My Report No. 9 dated 15 May on the Armenian unrest in Van and the situation here had hardly been sent off when the news reached us that orders had been given to clear all of the Armenians out of the entire Plain of Passin to the north of Erzurum and take them to the Terdshan area. I immediately inquired of the Vali if this were right. The Vali confirmed the news and added that he himself did not agree much with this measure; but that it had been ordered by the army and he had to obey. He promised to be as lenient as possible in carrying it out and to protect the property left behind by the Armenians. Orders had also been given to clear Erzurum itself of Armenians; this order, however, was cancelled for the time being. According to private information, the Vali sent a telegram to Constantinople requesting that the order to clear the Plain of Passin be cancelled, but received the answer that he was to obey military instructions.
As I have already emphasised to Your Excellency in my telegrams on this subject, this entire measure appears to be useless and unfounded. An uprising is not to be feared on the part of the local Armenians. In this, the local Armenians differ greatly from the Armenians in Van and its surroundings. They are not organised and also have no weapons. In addition, the male Armenian population between 17 and 48 has been enlisted in military service. Those who sympathised with Russia crossed the border long ago. Thus, this measure mainly affects women and children who are now, at the beginning of the rainy season, forced to leave their villages and, due to the lack of means of transportation, usually emigrate on foot to the Plain of Terdshan, a journey of 6-8 days. They took their livestock with them, but had to leave their provisions of fodder behind, and these were immediately confiscated by the government. A part of the livestock being driven along will probably die due to the lack of fodder.
Thus, if the relocation measure appears to be useless, the way in which it is carried out is foolish. Accompanied by only a few gendarmes, the masses of evacuated Armenians march in a wide stream across the fields, which have been freshly tilled with great difficulty, and camp on them. The livestock grazes off all the seeds. Thus, a large part of the sown fields around Erzurum have been destroyed. Not only do the Armenians suffer from this, but also the Turks. A large part of the local large landowners are Turks. Their workers are Armenian. Their fields are sown by Armenians, now mostly by women. Many of the fields already sown will probably be lost due to the lack of workers. One of the results: the threat of starvation for the army and the population. Thus, the local Turkish merchants and landowners are also very dissatisfied about the relocation of the Armenians, if only for economical reasons.
I went in person to the evacuees who were camping around the town. Sheer misery - great desperation and bitterness. The women threw themselves and their children in my horse's path and begged for help. The sight of these moaning poor people filled me with pity, and it was embarrassing – but even more embarrassing for me was the feeling of not being able to help. [Marginal note by Bronsart von Schellendorff: Even more embarrassing is the murder of over 4000 Turks by Armenian bands near Van!] The Armenian population considers the representative of the German Reich to be its only protection at present and expects assistance from him. [Marginal note by Bronsart: We simply cannot assist a population which is involved in dangerous rebellion against the Turkish Government.]
The only thing I could do was to arrange that the bishop and the inhabitants of Erzurum collect bread for the deportees, who are without food. They did so, and this will be continued. It is, however, forbidden for anyone without special permission, which is not given to the Armenians, to leave the town. Consequently, as I do not consider this ban to concern me or my employees, I send out the consulate's cars to take this bread and distribute it daily up to a radius of 10 km among the poorest of the deportees. [Marginal note by Bronsart: The Consul should send the bread to the poor Turkish people instead!]
News has just reached me that rumours are being spread in the town by the Turks that these measures for the relocation of the Armenians were taken by the Turkish government as a result of German advice. I will take energetic steps immediately to counter these rumours.
I cannot rule out the possibility that this relocation and the government's measures, which must (or are meant to!) result in the economic ruin and the partial extermination of the Armenians, could drive the Armenians to an act of desperation, even if this is without hope of success, which would then naturally lead to a general slaughter.
Should such an act not be carried out, the local Armenians would thus prove that they are the most obsequious and peaceable subjects of Turkey.