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Source: DE/PA-AA/R14094
Central register: 1916-A-31831
Edition: Genocide 1915/16
Embassy/consular serial number: K. No. 104/No. 3045
Translated by: Vera Draack (Translation sponsored by Zoryan Institute)
Last updated: 03/23/2012

From the Consul in Aleppo (Roessler) to the Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg)


K. No. 104 / No. 3045
Aleppo, 5 November 1916
Further to the reports from 29 August, No. 24631 and from 20 September, No. 2669 (K.No. 93)2

Your Excellency, I have the honour of presenting in the enclosures the accounts of some Armenians who escaped from the massacre on the Chabur River in August, namely

Hosep Sarkissian from Aintab, Manug Kyrmenikian from Alabash near Marash, and Nazaret Muradian from Zeitun

which were recorded by Sister Beatrice Rohner.

The attendant circumstances and the other facts that have become known here are such that the accounts appear to be quite credible. Sister Rohner has known the two latter persons reporting for years.

As far as we know here, the annihilation campaign was implemented by the Mutesarrif, Zekki Bey (who, by the way, has been appointed to a position in Constantinople, as was reported here today), for no special reason. Unfortunately, the Armenians themselves then made their own situation even worse.

An Armenian in Der-el-Zor, who believed that he was discriminated against during the distribution of financial aid or attempted to procure an unfair advantage for himself, demanded a certain sum from one of his countrymen who was distributing the money, or he would notify the government of the secretly run relief action. He actually did this when his demand was refused, whereupon the Mutesarrif stated, "If money has been distributed, it must have been for the purpose of purchasing weapons (although this was completely out of the question). Thus, the Armenians are revolutionaries and must be destroyed." Even though the Mutesarrif would have continued his atrocious acts without resorting to this welcome excuse, it was necessary to mention this move, because a report that ignored it would not have been complete. This is not the only case in which the Armenians have fought with one another over the distribution of the financial aid. Over and over, individual members of the people have proved their lack of understanding that the situation demands that they must in no way draw the government's attention to themselves. When a Turkish Mohammedan, who had been won over for the relief action in Biredjik, was asked by the Sister whether he was able to carry on with his work, he gave the characteristic reply, "As long as the Armenians themselves do not make it impossible for me." They accuse each other in front of him in an outrageous manner, even those who do not know that he is working to assist them. Similar reports are also on hand from Rakka.

Hosep Sarkissian gives a figure of over 150,000 as the number of persons killed in July and August (in Enclosure I). There is no doubt now that hundreds of thousands were sent to the area around the Euphrates River. But it seems to me that the figure of one hundred and fifty thousand, who were supposedly still alive in July, is too high. However, it must be taken into account that in previous reports, which assumed that 20 to 30,000 were murdered in July and August on the Chabur River, only Der-el-Zor was considered, while according to a report now at hand all of the camps south of there, i.e. Meyadin and Ana, were also cleared. The number of people accommodated there has never been exactly determined here, because the travellers from Baghdad generally follow the caravan road on the western bank of the Euphrates River, while the Armenian camps were located out of sight on the eastern bank. It must be assumed, therefore, that the number of people killed in July and August has surpassed 30,000. Furthermore, it must also be recorded that according to the reports of Bernau, who visited all the camps north of Der-el-Zor, only about fifteen thousand Armenians were left between Meskené and Der-el-Zor at the end of August, and the figure in Der-el-Zor and south of there is insignificant. And those 15,000 will also presumably be quickly reduced.

The orphans in Meskené, of whom there were still 420 at the beginning of September, were sent to Hammam on about 21 September. A German who passed through Hammam on 29 September found less than 200 lying out in the open, without any protection and in a pitiful state. There is no doubt that they are all doomed. He found out that none of them were left in Meskené.

There are 450 children and 60 widows who have gathered together in Urfa and are being supported by the German Mission for the Orient. This assistance is taking place there with the knowledge of the local government, who also sent boys to be cared for to Deacon Künzler. However, this support must be carried out in the form of accommodation in Syrian families. Admission to the orphanage is not yet possible. The circumstances have become more difficult in Mosul. The government there has lately been demanding that foreign financial means of support be paid out through its offices.

Around 5 October, a smaller massacre took place in Rakka, during which about 30 Armenians were killed.

On 19 September, new deportations took place in Marash. Of the possibly 5,000 Armenians left over from the original 25,000, 120 families were deported, most of them already in a very poor state of health, whereby as usual the women and children were separated from the men.

Since about the beginning of August, Armenian women in Aleppo have been employed to spin for the army administration, receiving in return their daily ration of bread. Each of the indigenous church administrations has taken over such workhouses, so that in total about 4,000 women have temporarily been saved in this manner, while 1,500 children have now been accommodated in orphanages.

