. The promises made by government authorities were not kept; rather, the opposite often happened. Those conscripted had to suffer from hunger, and many were also beaten. In the end, they were disarmed and had to hand in their uniforms. This caused the opinion to spread among the Mohammedans that it was now time to sharpen their swords for a battle against the Christians, and they voiced their opinion publicly. The government opposed this, but the talk did not stop. Naturally, the fear of slaughter weighed heavily on people's minds. In Zeitun, more and more deserters retreated into the mountains. The Turkish officials have already been oppressing the population in Zeitun for a long time, so that for years many young people who fear meeting the gendarmes have been living in the mountains. The situation now became unbearable, and finally the government sent the militia against Zeitun to catch the robbers. Thus, the court martial went to Marash immediately. It first demanded of all deserters that they surrender. All of them were assigned to punishment battalions and now had to work with pick and shovel to build roads and similar work. Zeitun was in danger of being destroyed, but our Mutessarif, who is a just man, prevented this. The people of Zeitun were to hand over the robbers or state where they were in hiding, but they could not bring themselves to do this.
At the persuasion of various people in Marash, I offered to go to Zeitun to influence the people to comply with the government's orders. As we were in a state of war, I had to have the commanding officer's permission for this journey. He first asked for the Mutessarif's approval and then gave his permission. Together with a further four people, I went from Marash to Zeitun; we had permission to stay there for 12 hours. I attempted to make the dangers clear to the people that they were heading for if they did not obey the government. It was my intention to persuade the robbers to surrender, if possible, but they would not listen to me and I had to leave Zeitun without having achieved anything. I gave the Mutessarif a report of how I had left Zeitun. I was able to give him a certain detail, namely where the robbers were hiding. I spoke to him several times and requested that he spare the innocent inhabitants of Zeitun. He promised to do so and up to now he has kept his word. The robbers were then surrounded and shot at; 36 of them were killed while the rest fled and are still being followed today. No one can foresee how this will end; until now, Zeitun has been spared a bombardment and I hope that this will not happen in future, either.
The general situation of the Christians caused us to take steps to prevent a slaughter; thus, because I could not leave Marash, we decided to send Sister Beatrice Rohner to Aleppo to report to Consul Roessler the danger the Christians are in here and possibly to induce him to come here. The Consul came and stayed here for nine days. His influence was noticeable even before he arrived, for his coming had been announced by telegraph.
Naturally, the party, which would have liked to have a massacre, was very angry that this did not take place.
In Der-el-Zor, a large town in the desert about 6 days' journey from Aleppo, we found the large khan completely overcrowded. All of the available rooms, roofs and verandas had been taken over by Armenians. Mainly women and children, but also a number of men were sitting on their blankets wherever they could find a bit of shade.
As soon as I heard that they were Armenians, I went there to speak to them. These were people from Furnus, from the area around Zeitun and Marash, who made a very sorry sight, packed together there in such a tight space. When asked about children from our orphanages in Marash, they brought a former pupil, Martha Karabashian. She told me the following: one day, Turkish policemen came to Furnus, arrested a large number of men who were to become soldiers and led them away. Neither they themselves nor their families knew where they were being taken. Those who remained behind were told that they would have to leave their homes within 4 hours. They were permitted to take as much as they could carry and as many mounts as they had. When the time limit was up, these poor people had to leave their village under the leadership of the soldiers (Zaptiehs); the people didn't know where they were going or if they would ever see their village again. In the beginning, as long as they were still in their mountains and had food, things went well. They had been promised money and bread, which they received at first, 30 para = 12 pfennigs per person, as far as I remember. But soon the rations stopped and there were only 50 drans = 150 grams of bulgur per person per day. In this way, the people of Furnus reached Der-el-Zor after a difficult 4 weeks' journey via Marash and Aleppo. They had already been there in the khan for 3 weeks and didn't know what was going to happen to them. They no longer had any money, and the food given by the Turks had also become very scanty. For days they had no longer been given any bread. In the towns they were locked in at night and not permitted to speak to the inhabitants. Thus, Martha had not been permitted to go to the orphanage in Marash. In a sad voice she told me: we had 2 houses and had to leave everything behind; now they are occupied by muhadjirs, Mohammedans who emigrated from Europe. There had been no massacres in Furnus, and the Zaptiehs had also treated the people well. They had mainly suffered due to a lack of food and water on the march through the burning hot desert. As Yailadshi (mountain inhabitants), as they called themselves, they had felt the heat particularly hard.
