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Link: http://www.armenocide.net/armenocide/armgende.nsf/$$AllDocs/1915-11-10-DE-011
Source: DE/PA-AA/BoKon/171
Publication: DuA Dok. 197
Central register: 1915-A-31375
Embassy register: A53a/1915/6751
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Embassy/consular serial number: Nr. 857
Translated by: Robert Berridge (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 04/22/2012

From the Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg) to the Chargé d'Affaires at the Embassy in Constantinople (Neurath)


No. 857
Berlin, 10 November 1915

2 enclosures

Enclosed is the copy of the petition which highly respected representatives of Protestant circles in Germany have brought to my attention, matters concerning the Armenian Question. The accompanying copy of the resolution of the Missionary Conference of the Central Committee of German Catholics concerns the same topic. Both announcements illustrate the growing worry and concern, also within Germany, with the proceedings being taken by the Turks against the Armenians.

Your most gracious Sir, I request, bearing in mind the formulated viewpoints and wishes presented in the documents, to continue at each and every opportunity and with all your efforts to assert your influence on the ruling powers for the benefit of the Armenians. Especially direct your attention to ensure that the measures of the Porte are not extended to include other Christian parts of the population in Turkey.

Regarding the development of this situation, I would ask Your Honour to let me be continually informed.

Bethmann Hollweg

Enclosure 1
15 October 1915

To his Excellency, the Chancellor of the German Empire
Dr. von Bethmann Hollweg, Berlin W.

Your Excellency,

The signatories feel themselves morally obliged to express their anxiety and concern about the position they have been placed in due to the deplorable situation of the Armenian population in Turkey. According to credible sources of information extermination is imminent if the inhumane measures, which the Armenians are subjected to, are not immediately brought to an end.

This information presents us with the following picture:

Since the commencement of the Russian-Turkish war, hundreds of Armenian villages have been plundered by the Kurds and irregular militias in the eastern Vilayets and thousands of defenceless Armenians have been murdered. [The text of the draft marked in green prints is deleted by Neurath] Now since the end of May, the deportation of the entire Armenian population has been ordered from all the Anatolian Vilayets and Cilicia in the Arabian steppe south of the Baghdad railway. These measures have been carried out with inhumane harshness over the last few months.

Those Armenian men able to bear arms were conscripted into the army to be detailed as porters and road workers on the interior military roads. The women, children, sick, and elderly, now robbed of any male protection, were driven out of their places of domicile and robbed of all possessions. Lacking equipment or provisions, barefoot, hungry, dying of thirst and subjected to continous mistreatment and violations, countless hundreds and thousands of Armenians were driven like cattle more than a hundred miles into exile while being intimidated by coarse Sapties.

The measures were thereby so implemented that in the capital and in the centres inland, the leaders of the population, intellectuals, notabilities and church dignitaries were thrown into prison overnight and without interrogation and court proceedings either shot or deported. Those called up for military service were attacked and shot in the street. Of those deported women, children and elderly less than half are thought to have arrived at their designated destination. Girls and young women were carried off to the Turkish harems and Kurdish villages, where they had no choice but to convert to Islam. Moreover, countless numbers of children were taken from their Christian parents to be brought up now as Moslems. Some hundreds of Christian families were spared deportation as they decided themselves to convert to Islam. These deportation measures have in reality taken on the character of a massacre of the greatest dimension. Through means of slaughter at certain places along the route, through starvation and thirst, it appears that the number of deportees has been reduced to about half the original number.

It is not possible, naturally, to give exact details of the number of deportees or those slaughtered. According to the statistics of the Armenian Patriarchate the number of Armenians living in the Vilayets affected by the deportations amounted to 1200000. If one were also to assume that a part of the population were able to flee into the mountains and outlying districts and were, therefore, spared, one is still left with a sum of one million Armenian Christians affected by the deportations and slaughters, and without any differentiation between the confessions: Gregorians, Roman Catholics or Protestants.

At present, no one can say if half or how many whatsoever were murdered, or if the number of families who converted to Islam can be counted in their thousands or tens of thousands. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the blow which has been dealt to the most diligent and ambitious Christian population in the Orient will have the most catastrophic economic, cultural and political consequences upon the future of Turkey. Already at the peace negotiations the interests and honour of those powers allied to Tukey will be affected in a most sensitive way.

