Only two days later, Leslie A. Davis, the American Consul stationed there, described as follows what just the evacuation of the Armenians from the provincial metropolis of Mamuret-ul-Aziz, as Mesereh was called in accordance with the province of the same name, meant for those affected, “The full meaning of such an order can scarcely be imagined by those who are not familiar with the peculiar conditions of this isolated region. A massacre, however horrible the word may sound, would be humane in comparison with it. In a massacre many escape, but a wholesale deportation of this kind in this country means a lingering and perhaps even more dreadful death for nearly everyone. I do not believe it possible for one in a hundred to survive, perhaps not one in a thousand.” [U.S. State Department Record Group 59.867.4016/269. The most important US-documents are published by Ara Sarafian: United States Official Documents on the Armenian Genocide, Gomidas Institute.]
One German had been intimately familiar for many years with the destination of Urfa, to which the inhabitants of Mamuret-ul-Aziz were to be sent: Johannes Lepsius. After the large-scale massacres from 1894 to 1896, in which the Turkish Sultan, Abdul Hamid, had thousands of his Armenian subjects killed, the Protestant vicar had built up a relief organisation in Urfa by opening up a carpet factory which provided work for Armenian widows and a hospital that was headed by the Swiss deacon, Jakob Künzler.
Although he was situated thousands of kilometres from the sites of the genocide, Lepsius was extremely well informed. He had written an excellent book on the massacres from 1894 to 1896 ("Armenia and Europe"), that had been translated into many languages. His international reputation as an Armenian expert had opened up sources from all over the world for him. On 22 June 1915, he prophesied to the German Foreign Office that the mass deportations, particularly from the north-east, which were carried out almost exclusively via Mamuret-ul-Aziz in the direction of Diarbekir and Urfa, that "this is obviously an attempt to decimate the Christian population in the empire as far as possible under the veil of martial law and by putting to use the Muslim elation aroused by the Holy War, abandoning it to extermination by carrying it off to climatically unfavourable and unsafe districts along the border". And Lepsius also informed the German Foreign Office on the dimension of this extermination, "Such measures, which are paralleled only in the deportations of the ancient Assyrians, will surpass the massacres at the time of Abdul Hamid." [1915-06-22-DE-001].
However, the local German consuls also recognized the danger for the Armenians. On 15 May 1915, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, the German Vice-Consul in Erzerum, first reported on the expulsion of the Armenian population from the surrounding villages [1915-05-15-DE-013][For footnotes in Italics no English version of the original document is available for the moment]; three days later, he indignantly reported that the "misery of the expelled Armenians was dreadful" [1915-05-18-DE-012]. On 2 June, Scheubner-Richter predicted, "An evacuation of such a size is tantamount to a massacre, because due to a lack of any kind of transportation barely half of these people will reach their destination alive." [1915-06-02-DE-012].
His colleague, Heinrich Bergfeld, had reported the first arrests from Trapezunt on 25 June. Two days later he reported, "About 30,000 persons are affected by the deportations just in the Vilayet of Trapezunt,“ and warned, "A mass transport of this kind for hundreds of kilometres along routes that are lacking in accommodation and supplies, and where 300 kilometres must count as being completely infested with typhus fever, would claim enormous numbers of victims, particularly among the women and children." [1915-06-27-DE-013]. And again two days later, Bergfeld cabled, "I share the opinion of all of my colleagues that the transport of women and children borders on mass murder." [1915-06-29-DE-017].
M. Kuckhoff, the elected German Consul in Samsun and director of the local tobacco control, saw the consequences of the deportations just as clearly, "The countermeasures taken involve nothing less than the destruction or enforced Islamization of a whole people. The destination of those exiled from Samsun is said to be Urfa. It is certain that no Christian Armenian will reach this destination. According to news from the interior, there are already reports on the disappearance of the deported population of entire towns." [1915-07-17-DE-003, Enclosure].
A German doctor from the Red Cross in Ersindjan also stated "that it is not easy even for rich people to travel on horseback through Anatolia; this requires a strong constitution. Furthermore, it is often difficult to find food for 20 people in the small villages along the way. How, then, could anyone feed 20,000 or more women, children and old people for weeks in this deadly heat, not to mention finding lodgings for them." [1915-06-29-DE-005]
The German consuls in those areas, in which the deportations affected only a few Armenians in the beginning or were limited to certain villages, also reported that the deportations of the Armenians led to excesses and were tantamount to their annihilation. Consul Walter Roessler from Aleppo (located today in Syria) reported that the Armenians who were chased out of the Vilayet of Adana were spread out among villages generally inhabited by the Arab population. "They must perish there." [1915-06-03-DE-011].
For decades, the Russians had attempted to turn the Armenians into Russians and to decimate their culture, but at the beginning of the 19th century they changed their course and endeavoured to get along with the Armenians in their empire. At that time, the metropolitan centre of the Caucasian Armenians was the present-day Georgian capital of Tiflis, while the Catholicos, the spiritual leader of all Gregorian Armenians, who was above the highest representative of the Ottoman Armenians, the Patriarch in Constantinople, resided in Etschmiadsin, near today's Armenian capital of Erivan (at that time a rather unimportant town) and, thus, also within Russia's dominion. This also applied to other leaders of the church, such as the spiritual leader of the Armenians who resided in Sis and was also known as Catholicos, the head of an area that is almost identical with the province of Adana, which was called "Cilicia" by the Armenians (as well as by the foreigners).
The Armenians were left to themselves in only a few regions. Usually they lived together with other peoples, generally Muslims of both Shiitic as well as Sunnite orientation, but ongoing battles were carried out mostly with the Kurds, who had no fixed abode. They repeatedly raided Armenian villages and even towns, kidnapping women and robbing possessions and often leaving a wide, bloody trail behind them.
The Armenians who, during the course of history, were often driven towards the west by the conquests of the Asian peoples, distributed themselves unevenly throughout the Ottoman Empire. While they only settled in a few villages in the west, building a noticeable minority only in the towns, they were more massively present in the eastern countryside. There were regions, such as the plains around the towns of Musch or Kharput, but also those around Erzerum, where the Armenians made up a large part of the rural population, while settling as tradesmen in the towns. Since military and higher civil service in the Ottoman Empire was reserved solely for Turks, the Armenians – similar to the Jews in Europe – concentrated on professions and made up almost all of the doctors or lawyers as well as the elite economic and trade society in the eastern towns. Johann Heinrich Count von Bernstorff, the German ambassador, called the Armenians the "main supporters of economic life in Turkey". [1918-02-22-DE-002].
If foreign schools existed in the east - in 1914, apart from 800 purely Armenian schools with 81,000 pupils, there were also 675 American, 500 French and 178 British schools, which together had more than 100,000 pupils, but only few German ones - then in the Armenian settlements their employees were usually Armenians, but also their clientele. The ratio of Armenian pupils was much higher than Turkish ones. And the Armenians' willingness to learn was also exceptionally high. Their intelligence and talent for languages resulted in Armenians being the most important employees in foreign institutions, from consulates to companies. Ambitious Armenian parents not only sent their children to foreign schools, but later on also to foreign universities, usually American ones.
Foreign observers unanimously determined that the Armenians were the most adaptive element in the Ottoman population. "The surprisingly high educational standard of the Armenians both in the town and in the country, which they owe to the effects of their clergy and to their excellent schools," said Vice-Consul Scheubner-Richter, "enables them to familiarise themselves with European culture and technology and to encourage the introduction of these in their home environment." [1915-08-10-DE-001].
Shortly before the war broke out, the Armenians had achieved something that they had only been allowed to dream of since the Berlin Conference presented by Reichskanzler Bismarck in 1878: the Great Powers had agreed upon reforms in the Ottoman Empire which guaranteed the Armenians mainly residing in eastern regions a certain autonomy. On the other hand, the nationalist fraction of the Young Turks, which was becoming constantly stronger, feared that this internal autonomy was the first step towards the Armenians' independence. Therefore, immediately after the war broke out, the Young Turks suspended all of the plans for reforms and sent the previously appointed foreign governor-generals home.
Since the British, French and Russian representatives had to leave the country after the war broke out, only the neutral Americans were left in eastern Turkey, where the greater part of the Armenians had settled, to give witness. Apart from their consuls, they also had an extremely good network of Protestant missions that had been built up over decades. Smaller neutral countries, such as Switzerland or the Vatican, played only a very minor role. Austria-Hungary as well as Italy had only very few representatives in the eastern Armenian settlements since, traditionally, Austria restricted itself to the Balkans and, after its liberation, to the western part of the Ottoman Empire.
At that time, only the German diplomatic representatives, and not the representatives of its ally, Austria-Hungary, were accorded a privilege that gave German reports a unique authenticity. Both ambassadors and consuls were permitted to pass on coded messages by telegraph, thus keeping them secret from the Turks. This allowed them to give open descriptions of the facts they observed, even passing on important names of Turkish intermediaries.
The situation was completely different for American diplomats. When the German Empire declared war on the United States and the Turks broke off diplomatic relations with the USA (which continued to be neutral towards Turkey), the American consul in Mamuret-ul-Aziz, Leslie A. Davis, burned "the copies of all reports" which he had written during the past years on the genocide and the Armenians "in accordance with the Embassy's instructions," as he later wrote. This meant that valuable material was lost, for most of these reports had been intercepted by the Turks and were then kept secret by them. The experiences of his colleague in Aleppo, Jesse B. Jackson, were no better. "Many reports and details of massacres and racial disturbances were burned by me before my departure from Aleppo, following the instructions from the Department transmitted through the Embassy. As practically all of these had been products of my own efforts during my twelve years' tenure in the Aleppo district," he lamented later, " it was with great sorrow and regret that I watched the flames consume them, knowing that much valuable and historic information was thereby lost forever."[ U.S. State Department Record Group 59.867.4016/373]
This is why many detailed American reports were written only after diplomatic relations were terminated in the autumn of 1917, when the American diplomats had returned to the USA and were free to write their reports. Historians believe that the great disadvantage of such documents lies in the fact that there is no longer any immediacy and that they could contain interpretative errors because of the time lapse. Therefore, especially those German documents that have not yet been published provide an excellent supplement to the American documents that are cited almost exclusively in British literature and have also, in part, been published.
However, even at that time important information was missing in the German files, because documents had deliberately been destroyed. When the German Ambassadorial Councillor, Otto Goeppert, had a discussion with Halil Bey, the Foreign Secretary, in Constantinople at the beginning of 1917, the latter requested that he take his notes with him "as it had been agreed upon with Count Metternich that nothing would be left behind in writing concerning such discussions." [1917-01-05-DE-011, Enclosure 2]
Insofar as they concern the old records office, "Turkey 183", as well as the files of the embassy in Constantinople, the sources used in this book are based on the microfilm edition published by the German Foreign Office, which today is made available only to visitors to the archive (and no longer the originals), as well as on the films distributed by the National Archives, and finally on the author's own films taken of original documents. The film copies made available today by the National Archives are based on the originals that were filmed by the Allied Forces after World War II, but these are not complete. Thus, they do not include many eye witness reports nor, in general, any foreign reports such as newspaper articles or letters. The film edition of the German Foreign Office is also incomplete, at least in one case. [1918-11-01-DE-001, Enclosure 4] It is also surprising that among the files concerning the Armenians there are no reports on the genocide with comments by William II, the German emperor, who normally made handwritten remarks on all of the more important documents. A short line of praise can be found on only one document written by Ambassador Paul Count Wolff-Metternich, in which the latter makes a verbal attack on the British. [1916-07-10-DE-001]
The Turks used a supposed rebellion in the most eastern Armenian town of Van as an excuse for this, where control of the town had been taken over by approximately 20,000 Armenians, who made up the majority of the rebels, after irregular Turkish gangs had attacked the surrounding Armenian villages for weeks and the Turkish governor (Vali) of the town had used a false pretext to have the two leading Armenian politicians in Van kidnapped and murdered. A short while after the Armenians rebelled, regular Russian troops, among them also Russian Armenians who were serving in the Russian army, marched into the town during their advance against the Turks.
From the very beginning, this rebellion in Van was atrociously exaggerated and still is today in the Turkish historiography. Enver, the Turkish Minister of War, claimed in a conversation with Johannes Lepsius that out of 150,000 Turks only 30,000 Muslims were left alive after the rebellion. [1915-08-06-DE-001] Therefore, the Armenians had killed 120,000 Turks. However, only about 30,000 Turks lived in the entire province, as well as 120,000 Kurds, who retreated to their hills after the Russian invasion, as Lepsius already noted during the war. The Turkish Ambassadorial Councillor in Berlin, Edhem Bey, went even further and claimed that no fewer than 180,000 Muslims had been killed. [1915-10-01-DE-004] The Undersecretary of State in the German Foreign Office, Arthur Zimmermann, spoke to the Chairman of the Association of German Newspaper Publishers, Friedrich Faber, of a "bloodbath" and claimed, "Countermeasures were only taken after the Armenian rebellion broke out behind the Turkish troops marching against Azerbaijan, and in only a few days more than 150,000 Moslems were victims of this attack." [1915-10-04-DE-001] Even after the war, the German naval attaché at the German Embassy in Constantinople (as Istanbul was still officially called at that time) and close friend of Enver, Hans Humann, who was certainly well aware of the facts, claimed that the Turks were massacred. "Of the approximately 130,000 Mohammedan-Turkish inhabitants of this vilayet," Humann said, "over 100,000 were massacred by the Armenians!" His phantasy figure does not become any more bearable when he adds, "according to official Turkish figures." [1919-04-19-DE-001]. The truth was that far fewer Turks died during the fighting in Van. Consul Scheubner-Richter, who observed the events in Van from Erzerum, first reported 400 injured and 200 dead Turkish victims to Constantinople [1915-05-04-DE-011], and a few days later that 1,000 Turks had died [1915-05-09-DE-011]. Vice-Consul Walter Holstein in Mossul, who was also only able to evaluate reports, learned of 200 dead Turks [1915-05-08-DE-003]. Talaat, the Minister of the Interior, who should have been the best informed person, reported to the German embassy that "400 Armenians were killed, but the [Turkish] troops also lost several hundred men" [1915-04-30-DE-001]. The German correspondent in Constantinople of the Kölnische Zeitung reported in October 1915 that approximately 200 Muslim families had been massacred in Van, in other words long after the fighting was over in Van. Essad, the head of the Turkish Secret Service, had given him this information, but the former then also spoke of 200,000 Muslim victims. "There was no clear indication for such a figure," he said, "therefore, the figure seemed to be well exaggerated." [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
Not only the number of Muslim victims is grossly exaggerated, but it is also questionable whether it was the Armenians at all who killed the Turks. Before the war broke out, there had been a Kurdish rebellion in the area around Bitlis, which was put down by the Turks. "When the Russian troops approached, these Kurdish tribes believed that the day of retaliation on their part had come," the Director of the German Christian Charity-Organisation for the Orient, Friedrich Schuchardt, informed the German Foreign Office after researching in Constantinople, "and fugitive Turkish public officials and officers from the area around Wan had terrible things to report. It seems to me to be more than probable that these atrocities on the part of the Kurds will be blamed on the Armenians." And on the subject of Van, Schuchardt was able to report from Constantinople, "According to oral reports by Spörri, our missionary from Wan, Armenians also killed Mohammedans, but they did not carry out any atrocities against men, nor did they rape women and girls or commit brutalities against children." [1915-11-12-DE-003]. However, the Armenians had attacked several Muslim villages and killed their inhabitants.
