I would like to comment on the final sentence of the enclosed report of the Imperial Consul in Aleppo that, in my opinion, it is necessary to make it a condition of the handing out of Blank’s letter that the contents are disclosed either by the press or in any other way.
Even under the provision that the facts contained therein are correct, there is still no cause for us to publicise them, let alone in a version which appears to be disadvantageous to the Turkish government and the Muslim population; we would only supply the enemy press with welcome material in their campaign against the Turkish government, make the position of the German welfare missions in the interior more difficult and hardly be of any use to the persecuted Armenians themselves, but only harm them.
K.No. 55 / J.No. 1000
Supplement to my report of 12 April, K.No. 39 (J.No. 764)
Enclosed I would like to hand over to Your Excellency the copy of a letter by the missionary Blank from Marash, which I have only just received today and which is dated 14 April, addressed to Mr. F. Schuchardt, Director of the "German Christian Charity-Organisation for the Orient" in Frankfurt/Main, as well as an excerpt from the letter addressed to me dated 15 April. I left Marash on 8 April. The letters give a clear picture of how things have continued to develop during the following week.
Since then, according to reports from other sources, the expulsions from Zeitun and the surrounding villages have assumed greater proportions. Furthermore, deportations have now also begun in Marash, according to a telegram from Blank dated 9th inst. The real estate of the deportees is valued by a specially formed commission and is supposed to be refunded to them. But time will tell whether this intention of the government will actually be carried out. The re-settlement is said to be planned in the Vilayet Konia and apparently in Tyrus. But if they continue to be treated in the way described by Blank, then the deportees, provided they have not lost their lives in the meantime, will arrive in a wretched and sick state and will no longer be capable of re-establishing themselves economically again. In place of the deportees, Muslim refugees from the Balkans will be resettled in Zeitun and surrounding areas.
In the meantime I have tried to find out on what the attitude of the government to a widespread Armenian conspiracy is based. But I have only been able to discover one fact. A neutral personality who is in close contact with Armenians and well informed about them, has told me that at the beginning letters had been sent by inhabitants of Dört Yol to Zeitun declaring that the moment was favourable for an uprising. Contact had been established with the English warships. Whether the letters had reached their destination is not known to my informant. If his source was properly informed at all, this would prove an appeal to revolt. It is unknown how the addressees reacted to this request. If, from the English side the addresses of members of the charity organisation, which were in fact accessible in Egypt, were used in English interests, then it would have been fair; if, from the Turkish side, proof should be presented of a disloyal attitude or disloyal acts on the part of the same, before punishing the addressees. It appears, however, that this was not regarded as necessary. Also in all other respects, the government seems to have regarded the conspiracy through a magnifying glass. I am convinced that the greater majority of the deportees is suffering innocently. The members of the charity organisation have always acted openly towards the government. And now they are having to pay the price for this. The government also seems to be insisting on the archaic opinion that a whole people must be punished in solidarity for the deeds of an individual or of a few, for its punishments extend to the destruction of the Armenians in whole districts. All Armenians with possessions, education or influence are to be removed so that only a leaderless herd is left behind. It is in danger of undermining any hopes that it will be possible for the Armenians to live peaceably with it and, therefore, is itself providing the basis for confusion.
I will be passing the original of Blank’s letter to Director Schuchardt to the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople and leaving it to his discretion to decide whether and under what conditions it can be handed out to the addressees.
It will also receive a copy of this report. [Only Roessler's report to Bethmann Hollweg is in the files.]
... If you could see in what sort of a condition the people are arriving from Zeitun. One does not like to behold such misery and when one even sees what kind of devilish joy it arouses in the Turks and that they are not even satisfied with what they see – they would most like to see the blood of those people flowing. The people who have arrived are reduced to beggary and, as it seems, have lost all their possessions. At least everything has been confiscated by the government. Would it not be possible for the Embassy to do something about it? Because as an ally of Turkey we can hardly approve of this way of dealing with matters. As I already explained to you recently, the government is partly to blame for the repeated excesses occurring in Zeitun. If the promises made had at least been kept, then a great step would have been taken towards gaining the confidence of the people. This time again, it appears that those who have been led away from Zeitun were not told the truth, but, as I have heard from the people themselves, they were told that they would be brought to Marash and in the hope that they will be able to stay here, they accepted it all in silence. Once they were here, they were simply put in a khan and transported on after only one day of rest. While they were being transported away, I saw with my own eyes how the soldiers drove the people on by digging in their ribs although they were so very close together that it was impossible to march even closer together. The soldiers were encouraging each other. It just looked as if a herd of animals was being driven along. But I was pleased to see how the people simply swallowed all this.
Marash Station, 14 April 1915
Dear Mr. Schuchardt,
Today I wish to report again to you on some of the events between April 9 and 13 and hope that I am successful in getting the letter to you with the assistance of the Consul and the Embassy.
Since the Consul left us, many things have occurred that are actually almost impossible to describe. We always hoped that the Zeitun affair and its atrocities would soon be over, but this is not the case to date.
On 10 April, we had a new visitor, Major Count Wolffskeel. He came with Fakhri Pasha from Damascus. The Major is living here with us in the hospital. On the 11th, we invited Fakhri Pasha to lunch, and so I had a better opportunity of presenting certain matters to him, in particular also about Zeitun. The Major has also enquired in detail about these matters and then reported to Fakhri Pasha. Yesterday, on 12 April, they both left for Zeitun and we expect them back again tomorrow. The Pasha does not appear to be satisfied with the related facts. But I wish to wait until he returns and then make a decision.
