1915-08-23-DE-013
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Source: DE/PA-AA/BoKon/170
Publication: DuA Dok. 149 (gk.)
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Embassy/consular serial number: Militär Mission J. Nr. 3841
Translated by: Linda Struck (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/22/2012


From Colonel Stange to the German Military Mission in Constantinople

Report



Military Mission J. No. 3841
Erzurum, 23 August 1915

Report on the Deportation of the Armenians

The deportation of the Armenians began around the middle of May 1915. Until then everything had been fairly quiet; the Armenians were able to go about their trading and other businesses, practise their religion undisturbed and in general were satisfied with their situation. However, on 10 February of this year, the second director of the local Ottoman Bank, an Armenian, was shot dead on the open street just before 6 o’clock in the evening. Despite the alleged attempts by the government, the murderer was never apprehended. Today there is no longer any doubt that the motive behind this murder was a purely political one. Around that time, the Armenian Bishop of Erzindjan was also murdered.

On or around 20 May, the Commander-in-Chief, Kiamil Pasha, had given orders for the evacuation of the Armenian villages to the north of Erzurum. These were carried out by the Turkish organs in the most brutal manner; the copy of a letter written by the Armenian villagers and addressed to their Bishop provides evidence about it: the people were driven from their homes, farms and fields within the shortest possible space of time and herded together. A large number of them were not even given the time by the gendarmes to pack the barest necessities to take with them. Things that had been left behind or even taken with them were confiscated by the escorting gendarmes and soldiers or stolen from the houses. In the bad weather conditions that prevailed at that time the exiles had to sleep out in the open; they were only given permission by the gendarmes—mostly only in return for special payment—to enter towns or villages to obtain food or to fill up their water vessels. Rapes did occur and it is indeed true that despairing mothers often threw their babies in the Euphrates because they no longer foresaw any chance of being able to feed them. Several times, the German Consul arranged for his German consular employees to distribute bread and the latter are in a position to report on the misery of the exiles.

It is definitely a fact that these Armenians, almost without exception, were murdered in the region of Mama Hatun (Tertian) by so-called 'Chetes' (volunteers), Ashirets and similar scum. These acts were, in fact, tolerated by the military escort cadres, were even accomplished through their assistance. The Vali admitted these facts to the German Consul—of course only to a limited extent—and the latter thoroughly questioned an old Armenian, who had managed to flee from the massacre despite being wounded, about the occurrences. A large number of corpses have been seen there by the consular employee, Schlimme, who had volunteered for war service.

At the beginning of June, the deportation of the Armenians from the city of Erzurum began. The manner in which this was carried out by governmental and police authorities and their organs was devoid of any kind of organisation and discipline. On the contrary, it is a prime example of the ruthless, inhumane and unlawful arbitrariness, the bestial brutality of all the Turks involved, vis-à-vis this category of people whom they hated deeply and regarded as being fair game and outlaws. There are a great number of reliable examples attesting to these facts. The government did nothing at all to help the exiles in any way, and since the police knew the mind-set of their superiors, they therefore did everything in their power to augment the agony of the Armenians. Expulsions were decreed and then revoked; after this, residence permits were issued and then demanded back by the police after only a few days and destroyed. New eviction orders were given, in many cases the very evening before eviction the next morning. Objections and complaints were ignored and response in the form of maltreatment was not unusual.

The government did not give the exiles any information as to their destination. It allowed the prices of the various means of transport to reach an almost exorbitant level; mostly, it arranged for an insufficient number of escorts who were badly trained and took their duty of protecting the deportees by no means seriously, as often became apparent at a later stage. And yet it was generally known that the level of precariousness on the roads had risen to a high level. However, this did not keep the authorities from driving out the Armenians. They were indeed meant to die. In Trebizond, the Armenians, after receiving deportation orders, were even forbidden to sell or take any of their possessions with them. The local consulate employee, the German volunteer Schlimme (Schlimme was travelling on a consular mission via Baiburt, Erzindjan to Trebizond) saw for himself in Trebizond how police officers in front of the police station took pitiful bundles away from the passing deportees.

The preceding discussion should suffice in giving an idea, even if a very feeble one, of the appalling treatment to which the Armenians were subjected. Many other details are available.

As far as it is possible to judge, despite efforts by the government to keep these events secret or at least to tone them down, the situation is as follows:

Out of the first convoy which left on 16 June on the direct route to Harput and which mainly consisted of Armenian notables who had a lot of baggage with them, all the men, with very few exceptions, have been murdered, although the Vali has only admitted this for 13 Armenians. The women seem to have arrived in Harput with the smallest children, but nothing certain is known about the grown-up girls. The other groups were led via Baiburt to Erzindjan and then in the direction of Kamakh (Euphrates valley). Generally they "are supposed" to have managed to get through the Euphrates valley safely, but still have to pass through a dangerous part on their trek to Harput and to the area around Urfa.