Long before the acts in Van, the Turks had badly harassed the Armenians. "The systematic robbing of the Armenians already started when mobilisation began," Alma Johansson, the Swedish nun in German service who lived in Musch, reported. "Not only those items were taken which might be needed for the war, but everything which was of any value at all. Any Turk could enter a shop or a house and take whatever he wanted." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1] After the war began, "food needed had to be brought to the Russian border, but who was to do this? There were only the Armenians, and since the government had taken away their animals for other purposes, they had to carry the loads on their backs. Now the winters in the Musch-Erzerum region are very long and harsh, and the people often needed 2 – 3 weeks to reach their place of destination. The people were not dressed for this, as they had no money to do so, and anyone with anything on them had it taken away by the gendarmes accompanying them. Masses of these bearers died along the way due to cold and deprivation. It was a good thing if a third or even a quarter of each crowd which left Musch returned alive." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Alma Johansson's handwritten report gives an impression of the normal, everyday life of the Armenians in the months leading up to the genocide, "Bad people who were unemployed allowed themselves to be signed up as gendarmes in the town and the surrounding area, giving them unlimited rights to rob, for the government had said, woe to anyone who refused the gendarmes or soldiers. The Armenians only defended themselves a few times in order to protect the women from the violence of the Turks, as a result of which a village would be burned down in part or entirely. And they all counted on the Russians coming at least as far as Musch, but it was said that before this happened they would first slaughter the Armenians, and then the Russians could come. In November 1914, it was officially admitted that they were only waiting for a reason to start a massacre and as soon as they found one they would not leave even one Armenian alive. In March, we heard of unrest in Wan. Officers and public officials proudly told us that the Armenians in Wan were now annihilated, ‘everything hacked, hacked up into little bits’." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
The arrests of the Armenian elite in Constantinople and the large towns, as well as the arrests of the local notables, were the beginning of the actual genocide. The basic pattern quickly became clear to those affected, but also to foreign witnesses: to ensure that the Armenian people in Turkey would disappear forever, those responsible among the Young Turks had obviously decided to kill the men as quickly as possible, to let the women and children starve to death – with the exception of the pretty young girls and women, who were destined for Turkish harems, as well as some of those children who were still so small that they would forget their Armenian origins if they grew up in Moslem families or state institutions. Generally, if Armenians survived in a rural Turkish environment, then it was usually as a concubine or slave labourer; in exceptional cases, as a protégé of well-meaning Turks.
Kurds played a very diverse role. Many allowed themselves to be hired as hangmen for the Armenians, waylaid deportation trains, killed the men, kidnapped the women and took all valuables with them. Then there were obviously real agreements between the Turks in favour of genocide and the Kurdish tribes. But there was one exception: the Kurds from Dersim, the successors of the historical Kizzylbash, who were not members of the basic Sunnite belief, but rather of a Shiitic orientation, if, in fact, they did not even feel related to the Armenians. These people turned out to be the most important saviours of the persecuted Armenians. They organised regular escape roads to Russia which, in the following period, particularly in the thirties, led to their own annihilation by the Turks who now followed Kemal.
There was a difference in the genocide carried out in the large cities of Constantinople, Smyrna and Aleppo, where a mixture of foreign protection (particularly in the capital of Constantinople and the most important harbour city of Smyrna) and the close interconnection between Armenian and Turkish interests opened up escape routes, as least for the wealthy Armenians, which were not open to their countrymen in the more remote and rural regions. It was also helpful for the Armenians, at least intermittently, that the region south of Aleppo was under the rule of Djemal, the Naval Minister, who, according to German sources, disapproved in part of the strict measures against the Armenians or softened the rigidity of the deportations.
Generally, criers in the cities and towns announced the date of departure, usually only a few days in advance, without giving the destination for the deportations. After a few weeks, almost all of the exceptions to the deportations were revoked. Only in very rare cases did the government provide a means of transportation; normally, the deportees – almost without exception in the east – left their homes on foot; only a few of the very wealthy were able to afford horses, donkeys or ox carts, which were quickly taken away from them. Whoever did not drop along the wayside reached an intermediate camp from where the deportees were moved on to concentration camps along the Baghdad railway, but mainly they were sent to Aleppo, the turnstile of the genocide. The luckier ones, if this euphemism be allowed, moved on to Palestine, where a certain percentage managed to survive, while the more unlucky were driven south along the Baghdad railway or the road running parallel to the Euphrates River in the direction of Baghdad and through the Mesopotamian desert, where these convoys of poor people, consisting of the elderly, women and children, starved and died of thirst before the last miserable groups of several tens of thousands of the most robust Armenians were finally murdered on the banks of the Chabur River in what is today north-east Syria.
A horror movie unfolds, mainly based on eyewitness reports; even Dante could not have thought of a more terrible scenario for his "Inferno". It is a great disgrace for the perpetrators – Turks, Kurds, Circassians – and for those who attempted to delete this horror movie from their memories by denying or trivializing the facts and, above all, mocking the victims. It is no less of a disgrace for that powerful audience – the Germans – who did nothing to prevent these crimes, or even promoted them and, later still, approved of them. It is difficult to say who made themselves more guilty: the actors involved in the genocide during World War I or those who denied the Armenian tragedy in later generations.
Interrogations and Torture
The arrest of local notables was usually followed by interrogations, which generally included torture, especially the form of bastinado, which was still normally used at that time, particularly in the Orient. Frieda Wolf Hunecke, the German missionary employed at the former British mission in Everek near Kaissarié until 28 April 1915, described what happened during this procedure:
"The prisoner is placed in stocks (as used during Roman times) with 2 gendarmes on each side and 2 at the foot end, who now take turns in beating the soles of his feet with sticks as long as their strength lasts. During Roman times, 40 blows was the highest, but here 200, 300, 500, even 800 blows were supposedly administered. The foot begins to swell enormously, then bursts open on top due to the repeated blows, and thus the blood spurts away. The prisoner is then dragged back to jail and put to bed by the remaining prisoners. Apart from beating the soles of the feet, different people have hand-sized burns on their breasts, made with a red-hot iron. I later saw the wounds of a blacksmith who was suspected of having forged the cases of the bombs, but was then set free: his toes had been burned with sulphuric acid (called ‘Kerab’)." [1915-07-13-DE-001, Enclosure]
"A man was pumped up artificially and beaten 900 times in that condition," Magdalena Didszun, the German nurse from Hadjin reported. "The wife of an Armenian pastor was beaten terribly, because she was unable to give up a book demanded from her as it had been burned. Glowing coals were put under people's clothes, needles stuck under their fingernails." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
Alma Johansson from Sweden reported from Mamuret-ul-Aziz what she had been told by missionaries, "The worst tortures began there at the beginning of May. The people who were arrested were clamped into pieces of timber, their feet shod with nails like horses, their beards, eyelashes, their fingernails and teeth pulled out; they were hung upside down and similar things were done to them. Naturally, many of them died, but some of them received medical treatment and were sent to the missionaries and so we saw what had happened. To stop the screaming from being heard during torture, drums and pipes were played around the jail." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Künzler, a Swiss deacon, reported from Urfa, "Last night an imprisoned Armenian merchant was given 100 strokes of the stock, whereby he almost met his death. The most terrifying rumours come from the Vilayet Diarbekir, which quite reminds us of the Spanish Inquisition. In many places, the merciful bullet has been delivered only after torture. A particularly favourite method is said to have been pulling out finger nails." [1915-06-29-DE-002, Enclosure 1] Ernst Pieper, a German engineer, stated that he was told by a German woman "that many people were being treated for their feet in the hospital in Marasch, toes were being amputated, etc., which was put down to the treatment by the soldiers (bastinado)". [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 5]
In Mamuret-ul-Aziz, the men were taken out of jail directly after being tortured, and almost all of them were murdered on the way to Diarbekir. Consul Davis was able to question one survivor from a group of 800 men, who had managed to escape. They had been led into a valley where they were told to sit down. Then "the gendarmes began shooting them", Davis wrote in his report. "After they had fired two or three rounds and killed most of the men the order was given not to waste any more cartridges, but to bayonet the rest." [U.S. State Department Record Group 59, 867.00/803]
Already at the beginning of the war, but especially at the beginning of March 1915, all of the Armenian soldiers were disarmed. As a reason for this, the Turks claimed that Armenian soldiers had shot at their Turkish superiors. "They are said to have repeatedly turned their weapons against the Turks," the German Ambassador, Hans Baron von Wangenheim, reported to Berlin, "a fact that is even being confirmed by German officers who were present during those combats." [1915-04-15-DE-002] There is no proof of this in the diplomatic files. The German commander of the fortress in the front town of Erzerum, General Posseldt, who was extremely well informed about events, particularly at the eastern front, reported that while it was correct "that the Turkish Armenians repeatedly served as guides for the Russians in their advances against Erzerum, some of these were found among the prisoners who were seized from the Russians." However, "he considers it to be out of the question," according to the German expert on Armenia at the Embassy, Johannes Mordtmann, in his notes on this discussion, "that Armenian troops had fired at their Turkish comrades" since "they had always used the Armenians behind the front." [1915-04-26-DE-011]
Deserters were to be found among the Armenians as well as other nationalities in the Ottoman Empire at that time, but especially among the Kurds and the Turks. Towards the end of the war the Supreme German Commander, Otto Liman von Sanders, even claimed at the end of June 1918 that there were more Turkish deserters than soldiers doing their duty. [PA-AA, R 13757, S. 103, AG 2801] Even if many of them only had the desire to avoid the war, Ernst Jaeckh, a German travelling throughout Turkey, reported after a visit from the German Commander on the Dardanelles, that there were also completely different longings in the autumn of 1915 that made Turks desert. "Turkish soldiers have been travelling for 64 hours," he wrote, "bathed in sweat and covered in dust, deserters from Goltz's army, just to joint Liman to 'kill the British, who we don't come across with Goltz'. This happened so often that Liman was forced to punish such 'desertion'." [1915-10-17-DE-002]
On the other hand, With regard to the assertion of the Turks that larger numbers of Armenian soldiers deserted, the German Vice-Consul in Alexandrette (which today is called Iskenderun), Hermann Hoffmann-Fölkersamb, stated that "this claim is quite impossible, especially to such an extent, and has actually been proven wrong." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Despite this, the Armenian soldiers who had been conscripted by the Turks were classified as a security risk, disarmed and collected in work battalions. Their main task was to build or repair roads, and at times this was actually done. The main reason was, however, obviously quite a different one: the Armenians fit for military service were to be isolated and finally killed so that they could not put up any resistance during the deportations. Most of the Armenian soldiers in the work battalions were already murdered at the beginning of the war and, in exceptional cases, also later on.
"Crowds of young Armenians, who had been conscripted as soldiers to build roads, were taken to Mesereh, penned into a building and held under constant guard," the German nurse, Klara Pfeiffer, who was stationed there reported. "Several days later, they were led away by armed soldiers – 1,200 men in total. It was said that they were to build roads again. Apparently they really did work for several days in Maden, two days' journey from Mesereh; then they were led further on to Diarbakir, bound together 4 and 4 or 5 and 5, and killed. On 23 June, another 300 men were taken away from the prison in the middle of the night. It cannot be assumed that even one of them is still alive. Escape was out of the question, because they had been bound together, and if they had escaped, then where to?" [1916-05-10-DE-002, Enclosure]
The missionaries in Mesereh reported on a later train to Alma Johansson from Sweden, "On 1 July, the first crowd was sent off. There were 2,000 soldiers. It was said they were being sent to Aleppo to fix the roads. But these 2,000 were killed in the ravines only a few hours from Mesereh. A few of them managed to untie themselves and escape in the darkness. The next day another 2,000 were sent towards Diarbekir, among them several of our orphaned boys who worked for the government. A few people out of this crowd also managed to get away. When the government saw that some of them managed to escape, they later let the people first suffer hunger and thirst for two days so that they would have no more strength." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Thora von Wedel-Jarlsberg, a nurse from Norway, and her German colleague, Eva Elvers, had passed such a place of execution. "There was still a lot of clotted blood on the ground," they stated, "but the bodies had been removed." The two nurses reported, "That afternoon we reached a valley and found three groups of road workers sitting on the ground: Moslems, Greeks and Armenians, each sitting separately from the other two. Several officers stood in front of the latter group. We continue to drive up a hill. The coachman points down into the valley, where about 100 men are being marched off a country road and set up in a row next to a decline. We knew what would happen now, but we did not see it. The same drama was repeated in another place. We saw a man at the missionary hospital in Siwas who had escaped from such a massacre. He had been set up in a row together with 95 other road workers (all of whom were soldiers), whereupon the 10 gendarmes accompanying them began to shoot as many as they could; the rest were killed by the other Moslems using their knives or stones; 10 fled. This man himself had a dreadful wound on his neck; he had fainted at first, but after recovering he managed the 2-day-long march to Siwas. [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure]
Deacon Künzler, a Swiss, reported from Urfa on 20 August 1915, "About 100 Armenians from the work battalion were brutally murdered about 1 ½ hours to the north of Urfa. A day later, 400 from a work battalion who were working in the south." [1916-01-03-DE-002, Enclosure 1] Three days later, he reported, "In Karaköprü, an hour north of Urfa, as well as on the Haran Plain, hundreds of Armenians are working in road construction; supposedly, they were all shot during the past few days. But this news has not yet been definitely confirmed. I pray to God that it is not true!" [1915-09-03-DE-002] It was true. "The fear he voices in this, that hundreds of Armenian street construction workers on the Plain of Harran were also killed," so Roessler in a telegram to his embassy on the Künzler report, "has been confirmed to me in the meantime as being true by the operators of the Baghdad Railway. The Baghdad Railway on its part has received a report from the station-master in Tell Abiad, who was told by gendarmes that at the order of their superior authority they shot down the street construction workers." [1915-09-03-DE-002]
A German employee of the Baghdad Railway reported, "A German cavalry captain told how he saw countless corpses lying unburied on both sides of the road on his ride from Diabekir to Urfa, all of them young men with their throats cut. (These were the road workers who had been conscripted into the army.)" [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 4] Between the 10th and the 30th of May, about 700 young Armenian men were conscripted into the army, as reported by a witness from the Charity-Organisation, "They had to build the Karabacksche-Habaschi road. During this work, the young men were then shot down one day by the Saptiehs guarding them, and not one escaped. The Obaschi in charge boasted later that he had managed to shoot down the 700 men using only 5 Saptiehs." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 6]
The Murder of Adult Males
Practically all of the deported adult Armenian males suffered the same fate as the Armenian soldiers. The only foreign consul who researched these acts of extermination in Kharput, the area for which he was responsible, was Davis. The American consul was able to question one survivor from a group of 800 men, who had managed to escape. This witness reported that the men were taken to a Kurd village south of Kharput.
After they had fired two or three rounds and killed most of the men the order was given not to waste any more cartridges, but to bayonet the rest.
"They remained there that night and the following morning were taken to a valley a few hours distant, where they were all made to sit down. Then the gendarmes began shooting them." U.S. State Department Record Group 59, 867.00/803. Johannes Mordtmann, the General Consul at the German Embassy who was responsible for reporting on the Armenians, confirmed the American Consul's report. After a conversation with the Swedish nurse, Alma Johansson, who had passed through Kharput on her way from Musch, he noted with regard to Kharput, "The grand-scale elimination of all males took place during the first days of July." [1915-11-06-DE-012] Consul Roessler confirmed the fate of the men from Kharput, who had been separated from the women in a village several hours' journey south of the town, "The men were slaughtered to death and lay to the right and left of the road along which the women then had to pass." [1915-07-27-DE-001] Vice-Consul Holstein reported from Mossul, "All of the men were murdered along the way." [1915-07-16-DE-012] Scheubner-Richter reported from Erzerum that out of 500 deported Armenians, "according to a statement made by the government, 14 of these people were murdered along the way; I have received private information that almost all the men were murdered." [1915-08-05-DE-002] According to Scheubner-Richter, part of a second group was "separated at Baiburt and I have been unable to ascertain anything as to their whereabouts. They were probably murdered." [1915-08-05-DE-002]
Deportations were carried out in other regions even more rigorously than in Erzerum, Scheubner-Richter reported, "Almost all of the men in Vilayet Trapezunt have supposedly been killed. The Armenians in Siwas were treated in a similarly brusque manner." [1915-08-05-DE-002] Spieker, a German witness, reported on men whose hands were tied behind their backs; they were thrown down steep slopes and, when they reached the bottom, women attacked them with knives until they were dead. [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3] Carl Schlimme, a volunteer soldier, received confirmation for the general murder of these men while out riding in June 1915, "I was informed by Turkish country dwellers that most of the men from Trapezunt were killed on the way to Gemischaneh." [1915-08-05-DE-002] The German Lieutenant Colonel, Stange, reported on the fate of the men from Erzerum, "Out of the first convoy which left on 16 June on the direct route to Charput 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." [1915-08-23-DE-013, Enclosure 2] "The accompanying Saptiehs then told us," reported Laura Möhring, a German nurse, "that many of the men who had been taken away had been killed, and that this was the best thing for the Turks." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
Sarkis Manukian, an Armenian who completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Leipzig and was employed as a German teacher in Erzerum, had left his home town on 19 June together with about 500 other families. He reported that, already along the way, 200 Armenian men were led off and murdered. Almost all of the remaining men suffered their hour of death in Surudj, in the presence of Seynal Bey, the brother of Hadji Bedr Bey, the leader of the Kurds.