The following has been reported to me concerning the number of Armenians who still live in Syria and in the administrative district of this consulate:

In Marash, there are about 4,500 needy inhabitants of Marash and only a few …… from further away, because arrivals are being prevented.

In Aintab, there are about 3,800 inhabitants of Aintab and 1,200 refugees in the town, as well as 3,000 refugees in more than 150 surrounding villages.

There are about 700 refugees in Urfa, but no more inhabitants of Urfa itself.

In Biredjik and Djerablus: 2,000.

In Mosul: 4,000.

In Aleppo, there are about 17,220 people on the list of those requiring support, including the orphans.

Along the Euphrates River between Meskené and Der-el-Zor: 15,000.

In Damascus: about 10,000, many of whom have become Muslims.

In the Hauran region and south of there: about 30,000.

In Hama and Selimiye: 15,000, all of whom have become Muslims.

In Summa: 106,420, in addition to which no more than several thousand in Aleppo, Marash and Aintab must be added who do not require support, and perhaps several thousand we do not know about here. Furthermore, if we add those who are still in the Vilayet of Adana – the figure is unknown here, but it can only be very low – as well as the figure for those who stayed behind or were scattered in the Armenian and Anatolian Vilayets, furthermore those who crossed the Russian border, and the population of Smyrna and Constantinople, you will begin to get a rough idea of how many Armenians are still left in Turkey. Death will surely also reap a rich harvest among the 106,000 counted above during the coming winter.

I am sending the same report to the Imperial Embassy.


Enclosure 1


Hosep Sarkissian from Aintab was in Der-el-Zor for almost one year, having found work there as a day labourer. The Mutessarrif, who was friendly towards the Armenians, did his best to assist the deportees. But when he was replaced by Zekki Bey, the deportations began once again. In July and August he had all the deportees from Sabkha, Der-el-Zor, Mejadin, Ana, etc., over 150,000 of them, brought to the village of Merad (Marrat). From there they were sent further on in caravans of 2 – 4,000 and more. Hosep's caravan was made up of approx. 1,700 people. After travelling for several days they camped on the banks of the Chabur River, which they had been following, near Shedadieh. The next morning a band of Circassians on horseback came by and surrounded the caravans: they took everything away from them that they were still carrying with them and tore the clothes off their backs. The Circassians kept the money, jewellery, etc., and distributed the clothes among the Arabs who had appeared in crowds. Then the entire load, men, women, children, were driven along naked for three hours until they reached a plateau on the north side of the Karadagh surrounded by hills, where they stopped. There, the Circassians threw themselves a second time at their victims, striking into the crowd with axes, sabres, knives until blood flowed like a river and the entire plateau was covered in mutilated corpses. Hosep watched as the Mutessarrif of Der-el-Zer observed everything from a wagon, loudly shouting, "Bravo!" to encourage the butchers. Soldiers on guard had surrounded the entire plateau. Hosep threw himself under a pile of corpses and heard the leader of the gang call across the field of death, "My lambs, the Padishah has granted a general pardon; whoever is still alive may stand up!" When nothing moved any longer after the entire regiment had ridden across the corpses several times, the Circassians made off. Three days later, 31 people who were still alive crept out of their gruesome hiding places. For another three days they had to keep wandering without bread and water until they reached the Euphrates River. One after the other remained lying down in an exhausted state; only Hosep finally managed to reach Aleppo, disguised as a dervish.

Aleppo, 23 October 1916

Enclosure 2


Statements by Manuk Kyrmenikian from Alabash near Marash.