During these past few days, many a thing has happened which one can no longer describe as being humane. During the night of 7th to 8th April, Hagob Agha Kehrlakian was fetched out of his bed at 10.30 in the evening by 4 soldiers with the excuse that the Chairman of the Court Martial wished to see him. When he did not hasten to get ready, they threatened to shoot him. He went with the aforesaid soldiers, but was not brought before the Court Martial, but out of the town. Beyond the town they surrounded him and demanded 300 Lire or they would shoot him. When they realised that nothing was of any use, they called for the officer, by whom they appeared to have been sent. When he arrived, he began to scold the soldiers with the most beautiful words he knew and said: Was it he I demanded, but I wanted one of his relatives, to which the soldiers had no objections of course. But it was quite clear whom they were supposed to bring. When Hagob Agha said to him that he could not simply accept this matter as a member of the Imperial Parliament, he began to ask him for forgiveness and kissed him as much as he could, saying it was a mistake, he had not wanted him, he had been brought here by mistake, and he now wanted to pay him all kinds of honours, even had a horse fetched and brought him home on it, through the midst of those very same soldiers who had fetched him beforehand. On the way, one of the soldiers is said to have told a comrade: We only acted on orders and if something should happen now, it will all be our responsibility. The officer involved was a captain. For him, it was the last night he spent in Marash, because the next morning he left with his soldiers for Aintab before this affair became known. Hagob Agha applied to the Court Martial, but nothing more has been heard about the matter since then. It was obviously just a deed to make money, but which had failed.
But over the past few days, other things have occurred, too. On 11 April, a transport of families (25) arrived in a sorry state in Marash from Zeitun. When they approached the town, the Muslims from Marash went out to meet them and took fiendish joy in seeing the hated people of Zeitun captured. They could not refrain from adding to their misery by pestering them with words and abuse and the others had to calmly submit to all this. Driven from all sides, they were brought into a khan where they were kept under strict surveillance. Almost no one was allowed to them to bring them some food, even if they were close relatives. They had almost nothing at all with them and in the eyes of the Turks, they were worth nothing anyway. When recently the government gave the order for some of the stray dogs on the street to be shot dead, many Turks took them into their houses quickly because they considered it to be a sin, but on the other hand to kill a person is still a merit, not a sin. The Christians are less than dogs in the eyes of many Turks. Penned together in the khan, they spent one day and two nights. Their food was the subject of derision by the Turks. The belongings they had had to leave behind in Zeitun and, as I know for certain, their houses were locked up by the government. It therefore appears to me as if the officials, who are doing these things, are not sure what they are doing and perhaps those who they are now having led into exile, would be brought back into their homes by someone else, or even they are doing it in order to enrich themselves after the job is done. According to my experience, those are the reasons. Our sisters from Bethel wanted to give the poor people something to eat, but they were only able to do so with great difficulty. Amongst the arrivals there was not one who had rebelled against the government, but instead they were all from the better, wealthy people. In the second night before they were transported on, one woman gave birth and, despite many pleas, was not even allowed to stay here for at least a day, but without any mercy she had to continue the next morning with the others. The Turks fiendishly enjoy seeing these poor people herded together like a flock of sheep and led away, being pushed by the rough soldiers. Upon leaving Marash, the Bimbashi Said Bey laid yet another special trump on top. He said to the soldiers who had to transport them that they should be aware of how bad these people are that they had in front of them, because each of these would wish to kill at least one more Muslim if it were possible. If one of them should put up any resistance or run away, they should shoot him down immediately. If not, the other would do this to him. Finally he gave them the right to dispose over the women among these poor people by saying they might do what they like with them. He also gave vent to his anger on these poor folk and the Muslims standing around were not just slightly delighted at this. He was even proud of his 'heroic deed,' as he felt his actions could be called. These 25 families, as I was given to understand by the government, were brought to the Konia district and resettled there.
On 13 April, a new transport arrived from Zeitun. This time the Muslims were held back slightly because the way in which they had behaved towards the first transport had not met with the approval of many Turks. Some told me directly that it was incorrect to behave like this towards the poor people, but, they said, from our side we can do nothing about it. They too were put in the khan. This time is was a little easier to arrange some food for them. The guards were not so strict. When I heard exactly who had arrived today, it hurt me, because they included people who had done everything to fulfil the wishes of the government, and still they had to be deported. But why? Because they are wealthy! I am convinced of it. And among these there were no Eshkians. [Translated in a copy as "robbers".] This morning I could not wait and wanted to see whether the Commander would use such mean words again when he passed them over for further transportation. I went and stood near him among the Turks who were present and who happened to be watching the events. When he saw me, he looked me up and down critically and I noticed that he was not pleased to see me here. He stopped and, due to my presence, he refrained from his godless blessing. He only passed them on to an officer and went away. But one could see that he was not in a good mood, at least because he was not able to let off steam. He is absolutely cowardly if he sees someone whom he thinks could pass on his words to others.
On 14 April, another group of people arrived here from Furnus who were also to be deported. The reason is as follows: on the road from Furnus to Tshuhur-hisar a Turk had been murdered by 3 people from Furnus. The people of Furnus surrendered the murderers immediately, but they found no mercy through this and, although innocent, they are now being deported as hostages. There is just no law and justice here at all.
15 April 1915. Also today many people arrived from Zeitun. Most of them on foot with their children on their backs. A pitiful sight. But pity is something that is not present in the Turks in Marash. Most of them were without any footwear. What can anyone say? One just has to keep quiet and swallow it all, as there is nobody here who will listen. When will the time come when justice rules the day?
With best regards,