The accompanying Zaptiehs then told us that many of the men who had been taken away had been killed, and that this was the best thing for the Turks. Since the massacres, the Armenians had hated the Turks so much that the latter had always lived in fear. It was now being considered to use Armenians to build roads, leading them in this way on to Baghdad. Asked why, the Zaptiehs explained that the people had had connections with Russia. The Armenians themselves claimed that they did not know the reason for their expulsion.
The next day we met up with an entire Armenian camp during our midday break. In the manner of the Kurds, the poor people had made themselves primitive goat's hair tents in which they were resting. For the most part, however, they were lying unprotected on the burning sand under the beating sun. The Turks had permitted a day of rest because of the large number of ill people. You cannot imagine anything more wretched than such a crowd in the desert under the given circumstances. It was clear from their clothes that they had lived in a certain state of wealth, and now misery was written all over their faces. Bread, bread was the general cry. Anyone who has not personally experienced the desert will not even begin to understand the need and the tribulation. It is hilly, but mainly without shade. The road wanders over rocks for days and is very exhausting. Coming from Aleppo, you always have the Euphrates River on your left which drifts along like a yellow strip of clay, but not near enough to be able to drink from it. The pangs of thirst of these poor people must be unbearable, and it is no wonder that so many become ill and die. It was the people of Geben who were driven out together with their preacher. He told me that 5-6 children and ill people were dying every day. On that day, shortly before we spoke, the mother of a 9-year-old girl had been buried and she was now all on her own. They pleaded with me to take the child along to the orphanage. The preacher told me the same story as the girl in Der-el-Zor. Together with his parish he, too, had had to leave everything behind within 4 hours. Soldiers had also been levied in his town and then it was thanked for the warm reception. They did not know where they were being taken and now wanted to learn this from me. It gave them great joy to be able to speak to me in their own Armenian language. The Turks accompanying them spoke Turkish, of course, the Arabs in the desert only spoke Arabic, which is foreign to the Armenians. I saw a family of 5 with a small donkey; the mother and the youngest child were riding while the father walked along behind together with the two other 5- and 6-year-olds. The children had nothing to cover their heads with whatsoever. The people of Geben told me that some girls had been stolen by the Arabs, who had also indecently assaulted women.
As it was time for the midday break we unpacked our provisions in order to eat, but in view of the suffering crowd of humanity it was no mean feat for us to eat. We gave as much as we possibly could and each of my 3 travelling companions silently pressed a medjidje (3.50 German marks) into my hand "for the poor people." A bag of rock-hard bread from Baghdad was accepted from me with great thanks. "We will dip it into water and then the children can eat it," the happy mothers said. Everyone was of the opinion that none of them would reach Baghdad; they considered the desert to be their grave.
I remember another scene which gives an example of the neediness. One of my companions threw away an empty glass container. An old man pounces on it and asks if he may take it and thanks us for it. Then he went to the river, washed it out and brought it back filled with the thick clay water, carrying it carefully in his arms like a treasure, thanking us once more. Now he had drinking water for the journey.
Accompanied by many blessings, we finally moved on, all of us still under the influence of such misery. Having arrived at the village in the evening, we found another such Armenian camp there. This time it was the people from Zeitun. It was the same need and the same complaints about heat, lack of bread and molesting by the Arabs. A girl who had been brought up in an orphanage in Beyrout by the Kaiserswerther (Sisters) Deaconesses told us in good German about her experiences. They, too, had had 4 hours and then left, carrying a bed and a water receptacle in each hand. As long as they had had money, everything was fine; although they were cheated, they were still able to buy things. But now their financial means were at an end and bitter need was the order of the day. The woman had a child on her arm, and you could see that it only had a few days left to live; nor was there any bread available for the healthy. Why does God permit such a thing? Why must we suffer so? Why don't they simply beat us to death straight away? were their plaintive cries. We are mountain dwellers and cannot live in the desert. We have no water for the children during the day and they scream of thirst. At night the Arabs come and steal our beds and our clothes. They have taken our girls and (sexually) indecently assaulted the women. If we cannot march any further we are beaten by the Zaptiehs. And again their own cries of need, "The fruit is now ripe in our gardens and soon our grain will be, as well: who will harvest it? We cannot even get an apple for our children here. I myself still had a dress. Yesterday I sold it for 12 piasters—that's 1.80 German marks—in order to give the children bread; the 12 piasters are also gone: what shall I do now?" This woman also told us that other women had hurled themselves into the water in order to avoid the shame; that mothers were doing the same with their newborn children, because they saw no way out of their need. We also gave this woman money and bought all of the bread available in the village. Unfortunately, it was not much. There was a lack of food along the entire desert road, even for those of us who could still pay for it, due to the many passing through and Turkish soldiers resting in each khan. No one was killed in Zeitun, either; the people knew of no cases whatsoever. They are simply shunted off into the desert and many die there.
