1917-05-31-DK-001
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Source: DK/RA-UM/Gruppeordnede sager 1909-1945. 139. N. 3., "Syrien"
Edition: Danish diplomatic sources
Departure of telegram: 05/31/1917
Arrival of telegram: 06/15/1917
Embassy/consular serial number: No. 87
Translated by: Matthias Bjørnlund
Last updated: 03/23/2012


The minister in Constantinople (Carl Ellis Wandel) to the Foreign Minister (Erik Scavenius)

Report



No. 87

Constantinople, 31 May 1917.

Confidential.

Mr. Foreign Minister,

I received a visit today from the American consul-general stationed in Beyrouth [Beirut], Mr. W. Stanley Hollis, who gave me quite a few interesting pieces of information about the conditions in Syria.

Since Mr. Stanley Hollis began his departure from Beyrouth to Constantinople it has been said by the American embassy here, which, because of the ambassador's illness, only left from here on the 29th, that they feared that the Turkish authorities would put obstacles in the way of his journey because he had witnessed so many incidents in Lebanon that the authorities wish to keep secret here as well as in Europe and America, and the embassy seems to have been right in this assumption in that he only managed to arrive here yesterday, the day after the departure of the embassy staff and of the ambassador.

My informant assures me that 55 percent of the population of Lebanon and Beyrouth have already died from starvation, even though there were enough provisions in the adjacent provinces to feed them, and that the population will become completely extinct if the present conditions last for another year.

The Turkish authorities have, he says, created these conditions intentionally by requisitioning the grain trade and making supply impossible because they want to annihilate the population which they believe have been harboring sympathies for the French and developed tendencies toward separatism since the Porte at the outbreak of the war deprived them of what was left of their self-governing status.

In other words, he believes that the Young Turk government is in the process of solving the Lebanese problem in a similar manner to the solving of the Armenian problem, albeit partly by other means.

By requisitioning the means of transportation, the military authorities have put insurmountable obstacles in the way of the supply of foodstuffs to Lebanon from its hinterland, and by dragging out the diplomatic negotiations with the American and Spanish diplomatic missions in Constantinople, the Turkish government has, he says, thwarted the American and Spanish plans to send foodstuffs to Beyrouth by sea to preserve the population.

My informant explains the strange fact that the population of Lebanon have put up with being exterminated this way without rebelling by describing the Maronites as miserable cowards who thoroughly lack guts and among whom there is only a minimum of an instinct of self-preservation left.

The statements, mentioned in my report No. XXI [21] of 3 February this year, statements that are supposed to justify the Turkish government, have, he says, been forced out of the Maronite Patriarch [Elias Hoyek Helta] by Ahmed Djemal Pacha through intimidation, and he adds that the Maronites will sign anything to save their skin.

Furthermore, the emigration from Lebanon has been large during the last years, both before the war when the Turks could not stop it, and, secretly, after the war broke out.

The French, who have for many years treated Lebanon like a semi-sovereign country and honoured the Patriarch as if he was a viceroy, have received many Maronite refugees on board their warships that are cruising the Lebanese coast.

As Mr. Stanley Hollis has been stationed as American consul-general in Beyrouth for the last 6 years, and I therefore presumed that he knew all of the persons who have played a political role in Syria during that period of time, I also questioned him about Monsieur Picot, the French envoy mentioned in my report No. LXXIX [79] of the 14th this month, who attends the Entente army that tries to push into Syria from the Sinai front.

This Monsieur Picot is, my informant assumes, identical with a M. George Picot [Francois Georges Picot], the French diplomat who was stationed as French consul-general in Beyrouth at the outbreak of the war, and who left the many compromising documents in the French consulate archives there which the Turks later took possession of, something that later resulted in the loss of life for so many prominent Arabs because they had involved themselves with the French agents who tried to establish a separatist Arab movement.

Before he left his post Mr. Picot had, says my informant, been officially promised by the Turkish Vali of Beyrouth that the integrity of the French consulate archives would be respected, and he settled for this assurance that was not kept instead of destroying all the documents that could be used for a trial for high treason against France's friends among the Arabs.

The French consuls had hardly left before the commander-in-chief in Syria, despite the promises given, seized all their properties and archives and examined it thoroughly to find the evidence he needed to further his political agenda, and it was copies of this evidence that I enclosed with my report No. CLVI [156] of 22 November 1916.

If Mr. Picot returns to Beyrouth as French governor of Syria he will have an account to settle with the Maronite clergy, Mr. Hollis said, and he will hardly forgive them the shameless opportunism and toadyism they have later displayed by playing into Djemal Pacha's hand to save themselves.

Having learned from Mr. Picot's experiences, Mr. Hollis has acted more carefully. Before he left Beyrouth he has personally burned his consulate archives at night so that the Turks would not see any suspicious smoke rising from the chimney, and he has disposed of the leftover ashes to avoid all suspicion that could otherwise easily come to rest on the persons he had been in touch with.

Mr. Hollis also seemed to be surprised about the choice of Mr. Picot as a possible administrator of Syria, if the French manage to take possession of this country, as the Arabs still have a vivid memory of what this gentleman's carelessness has cost them.

With the highest esteem I remain, Mr. Minister, yours faithfully

[Wandel]



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