"All of the men were gathered in a narrow valley – there were 2,115 males there. (We had to give our Kurdish and Turkish leaders money based on the number of persons; for this reason we made up a list and this is why I know the exact figure.) The women and children were already gone," Manukian reported. "The Kurds and gendarmes explained to us, 'You will now die, but this is not our fault; the government demands it.' We were tied up. We did not attempt to resist out of consideration for our women and children. Seynal Bey took action; he had all of them brought individually to him by the Kurds and gendarmes, everything they had was taken from each of them and then they were executed barely ten paces further away. Their heads were cut off with knives and axes and their corpses thrown in a chasm." [1915-11-30-DE-001, Enclosure 2] Manukian escaped, because he was able to speak to the Kurds in their native language and they helped him to fly.
The fate of the men from 120 families in a deportation convoy from the west with 174 wagons was described by Consul Eugen Buege, "On the way from Bogaslian to Erkelet, the 6 gendarmes who came along from Bogaslian as guards demanded money from the deportees' caravan on 22 August. Together, the 120 families collected 10 Turkish Lira in order to rid themselves in this manner of the danger to their lives. The gendarmes, angry because of the small sum, separated all the men, about 200 people, from the women and locked them into a khan. The gendarmes then brought the people out of the khan, tied up in groups, robbed them of all their cash and sent them, still tied together, to a nearby valley. The gendarmes later used rifle shots to signal the neighbouring Turkish murderous gangs, already waiting, to attack. All of the men and the youths over the age of 12 were tortured and killed by means of blows with a club, stones, sables, daggers and knives, and all this happened in front of the women and children who had to watch the murderers do their horrific deeds." [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 9]
Other witnesses report on similar events. After their arrival in the Vilayet of Angora, "6 gendarmes took over the supervision and leadership of the deportees on the continuation of their journey. Several recruits and civilians, all of them Moslems, joined the caravan in order to take part in the planned atrocity. When the caravan arrived in Tépé Han, the gendarmes had the men separated from the women, interned in a khan and brought out tied up in groups. Their cash was taken from them and all of the men were handed over to the soldiers and murderous gangs. In this way, all of the men and youths, about 250 people, were taken to a valley nearby and killed in the most hideous manner. The women had to watch all of this." [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 6] According to another report drawn up by Consul Buege, "On the deportation journey from Josgad to Bogaslajan (in the Vilayet of Angora), we were eyewitnesses as about one hundred Turkish soldiers shot several hundred Armenians from Josgad and Sungurlu, all men, among them two priests, in a valley 4 hours south of Josgad on 20 August of this year; they beat them to death with the butts of their rifles and annihilated all of them without exception." [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 7] An "older, calm Armenian who weighs things up carefully, a Protestant pastor" who was questioned by Roessler reported that, of the 35,000 to 40,000 Armenians deported from the north-east as well as Diarbekir who arrived in Aleppo, "there are no males over the age of 11." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 4] A group of Armenians expelled from Kharput consisted of 1,500 people, who arrived in Arghen after 4 days.
"The officer accompanying them told them there," the Armenian witness said, "that orders had been given that the men should take part in the harvest, gathered together all males over the age of 11 and brought them to a khan. The women and children had to move on. After a 3-hour march he had them stop for a rest in the open while he himself rode back to Arghen and returned to the women and children 7 – 8 hours later towards evening and said to them, 'The men have gone to the harvest.'" [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 4]
"With the exception of a 12-year-old boy who threw himself into the water and escaped, the entire Armenian population, 82 people, in the village of Bölveren near Albistan was killed," reported the German Baghdad Railway engineer, W. Spieker. "Kadir Pasha in Marasch said to me, 'I know that in the sector of the 3rd Army [That was practically the entire eastern region of Turkey]. all of the male population has been killed in accordance with a government order.'" [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 5] "Eye witnesses reported to me today," stated Eugen Buege, the German Consul in Adana, in a report, " that on 20 August in the area north of Caesarea 120 men from Tschorum were murdered in front of their families." [1915-09-06-DE-002]
Vice-Consul Hoffmann from Aleppo summed up, "It can be regarded as an established fact that in the actual Armenian Vilayets - quite apart from the war zone near Wan - the deportation has been accompanied by the massacre of the adult male Armenians, but also partly of the whole population of Armenian towns and villages. The statements made by the survivors of such deported convoys are concordant with each other in such a way that a prior agreement to this effect is out of the question." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1] In one of his reports, Armenien expert Mordtmann puts this simply: the "purpose of the deportation of the Armenians [is] the elimination of the men." [1915-12-21-DE-011]
One of the standard excuses used by those committing this genocide to explain why male deportees were missing in the convoys was that the men had tried to escape. Hoffmann's reply, "This admission, however contradicts the well-known strong family sense amongst the Armenians. Whenever the men fled in large numbers into the mountains, such as in the area around Suedije by the coast, they took the women and children with them. I know of cases where Armenian soldiers, having deserted, did not flee into the mountains, but headed straight for their families so that they could be deported with them, although they already knew what deportation entailed for them." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Naturally, the Turks committing this genocide knew very well that there were no credible reasons whatsoever for their action against the Armenians and that excuses were pure propaganda. The Bavarian major and military physician, Dr. Georg Mayer, reported from his own experiences, "With a cynical smile on their lips, people at the Ministry of War told how all these thousands had died a natural death or of an accident."[ Kriegsarchiv München, BHR, M Kr. 13841, Abteilung IV, p. 13]
Acts of Extermination in Home Towns
Not only men were threatened with immediate death, but women and children as well. "Thousands were killed in Gemerek," the head of the Home for the Blind in Malatia, Ernst Jacob Christoffel, reported. "In the area surrounding Josgad, the population from 6 Armenian villages was massacred, all of them, even the infants." [1916-04-01-DE-001] An eyewitness gave the following report to the German Consul Roessler, "In Besnije, the entire population of about 1,800 women and children and only a few men was deported; they were supposed to be transported to Urfa. By the river Goeksu, a tributary of the Euphrates, they had to take off their clothes, were then all massacred and thrown into the river." [1915-07-07-DE-001, Enclosure] Consul Holstein reports that "bands of Kurds, who had been hired by Fethi [Feyzi] Bey, the Deputy of Diarbekir, for this purpose, massacred the entire Christian population of the town of Djeziré with the assistance of the militia and the tolerance of the local authorities." [1915-09-11-DE-011] In what is today the town of Cisre, more than 90 per cent of the approximately 5,000 Christians were Armenians. In the town of Tell Ermen in the Mesopotamian desert, a purely Armenian town, Roessler reported, "Major von Mikusch returned from Mossul and reported the following: Approximately one week ago in Tell Ermen and a neighbouring Armenian village, Kurds slaughtered the Armenians. The large churches are destroyed; Mr. von Mikusch personally viewed 200 corpses." [1915-07-09-DE-001] Vice-Consul Hoffmann noted observations made by his colleague, Holstein, who reported that in Tell-Ermen "everything had been destroyed, except for 15 to 20 people who were able to flee. Vice-Consul Holstein even discovered remains, such as dismembered heads and limbs, in the church." [1915-12-07-DE-001]
One of the most dreadful chapters in the history of this genocide took place on the plain surrounding the town of Musch, with its many Armenian villages as well as in the town itself. There, men, women and children were murdered, usually right on the spot, and this was carried out in the most atrocious manner. After a conversation with the Swedish nurse, Alma Johansson, who worked for the "German Christian Charity-Organisation for the Orient", on the events in Musch during the middle of June 1915, Mordtmann noted, "The massacres began on the night of Sunday, 11 July, using rifles. The Turks claimed that several Armenians had attempted to break out in the direction of Sassun. A few well-situated Armenians were informed in the konak that they had to leave the city within three days, along with the entire population. But all their possessions had to be left behind as they now belonged to the state. Without waiting for the end of this period, the Turks had begun breaking into Armenian homes and plundering them. On Monday the 12th, light artillery and rifle fire could be heard the whole day. The local Turkish population participated in these events. The male Armenian population was murdered right in front of the town. The women, girls and children were carried off and taken on a further day’s march before being disposed of. Only three Armenian teachers from the orphanage were later set free. After the city was cleared, the Armenian Quarter was put to the torch and razed to the ground, along with the Armenian villages." [1915-11-06-DE-012]
In a report written in her own hand, Alma Johansson also noted, "The women were taken with the children to the next villages, locked by the hundreds into houses and burned. Others were thrown into the river. Yes, even higher officers always came to visit us now and they proudly told the same stories. This much is true: except for a small number of women, who the Kurds or Turks took for themselves, almost everything in the entire Musch region which could call itself Armenian has been exterminated, and no one got beyond the district. There had been about 25,000 Armenians in Musch; in addition, Musch has 300 villages, most of which had been Armenian. When we left Musch after three weeks, everything was burned down." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
The province of today's Kurdish metropolis of Diarbekir in the south-east was a further showplace of unrestrained killing right on the spot. Walter Holstein, the German Vice-Consul in Mossul, wrote that the former Mutessariff of Mardin reported to him that "the Vali of Diarbekir, Reschid Bey, is causing havoc like an eager bloodhound amongst the Christians of his Vilayets. Also just recently in Mardin, he allowed seven hundred Christians, mostly Armenians and including the Armenian Bishop to be slaughtered like sheep in one night near the city." [1915-07-10-DE-011]
The Annihilation of Entire Deportation Convoys
Almost without exception, deportation convoys from the north-east were channeled through Ersingjian to Kharput and from there on to Urfa and into the Mesopotamian desert, if they managed to arrive there at all. Many convoys reached the final destination of their path of suffering shortly beyond Ersingjan.
"The misery was indescribable," the two nurses, Thora von Wedel-Jarlsberg and Eva Elvers, reported with regard to a deportation convoy they had seen in Erzingjan. "Only 2 men were left, some of the women had gone insane; one cried out, 'We wish to become Moslems. We wish to become Germans; whatever you want, but just save us. They're going to take us to Kemagh now and cut our throats.' While saying this, she made an appropriate gesture." [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure] The Armenian woman was well versed in the geography of death. "The location is very suitable for such things," a German doctor from the Red Cross Hospital in Ersindjian reported. "It is the ravine through which the Euphrates leaves the Plain of Erzindjan to the west. The road follows the river for many kilometres; vertical rock walls make it impossible to escape to one side. A desolate area (Dersim) inhabited by rapacious mountain Kurds lies along the left bank of the Euphrates. If anything happens there, one can always blame the Kurds!" [1915-06-29-DE-005]
The two nurses reported to the Armenian doctor, Kafafian, "Together with the rest of the deportees, two young female teachers who were trained at the American College in Charput were on their way through the Kemagh Valley when they were caught in crossfire on 10 June, ahead of them Kurds and behind them semi-regular troops. Frightened, they threw themselves on the ground and pretended to be dead. When the shooting stopped, they managed to return to Ersingjan. On 11 June, regular troops were sent out to 'punish the Kurds. Instead, they – the troops – slaughtered the entire defenceless crowd, the largest part of which consisted of women and children. From the mouths of Turkish soldiers who were personally present we had to hear how the women begged on their knees for mercy and how some of them threw their own children into the river." [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure]
"The soldiers said that it was the 86th Cavalry Regiment, under the leadership of all of its officers, that carried out this atrocious deed," the two nurses continued. "They had required 4 hours to kill everyone. Ox carts were then waiting to transport the corpses to the river. That evening, you could watch the 'warriors' come home, laden with stolen goods. 'Haven't we done a good job?' some of them asked. Our gendarme told us that he had just accompanied such a convoy of 3,000 women and children from Mama Chatun, 2 days from Erzerum, to Kemagh. 'All gone,' 'Hep gitdi bitdi,' he said." [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure]
A German doctor from the Red Cross Hospital in Ersingjan confirmed the report, "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 Kemach ravine. 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. The soldier 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!" [1916-06-29-DE-005] "This account of the details concurs fully with that which [the Austrian] Major Dr. Pietschmann told us, who made the journey from Erzerum to here at almost the same time as the ladies," said Armenien expert Mordtmann, confirming the reports of the two nurses." [1915-07-21-DE-001]
If Armenian deportees had successfully passed the ravine of death, they then entered what the American consul Davis called the "Slaughterhouse Vilayet". Alma Johansson from Sweden reported that "the remains of the crowds from Keghi, Erzerum, Trapezunt, Samsun, Ersingan, etc., also arrived. Of those, actually only the women and children were still alive, and those who were still alive when they arrived in Mamuret ul Asis were finished off there. At the end of August, another crowd of 8,000 passed through Mamuret ul Asis, and as far as we have heard from the Turks, they were all killed." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
The largest of these places of death was located on Lake Goeljuk, south of Mamuret ul Aziz. The American Consul, Davis, who, during his period of office in Kharput, concerned himself almost solely with the protection of the Armenians, had ridden there twice, the first time with a Turkish friend and the second time with the American doctor, Henry H. Atkinson. "After about two hours we arrived at a large valley," said the American Consul. "Here there were more dead bodies than I had seen in any other place on either trip. We estimated that there were not less than two thousand in that one valley." [U.S. State Department, National Archives, Record Group 59, 867.00/803] Altogether, on their two rides, Davis and his companions counted about 10,000 slaughtered Armenians in the valleys surrounding this lake of death.
The Deportation Convoys
Whoever managed to escape the murderous hustle and bustle, either in their home town or on the road, awaited death marches that, contrary to any actions with the sole purpose of annihilation, could not be kept hidden and were followed by foreign observers, because the deportees also had to pass through towns in which other Christians or foreigners resided.