A quick death together with their family appears to the mothers to be easier than slowly watching themselves and their families die of starvation.
According to an estimate by my travelling companions, we have met about 3,000 such displaced persons.
Upon arrival in Aleppo, I was immediately questioned with regard to the Armenians and their food supply. They are being looked after in every way possible and people have applied on their behalf to the government. The only achievement was permission to found an Armenian charity organisation, which was permitted by the government in Constantinople and also by the Vali of Aleppo. The Armenians in Aleppo immediately raised a sum among themselves for aid, and it is possible to send money and food and clothes to the poor homeless through the German Consulate and this organisation. The number of Armenians who were expelled from their homes in this area is estimated at 30,000.
The 2nd day out from Aleppo in the Amanus Mountains we once again met Armenians, this time the people from Hadjin and the surrounding area. They said that they were going to Aleppo, but they didn't know any more. They had only been on the road for nine days and did not require any aid. Compared to those in the desert, they were living in excellent conditions. They had wagons, household goods, horses with foals, oxen and cows and even camels with them. The convoy stretching up the mountainside was endless and I had to ask myself how long this prosperity would last. At present they were still on their home territory in the mountains and had no idea of the terrors of the desert.
This was the last I saw of the Armenians. But such experiences cannot be forgotten, and I pass them on with a fervent plea for help. While many of the Armenians may be guilty and must blame themselves for their suffering, the poor women and children need our help.
Adana, July 12, 1915.
I have been here in Adana for several days. The reason for my being here is to bring a protest to the Vilayet government against all of my teachers being banned, just like all the other people. This measure applies to the entire country; the entire Armenian population is to be pulled out of its gainful employment and its property taken from it in order to transplant it to previously uncultivated, desert areas. This concerns the Armenian population in the entire country, including that in the towns, so that in Adana 13 to 15,000 Armenians are affected by this measure. When I now return to Harunia, there may be no Armenians left in the town; all of them have been driven away.
The villages around Marash are empty and Marash itself is to be cleared out any day now. I heard that in Marash the post office has not been accepting any more letters for Germany for a while. (For 4 weeks no international mail was accepted by the Turkish post office.) It is a very sad state of affairs and our work is in danger. It may be that there will be obstacles to deter our carrying out the plan; we heard today, for example, that cholera had broken out in the expellees' camp in Osmania. Naturally, that can happen easily if you look at the masses of people coming together. The people in the country had begun harvesting and these people, who had worked so hard to till their fields, had to leave everything half-finished: the gardens were tilled and the fruit trees hung heavy with fruit, but not for those who have to leave. The people have had incredible losses; they had to dump their household goods and their livestock, for they could only take the bare necessities with them. The poor people, and there are many pregnant women, newborn babes and ill people among them, yes, even blind and lame people! They couldn't even fit themselves out with appropriate clothing and special shoes for the journey. Most of the children travel barefoot on the hot, dusty road and soon their small feet will be burned and sore.
You may now ask why the Turkish government is doing this. It is for military reasons, for national security. They believe that if the British should fall in here, the Armenians would become a danger by switching over to them. Unfortunately, I must say that individuals have given cause for such assumptions, and insofar as rumours leak through to here from Van and Mush, this seems to have happened there. It is said that they fought there with the Russians against the Turks. But at any rate, the method followed here is barbaric and equals the decimation of the population. I have sent a detailed letter to the Ambassador and requested that he soften the hardships. There is no telling what valuables will be destroyed in the towns, and many firms will have to be closed down because their workers, who cannot be replaced in any other manner, have been taken away from them. There are countless objects of value in the commercial businesses run by the Armenians. There can be no thought of selling or auctioning off the goods; everything will have to be left behind to fall into the hands of those who have done nothing to earn it. This time, the Turks are enriching themselves more than through any previous massacre, and they do not need to fight for the goods: they are simply dropping into their laps.