Merchant and artisan craftsmanship in the interior districts, which was exclusively in Armenian hands, has been destroyed. The present preparations for the deportation of the Armenian merchants and artisan populations in Constantinople (about 180000), Smyrna (28000), Adana and several other cities situated on the periphery of the Armenian areas - up until now these areas had been spared deportations will affect the economic development of Turkey in a most acute way, a development in which Germany has a great interest. According to the assessments of experts of the Turkish economy it is not to be relied on that Turkish and Jewish elements will be in a position to make up for the loss of the Armenians. It would be appropriate for the authorities responsible for the economy to address this question.

What indeed primarily disturbs the signatories, thus inducing them to turn to your Excellency in confidence, is not their concern regarding the future of German economic and cultural work, which, due to the disturbances created by Turkish Nationalism and Islamic fanatism, will be called into question. What plagues our conscience is our responsibility aroused for these events, which have been brought into discussion, due to a Christian country such as Germany belonging to an alliance with Turkey.

It is not just the Entente press, but also public opinion in neutral countries which views Germany as being jointly responsible for the internal events in Turkey. Certainly, on this point the influence of German diplomacy upon the Porte is overestimated. But the impression which still remains is that Germany, after the neutralisation of the Entente powers, was the only power in the Bosporous which came into question to prevent the slaughtering of Christians.

The directives which threaten the Armenians with destruction have been justified by the Turkish Sublime Porte by the revolutionary movement within the Armenian population and strategic measures in districts along the borders. It may be the case that somewhere Armenians were justly accused of this act. But this is no justification for the deplorable course of action being carried out. Moreover, according to the information in our possession, there is no evidence that the leading Armenian political and Church leaders conducted any treacherous activities.

We reserve judgement upon the goals which the Turkish government is following regarding the Armenians. But their methods of pursuing them have, in any case, certainly given the worst kind of encouragement to Islamic fanaticism and to a hatred towards Christians. There also remains a danger for the remaining non-Muslim parts of the population. The following paroles are circulating, ”The country must become pure Moslem and nothing else.” Correspondingly, missionary institutes have been moved out. The appearance is being won that every facet of Christian relief work and any foreign cultural influence in the country should be eradicated.

This is quite unbearable for the rest of Christianity and will most certainly cause insurmountable difficulties for the Turks in their justified efforts to protect their internal interests from outside attack. The rage in neutral and enemy countries is growing on this issue and will certainly lead to passionate outbursts as soon as the full extent of the truth are made known. Will this indignation not be increasingly used with intense severity against Germany? A country seen by the world as the only country through its relationship with Turkey capable of preventing these terrible things and ensuring that the albeit necessary measures be restricted to the strategic essentials. In the same way as Germany was made responsible for Turkey’s entering the war and for the proclamation of the ”Holy War”, the entire blame for the extermination of a Christian race will be attached to Germany. The effect will, as we fear, go even deeper than the agitation aroused because of the alleged Belgium atrocities.

While up until now, all these accusations from abroad have made no impression upon the unanimously clear conscience of our people, this information, the spread of which cannot be prevented, will have the most damaging effect upon German Christians. The mere declaration of a Holy War arouses moral misgivings in many circles. We could give appeasing assurances that this Holy War is not directed against the Christians per se, but is directed, together with Christian nations, against the enemies of Turkey. No one would be capable of preventing the paralysing effects upon the joyfulness of German Christianity if they were to watch the destruction of a Christian race by one of their allies. With the same good conscience that we call upon God for victory with our guns lies the power of resistance of our people. This unanimity and joyfulness threatens to be severely shaken if it is made known that our ally, being of another faith, has driven hundreds of thousands of our co-religionists senselessly and without reason into their deaths; and without everything possible being undertaken on our part to save them.

It is known to us that, for its part, the German Government has repeatedly taken steps to control the extermination of the Armenians, also in the interests of the Turks themselves.

The facts unfortunately show that these steps have been unable to prevent the disaster. The Turkish Government has, as far as we have been informed, failed to do those things necessary to protect those deported from starvation. Indeed, it has even rejected efforts to bring help to the suffering women and children. It is to be feared that even those surviving deportees, mainly women and children, are doomed to death.

