“Article 2. The commanders of the army of independent army corps and divisions may, in case of military necessity, and in case they suspect espionage and treason, deport individual or groups of inhabitants in villages or towns and resettle them in other places.”
The orders allowed for the deportees’ real estate to be entered in lists and taken into safe-keeping by the authorities, for the deportees to be sent to areas owned by the Baghdad Railway, where new property would be surveyed for them. Von der Goltz agreed to the plan in this form, which was reasonably consistent with the necessary military measures of civilised nations. Considering his long residency in Turkey, he must be reproached for not having foreseen how such a measure would be carried out by Turkish officials, for not having become suspicious, taking into account the history of Turkish-Armenian relations and the ever-spreading Pan-Turkism. But Goltz lived with the same incorrect estimation of the nature of the Turks as everyone else who knows the Turks only as soldiers. The Ottomans have always been a warrior-like people, putting their best foot forward as armed forces, and this is the origin of the saying about a Turk being the only gentleman in the Orient, that is known to date back to Bismarck. In addition, one always observes the same experience, namely, due to the separation between the lives of the individual peoples in the Orient, even when they live in the same towns, foreigners always regard the character of the individual tribes as unknown territory, even after they have lived in Turkey for a long time. One very crass example is the German master potter in Naumann’s “Asia”; an example to which, however, anyone who has really had a good look around the Orient would be able to add hundreds.
The German-Turkish Power Relationship.
The Turkish government admitted the measures against the Armenians only gradually and hesitantly. On 4 June it stated in the first communiqué on the Armenian question that its measures “by no means represent a movement against the Armenians”. Only in the fifth communiqué dated 16 July does it give the information that due to the claimed revolutionary movements “these Armenians have been removed from the border zones and the areas in which military roads have been set up” in order to remove them from Russian influence. On 27 August the Turkish Consul General in Geneva still gave assurances in the newspaper that “the entire Armenian movement, men, women and children, were enjoying the complete protection and safety of the authorities”. It was only when the entire German press took Turkey’s side on the Armenian question and no longer willingly and indiscriminately accepted Turkish assertions, but instead even surpassed them, that the Turkish government dared to come out into the open. After the capture of Van, the Milli agency reported, “Of the 180000 Moslems residing in the Vilayet of Van, hardly 30000 were able to save themselves. The rest were murdered by the Russians and the Armenians, and until now no one has found out anything about their fate.” The German press turned this into, “It has been proven that 150000 Mohammedans were the victims of the Armenians.” – while in reality hardly anything happened to even one Mohammedan and the vast majority of those Mohammedans consists of Kurds who were safe in their mountains. It is no wonder that such partisanship in the press encouraged the Turks to reply to the petitions of the German government with an energetic, almost scornful refusal. If the German government had only given German public opinion some room, the abhorrence felt by the most extensive circles in the German population towards Turkish measures would have become apparent – and this would have been obvious as soon as it would have been possible to learn something about the facts – against the unanimous judgement of the civilised world, not even Turkey could have developed the cynicism with which it proceeded in the Armenian question.
There were sufficient slight attempts by the German government along these lines. Discussion of the Armenian question was prohibited twice in the press reports in Berlin. But each time this was immediately followed up by official Turkish reports, which the Germans felt under obligation to have Wolff’s office spread about. While the pro-Armenian articles were completely banned from being printed without any such official decree, there was never a lack of distorting, anti-Armenian articles in the press which, upon complaints from the friends of the Armenians, were objected to from above, but nothing really serious was ever undertaken to ensure that this would not be repeated.
The discussion has now been opened. We can no longer feel happy about this, because we are faced with many problems. Only when traffic with foreign countries can take place unhindered again will the German public realise what great damage Germany did to itself by means of these incorrect censorship measures and what a serious contribution the incorrect judgement made abroad concerning Germany’s position in the Armenian question has made to the opposition in the world against Germany.