On about 1 June, it became known in Erzindjan that individual Armenian families were to be deported. Originally they spoke of five, then 150, and finally: all Armenians must leave. At the same time, the camps of Armenian families from the area surrounding Erzurum were seen in the area here. These people were camping in open fields, guarded by gendarmes. Gehlsen, one of our medical orderlies, wanted to speak to the people, but he was forbidden to do so. During the next few days the situation became clearer: the Armenian women sat everywhere in front of the houses and offered all of their household goods for sale. Everything went for pennies. Crowds of farmers and Kurds pressed their way into the Armenian quarter and took away as many household goods as their donkeys could carry in between ox carts piled high. The buyers obviously came from the farthest radius of the town. On 10 June, this picture changed and the town was empty. Armed guards were everywhere in the Armenian quarter. The Armenian women came out of their houses with donkeys, household goods and children, leaving in small caravans. The female element was predominant, because most of the men had been conscripted as working soldiers. Even the sick and ancient women were seen hobbling off. No exceptions were made: the wife of one of our soldiers, who lay there half unconscious suffering from typhus fever, was put on a horse on 11 June, despite my having stated in a forceful medical certificate that transportation would be the death of the woman. On 12 June, the second half left, and since then the Armenian quarter has been empty; all of the 10-20,000 inhabitants (not including the inhabitants of the Armenian villages) have left. Everything was carried out in an orderly fashion, as least as far as outsiders could judge. However, it was strange that no definite destination was given for the journey; Arabia was mentioned, southern Kurdistan, etc. But we know, however, that travelling in Anatolia is not easy, even for wealthy people with horses, and it demands a healthy constitution. Furthermore, it is often difficult to find food for 20 people in the small villages along the way. How, then, are 20,000 or more women, children and old people to be fed for weeks in the heat of the sun, let alone finding accommodation for them. I never seriously believed in the government’s intention of doing so. The following may indicate which method was, in truth, carried out: we were already told by a Turkish doctor at the beginning of the expulsion that the Kurds would probably not let the opportunity pass to rob people. On 11 June it was already said that individual women had returned and stated that they had been attacked at night. Early on 12 June, Gehlsen, the pharmacist who can speak Turkish, saw a troop of 20 soldiers move out, ready for action. He asked one of the soldiers, whom he knew, where they were headed for. This man said they were going to the Kamakh gorge. Armenians who were leaving had been attacked there. Yesterday evening the soldiers returned and Gehlsen attempted to find out what had happened. He acted very anti-Armenian and thus found out that a group of Armenian women and children had been surrounded in the ravine and, at a given order, all of them were shot down. The soldiers were sorry to shoot the pretty young women, but they had been ordered to do so. Many of the women had thrown their children into the river, while others were taken away by the Turks in order to bring them up in the Islamic faith. The women had not run away; they had all knelt down. G. suddenly dropped the charade and threatened to report the soldier to the police if not every word were true. Despite this, the soldier stuck to everything he had said. He stated that 3,000 people had been murdered in his presence and that only a few had escaped into the mountains, but that the Kurds knew all about that! The place where all this happened is well suited for such things. It is the ravine in which the Euphrates River leaves the plains of Erzindjan on the western side. The road follows the river for miles there and vertical rock faces make it impossible to get away on either side. There is a desolate area (Dersim) on the left bank of the Euphrates River, inhabited by rapacious mountain Kurds. If something happens there, the Kurds can always be blamed!
Thus, it came about that a massacre could take place two hours away from the seat of a German Red Cross mission, without the missionaries being able to do anything about it.
The government must admit that massacres have taken place. But it places the blame on the Kurds and states that it has even sent troops to protect the Armenians. In contrast to this, the soldier’s statement! I hardly need to mention that there are many other rumours concerning the massacre flying around town. Should the massacre spare parts of the procession of those expelled, then epidemics, heat and the Kurds will ensure that not too many of them are left over.
Our psychological situation is terrible: due to the allied relationship we are forced to watch everything that is happening without being able to do anything other than write reports.
In order to determine my point of view exactly, it must be said that I, too, believe that it is necessary to proceed strictly against the Armenians in the military interests of both the Germans and the Turks. There is no doubt that, under the existing conditions, every Armenian would go over to the Russians at the first opportunity. The army’s back, the base, must be secure. In addition, it is said that the Armenians raged terribly against the Muslims in the rebel area of Van and other smaller towns (Karahissar).
Despite this, the present raging by the Turks against the Armenians is so bad that we must ask ourselves whether it is still appropriate for a German Red Cross expedition to remain in an area in which any kind of humanitarian effort is simply a mockery. For example, why should we heal the Armenian working soldiers lying here, if they could soon be killed after being released?
Would it not be better if the expedition were transferred to the Dardanelles?
The reason I am so much in favour of transferring the mission is not because the expedition’s situation, with its 7 female members, might be dangerous, but because I am aware that events such as those I have described which take place right in front of the eyes of a powerless German delegation will not assist in raising Germany’s reputation. I hope we will be recalled. However, I can only speak up for this privately.
It may be that all of this will almost disappear in the face of the general sacrifices of the World War; it may be that the many friends of the Armenians all over the world will one day start up a great movement based on the occurrences which I have described. My personal conviction is that the treatment given here to the women and children is worse than anything that the registers of atrocities of both sides of the World War have previously attempted to carry out. There is no doubt that our representation in Constantinople is generally informed of the deportation measures. But it cannot have previously known the details, and if it had, it would have been unable to sufficiently influence the local Turkish authorities. As far as our expedition is concerned, there would be a solution: a transfer from this compromising area to another theatre of war under a suitable excuse. However, the members of the expedition are not of one mind on this point, and the transport of the hospital would be extremely difficult. Thus, we will probably have to stick it out.
pp. As an addition to my reports, for the sake of fairness, I would like to add what the Turkish authorities told us concerning the reasons for the measures taken. I would like to state in advance that this information does not hit the real mark. No one doubted that unusually severe measures had to be taken against the Armenians. This does not excuse the actions taken against women and defenceless people. I am passing on the information from the Mutessarif without comment:
1. The province of Van was handed over to the Russians by means of an incredibly bloody, Armenian riot. All of the Turks were murdered; no one was spared because of their age or sex. This also included the director of the Austrian bank. (from another source).
2. A riot which was both bloody and treacherous took place in Karahissa. At present, the town is being defended by Armenians against the military and the artillery.
3. Orders were found to carry out a riot here on 28 June (yesterday) in the same manner as the one in Karahissa. The large barracks around the town were to be the first target and, thus, our hospital as well. These orders were given by the Armenian Committees.
4. About 300 carbines were found, most of them new, and it is believed that more weapons depots will be found.
5. Underground tunnels running through the entire Armenian quarter were discovered. These join the houses with one another and go as far as the area housing the government building. We have inspected the entrance holes in several houses and satisfied ourselves that the tunnels exist. The system will be dug up, because there are still armed Armenians down there who have shot at several people. (One wounded and 1 dead among us.) It cannot be determined how old the tunnels are, but at any rate they are not brand new.
6. Bombs were discovered in the kitchen cellar. They were exploded during the attempt to remove them (or perhaps out of fear of taking them away). We ourselves have carefully inspected the site where the kitchen was completely destroyed by a large explosion.
Should you have passed on my first reports, then it is only fair that you pass today’s additions on to the same office.