As far as our children are concerned, I hope to be able to save them from the fate of being sent out onto the road and into an uncertain future. They have now truly become orphans; until then, some of them still had an uncle, a grandmother or some other relative, but now they have lost everything and the homes they came from as well as all their other property, the garden and fields, are now in the hands of the Turks.
Entilli, July 15, (1915)
The Armenians are all being expropriated; it is an unparalleled misery.
There is a great migration, for many into disaster through need and death. The poor people!
In the Vilayet of Aleppo, the inhabitants of Hadjin, Sheer, Albistan, Göksun, Tasholuk, Zeitun, all of the villages of Alabash, Geben, Shivilgi, Furnus and the neighbouring villages, Fundadjak, Hasssanbeli, Kharne, Lappashli, Dört Yol and others were expelled and entire colonies are being sent into the desert under the pretext of settling there.
The village of Tel Armen (on the Baghdad Railway near Mosul) which, including the neighbouring villages, has approx. 5,000 inhabitants, was completely massacred with the exception of a few women and children. The people were thrown alive into the wells or burned. A German major was an eyewitness of these atrocities. A voluntary corps supposedly carried out the atrocities.
It is said that the Armenians are to be used to colonize the estates 25-30 km away from the Baghdad Railway. However, since only women and children are banned, because all the men are at war with the exception of the old ones, this is synonymous with murdering the family, since there are no workers, no money, etc., available to cultivate the land. A German met a Christian soldier he knew who had come from Jerusalem on leave; he was wandering about along the Euphrates River, searching for his wife and children who had supposedly been sent to that area. You often meet such unhappy people also in Aleppo, as they believe that they can learn more there about the whereabouts of their families. It has happened repeatedly that if one member of the family is absent, he returns to find that all of his family are missing as they have all been cleared off.
During one entire month you could observe corpses floating in the Euphrates River almost every day, often 2-6 persons bound together. The male corpses are partly very mutilated, genitals cut off, etc., women's corpses with the bodies slit open. For this reason, the Turkish military Kaimakam in Djerablus on the Euphrates River refused to have the bodies buried, as he could not determine if the men were Mohammedan or Christian and, furthermore, he had no order to do so. The corpses, which are washed up to the bank are eaten by dogs and vultures. There are numerous eyewitnesses for this (Germans). One of the officials of the Baghdad Railway stated that during the day the prisons are filled in Biredjik and at night they are emptied (Euphrates). Between Diyarbekir and Urfa, a German cavalry captain saw countless corpses, which had not been buried, lying along the road.
Aleppo and Urfa are the collection points. In June, July, there were approx. 5,000 in Aleppo; during the entire period from April to June far more than 50,000 passed through. With regard to transports in small groups, it is the rule that the men who are still there are separated at night from the women to permit the soldiers to carry out nasty deeds undisturbed against the latter. Almost without exception, the young girls are kidnapped by the soldiers and their Arabian accomplices. A father close to desperation asked me to take his 15-year-old daughter with me as he could no longer protect her from being pestered. Three engineers from the Baghdad Railway had to work in Tel Ebiad (100 km east of the Euphrates River). Towards evening the Kaymakam came and offered each of them a young Armenian girl for the night.
A Turkish major told a German that the children left along the way by the Armenians could not be counted. He and his brother had each taken one into their homes to bring it up.
Women who went into labour along the way had to continue along immediately afterwards. One night, a woman had twins near Aintab; the following morning she had to carry on. She soon had to leave the children laying under a bush and a short while later she herself collapsed. Another gave birth during the march; she had to move on immediately and soon collapsed, dead. There were more such cases between Marash and Aleppo.
In response to the comment by the Badveli [Armenian clergyman]from Memolian (?), "You'll kill all the people," a Turk replied, "Yes, that's what we want." Generally, the soldiers rob any cash along the way. The Badveli mentioned watched while 43 Turkish Lira were taken from one family and 28 Turkish Lira from another.
The village of Sheer was permitted to take all of its household goods along. Suddenly along the way they were told that orders had been given to leave the road and travel over the mountains. Everything, wagons, oxen, things had to be left on the road, and then they went on foot over the mountains. Naturally, in view of the exceptionally hot weather this year, many women and children died on these marches. While the inhabitants of Sheer had not yet left their village, the Mullah was already calling the "believers" for prayer from the roof of the Christian church. The government says to the expellees: we will estimate the value of your house and your property and then pay; nothing has happened yet and furthermore, since no one knows where the individual families will end up, payment is hardly possible. The government also says that it will take care of everyone, financially as well. In the village of Bumbusch (1 ½ days' journey from Aleppo) the people banned there have actually been paid money to support themselves: 30 persons receive a total of 26 piasters for 30 days, making not even 1 piaster = 15 pfennigs per person per month. A telegram arrived in Aleppo from Arabkir: "We have accepted the true faith and now we are doing well." The inhabitants of a village near Anderum converted to Islam and were allowed to stay. In Hadjin, 6 families wanted to become Mohammendan. They were given the following decision: under 100 families will not be accepted.
