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Link: http://www.armenocide.net/armenocide/armgende.nsf/$$AllDocs/1918-11-25-DE-001
Source: DE/PA-AA/R14105
Central register: 1918-A-51050
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Date of entry in central register: 11/30/1918 p.m.
Embassy/consular serial number:
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 03/23/2012

"Deutsch-Armenische Korrespondenz (German-Armenian Correspondence)

The German Government and the Armenian Question

The Accusations of the Entente.
The German government has constantly been reproached by the Entente press that it could have prevented the deportation of the Armenian people if it had only wanted to do so. Therefore, it must have been in agreement with the Turkish government on this matter. Yes, they even went so far as to see Germany as the actual instigator of the deportations with all of their atrocities. Armenia appears next to Belgium on the balance of Germany’s guilt caused by its barbarity. This is based on the following line of reasoning: undoubtedly, Germany is the leading power in the alliance of four. Turkey is dependent on it in all matters. It was pulled into the war by Germany, without any personal inclination. It received the means to fight, especially the money to carry on a war, from Germany. German army leaders drew up the war plans, German troops made the decisions, both on the Dardanelles as well as at Kut el-Amara. Before the Germans came, the Turks under Enver’s leadership suffered only losses on the Caucasian front: the Turks lost Erzurum because the Germans retreated or were sent back. Turkey can do nothing without Germany’s assistance: therefore, it must act according to Germany’s will in all matters, and Germany must be made jointly responsible for all of the undertakings carried out by the Turks, especially something as drastic as the Armenian deportations. This inference appeared to be so conclusive that even the Turks were caught up in it. Senior primary school teacher Niepage reports in his brochure that more humane Turks were not able to explain the dreadful events that happened during the deportations in any other way than that their government was not acting of its own free will here. The Hodjas preached in the mosques that it was the work of the Germans, who had ordered the Turkish government to do this.

Germany’s Guilt.

There is a grain of truth in this charge. First and foremost, the deportations were a military measure and, therefore, could not very well be kept secret from the German army leaders in Turkey. In fact, the plan was also presented to Field Marshall von der Goltz and approved by him. However, the official version looked harmless enough. The government’s order had the following wording:

“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.

This is the Germans’ fault: they do not know the Orient and, therefore, treat the Orientals the wrong way. From this, a completely different power structure has emerged between Germans and Turks than the one foreign countries expected. It is now apparent to everyone that Germany was never as strong in this war as outsiders believed it to be, that it was only by summoning all of its strength, which also included the strength of its allies, even such a weak one as Turkey, that it was able to withstand the attack of such superior numbers for so long. Germany was always obliged to show consideration for Turkey, and Turkish diplomacy took advantage of this everywhere, particularly in financial matters. Turkish diplomacy is the most skilful in the whole world; history has taught it to be so. Only by dint of the skilfulness of its diplomats did the Ottoman government manage to prevent the division it has been threatened with for over half a century. The fact has been admitted that the same cannot be said for German diplomacy. Turkey had a means in hand with which to put constant pressure on the German government: right from the beginning of the war, unofficial Turkish negotiators stayed in Lausanne, maintaining relationships with the Entente. Consequently, Germany had to show great consideration for its ally; it could never overstep the mark so as not to risk losing everything. There was a time, not so far from the Turkish measures against the Armenians, when everything possible was attempted to involve Turkey more strongly in public. That was the time when princes made visits, when members of parliament travelled to Constantinople; the time when it rained medals. This must all be taken into consideration in order to judge the German-Turkish power structure correctly. Germany was always the giver, but it never understood how to keep the upper hand in the alliance.

German Assistance for Armenia.

Despite this, there was no lack of German diplomatic steps in favour of the Armenians. We hope that those files will soon be opened that show proof of the repeated petitions made by the German government against the deportations. Until now, only the main committee of the German Reichstag has been informed of this, and the public was only told that the German government was interested in saving the Armenians. At any rate, at that time our Turkish friends were not satisfied with the attitude of the German Foreign Office. There was no lack of goodwill towards the Armenians in other ways as well. In its attempts to ease the fate of those Armenians from enemy countries who were staying in Germany, the German-Armenian Association was happy to have the government’s support. Collections for deported Armenians were not publicly permitted, so that only a few could take place. Public discussions on the events in Armenia were not allowed, which would have led to generous advertising. But the unofficial collections were carried out with the approval of the authorities. Out of consideration for Turkish antipathy, permission was not applied for to send a commission to bring larger financial amounts to the suffering Armenians, but in the negotiations carried out on this subject the strong sympathy held by the influential circles for the dreadful fate of the deportees became obvious. At any rate, the German government’s position was fundamentally different from the one it had taken at the time of the Hamidian Massacres, when collections were forbidden and Armenian lecturers were deported and the German Emperor sent his picture to the red sultan immediately after these events. Then, pure, so-called “realpolitic” with no regard whatsoever for humanitarian feelings; now, 100% humanitarian sympathy, which was not able to assert itself sufficiently merely out of regard for the war situation and the vacillating ally.

The Fault in Germany’s Policy.

While fully recognising the difficult situation in which the German government found itself with regard to the Armenian question, it must be reproached for having missed a means of employing a possibly very effective pressure on Turkey. It abstained completely from using public opinion to support its position. On the contrary, it used the measures of censorship to do everything possible to strengthen Turkey’s position towards Germany and to justify the judgement in neutral and enemy countries on Germany’s involvement in the Turkish atrocities. The German press remained completely disoriented. There was an almost fearful and rigorous restriction of free expression of opinion on the Armenian question. Just sending a small number of confidential messages as letters was forbidden, even if they only reported facts and refrained from any attack on the Turkish government whatsoever. This is just a small example of the numerous sins of censorship, which certainly lost no fewer battles than the army won. But with regard to our question, it can be proven without doubt how the government cut off its nose to spite its face in this matter.

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.

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