Ref. Directive No. 857, No. 855 [A 32368.] and Telegram No. 2401.
I have seriously discussed the Armenian atrocities during the course of the past week with Enver Pasha, with Halil Bey and today with Djemal Pasha and pointed out that wide circles both in allied foreign countries and in Germany were in the grip of unrest and indignation and that, unless these atrocities were stopped, these circles would end up withdrawing all their sympathies from the Turkish government. Enver Pasha and Halil Bey claim that no further deportations are intended, especially not from Constantinople. They take refuge behind the plea of necessities of war, that revolutionaries needed to be punished, and carefully evade the accusation that hundreds of thousands of women, children and elderly people are being driven into misery and ultimately to their deaths. Djemal Pasha says that the original orders were indeed necessary, but that their execution had been badly organised. He does not deny that the result was a deplorable state of affairs which he was trying to alleviate by distributing food and money. This is true. His military base around Aleppo is infested due to the wretchedness of the refugees, and he is seeking relief; he has also had several people hanged who had stolen from the refugees. Colonel von Kress, Djemal’s Chief of Staff, tells me that the misery simply defies every description and transcends all accounts. At the same time, rumour has it that the Germans actually wanted these massacres.
I presented my case in an exceedingly sharp language. Protests are useless and Turkish denials that no more deportations are to be undertaken, are worthless.
I have learned from a very trustworthy source that according to information provided by the local Chief of Police, which I beg to keep secret, lately about 4000 Armenians also from Constantinople have been deported to Anatolia and that the remaining 80000 Armenians still living in Constantinople are to be gradually cleared away, 30000 having already been deported during the summer and a further 30000 having fled. Should a stop be put to this, then more severe means are necessary. I would therefore like to suggest publishing the following notice in the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, with the instruction to me that it has been commissioned by the Imperial Government:
”In view of the numerous reports that have reached Germany, partly through the foreign press, about the sad fate of the Armenians of Turkey who have been evacuated from their former homes to be resettled in other areas, a growing concern is spreading among large segments of the German people. If every state should be free to decide, particularly in times of war, to proceed with all severity that is warranted under martial law against rebellious elements of its population, then every precaution should be taken in executing the orders, which are necessary for the safety of the state, to avoid an entire race, including old people, women and children, having to suffer through the fault of a few individuals.
In view of the close friendly relations that exist between Turkey and Germany as a result of their alliance, the Imperial Government has felt obliged, as soon as the first news came through about the deeply unfortunate events which have occurred during the relocation of the Armenian people, and which seem mainly to have been caused by the blunders of subordinates, to urgently direct the attention of the Turkish government through the offices of the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople to the excesses and harshness and to repeatedly demand, both orally and in writing, that a stop be put to them immediately. The Imperial Government earnestly hopes that in the interest of both Turkey itself and the Armenian race these remonstrations will be complied with.”
Also, our annoyance about the persecution of the Armenians should be clearly expressed in our press and an end be put to our gushings over the Turks. Whatever they are accomplishing is due to our doing; those are our officers, our cannons, our money. Without our help that inflated frog would be slowly deflated. There is no need to be so afraid in dealing with the Turks. It is not easy for them to switch to the other side and make peace. The English government will not readily make a pact with the present rulers, more likely with Djemal, if he should oust Enver, which is not out of the question. For years now the English government has been trying to bring Enver down. It is very unlikely that it will strive to make separate peace with the present rulers. But it is even more unlikely that it will avail itself of Enver Pasha to explore peace in general. It has hundreds of other channels available for such an exploration.
In order to achieve any success in the Armenian question, we will have to inspire fear in the Turkish government regarding the consequences. If for military considerations we do not dare to confront it with a firmer stance, then we will have no choice but, with further abortive protests which tend rather to aggravate than to be of any use, to stand back and watch how our ally continues to massacre.
The brain behind the deportation of the Armenians is Talaat Bey. He will not be returning from Anatolia until the end of the week. So I will not know until then what effect my discussions with his colleagues and with Djemal are having on him. I would therefore like to suggest that you wait with the publication in the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung until you receive a further telegram from me.
[Note Bethmann Hollweg, 17 December]