Neither we nor our Christian nation can watch in silence. The Turkish government, who itself has intentionally called to life and utilised the Islamic solidarity of all countries for its own goals, cannot expect its Christian allies to condemn their feeling of Christian solidarity to silence. They have to recognise the extent to which they have created difficulties for their own way into the future if they allow atrocities to occur, for which they are responsible and which are viewed by all of Christianity as an affront to their beliefs. The tarnishing of German honour, even with the suspicion of joint responsibility for the previously mentioned scandalous acts, must be prevented. It is unbearable to think, that while we Germans are building mosques for captured Moslems, hundreds of Christian churches are being destroyed or converted into mosques. It weighs upon our conscience that while the German press extols the magnanimity and tolerance of our Muslim ally, innocent Christian blood is being poured in torrents through Muslim hands and tens of thousands of Christians are being forced to convert to Islam.

We do not misjudge the duties which German Christians have arising from our alliance with Turkey. We sincerely share the wish that Turkey receives its just rewards from this courageous fight on our side. It is also not our wish to create in any sort of form whatsoever unnecessary difficulties. But we cannot deny our responsibilities towards our co-religionists. We would otherwise be acting against our honour and conscience. A shadow would fall over the victory of our people.

Therefore we request from you, your Excellency, to convey to the Sublime Porte with all possible vigour the unacceptability of the created situation and the extreme importance of remedial measures. Thereby bearing principally three goals in mind which are in no way contradictory to the welfare of Turkey nor to achieving our wartime goals. On the contrary, they are closely connected to the demands of humanity and to economic interests:

1.) The deportation of the Armenian population in Constantinople, Smyrna, Adana and other towns and districts so far not affected should be postponed.

2.) That not only theoretical and ostensible, but real and effective measures are implemented in order to keep alive hundreds of thousands of deported women and children in the Mesopotamian steppe and to prevent further atrocities against the remaining Armenians.

3.) That it is made possible for Christians from other countries, perhaps under the auspices of German and neutral persons of trust, to be allowed to extend emergency assistance to the suffering exiles and to give support.

At any Peace Agreement we request you to take care that Christians now forced into Islam are given the chance of returning to Christianity. Furthermore, to give the necessary guarantee for a peaceful and loyal further development of the Christian minority in Turkey and for the unrestricted furtherance of Christian relief and cultural work in the Orient.

We would ask your Excellency, in all honour, to put us into the position as soon as possible to be able to counteract the misgivings within German Christian circles and to invalidate effectively the accusations of foreign countries.

We remain, obediently yours.

[following 49 names and titles of German personalities of the Protestant community- see the German original]

Enclosure 2

Berlin, 29 October 1915

The missionary sub-committee of the Central Committee for the General Assembly of Catholics in Germany convened in Berlin on 29 October 1915 and views it as its irrefutable duty to let its voice be heard in order that the exceedingly harsh measures being implemented at the present time by the Turkish government against the Armenians are immediately called to a halt. Whatever the Armenians can be accused of committing, the precept of humanity, a precept which even the Turkish Government cannot reject, still demands that evasive action be taken against the imminent extermination of the entire Armenian race.

The Assembly has trust in the leadership of the German Empire to assume that everything possible within its power has been carried out to relieve the suffering of the Armenians. In view of the continuing terrifying events in Armenia, it requests that you unremittingly follow diplomatic paths to influence the Government of our Turkish ally to do its utmost to relieve the suffering of the Armenians, all of which could be carried out without endangering our military relationship.

The Turkish Government will have to understand that the Christian population in Germany, despite its friendly political alliance with Turkey, will certainly be embroiled in agitation if their fellow believers are so severely suppressed in Turkey. Even more so, as every German Catholic -and this poignantly transpired from the meetings of the missionary sub-committee -supports the view of demanding complete loyalty to the Turkish State from the Christian population in Turkey. Furthermore, German Catholics are prepared to influence the oriental Christians in this direction and to awaken in them the understanding for civil convictions.

Moreover, it is in the best interests of Turkey itself not to deprive itself of those valuable workers, such as the Armenians, who have been efficient in the areas of state administration and economic progress up until now.

Most of all we request from the Reichskanzler to keep a watchful eye upon the situation so that under no circumstances will similar incidents take place against Christian populations in other parts of the Turkish Empire.

The representatives of the German Catholics who have undersigned the Missionary Committee’s report harbour complete trust in the leadership of the German Empire and towards the friendly Government of Turkey. Moreover, through remedying the disgraceful situation mentioned, our alliance with Turkey can continue to find a cordial atmosphere and participation within the Christian population of Germany.

Signed in the name of all those organisations representing the German Catholics.

Prelate: Dr. Werthmann,
Dr. jur. Carl Bachem
M. Erzberger: M.P.

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