At the end of June 1915, "crowds of deported Armenians from the area around Erserum passed through our town in an indescribable, terrible state," Klara Pfeiffer, the German nurse, reported from Mesereh. "There were no men or grown-up sons among the crowds, and when the women were asked, where are your husbands, they answered, 'killed'." And, "Again on 6 July, large crowds of deportees from Keghi arrived in a deplorable state. You have to have seen these poor people yourself to know just how great their misery was. They were penned in for a while in some of the houses belonging to deported Armenians. In droves, most of them died of illness. Every morning the hearse drove past the houses and the dead were then piled on top of each other and driven away. Often, entire hordes of deportees were locked in right at the cemetery. They had to spend day and night among the graves until death, like a saving friend, ended their misery." [1916-05-10-DE-002]
An Austrian was an eyewitness to a convoy of deportees marching past near Urfa, "Looking at the children, the old and otherwise weak people, one could usually observe that they had sore, swollen feet that were wrapped in rags. Many a group limps by, screaming in pain - as soon as they see a person, many of these wretched souls fall on their knees and beg for help and salvation or offer their children for adoption. Many die of exhaustion on these marches at 56° Centigrade and without water - anyone who is left behind can be sure of death." [1915-08-13-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
An Armenian questioned by Consul Roessler reported on 23 August 1915, "The entire population from Mudurga, a village near Erzerum consisting of approx. 2,300 people, was expelled. Along the way, the men were separated from the women and the latter were led not along the proper road, but over the mountains, and on the entire journey they received 4 times 1 roll from the government. For 2 days they received not a drop of water to drink, although water was available, but rather the women and children, half dying of thirst, were driven further along by the gendarmes. Every day, 30 – 40 women and children were left to die along the way and some of them were shot to death by the gendarmes accompanying them. Of these 2,300, only 4 women, 4 girls and 3 boys arrived in Aleppo in a miserable state." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 4]
Another witness, who was asked by Roessler to give a report, stated, "Approximately 2,800 deportees from Gürün were robbed in Airan-Punar, 12 hours north-east of Marasch. In Airan-Punar, the gendarmes had the people separate: the few men were separate and the women were separate. About 200 people were killed during an attack; 70 badly wounded had to be left behind, over 50 other wounded were taken away with the transport. During the attack in Airan-Punar, men and women were bound to trees and burned. Hekkash efendi, a gendarme-sergeant accompanying the transport, stabbed a man, who had remained behind, with his bayonet. Near Bash-Punar, north-east of Aintab, opposite the village of Sam, men lay with their heads burned and women, their bodies cut open, for days. A man and a woman had been tied together." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 5]
One method of increasing the suffering of the deportees consisted in leading them practically in a circle. Consul Roessler, "The account by the Armenians, which is told over and over again, that the convoys full of exiles were deliberately driven backwards and forwards in order to 'run them to death' is confirmed in this report by just one example. One group of deportees from Urfa was forced to take the following route: From Urfa to Tell-Abiad, from Tell-Abiad to Rakka, from Rakka to Tell-Abiad, from Tell-Abiad to Rakka. The distance from Tell-Abiad to Rakka is about 90 kilometres as the crow flies." [1916-01-03-DE-002] Roessler reported the following on a convoy from Sivas, "Along the Muradsu they were led in circles for 14 days in one place in such a way that during the daytime they had no water at all." [1915-08-13-DE-001]
These deportee convoys were raided again and again. The German nurse, Paula Schaefer, reported on such a raid on a small camp consisting of about 50 deportees, "I found men and women badly wounded, their bodies cut open, with broken skulls, or in a terrible condition through stabs with a knife." And, "Nearly everything was transported on foot; men, women, children carried their few belongings on their backs. I often saw them break down under their burden, but the soldiers kept on driving them forward with the butt-ends of their rifles, even sometimes with their bayonets. I have dressed bleeding wounds of women that resulted from these bayonet-stitches." [1916-01-26-DE-004, Enclosure 1] She reported the following regarding another interim camp, "About 200 families had been left behind at Mamouré. They were unable to proceed on account of misery and illness. In this rain the soldiers also did not feel any inclination to stir them up and drive them on, so they were lying about as if they were in a lake. The rags of their beds did not have a single dry thread in them. Many women had their feet frozen; they were entirely black und ready to be amputated. The wailing and groaning was horrible." [1916-01-26-DE-004, Enclosure 3]
Deportations from the western part of the Ottoman Empire began at a later date and, in part, proceeded differently from those in the east. Some of the deported Armenians were able to cover part of the distance by train, even if they were generally crowded together in cattle wagons. But the farther they travelled, the more their fate resembled that of those previously deported from the north and east. Rudolf Zabel, the German journalist from the Tägliche Rundschau, gives a very exact description of the convoys from West Anatolia into the valley of the Euphrates River, which Mordtmann depicted,
"The transports are first directed to Konia where there is a fairly large concentration camp. Accommodation and food-supply for the deportees is bad. There is a high death rate. In Eregli there is a large camp (approx. 3,000 people); it appears that those who have travelled by train are accommodated there as the people still had a lot of belongings with them; there is also a high death rate in this camp. In Eregli five railway trains arrive each day, each with 1,000 – 1,500 Armenians; Mr. Zabel has seen 8,000 moving along on foot. Ulukirchla is one of the worst stations. The camp there was formerly occupied by labour battalions, is infested with refuse, insects, etc. The conditions for the deportees there is very wretched. Beyond Ulukirchla there is no more transport by train. The deportees are herded on in individual groups like cattle. In Bozanti, the next station, there is neither accommodation nor bread; from there it is another 10 kilometres without a break to a refugee camp along the military supply and communication route. In Adana the emigrants arrive completely exhausted. The military route Adana - Osmanié - Hamidé is now only passed along on foot; the camps (in the open air) are in a terrible condition." [1915-08-21-DE-011, Enclosure 2]
The Fate of the Women and Girls
The women and girls suffered in particular. Without male protection, they were at everyone's mercy, especially that of the gendarmes, officers and soldiers accompanying them, but also the male population in general. Blank, a German missionary, reports on a Turkish officer who "finally gave [his men] the right to dispose over the women among these poor people by saying they might do what they like with them." [1915-05-27-DE-001, Enclosure 3] And that is what they did.
This right of disposal was even documented in public notices. Vice-Consul Hoffmann describes detailed orders on young girls and women, who were deliberately deported for sexual reasons while their relatives were spared, because they were still needed to build the Baghdad railway. "I have searched in vain for an explanation to justify these orders; of being astounded at the recklessness with which the Turkish authorities issue orders of this kind in answer to petitions by a German company," Hoffmann writes. "Anyone who knows about family life and morality in Turkey will not be able to free himself of the feeling of witnessing an outrage." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
"With regard to transports in small groups, it is the rule," Ernst Pieper, an engineer, reported, "that the men who are still there are separated at night from the women to permit the soldiers to carry out nasty deeds against the latter without being disturbed. Almost without exception, the young girls are kidnapped by the soldiers and their Arab accomplices. A father close to desperation asked me to take his 15-year-old daughter with me as he could no longer protect her from being pestered." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 5]
"Without exception, all of the women were robbed," an Armenian reported to the German Consul Roessler, "and several had to take off their trousers no less than 9 times and permit that they be searched and looked at by the different officers and gendarmes accompanying them." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 4] "We also met several crowds of women and children; they were a miserable sight," said Alma Johansson from Sweden on her ride from Mamuret-ul-Aziz to Constantinople. "The gendarmes riding with them spoke openly of what they did to the poor people along the way. When asked, 'Where are they going?' they answered, 'If no one else will take them and they don’t die, then we’ll just have to kill them.'" [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 1] E. Neuner, the travelling companion of Maximilian Pfeiffer, Member of Parliament in the Reichstag, reported, "In Mossul 300 Armenian women were to be distributed among the Turkish harems, and when they absolutely refused they were all thrown into a large well and left there to die." [1918-02-22-DE-002, Enclosure]
"According to information from the deputy chief operating officer of the Baghdad Railway based on statements from two engineers employed in Ras ul Ain, a Dutchman and a Luxembourger," Roessler reported, "a troop of 300 – 400 women arrived naked at the railway station there." [1915-09-03-DE-002] "A German I know saw hundreds of Christian farmers' wives near Urfa being forced by the Turkish soldiers to undress completely," the German teacher in Aleppo, Martin Niepage, reported. "To the amusement of the soldiers, they had to drag themselves through the desert in this state for days in the 40° heat until their skin was completely burned." [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3] According to Magdalena Didszun, a German missionary, the piteous convoys of women and children were driven into the desert "where the Arabs are waiting to rob them of everything except the shirt off their backs and sometimes even that. If the women have gold fillings, their teeth are pulled out under great pain." [1915-11-22-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
For Armenian women, rape was part of everyday life for a deportee. According to Thora von Wedel-Jarlsberg and Eva Elvers, a gendarme accompanying a deportee convoy told them that the women "were robbed and raped in every new village". [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure] An Armenian, who was questioned by Roessler and known for his objectivity, reported, "It must also be noted that apart from the young women and girls who were kidnapped, 25 per cent of those whose appearance was more or less pleasing were taken by force to one side during the day or night by the gendarmes accompanying them, by Kurds and Turks, and raped; some of those who were more beautiful even by 10 – 15 men, one after the other. In this way, a whole crowd of women and girls were left lying along the way." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 4] In Erkelet, so other survivors reported, the Turks raided the convoy. "The Turks led all of the mature girls and young women away and violated them. Two girls resisted and were maltreated so badly on the part of the gendarmes that they died." [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 9]
An Armenian from Diarbekir reported to the German Consul Roessler, "The first victims were the president of the Daschnak together with 20 notables, among them the priest Aliponar. The people were taken into custody and ill-treated, and then Osman-Bey and the Mudir of the police, Hussein Bey, had them murdered. The priest's young wife was raped by 10 Saptiehs and almost tormented to death." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 6] "A woman raped by eight men threw herself on the railway line to end her life," said engineers from the Baghdad Railway. "The train was brought to a standstill, whereupon she was then brought to Aleppo by a German engineer." [1915-09-03-DE-002]
"In many houses in Aleppo in which Christians live, I found Armenian girls hiding who had escaped death by some coincidence, whether it was because they lay behind exhausted and were considered dead, while their convoy was forced to move on, or because Europeans had the opportunity to buy these unfortunate girls for a few marks from the Turkish soldier who had last violated them," Martin Niepage, the German secondary school teacher at the German secondary school in Aleppo, reported. "All of these girls act as if they were deranged. Many of them had to watch as the Turks cut their parents' throats. I know such poor creatures, who speak not a word for many months and from whom even today it is still impossible to win a smile. A girl of about 14 was taken in by the storeroom administrator of the Baghdad Railway in Aleppo, Mr. Krause. The child had been raped so often in one night by Turkish soldiers that she had completely lost her mind. I watched her thrash about insanely with hot lips on her pillow and had difficulty giving her water to drink." [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
The tormentors did not even shy away from girls who were still children. "The supervisor over the Armenians in Ras-el-Ain, a certain Nuri Schauch," Bastendorff, a German engineer, reported, "even declared in the presence of our Doctor Farah that it always gave him great pleasure to deflower Armenian girls under the age of 12." [1916-01-03-DE-002, Enclosure 2] The fact that some of the tormentors were simply sadists is evidenced by findings described by witnesses: women whose breasts had been cut off. [1915-08-13-DE-001, Enclosure 2] At the railway embankment near Tell Abiad and Raz ul Ain, Greif, a German witness from Aleppo, saw masses of raped naked women's corpses lying about. "Many of them had clubs forced into their anus." [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
The overseers often did good business by selling women. An Armenian clergyman in Diarbekir reported to the German Consul Roessler that "young women and girls were kidnapped by officers and gendarmes". When the troops left Diarbekir, "the officer who had accompanied them there came with some gendarmes and picked out several pretty young girls and boys and left the rest with 6 – 7 gendarmes behind while he himself went off with his prey." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 4] On the way to Mardin, [the gendarmes] sold "many young girls and boys to Kurds and others or gave them away." Bastendorff, the German engineer, reports on the fate of Armenian women in Ras ul Ain, "The policemen carried on a flourishing trade with the girls: against payment of a few Medjidies, anyone could take the girl of his choice either for a short while or forever." [1916-01-03-DE-002, Enclosure 2] The German Vice-Consul in Mossul, Holstein, reported that the maximum price for a woman in the area he travelled through was 5 piastres (95 pfennigs). [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1] Three engineers from the Baghdad Railway had work to do in Tel Ebiad (100 kilometres east of the Euphrates River). "Towards evening, the Kaimakam came and offered each of them a young Armenian girl for the night." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 5]
The accompanying soldiers were even hard-hearted towards women giving birth to children. Generally, they were given no time to bring their children into the world and then recuperate briefly afterwards. "Two women fell down to give birth," Roessler observed in Aleppo, "and were only protected from being whipped by the gendarmes by town dwellers, who rushed to help them." [1915-09-27-DE-014] A German reported that in Aleppo, "a woman gave birth to a child on the road; several steps further on, a dead woman was found with a living child at her breast." [1915-11-01-DE-001, Enclosure]
"Women who bear children along the way suffer the worst fate," a German civil servant of the Baghdad Railway wrote. "They are hardly given enough time to give birth to their child. One woman had twins during the night. The next morning she had to move on on foot, carrying two children on her back. After marching for two hours she collapsed. She had to put the two children down under a bush and was forced by the soldiers to continue marching with her other travelling companions. Another woman gave birth during the march, had to move on immediately and collapsed, dead. Another woman was surrounded by American female missionaries near Aintab when she gave birth. They were only able to gain permission for her to ride on an animal, and she moved on with her child wrapped in rags. These examples were observed just on the stretch from Marash to Aintab." [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 4]
Mysterious and yet sinister is a document received in the form of a letter by Professor Becker in Bonn, which had been opened by German censors. It stated in Turkish, "On both sides of the road we saw Armenians who had been beaten to death. We counted 9 of them. Most of them were women. One of them had nails hammered through her hands and arms." [1916-01-18-DE-001] It is unclear whether this was a crucifixion carried out by fanatics of the Holy War called by the Sultan (at the request of the German Emperor), which the Turks often understood as being a war against the Christian Armenians. At any rate, the letter was so explosive for the German authorities that they only permitted it to be delivered with a very strict entry of confidentiality.
The citizens of the town who wished to distribute bread and water were prevented from doing so. Two women fell down to give birth and were only protected from being whipped by the gendarmes by town dwellers, who rushed to help them.
Aleppo, the largest town in the south-eastern region, developed into a real turnstile for deportations and, when a deportee convoy marched through Aleppo, hundreds witnessed the events. "Using whips, the gendarmes drove the wretched, emaciated creatures, many of whom had a death-look about them, through the streets of Aleppo to the train station without permitting them to drink a drop of water or to receive a piece of bread here in the town," Roessler reported. "Two German Borromeus sisters witnessed a gendarme pulling an exhausted woman along by her hair." [1915-09-27-DE-014]
Comments by an eyewitness on the treatment of the deportees, "A short while ago, the Armenian emigrants coming from the interior were led through the town, and the inhabitants were strictly forbidden to refresh those dying of thirst in the heat with a drop of water. Eyewitnesses confirm that an old woman, who collapsed from exhaustion, was forced to move along by a gendarme who kicked and whipped her. When a woman came out of a neighbouring house with a glass of water, the gendarme knocked the glass out of her hand and attempted to mistreat the old woman again. She dragged herself past another few houses and died there. Despite this, it is strictly forbidden," said the witness, "to give the people bread or even water. Two men who attempted to do so in two different places received official letters threatening them with court-martial." [1915-11-01-DE-001, Enclosure]
Several spectators reacted despite this. "A German and an Austrian who were just on their way to the Vali to see about a Turkish charity bazaar, put up a defence against the gendarmes and threatened them with the Vali, thereby almost coming to blows with them. Two German officers' batmen were so outraged that they slapped gendarmes. A retired Turkish colonel, a Circassian, felt compelled on his part to let the gendarmes feel the whip." [1915-09-27-DE-014] Following this, the Armenians were led around the town in future.
