On the occasion of his mission to the East Anatolian theatre of war, Field Marshal von der Goltz had made a request that he be given transcripts of the instructions sent to the Imperial consulates regarding the Armenian question and, at the same time, receive orientation on our point of view in this question. I then had the notes, a transcript of which is enclosed, sent to him.
Among other things, the Field Marshal’s request was induced by an expedition already planned by the Turkish military command a while ago against a number of Christians of Syrian faith who barricaded themselves together with Armenians in a position between Mardin and Midiat which was difficult to access, in order to escape from the slaughters of Christians organised by the Vali of Diyarbekir. As the 4th Army (Djemal Pasha), which was originally given the order for this expedition, was too far away, the Field Marshal had given the order to restore order to a detachment of the 3rd Army. On his part, out of consideration for the fact that there was no actual riot and in agreement with the Vali of Mosul, Holstein, the consulate administrator in Mosul, had referred to the method of negotiations with the besieged, and described it as desirable that, among other personalities, Mr. von Scheubner-Richter, whose troops were also to take part in the expedition, should be present at the negotiations. However, the Field Marshal, who, quite rightly, did not wish to have German officers involve themselves in this matter, gave the order that Mr. von Scheubner’s troops were not to be enlisted in the expedition in question. Incidentally, I heard that the Turkish Supreme Headquarters gave the order to the leader of the detachment situated near Midiat that, if possible, the matter was to be settled amicably together with the Vali.
On 31 May, the consulates in Erzurum, Mosul, Adana, Aleppo and Baghdad were informed that in order to curb Armenian espionage and to prevent Armenian mass uprisings, the Ministry of War had decided, among other measures (such as closing the Armenian schools, suppressing Armenian newspapers, etc.), to resettle in Mesopotamia all those families from the centres insurgent at that time who were considered to be not quite unobjectionable, as well as that Enver Pasha had urgently requested that we not hinder him from doing so. A remark had been added to this information that, out of consideration for Turkey’s political and military situation, we should moderate government’s measures in their form of implementation, but not basically hinder them.
Previously, on 19 resp. 21 May, special decisions had been made to this purpose on the inquiries made by the consulates in Erzurum and Adana. In this connection, the consulate in Erzurum had been informed that it should keep its intervention on behalf of the Armenians within the limits of a piece of friendly advice to avoid giving it the character of an official representation.
On 21 June the same consulate was instructed to intercede firmly with the Vali against the slaughtering of the deportees, because such incidents damaged the reputation of the Turkish government both in neutral foreign countries and among its own friends and undermined the authorities of its public officials. This edict also states:
He as well as the consuls in Aleppo, Erzurum, Mosul and Samsun repeatedly interceded in the aforementioned sense with the provincial authorities.
After it became known here through reports from the most diverse sources that the German government and its representatives in Turkey were often described as the originators of the Armenian persecutions, the following instructions were issued on 11 August to the applicable consulates:
II. Our point of view in the Armenian question was that the Turkish government, in the interests of the military and of the country’s inner security, had the right to resort to extraordinary means which could be described as acts of self-defence, such as, for example, the compulsory deportation of the Armenian population from the areas threatened by the Russian invasion and by the actions of the French and the British fleets.
On the other hand, the German Foreign Office and the Imperial Embassy disapproved of all the different kinds of excesses which set in as a result of these compulsory measures: the murder of individual personalities, the mass executions that took place particularly in Diyarbekir and Kaisaria, the attacks on the deportee transports, the systematically organised slaughter of thousands of defenceless men and women in individual towns (in Mush, Erzurum,Erzindjan, Trebizond, Diyarbekir, Angora, Malatia), the extension of the slaughters to Christians of other denominations who have no common political interests with the actual (so-called Gregorian) Armenians and, in part, are enemies of theirs; also, the merciless treatment of the evacuees who, robbed of all means of subsistence, were abandoned to hunger and misery did not seem to be justifiable.
From a military point of view there was just as little justification for the evacuation of the Armenian population from those parts of the country far distant from the theatre of war.
The economic damage, which this measure caused affects the country’s trade, agriculture and industry in the same measure; German interests have already been severely affected.
In the common interest of the allies, the Imperial Embassy has repeatedly pointed out the political and commercial effects of the persecution of the Armenians to the Sublime Porte and urged that the worst misuses be brought to an end; in doing so, it deliberately did not place an emphasis on the humanitarian point of view and also avoided the impression that it wished to involve itself in an internal political matter.
In numerous cases in which German interests have been affected, the embassy interceded in an official and semi-official form for individual Armenians. The embassy also repeatedly instructed individual consulates to intercede in the appropriate form against atrocities, which had occurred and for a humane treatment of the Armenians. Finally, through us, the Sublime Porte became aware of individual, particularly grave excesses. The Imperial Embassy is all the more embarrassed by the opinion of large circles in the interior of the country, particularly in Anatolia, in which the German government supposedly provoked the Turkish government’s offences against the Armenians and the consuls in the provinces supported and encouraged the local authorities in their persecution of the Armenians. This opinion is held not only by the Armenians, but also by the Turks and, as the news repeatedly shows, is being spread deliberately by Turkish public officials and military of both higher and lower rank. Germany, on its part, must protest strongly against these statements, and the Imperial Government reserves the right to take forceful measures against this in public at the opportune moment.