Of the Armenians from Trebizond, the men were led aside into the mountains and massacred with the help of military troops, while the women were driven on in a deplorable state to Erzindjan. What happened to them after that is not known to date. In Trebizond, Armenians were driven out to sea and then thrown overboard. The Bishop of Trebizond was summoned to appear before a court-martial in Erzurum and was strangulated on his way there, together with his guards. An Armenian military physician was murdered between Trebizond and Baiburt.

The Armenians from Erzindjan were all driven together into the Kamakh gorge (Euphrates) and massacred there. There are fairly credible reports that the bodies were loaded onto carts which had already been placed there in preparation, and driven to the Euphrates and then thrown into the river. The Bishop of Erzindjan was escorting his fellow-Christians and will have shared their fate.

In Erzurum there are only very few Armenians left after the original order, that women and children without any male protection could stay in the town, was revoked and their expulsion was carried out strictly and ruthlessly. Even those who were absolutely needed for military and administrative tasks, craftsmen, smiths, lorry drivers, hospital staff, bank and government clerks, military physicians were all deported aimlessly.

The removal of the Armenians from the war zone around Erzurum was legally permissible and is being justified as a military necessity. Indeed, the Armenians in various areas had proven to be unreliable. With Russian support there had been revolts and acts of violence against the Muslim population, e.g. by Lake Van, in Bitlis, in Mush. Occasionally telegraph wires had been cut and there were not just a few cases of espionage. On the other hand, the Armenian population in Erzurum had remained completely calm until this point. Whether they would have remained so quiet if the Russians had advanced and come close to Erzurum, for example, cannot be determined for certain at present. Except for a relatively small fraction, all Armenians who were fit for military service had been called up. In view of this, there seemed to be no particular reason to fear any effective uprising. Nevertheless, it appears that the government had such a fear of the Armenians which was out of all proportion to the powerless condition in which the Armenians were at that time. But even if the decision to deport this not so reliable element is always the responsibility of the Supreme Command, one should still be able to expect and indeed demand that these steps are taken without harming the lives and possessions of the deportees, against whom there is not the slightest evidence of culpability. The justification and obligation to prosecute individual offenders is not the issue here. But the fact that hundreds and thousands were downright murdered, that the authorities helped themselves at will to the possessions that had been left behind (houses, shops, goods, households)—in the Armenian church there were stocks to a value of about 150000 Ltq.—that the evictions were carried out under inhumane conditions and families and women were driven away without any male protection, and the fact that those Armenians who had at long last converted to the Muslim faith were no longer regarded as being suspicious and were therefore left in peace, are such as to raise some questions. One feels justified to surmise that military considerations were of secondary import for the deportation of the Armenians and that the main aim was to take advantage of this excellent opportunity in order to put into effect a long-fostered plan to achieve the thorough weakening, if not the destruction of the Armenian people, while from the outside there was no protest to be expected. The military reasons and the rebellious efforts in various parts of the country provided welcome pretexts for this undertaking.

In this respect, the authorities seem to be regarding the principle of taking revenge on the innocent for the deeds of the guilty, on whom one cannot, however, lay one’s hands, as being justified. For the Europeans this principle can only be explained by the fact that the Turks really have concepts of decency and morality which in no way correspond to ours.

In carrying out the deportation measures, the Vali at one time referred to the orders of the Supreme Command, at another time to the orders from Constantinople. Conversely, the Supreme Command continually kept pressing for the ruthless expedition of the expulsion, and, more often than not, gave orders but put the blame on the Vali for their implementation without being either able or willing to give him the means to execute these orders. The Commander-in-Chief must have had knowledge of the murder of the first Armenians, and also of the behaviour of the escorting gendarmes; he was aware of the unsafe condition of the roads, did nothing to stamp out these abuses and nevertheless ordered the deportation of the Armenians along these roads. But this behaviour is in line with the remark he made to the Consul to the effect that after the war an Armenian question would no longer exist.

In view of all these occurrences, the following can be accepted as clear facts:

The expulsion and destruction of the Armenians was decided on by the Committee of the Young Turks in Constantinople, was well organised by them and carried out with the help of members of the Army and of voluntary bands. To help carry out this task on the spot, the following members of the Committee were stationed locally:

Hilmi Bey, Shakir Bey, the Member of Parliament for Erzurum, Seyfoulla Bey; also here in office: the Vali, Tahsin Bey, the Director of Police, Khoulousse Bey, and finally Mahmud Kiamil Pasha, who, besides the Director of Police, had proven to be the most brutal in executing the orders.


Stange, Colonel


[Note by Liman von Sanders, 9 September]

To the Imperial Military Attaché, the honourable Colonel von Lossow.



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