More and more, Aleppo turned into a huge cemetery for deported Armenians. "At first, the dead in Aleppo were taken to the cemetery in coffins provided by the Armenian Church. Hamale handled that and were given 2 piastres for each body," the German Baghdad Railway official, W. Spieker, reported. "When the hamale were no longer able to manage everything on their own, the women took their dead to the cemetery themselves, carrying the small children in their arms and the larger ones on a sack held by 4 women, one at each corner. I saw dead bodies laid across a donkey's back and transported thus to the cemetery. One of my acquaintances saw a body bound to a stick and carried away in this manner by 2 men. The skin of one corpse stuck to the hamales' hands, showing how far the decaying process had already proceeded. The dying and the severely ill lay among the dead in the burning sun, about 1,000 people. The entire scene presented such a terrible picture as I have never seen before. Almost all the people had diarrhea. The dying lay along gutters, which had been dug in the courtyard, their backs toward the gutters so that they could relieve themselves directly into the gutter. Whoever died was moved to one side and another person took his sad place. Often, those considered dead were carried away and still showed signs of life at the grave; they were carried to one side until it was clear that they were dead. A man buried one evening sat on his grave the next morning. Several dead are placed in one grave and he was the last one to be buried; in the dusk only a little dirt had been thrown superficially on top of him."[ 1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 5]
Roessler wrote that he paid no attention to such stories until the dragoman who had been with the consulate for many years was buried in the Greek Catholic cemetery and Roessler himself saw the misery; he then reported, "Several Armenian bodies were being buried. A row of open graves had been prepared. According to the gravediggers, 5 - 6 people were to be buried in each one, in which normally one person would have been laid. An Armenian priest, or probably a lay brother, kept a list on the number of buried. The church's participation consisted solely of his making the sign of the cross from a distance at each funeral. The Gregorian church in Aleppo has succumbed to the force of events. It also seems that the despair over the doom of their people has won a victory over their faith. Two dying women lie near a grave. Around them stand gravediggers and street urchins, waiting for the moment of death to lay them in the grave. When the gravedigger wanted to carry out his duties he noticed that, of the five bodies, three were still alive. A boy whose death did not seem to be imminent was taken away from the cemetery, while the two women were kept there." [1915-09-27-DE-014]
The Deportation Routes Beyond Aleppo
The deportation routes to the south were split in Aleppo. The Armenians who were driven on to Palestine – since September 1915, mainly from the towns of Marasch and Aintab – were far better equipped with a means of transport than those Armenians deported along the Euphrates River. "At present, the transport of 12,000 Armenians is being carried out via Damascus to the south: to be precise, to the southern Hauran and the areas east of Kerak on the Hedjaz railway line," Max Baron von Oppenheim, the German Minister Resident responsible for propaganda in the Orient, reported at the end of August 1915. "I myself saw such a transport pass Damascus late one evening. There were about 500 people of all ages; they had come from Aleppo on carts and all sorts of mounts; no one was on foot and their possessions were loaded on a considerable number of camels." [1915-08-29-DE-001]
The larger part of the deported Armenians was, however, led directly into the desert, along the Euphrates River to Deir-es-Zor, which was generally the last station before the deportees were finally exterminated. Laura Moehring, a German mission nurse, travelled from Baghdad along this route with three companions during the middle of June 1915. She reported,
"The next day we met up with an entire Armenian camp during our midday break. In the manner of the Kurds, the poor people had made themselves primitive goat's hair tents in which they were resting. For the most part, however, they were lying unprotected on the burning sand under the beating sun. You cannot imagine anything more wretched than such a crowd in the desert under the given circumstances. It was clear from their clothes that they had lived in a certain state of wealth, and now misery was written all over their faces. Everyone was of the opinion that none of them would reach Baghdad; they considered the desert to be their grave." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
The German Consul Wilhelm Litten, who experienced deportation convoys travelling from Aleppo to Baghdad while he was travelling in the opposite direction, described his impression of the route from Aleppo to Deir-es-Zor, "Beyond Der Zor the 'Trail of Horror' began. As far as I could see, it was divided into two sections: the first section from Der Zor to Sabha, along which I could gain an impression of what had happened here from the position of the bodies, the state of their decay and their clothing, as well as from the rags of linen, pieces of clothing and parts of household utensils that were strewn in the road: how the stragglers had been wandering alone in the desert, had finally collapsed and, with their faces tortured and distorted with pain, had met their death in despair; and how others were relieved more quickly thanks to the severe night frost and passed away peacefully in their sleep; how some had been unclothed by Arab robbers, whereas the clothing of others had been torn from their bodies in rags by dogs and other vermin; how others had only lost their shoes and outerwear; and others had only a short time ago finally collapsed and died next to their baggage, completely clothed ... probably during the last transportation, while the bloody and half-bleached skeletons remind one of previous transports. The second section was from Sabha to Meskene, where I no longer needed to guess the individual fates, but had to behold the misery with my own eyes: a large transport of Armenians passed me by just beyond Sabha, driven by the gendarmerie guards to walk faster and faster, and then the whole misery of the stragglers became apparent in live form. I saw by the wayside hungry, thirsting, sick, dying, freshly deceased, mourners beside fresh bodies, and those who could not part quickly enough from their relatives, endangered their own lives, because the next station or oasis was three days' march away for those on foot. Weakened by hunger, disease and pain they staggered on, fell and lay still on the ground." [1916-02-09-DE-001, Enclosure]
This was also confirmed by a confidant of Beatrice Rohner, a Swiss nurse in German service, who had ridden along this death route, "In Meskene I saw more than 600 deported who had lived in Muara till now and who had spent a pitiful sojourn of nine months there. They were now once more persecuted and sent to different places. Exhausted, they moved on slowly with their possessions on their backs. As nourishment, they cook grass, press the water out, and make balls which they dry in the sun. On the first of May, I came to Debsy where I found the above mentioned six hundred deported, all in despair. They had not even been allowed to rest once or even to gather grass but had been cruelly driven on. On the way I found people dying everywhere, exhausted from hunger and thirst. Every few minutes there was a death stench. The gendarmes beat these stragglers, saying that they pretend to be tired. In Hamam I found 7,000 deported, three thousand of them hungry and practically naked. Here there is no grass, the locusts have consumed everything. I saw the people gathering locusts and eating them raw or cooked. Others were looking for the roots of grasses. They catch street dogs and pounce like savages upon dead animals, whose flesh they eat eagerly without cooking." [1916-06-29-DE-001, Enclosure]
The confidant's journey led him as far as Deir-es-Zor, before he turned back and reported on his return journey, "I met new caravans everywhere. The people have the appearance of lost men. We often see a whole row of ghastly forms, rising suddenly out of a grave and asking for some bread and water. They have all dug their graves and lie waiting death. People of better standing who cannot make up their minds to beg for a piece of bread lie, when exhausted, on their beds, till death comes to release them. No one looks after them. In Sepka a preacher from Aintab told me that parents have often killed their children. The Government's investigation showed that some people had eaten their children. It has happened that the dying have been fought over in order to secure their flesh for food." [1916-06-29-DE-001, Enclosure]
Deir-es-Zor - Going to the Hell.
In the beginning, it appeared as if it would be possible for the last survivors to build up an existence for themselves in Deir-es-Zor, even if this was under extreme conditions. A German sent by Roessler to the town reports the following, "The entrance alone immediately displays the settlers' main occupation: burying the dead, dull brooding, laborious, sick, half-dead movement. Der Zor itself is not an ugly city, with lovely, wide streets. Previously 14,000 inhabitants, presently 25-30,000. There are no organisational arrangements for the huge, accumulated mass of people. The mortality rate is 150-200 persons per day (according to the local doctor). Only in this way is it possible that thousands of settlers can still be brought in. No linguistic expression of thought can even come close to describing the reality of this human misery; so indescribable are the occurrences there. And this tragic heap is continually growing. The authorities carefully clean all the corners and streets every day, build new residential areas such as in Sabcha, distribute money among the people as well as bread and flour and yet, with some exceptions, death is preferential to life." [1915-11-16-DE-002, Enclosure]
Consul Wilhelm Litten had still regarded the situation in Deir-es-Zor very optimistically, "Here were many Armenians, more than 2,000 to be sure. All the houses and khans were full of them. On the streets of the clean little town there are many Armenians of all ages and of both sexes in Turkish farmers' clothes, but also many in European civilian clothing, obviously belonging to higher classes. Young girls in well-fitting European clothes. Der Zor is a friendly little town with straight streets and pavements. The Armenians were enjoying complete freedom there, could do just as they liked, also in the way of food, which they had to buy themselves. Anyone who had no money, could not buy anything." [1916-02-09-DE-001, Enclosure]
But even this almost idyllic state in the midst of the Armenians' misery quickly changed to a place in hell after it was ordered that only ten per cent of the inhabitants were allowed to be Armenian and, in particular, the humane Vali, Suad Bey, were transferred to Baghdad and replaced by the brutal Circassian, Seki Bey. Araxia Djibedjian, an Armenian woman, reported in a letter to Beatrice Rohner from Deir-es-Zor, "The people are slaughtering and eating stray dogs. Recently they even slaughtered a dying man and ate him. I saw how a woman ate the dried blood of a dead animal on the street. Up to now they all ate grass, but that has also dried up in the meantime." [1916-07-29-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
Three months later, Roessler reports, "On 16 July, news was received from Der Zor that the Armenians had been ordered to continue their march. On the 17th, all clergymen and community leaders were arrested. By 22 July, so the order, all Armenians were to be on the road again." [1916-07-29-DE-001]
The Chabur River - Arriving at the Hell.
Whoever managed to reach Deir-es-Zor had merely achieved a short postponement: the last Armenians met their fate in the Chabur River, which flows into the Euphrates south of Deir-es-Zor. Vice-Consul Hoffmann quotes a German officer who had travelled the route along the Euphrates for a long time and now noted, "Of the largest stations, Sabcha has been completely emptied and Der-es-Sor has only a few hundred craftsmen left who were working for the troops, whereas at the latter place only 8 weeks ago many thousands (estimated by another side as being 20,000) were still in the camp. The spiritual leaders such as teachers, lawyers, clergymen are said to have been taken recently from the camps and imprisoned in government buildings (most likely prisons). The others - including those who had actually begun to really settle down in the more northerly stations - had disappeared. The official version was that they had been sent on to Mussul (i.e. a route along which very few of them had any chance of reaching their destination alive), but according to the general opinion of the people they had been murdered in the small valleys to the south-east of Der-es-Sor, on the strip between the Euphrates and Chabur rivers. The Armenians are said to have been led away in groups of a few hundred at a time and butchered to death by Circassians who had been especially commissioned to do so. The nomads have left that corner between the Euphrates and the Chabur, supposedly because of the activities described." [1916-08-29-DE-001] Hoffmann repeats the assessment of a German who visited all of the camps, "The 20 – 30,000 Armenians whom I saw during my last journey in Der-es-Sor have meanwhile been deported, except for some craftsmen and about 1,200 children. As far as I have heard, they have been sent to the area of the Chabur river. There, according to general opinion, they will be massacred." [1916-09-05-DE-001]
This was what actually happened. While on a routine journey on the river in the autumn of 1916, Hellmuth von Muecke, a German lieutenant-commander, discovered the corpses of Armenians below the point where the Chabur flows into the Euphrates. [1916-09-20-DE-001] Roessler transmitted a report by Buente, an academically trained engineer, on his observations along the Chabur River to Berlin. Roessler stated, "There is no doubt that the large numbers of human skulls and bones to be found there are from the Armenian massacres which took place the previous July and August." Buente had reported, "In the period from 1 to 6 April, I went up the Chabur on the river Euphrates together with Captain Loeschebrand and Sergeant Langenegger from Buseir and found large amounts of bleached human skulls and skeletons on the left bank; some of the skulls had bullet holes. In some places we found stakes, also with human bones and skulls. The largest accumulations were across from the Kischla Scheddade. The population spoke of 12,000 Armenians who were massacred, shot or drowned just here." [1917-05-14-DE-001, Enclosure]
Beatrice Rohner, a Swiss nurse in German service, recorded three eyewitness accounts from Armenians who had escaped from a mass execution. She had already known Manuk Kyrmenikian, an Armenian, previously. His group had travelled along the Chabur as far as the village of Suware (Sauar). The order was given there to depart, "but after half of them had moved out," he remembered, "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." Then "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." [1916-11-05-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
Beatrice Rohner was also personally acquainted with the Armenian witness, Nasaret Muradian. He came from the town of Zeitun, from which the first Armenians had been deported. At this earlier stage, the men were often not murdered, enabling males from Zeitun to travel to Deir-es-Zor. This was why there were still entire families among the deportees led to the Chabur River. After arriving at the place of execution, the president of the municipal government of Deir-es-Zor, Zeki Bey, had 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 Cherkessians 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." [1916-11-05-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
Hosep Sarkissian from Aintab was Beatrice Rohner's third witness. He had worked in Der Zor for a year as a day labourer until Zeki Bey arrived. In July and August he had over 150,000 deportees brought to the village of Merad on the Chabur River. From there, they were driven further on in groups. Hosep's caravan, about 1,700 people, was driven along the Chabur embankment as far as Schidadie.
"The next morning, a band of Cherkessians on horseback came by and surrounded the caravans," said the witness. "They took everything away from them that they were still carrying with them and tore the clothes off their backs. The Cherkessians 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 Cherkessians threw themselves a second time at their victims, striking into the crowd with axes, sables, knives until blood flowed like a river and the entire plateau was covered in mutilated corpses. Joseph watched as the Mutessarrif of Der 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 Cherkessians 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." [1916-11-05-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Enrichments and Economic Consequences
Apart from the motive of murder and annihilation for these crimes, a further motive of enrichment runs through almost all of the witnesses' reports concerning the deportations. It was the ordinary citizens in the towns inhabited by Armenians who obtained all kinds of objects for far less than they were worth, or simply stole them, and who misappropriated the deportees' goods when these people passed through their village. The accompanying gendarmes and soldiers enriched themselves by searching the deportees for money and goods; they threatened or even murdered them in order to obtain hidden money. The culprits were hired robbers or Kurds and Cherkessians, gendarmes, soldiers and officers as well as lower and mid-level governments officials, who had been called in. The higher their rank, the higher their demands. Top public officials, on their part, made use of laws that had been put into force solely to provide the state, and thus them, with benefits. On the other hand, the economic consequences mainly affected the poor among the Turks and Kurds as well as the foreign creditors of the Armenian victims, mainly the Germans. The genocide served to bring about the greatest redistribution of wealth in the Ottoman Empire, from the Christians to the Turks. "The purpose of the deportation of the Armenians," the Armenian expert, Mordtmann, wrote, apart from murdering the men, was "the confiscation of Armenian property." [1915-12-21-DE-011]
The Armenians called up for deportation had only a few days, sometimes only hours, to sell their possessions at the market, achieving only ridiculously low prices. This provided an entirely new opportunity for the Turks in the town to appropriate a part of the Armenians' wealth for themselves. "This time, the Turks are enriching themselves more than through any previous massacre," Benno von Dobbeler, a German teacher at a school for the blind, wrote, "and they do not need to fight for the goods: they are simply dropping into their laps." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 3] "A large part of the Armenians' houses were simply torn down by the population after the deportations had been carried out; first, the windows, doors, stairs were carted away; later, the walls were torn down and all of the interior woodwork torn out and used for firewood," the wife of the German head of the orphanage in Kharput reported; "right up until today such wood is brought from the villages and sold." [1917-05-23-DE-001, Enclosure]
Even the local policemen took part in this kind of robbery. Stange, a German lieutenant colonel, reports, "The German volunteer, Schlimme, saw for himself in Trapezunt how police officers in front of the police station took pitiful bundles away from the passing deportees." And, "Things that had been left behind or even taken with them were confiscated by the escorting gendarmes and soldiers or stolen from the houses." [1915-08-23-DE-013] For in Trapezunt, Consul Bergfeld reported, the Armenians were forbidden to sell anything, even at a give-away price. [1915-07-09-DE-002]
A ritual then began along the deportation routes that is described in many witnesses' reports. Using threats, the accompanying Turkish troops attempted to elicit the rest of their money from the Armenians, which they had hidden in their clothes or carried on their person, or in their hair. One eyewitness reported to Roessler, "The women who arrived in Ras ul Ain had to undress completely several times during their journey before the eyes of the accompanying gendarmes. Their clothes were searched for money, even their hair and private parts were examined to see whether they had hidden money there." [1915-07-27-DE-001, Enclosure]
A witness, who was requested to Roessler to give a report, stated, "Approximately 2,800 deportees from Gürün were robbed in Airan-Punar, 12 hours north-east of Marasch, by 8 robbers, some of whom wore the uniforms of officers and some of soldiers. In Qysyl-Getschid, 1½ hours from Airan-Punar, the 8 robbers joined the gendarmes accompanying the transport and spoke with them for quite a while. In a narrow pass on Engissek-Dagh the entire transport was completely robbed. An eye witness, an Armenian from Marasch, who was employed as a miller in a village near Airan-Punar and fled from there during the attack, told me how he saw 2 brothers fighting near his mill over the spoils, whereby one said, 'I killed 40 women for these 4 loads.'" [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 5]
"A certain Manuk Schahbasian, a wholesale merchant in Adana whose family had been joined by Armenian friends of theirs, thus resulting in a train set of 33 wagons, was attacked one evening by Turkish robbers," Consul Buege noted in a report. "As it is assumed that those Armenians who leave by wagon are prosperous, these – Mohammedan – robbers have their eyes especially on such caravans. The Armenians attacked paid 1,200 Turkish Lira to the robbers and were then permitted to continue their journey. Orman Katibi Lewon Effendi's wagons drove some distance behind the strung-out train set of the Schahbasian. Due to the bad road, these wagons had difficulty moving ahead. The robbers, probably the same ones who had pillaged Schahbasian's train, also appeared here. The number of robbers who took part in this attack is known: it was only two people. After the Mohammedans had at least partially satisfied their need for the blood of the Armenians by stabbing and beating them, they extorted 35 Turkish Lira from Lewon Effendi. His injuries were fairly significant, so that it was not possible for him to continue his journey, and he returned to Adana where he is still to be found at present." [1915-10-01-DE-006; Enclosure 4]
"On 29 August, the four gendarmes and two policemen accompanying the deportees' caravan from Talas began their act of robbery along the way at an uninhabited place and in the darkness of the evening," according to a further report by Buege. "They used loaded guns and beat the deported Armenians with the butts of their rifles and lashed them in order to intimidate them and press them for their money. One of those mistreated, Arabadschi Alexan, bled to death not far from Nigde (Konia). The entire amount paid to the gendarmes and the policemen comes to about 450 Turkish Lira." [1915-10-01-DE-005; Enclosure 5]
"On the evening of 22 August, our caravan, consisting of 700 people, arrived in Tépé Han (Vilayet Angora), where the men were first interned in a khan," said another witness."Then the gendarmes raided all of them, group by group, took away their cash and handed them over to the murderous gangs. The gendarmes took two people to their mother and promised her that they would be freed for ransom. Although they received fifteen Turkish Lira, they shot them in front of their mother. All of the gendarmes who accompanied the deportees' convoy took away all the cash bit by bit and gave all the valuables to the irregulars and rapacious gangs." [1915-10-01-DE-006; Enclosure 7]
Food, even spoiled food, almost always had to be bought, as well as water, even if it was only from the muddy puddles of ponds. In the beginning, those accompanying the convoys enticed their female Armenian hostages to save their honour by paying for it; later, they threatened to murder their relatives. And even after the Armenian deportees had been murdered, the search for hidden money still went on. For example, many of the mutilations of female genitals or bodies that had been cut open were probably carried out while searching for money. Finally, some of those looking for gold burned the corpses of their victims in order to retrieve coins hidden in the body from the ashes.