A German lady told us that many people were being treated for their feet in the hospital in Marash, toes were being amputated, etc., which was put down to the treatment by the soldiers (bastinado). The gendarmes call this new kind of punishment "German drill." A Turkish officer said, "We didn't know this punishment before; we've learned it from the Germans." A respected Mohammedan sheik said, "When people speak in my presence about the persecution of the Armenians, I'm ashamed to be a Turk."
Of the approx. 50,000 expellees who passed through Aleppo, approx. nine-tenths received the order one evening to move on the next morning. On average, one donkey was permitted for every 2 people as a pack animal and mount. The people received 1 kilo of bread per month from the government as their ration. Four-fifths of all expellees are women and children.
There is no news of the approx. 30,000 expellees as they have arrived in neither Aleppo nor Urfa.
Aleppo, July 18, 1915.
The information given above is only a fraction of what we have seen and learned in Aleppo.
The first victims were the president of the Dashnak together with 20 notables, among them the priest Aliponar. The people were taken into custody, ill-treated and then had them murdered by Osman-Bey and the Mudir of the police, Hussein Bey. The priest's young wife was raped by 10 Saptiehs and almost tormented to death. For approx. 30 days a larger number of Armenians was arrested daily who were then killed at night in prison. Two doctors were forced to certify that the cause of death of all those killed had been typhus. Dr. Mahan was arrested together with 10 other notables on the pretext of having been banished to Malatia. On the way there they were all killed.
Between 10 and 30 May, a further 1,200 of the most respected Armenians and other Christians were arrested, without differentiation for their faith, from the Vilayet of Diyarbekir and Mamuret-ul-Aziz. On 30 May, 674 of them were loaded onto 13 kelleks (Tigris boats) on the pretext of being brought to Mosul. The Vali's adjutant carried out the transport together with about 50 gendarmes. Half of these distributed themselves on the boats while the rest rode along the bank. Soon after setting off, all the money (approx. 6,000 Turkish Lira) and clothes were taken off the people and they were then thrown into the river. It was the duty of the gendarmes on the bank to ensure that no one got away. The people's clothes were sold at the market in D. Incidentally, the son, Omarke, of the Kurd chief's wife, Perikhan, who had been sent for especially for this, also assisted in these murders. As Omarke had previously been pursued by the government, Feisi-Bey first obtained free passage for him.
At the same time, approx. 700 young Armenian men were supposedly enlisted in the army, but then had to build the Karabakshe-Habashi road. During this work, the young men were then shot down one day by the Zaptiehs guarding them, and not one escaped. The Obashi in charge boasted later that he had managed to shoot down the 700 men using only 5 Zaptiehs.
One day in Diyarbekir, the clothes were taken off 5-6 priests; they were then covered in tar and pulled through the streets.
The Kaymakam of Citshi (?) refused to carry out the order given to him verbally by a messenger from the Vali to kill the Armenians, remarking that he wished to have the order in writing. He was dismissed, sent to D., but killed by his accompanying troops on his way there. In Mardin, the Mutessarif was also dismissed as he did not carry out the will of the Vali. Once 500 and then again 300 of the notables of all confessions were brought to D. from here. The first 600 never arrived and nothing was ever heard of from the others.
[From Zimmermann to the Embassy in Constantinople (No. 1589), 25 August]
Schuchard's journey is completely inappropriate at present. Would not get past Constantinople and achieve nothing. Embassy is doing everything possible for the institutes of the Charity-Organisation.
Mr. Schuchardt was informed verbally of the contents of the telegram and strongly advised not to undertake the planned journey. He was informed that, should he travel against the wishes of the Foreign Office, he could expect no support from this end for his journey. He reserved the right to come back to this matter in a new petition and promised that, should he travel to Constantinople, he would strictly adhere to the Embassy's directives. Mr. Schuchardt passes on the enclosed article. [This article was published in the "Basler News". See Encl. 2 to document 1915-09-22-DE-002]