When the new Mutessarrif of Der-el-Zor started to carry out deportations once again in July, it was made known in Der-el-Zor that whoever reported for military service would be accepted and that his family would be allowed to remain in Der-el-Zor. About 2,400 young men, among them I myself and my friends, reported for duty while all the others were deported with their families. We were in the barracks for five days and had to drill something every day. Then we were told that on the next day some of us would set off; we were to march northwards towards Aleppo in order to work along the Entilli-Mamure or the Gülek Boghaz Bozanti stretch. Together with my friends, I myself was commandeered to the second troop and we were to leave two days later. While our comrades were preparing to leave, a messenger suddenly arrived with news that all of our wives and children were preparing to be deported. When we tried to complain to our superiors, the doors were closed and we were prisoners. Only after our families had crossed the bridge were we given permission to follow them and, thus, we were the last to leave Der-el-Zor. After camping across from the town on the other bank for 14 days we were taken two hours further south to the village of Merad (Marrat), where we again stayed for several days. We were a motley crowd of several thousand from the most diverse parts of the empire. Finally, we were told to leave there and slowly we journeyed along the Chabur River for three days until we reached the town of Suwara (Sauar), where we stayed again. The Mudir, a Circassian, had the most respected men brought to him and ordered them to select those families who could survive of their own means until the coming summer without the help of the state. About 400 were reported as fulfilling these conditions and they received orders to set up their tents close to the town, which they did immediately. The government officials distributed some money to the rest before they moved on. They had all been given orders to leave and prepared themselves to do so, but after half of them had moved out the rest were held back, and so it happened that some families were separated. But who can describe the horror of those left behind when on the next day and the day after that the waters of the Chabur River washed up the corpses of their relatives. One man managed to pull his brother's corpse out of the water and to bury him. When a town crier then called the people to leave, they knew what awaited them. Together with my friends, I myself was among the 400 families who had settled in Suwara and we made plans to build ourselves huts there for the winter. Then the Mudir had the leading men brought to him and demanded two thousand pounds as a reward for the goodness he had shown them. The collection then carried out brought 840 pounds; these were given to the Mudir, who rode with the money to Der-el-Zor. Three days later he brought it back and returned it to those who had given it to him. The following day he demanded 10,000 pounds! A great deal of pleading and tears made him agree to 2,000. Everyone gave what they had and sold their last carpets, tents, beds, jewellery, etc. By the evening they had collected 2,000. The Mudir graciously accepted the money and ordered the leading men to him on the next day in order to give them receipts for the lovely sum they had given to the "Red Half-moon", so he said. But the men were kept prisoner there until the entire camp departed, the order for which was given the very next morning. The people took only the barest necessities with them; many were reconciled with one another before parting; they knew they were now going to die. But for another three whole days they were left to march for 2 – 3 hours per day until finally, on the evening of the third day, the order was given that the people from Aintab, Hadjin and Albistan were to depart on their own the next morning. Those left behind watched from their camp as, about half-an-hour away on the slope of a hill, a crowd of Circassians and Arabs, armed with all sorts of murderous instruments, surrounded the caravan. The animals were unloaded and all their possessions, including all their clothes except for their underwear, were stacked in large piles. The Circassians took the best for themselves, loaded the animals with these things and had them driven away – the Arabs pounced upon the rest. When this was finished, the men were led individually along the narrow pass to the other side of the hill; the women and children under 10 had to go in the opposite direction to the bank of the river where they were left to their fate. In the evening the Circassians returned to the camp. One of them, for whom one of the Armenians had made several valuable purchases, came to him to warn him and advise him to flee at night. Around midnight, about 200 men crept out of camp with him. After three days and three nights of arduous marching without bread and water, Manug reached the Euphrates River together with 3 friends, and they swam across it.

Aleppo, 29 October 1916

Enclosure 3


Nasaret Muradian from Zeitun near Marash recounts the following: I travelled with the last caravan from Merad (Marrat) to Suvara (Sauar); when I heard of the negotiations with the Mudir, I decided to escape, and on the 3rd day after our arrival I managed to get away. During my short stay there, 20 wounded arrived who had been part of a previous caravan. Several of them were from my home town of Zeitun. The caravan, mainly people from the area around Marash totalling approx. 15,000 people, had been brought from Suwara to Shedadieh. The Mutesarrif of Der-el-Zor had followed them and set up his tent approx. one hour away from their camp. From there, he sent three gendarmes on horseback with the order to separate the men from their families in order to set up a special regiment of labourers. The men replied they all wanted to carry out the earthworks together with their wives and children, but they refused to leave each other. Both sides insisted on their demands, and when the gendarmes began to beat the men with their whips the men held them back, beat them soundly and chased them away without their weapons. After a few hours, three new gendarmes arrived with an order from the Mutessarrif that the weapons had to be returned immediately, otherwise everyone would die. The people had already given up all hope and, believing they could still defend themselves somewhat, they sent the messengers back with a negative reply. The night passed. The next morning the people celebrate their last day; they give the poor the rest of their food and slaughter their draught cattle for a general sacrificial meal. The priests hold services and distribute communion. In the afternoon, 200 gendarmes arrive with Arabs and Circassians and surround the camp. They fire into the crowd from all sides. At first, the crowd does not defend itself; many fall. But as they come closer, the Armenians begin to use the weapons they took from the gendarmes. The gendarmes retreat, advance again and repulse the Armenians. They stand close together and allow the hail of bullets to wash over them. The gendarmes leave a path on the side towards the river; many meet their death in the water; some manage to swim across and escape.

Aleppo, 30 October 1916

1 A 25739.
2 A 28162.

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