It was by no means just the lower-level ranks who enriched themselves. Consul Roessler received a report from an Armenian on how such actions were carried out. An Armenian reported to the German Consul Roessler that a group of about 1,500 deportees from Kharput had arrived in a Kurd village. "The accompanying officer said to them there, 'Any woman carrying gold or jewellery with her must give it to me immediately. Whoever keeps more than 40 piasters will be shot. The money and jewellery which you give to me now will be returned to you in Diarbekir.' After he had promised them that, the women gave him the largest part of their money and their jewellery. On the 2nd evening the same officer searched the clothes and bodies of the women and girls; he even took off their trousers and searched for money with his hands and his eyes. Having arrived in Diarbekir, nothing at all was returned to them. As they were leaving Diarbekir, the officer who had accompanied them there came with some gendarmes and picked out several pretty young girls and boys and left the rest with 6 – 7 gendarmes behind while he himself went off with his prey. On the way to Mardin, the gendarmes took the deportees' few possessions, their bit of bread and the few pieces of jewellery they still had. Since the gendarmes accompanying them now knew that the deportees had no more money on them, they tormented them on the 4-day journey from Mardin to Ras el Ain by not giving them any drinking water. They sold many young girls and boys to Kurds and others or gave them away, so that of the 1,500 people who had been deported from Kharput only 500 reached Ras el Ain." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 4]
The German Baghdad Railway official, W. Spieker, reported on the attack of a deportee convoy that was carried out "with the consent of the Kaimakam of Albistan". The Armenians paid him 200 Turkish pounds for his promise of a safe escort; the administrative head of Gürün had even been paid 1,020 Turkish pounds. "I saw an Armenian teacher who, together with others, had given this amount to the Kaimakam in the club room in Gürün." [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 5] Upon the intervention of the German Baghdad Railway official, Bastendorff, two Armenian employees were able to return to their workplace after it was previously ordered that they be deported. "But prior to this, they had been plundered. I later learned from older policemen that the Kaymakam had taken his share of the loot." [1916-01-03-DE-002, Enclosure 2]
"In Ulu-Kischla, the gendarmes, together with their superior, act like an organised gang," Consul Buege reported. "Each deportation procession must pay its tribute. The deportees from Nigde were hardly able to save themselves by paying 200 Turkish Lira, and those from Ismid had to sacrifice 7 of their notables, among them Nerses, the vicar, because they refused." [1915-10-01-DE-006], Enclosure 10. Paul Kern, a German engineer, reported that the Turkish authorities charge all Armenians who wish to enter their town a special tax. Road toll had to be paid just for crossing a small, connecting bridge between two camps of deportees. [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 1]
Shortly before mass executions were carried out on the Chabur River, the murderers enriched themselves in accordance with strict procedures which Hosep Sarkission, the sole survivor of his group, described thus, "The Cherkessians kept the money, jewellery, etc., and distributed the clothes among the Arabs who had appeared in crowds." [1916-11-05-DE-001, Enclosure 1] Manuk Kyrmenikian, an Armenian, reported on the tricks carried out by the Mudir from the village of Suwara on the Chabur River, where the group had been sent. "The Mudir, a Cherkesse, 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. 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 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." [1916-11-05-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
It was the Turkish rulers who made the real killing with the goods confiscated from the Armenians. "The Turkish authorities use this good opportunity to increase their wealth as much as possible," Buege, the German Consul in Adana, wrote. "On the other hand, strangers are severely hurt, because transfers, etc., of Armenian property are only permitted to Ottoman people or, to be more specific, to Mohammedans." [1915-09-06-DE-002] These transfers were regulated in a complicated and extensive "Loi provisoire" ("provisional law"), a liquidation law commented on derisively by the director of the German Bank, "It could have been expressed much more simply and clearly in two paragraphs, namely: Paragraph 1) Tous les biens des Arméniens sont confisqués. ["All of the Armenians' goods have been confiscated."] Paragraph 2) Le Gouvernement encaissera les créances des exilés et il remboursera (ou ne remboursera pas) leurs dettes. ["The government will collect the exiles' claims and reimburse (or not reimburse) their debts."]" [1915-10-07-DE-002]
This was exactly how things worked from a practical point of view. Technically speaking, the Armenians' property was to be deposited. According to Consul Bergfeld, "Their shops and storerooms were to be sealed, all objects from their homes brought to certain places and placed under the supervision of the government. Money was to be brought to the post office to be forwarded gradually at a later interval." [1915-07-09-DE-002] In actual fact, what happened was "that the authorities helped themselves at will to the possessions that had been left behind (houses, shops, goods, households)," Stange, a German lieutenant colonel, reported. [1915-08-23-DE-013]
No one at the ministries in Constantinople planned to return confiscated goods. Ambassador Wolff-Metternich made a request to the Ministry of the Interior that a certain group of Armenians be allowed to return. The person he spoke with explained to him, "The return of the individuals in question to their home town is inadmissible, because they would no longer find any of their property there, since, in the meantime, the Liquidation Committee has taken possession of it." [1915-12-27-DE-002]
"Today, only few Armenians are left who have a larger fortune, because the Turks confiscated the Armenians' entire fortune," said E. Neuner, who accompanied Maximilian Pfeiffer, the German Member of Parliament for the Centre Party, on a trip through Turkey. "[They did] so in a manner that has nothing in common with the format of a more or less civilised nation." [1918-02-22-DE-002, Enclosure] "According to the new law pertaining to abandoned possessions, the goods still withheld by the Armenians will no doubt be used by bad Turkish elements," Count Spee, the German Consul General in Smyrna, wrote in a telegram, "as an opportunity to take possession of these goods and, at the same time, of the considerable fortunes of the Armenians." [1916-11-13-DE-001]
Who the Count was referring to by "bad Turkish elements" was named by Consul Bergfeld: the members of the Young Turk Committees. "With few exceptions, they enrich themselves in the most shameless manner when Armenian houses are cleared out." Bergfeld was afraid "that the members of the Committees were pleased with such an easy way of enriching themselves." 1915-08-27-DE-013. They would hardly be bothered by the authorities, for "in view of the dependency of most administrative authorities on the Committee they will most certainly not have been wrong in their calculations." [1915-07-09-DE-002] According to a German informant for the Baghdad Railway, "A higher-ranking officer made a remark to the effect that such an opportunity to get rich would never pass by again and that anyone who did not take advantage of this moment would be a fool." [1915-11-02-DE-001]
A German reported that the director of the Ottoman Bank in Eskischerhir, a man of Armenian heritage, but an Austrian protégé, had kept securities and jewellery for one of his Armenian relatives, who had been deported, in a strongbox. When such actions were forbidden, the Armenian had German friends register the contents of the strongbox and then took it together with the list of contents to the president of the local government. Two days later, he was ordered before the government and the Mutessarif "reproached him fiercely for daring to make such a fool of the Turkish authority. He [the Mutessariff] had opened the strongbox and found only old rubbish and two broken revolvers." When the Armenian explained that he had had German witnesses make up an exact list of the contents, "the Mutessariff yelled at him, asking how he could dare accuse a Turkish authority of lying, and threw him out. A few days later he was arrested." [1918-02-22-DE-002, Enclosure]
Consul Buege calls the case of Mateos Nalbandian, the Member of Parliament from Kosan, "the most striking example of bribery and acts of enrichment. He saw himself forced to offer everything to free himself in some way from the agonies and dangers of deportation, and saved his life in the following manner: He signed a two-year contract with the brother of the local Vali, Hamdi Bey, reaching an agreement with him that the Vali's brother would have the right to half of this year's harvest in exchange for Nalbandian's enjoying complete freedom. It is said that, roughly, Nalbandian has 15,000 dönum [area measurement] at his disposal and that he is the only large-scale Armenian landowner in Kosan, so it can be assumed that the Vali's brother has assured himself of at least 1,500 – 2,000 Turkish Lira's worth of pure profit for this year. The Vali's brother's share also has the advantage that cheap, yes, even unpaid workers from the ranks of the workers' corps will be available for the harvest and the work in the autumn." [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 10]
Naturally, the rich Armenians attempted to buy themselves off with their money, and in some cases they were successful. "All known Armenian trading companies, the prosperous craftsmen and traders from the town of Adana, are being exploited by Dschemal Bey, the Chief of Police, and Hakki Bey, the Vali," Consul Buege reported. Negotiations had been carried out by the Armenian, Hakob Ohanian. "But from the general situation and taking into consideration that the rich Armenians remained behind, it can be concluded that Ohanian succeeded in squeezing out several thousand pounds for the Chief of Police and the Vali." [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 10]
As a means of enrichment, Consul Buege named "the new system for auctioning municipal taxes. In accordance with the latest regulation by the Town Council, whose Chairman is Dschemal Bey, the Chief of Police, the deportation measures are not to apply to those Armenians who buy municipal taxes and take over the administration of taxes. Hoping to free themselves in this manner, the rich and well-to-do Armenians had to collectively pay in about 7,000 Turkish Lira for municipal taxes. In the past year, the Town Council received barely one-quarter of the above mentioned sum for these taxes." [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 10]
However, not all of the richer Armenians managed to buy themselves off. Since most of the Armenians had to leave the town of Adana, "the sum of 1,800 Turkish Lira, paid as a deposit and making up the last of their savings and the funds for travelling of those doomed to deportation, was for the most part lost," according to Buege. Others were only able to use their money to obtain several weeks' reprieve from the date of deportation. [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 10]. Vice-Consul Hoffmann assumed that the Armenians in Aleppo had obtained further exemption from deportation up to a certain point in time. "The Armenian population of Aleppo seem to owe the fact that they are still here mainly to the resistance of those local circles who would suffer great financial losses if they disappeared." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Turkish politicians or the state not only enriched themselves by stealing the Armenians' estates; they also fleeced the deportees' business partners. Vice-Consul Hoffmann speaks of "heavy losses which the creditors of the deportees are suffering and for which no-one who is familiar with the circumstances is seriously expecting any compensation from that famous liquidation law." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
"The property of those who were resettled is only transferred to Turkish citizens or, more specifically, to Mohammedans," Wolff-Metternich wrote. "It is impossible for non-Turkish creditors to acquire the property of their debtors. The price set by the government for these properties is so disproportionately low that it does not nearly cover the former owners' debts. As a consequence of the illegal behaviour of the Turkish authorities as described above, those affected by these resettlements lost their lives in most cases and their property in all, so that it is impossible for German creditors to satisfy their demands out of their debtors' assets." [1916-01-31-DE-003]
The Mersina branch of the German Orient Bank AG [a public limited company] spoke of a "most severe blow to economic life" by the "more than primitive Turkish law concerning the administration and liquidation of the deportees' movable and immovable goods"; a blow which was all the more severe because "no concession whatsoever" was noticeable "on the part of the authorities". "The attitude of the authorities in general can basically be regarded as opposing, yes, and even hostile." [1915-12-14-DE-001, Enclosure] Wolff-Metternich established the political context, "It is true that, with regard to a solution for the Armenian question, the Turkish government has shown not the least consideration for either its own economic interests or the interests of foreign banks, railway companies and other tradesmen. Therefore, it is hardly possible to speak of a particular animosity towards the German Orient Bank; nor, however, can one speak of any particular concessions. Such concessions, which might be expected from a German point of view, would be regarded as preferential treatment of foreign interests and as a sign of foreign influence and, therefore, taking into consideration the xenophobic atmosphere to be found in many circles, they are avoided as far as possible." [1915-12-14-DE-001, Enclosure]
Metternich analysed in a written and signed, but withheld statement (Cessat) that, from a legal point of view, only those claims could be implemented against Turkey that had to do with claims Germany possibly held against Turkey, in which attacks and excesses committed by Turkish organs were to be proven. However, according to German findings, this was often the case. Metternich made a detailed list of the "excesses against the property of those who have been resettled". "1) Turkish police, gendarmes and soldiers were involved in burning down the houses of those who were resettled. 2) The Turkish police, gendarmes and soldiers played an outstanding role in pillaging the houses of those who were resettled and took part in pillaging the convoys of those who were to be resettled. The gendarmes accompanying these convoys as well as other public officials often extorted money from those who were to be resettled. 3) The Turkish military and administrative officials spared certain rich Armenians in return for large bribes. In this respect, for example, the Vali of Adana, Hakki Bey, and the Chief of Police in Adana, Djemal Bey, are heavily incriminated. 4) The property of those who were resettled is only transferred to Turkish citizens or, more specifically, to Mohammedans. It is impossible for non-Turkish creditors to acquire their debtors' property. The price set by the government for these properties is so disproportionately low that it does not nearly cover the former owners' debts." [1916-01-31-DE-003]
Metternich's conclusions, "As a consequence of the illegal behaviour of the Turkish authorities as described above, those affected by these resettlements lost their lives in most cases and their property in all, so that it is impossible for German creditors to satisfy their demands out of their debtors' assets!" [1916-01-31-DE-003] Naturally, an experienced ambassador such as Wolff-Metternich was also well aware of the drawback to German claims on Turkey. He wrote to the Reichskanzler, "However, we should be prepared that our enemies will accuse us, to whom joint responsibility is ascribed for the atrocities committed against the Armenians, of also seizing part of the spoils while no state funds are available to alleviate the poverty among the Armenians themselves." [1916-04-03-DE-002]
Hatred of the Armenians
For a longer period of time, the Armenians had not been very well-loved by the Turks, often for religious reasons, sometimes out of social jealousy, and probably also because of their efficiency. After the beginning of the war, this attitude quickly reverted back to hatred. "The old hatred is rising again within the Turkish population," Paul Schwarz, the German Consul in Erzerum reported to Constantinople already at the end of 1914. [1914-12-30-DE-001, Enclosure]
However, what shocked German and foreign observers most was the almost biblical hatred with which the tormentors proceeded against the Armenian deportees. Stange, a German lieutenant colonel, reports that the deportation of the Armenians from Erzerum was "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." [1915-08-23-DE-013]
Laura Moehring, a German nurse, reported on information she was given by military police, who told her "that many of the men who had been taken away had been killed, and that this was the best thing for the Turks. Since the massacres [of the 19th century], the Armenians had hated the Turks so much that the latter had always lived in fear." [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
Thora von Wedel-Jarlsberg and Eva Elvers, two other nurses, reported, "The Chodscha – the Mohammedan clergyman at our hospital – wanted to make it clear to us that the Turks were actually proceedingwith great leniency; the Armenians hat tortured the Turks, because their religion was a less worthy one and they themselves were ignorant, but the enlightened Moslems were not permitted to retaliate; instead, they had to content themselves with simply killing their victims. He finished with the proverb, 'This matter comes from God; if he does not have pity, why should you?'" The two nurses asked the gendarme who told them of these mass murders, "If you want to murder them, why don't you do so in their villages? Why cause them first to suffer such misery?" He replied, "This is the right way; they must suffer." [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure]
Bastendorff, a German engineer, wrote, "In November the women's groups arrived from Urfa. One woman who recognised me again begged me to rescue her children. The supervisor pushed her back and shouted to her, 'No one is going to be rescued here; you’ve got to walk until you drop dead. And wherever you may happen to end, the dogs will eat you.' Soldiers from Hama, who were accompanying this group, demanded that the supervisor arrange for some bread, as the women had already been on the move for two days. His answer was merely, 'They can drop dead; they’re not getting anything to eat.'" [1916-01-03-DE-002, Enclosure 2]
An Armenian who was questioned by Roessler reported, "Two hours this side of Aintab, an Armenian, about 25 years old, was murdered in a khan situated on the Aintab-Kilis road. The body was propped up in the door of the khan, a cigarette in its mouth, a cigarette behind its ear and its moustache smeared with dung. The following was called out to those passing by, 'Look at how this 'hashash' (ruffian) [deserter or refugee] can still smoke.'" [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 5]
"The population often call out to the coachmen," one German stated, "and ask how many loads they have transported on that day; the higher the number, the more delighted they are." [1915-11-01-DE-001, Enclosure]
The German journalist Tyszkareported that there were only very few Turks "with whom one can speak openly about the Armenian question; anger immediately breaks out, even in people who are otherwise well-educated and sophisticated, which lumps everything together and always ends with the same refrain, 'All Armenians should be exterminated; they are traitors!'" [1915-09-05-DE-001] This hatred was not only deeply embedded in the people, even in the educated ones, but it was probably the greatest among those who decided on the fate of the Armenians. Ambassador Wolff-Metternich spoke of "the fanatical hatred, especially among the leading public figures, against the Armenians in general and, in particular, against the leaders of the Armenian revolutionary parties." [1916-04-02-DE-001]
At the beginning of 1918, the German correspondent of Frankfurter Zeitung(Frankfurt Newspaper), Paul Weitz, reported from Gümüchhane, "We stayed for a few hours in what was once a very bustling town. Sitting together with Kurdish notabilities in a coffee house, the most dreadful details of the Armenian massacres were told with rare frankness. The fact was mentioned again and again that there was not a single Armenian left in the area in question, something which we noticed more than once while continuing our journey."
Weitz reported from Ersingjian, "The gendarmes told us how, in 1915, they drove the Armenian population, headed by the Bishop of Ersindjian, to the Euphrates and drowned it. Kurds kept watch along both banks, shooting anyone who dared to save themselves. We were shown the places where the victims of this atrocious inhumanity were driven, almost naked in the wintry cold, by their tormentors into the floods. We also visited the huge barracks in the surrounding area, in which 1,500 Armenians were literally slaughtered, all at the same time. One of the gendarmes set the number of people he himself had killed at 50, another at 27. These people boasted of this as if it were a glorious deed, without our asking about it." [1918-06-20-DE-001]
Fear of a Rebellion by the Turkish Armenians
"According to information from a fairly trustworthy Armenian side, Russia has spent no less than 2 ½ million roubles on propaganda in East Anatolia alone," Germany's ambassador in Constantinople, Hans Baron von Wangenheim wrote to his Reichskanzler in February 1913. "The entire Armenian population there is supposedly fitted out with modern weapons and prepared to launch an attack against the Turks at any time at a sign from Russia." Wangenheim, one of the most experienced ambassadors in the Ottoman capital, even recognised "a threatening danger to the empire's property here." [1913-02-24-DE-001]
Wangenheim referred to a report given by the most important Armenian party, the Daschnakzutiun, at the International Congress of Socialists in Copenhagen in 1910, in which they "described their work in the provinces of Bitlis and Van". There, quoted Wangenheim from the party's report, "all of the rural population that was capable of using arms and organised in political groups followed our flag until 1908. This work was mainly political and revolutionary. It continues today, but already in a more open manner. Our party has its crowds of Fidais in all of the centres in Turkish Armenia; their purpose is to watch and ensure that reactions do not become possible once again." Another passage in the report stated that, in 1908, according to its own figures, the party had "collected more than 1,000 rifles in Van, a million bullets and masses of explosives". [1915-04-30-DE-001]
It was, no doubt, inadmissible to make inferences regarding the entire Armenian population based on the provinces of Bitlis and Van, but it was the pro-Armenian, Johannes Lepsius, of all people who stirred up fear even among the Germans in order to put more pressure on the questions concerning the reform. It should be considered, he wrote, "that the mass of Armenian people has already been won over by Russia, and that only a complete success in the reform matter will make it possible to put up resistance against public opinion". In addition, Lepsius wrote to the German Foreign Office, "after decades of disappointment, the mood among the Armenian people was overwrought."
According to Lepsius, the Daschnakzutiun had "been building a political organisation for the past 24 years which included the largest part of the Armenian people in Turkey, Russia and foreign countries. At present, leadership of the Armenian people lies in the hands of this party, with which both the Armenian Patriarch in Constantinople and the Catholicat in Etschmiadzin concur in all political questions." Lepsius continued, "Their organisation begins in the villages of all the areas in which Armenians reside in Russia, Turkey and Persia. The Daschnakzutiun is represented in about 2/3 of all Armenian towns." Apart from these political party organisations there was also a "military organisation", which "had the task of preparing 1.) the defence of the population (should the Mohammedan elements start a massacre), and 2.) to arm all of the people should war break out." [1913-11-15-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Later, it was proven that this nebulous military organisation of all Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was more a matter of propaganda than reality, but despite this the idea was also embedded in some German heads, and particularly in those of the German military. In the diplomatic files published here, the real or supposed fear of the Turks of an Armenian conspiracy is reflected almost exclusively in the accounts of Turkish statements which, however, those German consuls on the spot who were informed almost never adopted the thesis of a conspiracy; however, most German ambassadors and almost all of the politicians in Berlin repeated it persistently.
After the bombardment of Trapezunt by the Russian fleet in the late autumn of 1914, the German Consul Bergfeld reported "that the Russians had hoped that the Armenian and Greek population would rebel, in which case they had planned to land." [1914-11-18-DE-001] Ambassador Hans Baron von Wangenheim reported to Berlin at the end of 1914, "It is a matter of fact that Turkish officers do not see eye to eye with the Armenians and reproach them of being friendly with Russia and helping Russian troops get into Turkish territory." [1914-12-30-DE-001, Enclosure] In February 1915, Wangenheim passed on the next Turkish suspicion, "I constantly come up against an opinion among the Turks, which until now has not been refuted by the behaviour of the Armenians, that in case Turkey is defeated the Armenian population would definitely join the winner's side." [1915-02-02-DE-001] A few months later, Wangenheim reported that the Armenians "are being accused of sympathising with the Empire’s enemies, of maintaining highly treasonable relations with them and openly revolting against the authorities of the country in individual places.“ [1915-04-15-DE-002] Furthermore, according to Wangenheim, "there are rumours that the Russian section of the Daschnakzutiun Party is demanding the destruction of the Muslim population in those areas which are to be relinquished by Turkey, in case the war ends unfavourably for that country." [1915-04-15-DE-002]
All of the reports about supposed conspiracies came from Turkish sources, even if they were repeated by Germans in some cases. Scheubner-Richter reported from Erzerum that the Vali believed "he had proof of a conspiracy among part of the local Armenians". [1915-05-04-DE-011] Based on Turkish information, Wangenheim also reported, "There are increasingly more signs that this movement is more widespread than was presumed up to now and that it is being encouraged from abroad with the help of the Armenian revolution committee. It cannot be denied that the Armenian movement has taken on a worrying character over the past few weeks, which has given the government cause to introduce severe repressive measures." [1915-05-08-DE-001]
After a discussion with Talaat, the Minister of the Interior, the Armenian expert, Mordtmann, noted that the Minister of the Interior was of the opinion that "a plan existed to cause a rebellion when the Russians advanced and to attack the Turks from the rear". [1915-05-29-DE-011] In his next report, Wangenheim also referred to a Turkish minister, "In order to curb Armenian espionage and to prevent new Armenian mass uprisings, Enver Pasha, by putting the state of war (or emergency) forward as a pretext, intends to resettle in Mesopotamia all those families from the recently insurgent Armenian centres who are considered to be not quite unobjectionable. He urgently requests us not to hinder him in doing so." [1915-05-31-DE-001]
Kuckhoff, the elected German Consul in Samsun who, as head of the local tabacco control company, had little experience with the rules of diplomacy, repeated Turkish assertions as his own opinion without adding any of his own observations in his area of competence, "It is a fact that a great Armenian conspiracy was excellently organised in the whole of Anatolia and was in constant contact with foreign countries. In all towns the conspirators were well equipped with weapons, ammunition and bombs. Many of these were discovered by the authorities, but most of them must still be hidden. The government, therefore, has every reason to put an end to this dangerous revolutionary activity." Wangenheim then softens the report of his impertinent consul, "On the one hand, the report confirms again that an Armenian conspiracy did in fact exist, but that, however, on the other hand, the rigorous measures of the Turkish government cannot be regarded as justified." [1915-07-16-DE-003, Enclosure]
Just how far the fantasies of Turkish informers went, as well as some Germans' willingness to take them seriously – or their being accomplices – is demonstrated by the very influential German naval attaché, Hans Humann, who reported after a discussion with his personal friend, Enver, "Enver is also aware of a conspiracy, whereby about 30,000 Armenians in the area around Adabazar-Ismid wanted to support a Russian landing at Sakaria." [1915-08-06-DE-012] Another notorious conspiracy theorist also chimed in: Max Baron von Oppenheim, State Minister President. "Russian weapons and bombs were supposedly found in the cellars of notables and even bishops (Mardin)," the head of the "Information Service for the Orient" reported, whose reports were taken into careful account in Berlin, "as well as pieces of uniforms with which to make the Armenians recognisable as fighters for freedom and Russia." [1915-08-29-DE-001]
Only once did a German officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stange, report from the interior on cases of espionage, which he himself, however, had not personally experienced, "The removal of the Armenians from the war zone around Erserum 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 Wan, in Bitlis, in Musch. Occasionally telegraph wires had been cut and there were not just a few cases of espionage." [1915-08-23-DE-013]
Ambassador Paul Count Wolff-Metternich reported for the first time at the end of 1915 that the Turkish government definitely planned to "punish" all Armenians, i.e. to deport and annihilate them, and not just the real or supposed guilty parties. He also names his source, the Grand Vizier, who told him, "Entire districts had been organised for an uprising and supplied with weapons. It was not about the uprising of individuals, but of entire areas, which is the reason why not just individuals could be singled out for punishment." [1915-12-09-DE-001] Statements made by Minister of the Interior Talaat, which Wolff-Metternich repeats, have the same tenor, "In the districts along the Russian border and near Aleppo, mass displacements had been necessary on the grounds of military security. A Russian-engineered, large-scale conspiracy among the Gregorian Armenians in the border areas and near Aleppo has been discovered. Attacks on bridges and railways had been planned." [1915-12-18-DE-001] Finally, it was again one of the Young Turk leaders of state, Djemal Pasha, who admitted in a conversation with representatives of German Christians in Berlin, "The Turkish government did not take action against the Armenians because they were Christians, but because they were Armenians and the continuance of the state was endangered." [1917-09-06-DE-001] Enclosure.
Weapons, Bombs and Evidence
Many Turks may actually have believed that the Armenians were a real danger to their empire. This was expressed in an almost fanatical hunt for weapons, bombs and evidence of a rebellion. Whether the supposed evidence for an Armenian rebellion later published had been fabricated from the very beginning or was only made up subsequently, is not clear from the German files. On the other hand, the lack of evidence of the Turkish conspiracy theorists is easy to follow.
It was only after a law was passed in 1909 that Jews and Christians, and thus Armenians, were allowed to serve in the army and, for the first time, officially permitted to carry arms which, until then, only Moslems had been allowed to do. Not only that: because the Young Turks had originally been politically and also organisationally supported by the young Armenian parties, particularly the Daschnakzutiun, they even encouraged the Armenians to obtain weapons for themselves.
The search for weapons and bombs as well as incriminating documents and the accompanying interrogations were carried out with such brutality that they could hardly be dismissed as police investigations; instead, this was clearly already the first phase of the genocide itself. The objective was obviously to physically annihilate the male Armenian leaders in each village or to turn them into human wrecks, thus intimidating the entire Armenian population.
Here, again, German diplomats passed on real or supposed reports of success from the Turks, “Bombs and decoding manuals were supposedly found in Kaisarie during house-to-house searches,” Scheubner-Richter wrote. “These movements are put down to provocative agitation by enemy powers.” [1915-03-03-DE-011] Also based only on Turkish sources, Wangenheim reports, “Larger stocks of bombs were discovered in Diarbekir and Kaissarie.” [1915-05-06-DE-002] And two days later, “The Minister of the Interior recently quoted the number of bombs found in Kaissarie as being 400; also some had been found in Diarbekir and sent to Van to be used there by the rebels.” [1915-05-08-DE-001]
At the end of May, Wangenheim reports to Berlin, “The Minister of the Interior states that Armenians in Erzerum were heavily incriminated by discoveries of bombs and documents and that they had planned to start a revolt behind the Turkish troops when the Russians advanced.” [1915-05-30-DE-011]His consul in Erzerum was able to verify this statement and reports, “Bombs and similar objects were not discovered in Erzerum and the surrounding area, and this can also be confirmed by the Wali.” [1915-06-02-DE-014]
German observers were able to list only a small number of non-Turkish sources. “On the part of the Armenians, they only admit to about 300 to 400 Mausers being found among the Armenians in Adabasar,” Tyszka reported, “but they deny any kind of revolutionary movement in connection with the present war as Adabasar is situated even further from the theatre of war than Angora. The existence of weapons is explained as a constantly necessary protection against an oppressive, non-Armenian population, which tends towards attacks.” [1915-09-05-DE-001]
One of the few German witnesses of these searches for weapons was Frieda Wolf Hunecke, a missionary employed until 28 April 1915 at the former British mission station in Everek near Kaiserie before she was deported by the local authority, because she herself hid weapons owned by Armenians.
After a conversation with the Armenian Patriarch, Mordtmann made a note concerning the discovery of bombs, that in Everek, near Kaisarie, “there was an explosion in the house of an Armenian who had immigrated from the United States. The neighbours who came hurrying by found the man, who had been severely wounded by an exploding grenade. He was able to indicate that there were three other, similar bombs in the house which they then hid at his orders. The police got wind of the matter; besides these three bombs they found 24 other, not yet loaded bombs under the tiled roof of the Armenian church; furthermore, some 62 rifles in Everek and the surrounding area.” [1915-04-26-DE-014]
This was confirmed by the German missionary. “After the experiences of 1896, in which the people were first disarmed and then massacred, it was a matter of course that the existence of other bombs, etc., would be denied. But right during the first week, a man was caught in the street in the process of burying 24 bombs, which seemingly had been made at the time of Abdul Hamid, but were filled in part more recently and in part were completely empty. Intensive house searches led to the finding of 3 bombs each in 2 other houses.” [1915-07-13-DE-001, Enclosure]
Furthermore, a bomb exploded while another Armenian was making it; it tore off his hand. “Now it was, of course, the government's duty to investigate the matter,” said Wulf Hunecke, “and it became clear in time that this had been the 4th bomb he had made. But about 70 further bombs were also found in Everek from the time of Abdul-Hamid and perhaps 60–100 Mausers and revolvers. In Everek, they claimed to have found 5000 Mausers and revolvers; the young man supposedly made 95 bombs.” Finally, the government’s representative showed her a photograph which depicted about 80 rifles from Everek and about 200 from Kaiserie.
How such photographs were made was explained by the German missionary nurse in Mamouret-ul-Aziz, Klara Pfeifer. “Entire villages were surrounded by soldiers; many of the male villagers were tied up and beaten in the most terrible way, because the authorities did not believe that all the weapons had been turned over,” she reported. “Many of them did then appear after such beatings; some bombs were also handed over. However, in those places where everything had been turned over the people were usually not left in peace. It was said that some of the Armenians who had no more weapons bought some so that their tormentors let them go after they handed these in.” [1916-05-10-DE-002, Enclosure]
“About this time it was rumored that bombs and guns had been found in the possession of certain persons who were thought to be members of Armenian revolutionary societies conspiring against the Turkish Government,” the American Consul Davis reported from the same town. “Looking at the matter in the light of subsequent events and comparing it with what happened in all other parts of Turkey at the same time, I think it is probable that in many cases the bombs, which were found in the backyards of the persons accused, were actually buried there by the police so as to manufacture evidence against the Armenians. This was followed by systematic searches for arms and weapons in Harput and Mamouret-ul-Aziz and in all the towns and villages of that region. Before a town or village was searched it was surrounded by gendarmes in order to prevent anyone from leaving. Then other gendarmes visited each house, commanding the occupants to surrender their arms and often searching the premises thoroughly when they were not produced. I have seen many houses where the gendarmes had dug up the floors and torn away the walls in their efforts to find weapons which they thought were concealed there. The search was carried on with such severity that many persons who were ordered to give up their weapons, when they actually had none, went out and bought them or even paid the police large sums of money for some old gun or revolver which they could then surrender.” [U.S. State Department Record Group 59, 867.00/803]
An almost comical story was told by Künzler, the Swiss deacon in Urfa, “During the past few days, several simple folk have been arrested and thrown into prison. In the case of a young Syrian, whom the police considered to be Armenian, the police did not succeed. He was buying some goods at the market. While he was standing in front of a stand a policeman put a Mauser cartridge into his jacket pocket without his noticing. As the young man was leaving the shop the policeman stopped him and told him to turn out his pockets. He did this voluntarily. But lo and behold! A Mauser cartridge was found in his pocket. The Syrian turned pale and the policeman began cursing him and hustled him into prison. A Muslim came to his aid. He had seen how the policeman had slipped the Mauser cartridge into the youth´s pocket. That is how the Syrian was saved. Toros, a 15-year-old Armenian working for the American Craftsman's School, fell into the trap and landed in prison.” [1915-06-29-DE-002, Enclosure 1]
Johannes Ehmann, a German missionary in Mamuret-ul-Aziz, had supported the Turkish authorities and instructed the members of his Armenian church to turn over all of their weapons, because in this case the Vali had promised them immunity. Ehmann was quite horrified when, a short while later, photographs were sent back from Constantinople showing just these weapons, which were now being claimed by the Young Turks as evidence of an Armenian conspiracy.
After researching in Constantinople, the German journalist, von Tyszka, reported, “The weapons which the Turks found among the Armenians were mostly those which the latter had received from the Turks in 1908 so that they could help the Committee defend themselves against reactionaries.” [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 3] Weapons have occasionally been found among the Armenians which, of course, was used as evidence against them,” the German Consul in Adana, Eugen Buege, also reported. “If they had searched among the Mohammedans, they would have found a great many more forbiddden weapons, but it goes without saying that they did not wish to confiscate these so as not to rob the people of the necessary tools for a massacre.” [1915-07-24-DE-001] However, these weapons were of no use for a rebellion. In a later report on bombs that were found, Ambassador Kuehlmann wrote, “The pretext for the deportations - the supposed finding of bombs and weapons at an Armenian cemetery - belongs to the already well-known collection of such pretexts by the Turkish authorities.” [1916-11-17-DE-001]
Yet, for such rigorous measures as deportation and mass executions, the Young Turks simply did not have proof of guilt to show an ownership of weapons that had, in many cases, often even been allowed. Therefore, they searched for other evidence of actions carried out against the state, particularly revolutionary documents or conspiracy plans, in order to claim that the deportations were a preventive measure against Armenian machinations. The Turkish investigators took everything they found in writing, including school and children’s books, of course always newspapers and magazines, and particularly private correspondence. “In some houses, papers were confiscated, apparently only because they were in a foreign language, as well as books, especially English ones.” [1915-03-07-DE-011]
The search for written evidence of conspirative actions often became grotesque. Consul Walter Roessler reported that memberships of Armenians in charitable organisations in Aleppo were used as evidence of a complot against the Turkish government. [1915-05-27-DE-001, Enclosure 1] “It should be mentioned that the charitable society always refused to deal in arms and was never involved in politics, and never accepted members of the Daschnakzutiun.” [1915-04-12-DE-001] American missionaries in Mamuret-ul-Aziz were amused with the way in which, with the greatest mistrust, Turkish investigators examined their toilet paper, unknown to the Turks, for codes, because there was, of course, no writing on it. Finally, the police burned it very carefully and attempted to discover hidden messages in the manner in which the burned particles drifted to the ground. [Henry H Riggs: Days of Tragedy in Armenia: Personal Experiences in Harpoot 1915-1917; Chapter 8]
Revolutionary Intentions of the Armenians and German Observations
None of the Turkish statements regarding a danger to the Ottoman state by the Armenians coincides with the observations of Germans and diplomatic representatives on the spot. In this regard, their reports are very clear: there was no Armenian uprising worth mentioning, to say nothing of a planned revolution. “Until recently, in fact at the beginning of this year, the Armenians were regarded as the most reliable element, indeed the only reliable people within the Christian elements in Turkey,” the journalist von Tyszka stated in a report at the beginning of 1915. “One could read it in all the newspapers, and the important Turkish dignitaries confirmed this on every occasion which presented itself.” [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
The German observers were of the same opinion, even after the persecutions began. Vice-Consul Hoffmann reported from Alexandrette, known today by the name of Iskenderun, “As far as I know about the character and doings of the small local population, I do not believe that they would commit treason.” [1915-03-07-DE-011] On the basis of the reports by his consuls, Ambassador Wangenheim wrote, “Each side revokes the accusations of the other party as unfounded, or puts the blame for such events on the other side. There only seems to be agreement on one point: that the Armenians have given up their ideas of a revolution since the introduction of the Constitution and that there is no organisation of such a revolt.” [1915-04-15-DE-002] Johann Mordtmann, who was responsible for Armenian matters, gives a report of a discussion with General Posseldt, who is stationed in Erzerum and who “believes that the Armenians would remain calm if they were not suppressed by the Turks and provoked by them. It is often a matter of envy of competitors. The behaviour of the Armenians is said to have been excellent.” [1915-04-26-DE-011] Vice-Consul Scheubner-Richter reports from Erzerum on the deportations, “A riot is not to be feared on the part of the local Armenians. In this, the local Armenians differ greatly from the Armenians in Wan and its surroundings. They are not organised and also have no weapons.” [1915-05-20-DE-001]. And barely two weeks later, “Measure cannot be justified for military reasons, since uprising by local Armenians not presumed.” [1915-06-02-DE-012] The head of the orphanage, Johannes Ehmann, reports from Kharput (in the absence of a German consul) on the situation and determines that “by far the majority of the population in this Vilayet is obedient to the government, and the Christians here are not even remotely considering rebelling against the government.” [1915-05-05-DE-011] Two weeks later he wrote, “Possession of legally forbidden weapons acquired years ago, which is not seldom among Mohammedans and Christians in the interior, should not yet be a sign of rebellious intentions as the Turkish population still has a greater number of such weapons. According to relatively reliable statements by Christians, their weapons were solely for defence in case of an attack by the Mohammedan population. Incidentally, for the past 3 to 4 years the eagerness to purchase weapons has supposedly diminished greatly, if not ceased altogether.” [1915-05-18-DE-003]
Even the anti-Armenian Consul Bergfeld wrote from Trapezunt in the middle of May 1915 that the Armenians were “averse to self-help. If they have made noticeable progress in secretly equipping themselves with weapons during the past few months, this, in my respectful opinion, should be regarded more as an act of increased caution, to be better armed in an emergency than was previously the case.” [1915-05-15-DE-002] On the same day, Scheubner-Richter noted “that a rebellion on the part of the Armenians in Erserum and its surroundings is not expected despite the negligible numbers of Turkish military forces in existence here. The Armenians living in areas near the Russian border have long ago left their homelands; isolated incidents, such as armed resistance in the case of requisitions in far away villages, the killing of Turks who wanted Armenian girls and women handed over to them, or the cutting and sabotaging of telegraph and telephone lines, and espionage are not unusual phenomena during a war in border areas containing mixed populations.” In the same report Scheubner-Richter wrote, “As far as I know, the house searches have not yielded any incriminating material.” [1915-05-15-DE-012]
Three months later, Scheubner-Richter writes that in his administrative district “neither weapons nor compromising documents were found. If a rebellion had been planned here, then the most advantageous moment for such an event would have been in January, when the Russians were stationed 35 km from Erserum and Erserum's garrison held only a few hundred gendarmes, while in Erserum's labour battalions alone there were 3 – 4,000 Armenians.” [1915-08-05-DE-002] Lieutenant Colonel Stange, stationed in Erzerum, backs him up, “The Armenian population in Erserum had remained completely calm until this point. 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.” [1915-08-23-DE-013]
If the Turkish accusations of conspiracy referred to events that took place in the regional districts of German consuls, the latter were able to follow up such accusations specifically. Consul Roessler did so in a case in which the Turks claimed there was a connection between the Armenians of Dörtyol and Zeitun, “In the meantime, I have tried to find out on what the attitude of the government to a widespread Armenian conspiracy is based. But I have only been able to discover one fact. A neutral personality who is in close contact with Armenians and well informed about them, has told me that at the beginning letters had been sent by inhabitants of Dörtyol to Zeitun declaring that the moment was favourable for an uprising. Contact had been established with the English warships. If his source was properly informed at all, this would prove an appeal to revolt. It is unknown how the addressees reacted to this request.” [1915-05-27-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Many of the impressions that German diplomats and local observers received as well as their experience with the Turkish ally finally led to their reaching a fairly unanimous conclusion in their summaries, namely that the Turkish theories with regard to a conspiracy are untenable. The German Protestant Christians report in their petition to the Imperial Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg, “According to information in our possession, there is no evidence that the leading Armenian political and Church leaders conducted any treacherous activities.” [1915-11-10-DE-011] Scheubner-Richter wrote, “The fact that this extermination is possible, that tens of thousands of Armenians allow themselves to be slaughtered by a small number of Kurds and irregulars without defending themselves (as happened here), seems to be proof of how unwilling these people are to fight and to act as revolutionaries. The Armenians, especially the inhabitants of the cities, these ‘Jews of the East’, are certainly cunning tradespeople, as well as shortsighted politicians, but as far as I have come to know them, most of them are not active revolutionaries. If they were, and had they had weapons, they would most certainly have violently resisted the evacuation, since they were superior in number and their death was a certainty. But this only happened in a very few places, probably where the revolutionary committees had their seat. Everywhere else the evacuation was carried out without any incidents, and later they meekly allowed themselves to be slaughtered.” In only one sentence, his conclusion makes the supposed danger of a revolution unmistakably clear, “The timorousness of the Turkish Armenians is possibly only surpassed by the Turks' fear of them.” [1915-08-05-DE-002, Enclosure 1]
Even before the uprising in Van, the Armenians in the town of Zeitun supposedly revolted against the state authority. The town of Zeitun (which, today, is Sülimanly) in the backlands of Marasch, was particularly suitable to creating anti-Armenian legends, for the Armenian inhabitants there had successfully defended themselves against massacres in the 19th century and, since then, were considered to be especially militant.
In March 1915, Armenian – but also Turkish – deserters hid in a monastery above Zeitun and were besieged there by Turkish gendarmes and finally bombarded with artillery. Several deserters and also some gendarmes, together with their leader, Suleyman (for whom Zeitun was named) were killed during this exchange of fire, while many deserters were able to flee.
For the most part, the Armenian inhabitants of Zeitun were not involved. Eugen Buege, the Consul of Adana who was questioned in this matter, explained to him “that there can be no question of an uprising of the Armenians,” Wangenheim reported to Berlin. [1915-03-26-DE-001] And his colleague, Walter Roessler, who was responsible for the adjoining region from Marasch onwards, added, “These unrests are rather fully explained by their seeds which exist locally and which stem from the deep suffering gripping Turkey.” [1915-04-12-DE-001] In October 1914, the inhabitants of Zeitun had even handed deserters over to the government, for which they had been guaranteed immunity. But the president of the Turkish government had “those people arrested who had supplied information on the robbers and who had been promised immunity from prosecution,” Roessler said. [1915-04-12-DE-001]
In March 1915, Minister of the Interior Talaat reported to the German Ambassador Wangenheim that “despite the disarming of the inhabitants of Zeitun, which was ordered some time ago, the refractory Armenians have weapons, and the reason for these clashes lies in the resistance to conscription.” [1915-03-29-DE-001]. According to a very detailed report from Roessler, the disturbances in Zeitun “raised the question whether they were instigated from abroad. During my official trip from 28 March to 10 April to Marasch, I could not confirm this. The chief judge of the court-martial told me, though, that there was foreign influence, but he did not provide any evidence.” [1915-04-12-DE-001]
It was only the German politicians in Berlin who picked up on Turkish assertions, which had been refuted by their consuls, in order to justify their passivity with regard to this genocide. At the end of September 1916, Zimmermann (who meanwhile had been promoted to Secretary of State) wrote in a note meant for a discussion with the Grand Duchess of Baden, who had inquired about the fate of the Armenians, “The first signs of storm brewing up involved an incident in Zeitun. In this small town in southern Armenia, which was almost exclusively inhabited by Armenians and built like a fortress, a group of Armenian deserters had gone into hiding in March 1915 and put up desperate resistance to their Turkish military pursuers. This led to a siege and storming of the town, whereby considerable stores of modern weapons were found. As part of the population had made common cause with the revolutionaries, under martial law a regime of strict criminal prosecution was imposed on the town.” [1917-05-09-DE-001]
The Armenians of Zeitun were the first to be deported and replaced by Muslim refugees from Macedonia. In a later report on the events in Zeitun, the German journalist, von Tyszka, writes, “The Armenian Patriarch in Constantinople called upon Minister Talaat Bey to obtain first-hand information concerning the events there. Using this occasion, the Minister explained to the Patriarch that he was very satisfied with the attitude of the Armenian population in Zeitun. It must have been disconcerting for the Armenians to find that the entire population of Zeitun, including the women and children, had left Zeitun a few hours after the clashes, with 5,000 being deported to Konia and the remainder being forced to Sort, south of Musch. On questioning the Turkish Government, the Patriarch received the answer that this involved an offence similar to that which occurred 40 to 50 years ago and nothing could be done against it while the war went on.” [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Dörtyol and the Mediterranean Coast
But there were also unrests in the regions along the Mediterranean coast, because Armenian deserters were followed with particular zeal. Armenians working for the British arrived from British warships in the town of Dörtyol, for example, which was mainly inhabited by Armenians, in February or at the beginning of March 1915, and attempted to persuade the inhabitants to join the Entente Powers, which, without doubt, was not a particularly difficult task. However, no actions followed this appeal – instead, Turkish gendarmes appeared. They arrested not only the Armenian deserters who were hidden there, but also all of the men, who were sent to work in the road gangs. [1915-03-13-DE-012]
Eugen Buege, the Consul in Adana, gave a detailed description based on a report by the Armenian assistant civil servant, Simon Agabalian. Buege certified “that everything has been truthfully described” by his colleague. Agabalian reported, “The inhabitants of Dörtjol had to serve or to pay ‘bedel’ during mobilisation. Because of the general lack of money, these people could not help themselves and many, or you can rather say all, of them deserted instead of responding to the military invitation. Some of the deserters fled far away and others stayed at home. The attention of the government was aroused by these circumstances and by the mistrust of the Turks living in this area towards the Armenians, more so because the inhabitants of Dörtyol defended themselves against the Turks. During the arrest the Armenians submitted and did not resist the officials. Three people were shot while trying to flee. Even they did not use any weapons.” [1915-03-13-DE-012, Enclosure]
Supposed espionage activities were also reported from the Mediterranean town of Alexandrette, not far from Dörtyol. Just how much these occurrences were exaggerated was described by Vice-Consul Hoffmann-Fölkersamb, who was stationed in Alexandrette, in a later report in which he made particular fun of reports by the German expert for the Orient, Max Baron von Oppenheim, who had discovered “traces of a militarily organised plot” in Dörtyol, among other places. According to Hoffmann, such traces “were neither discovered in Alexandrette nor in Dörtyol. In Alexandrette, a very thorough massive search of houses uncovered neither weapons nor any other incriminating documents. According to reports, however, some arms were found in Dörtyol. But this was not surprising, since the inhabitants of this area had been able to defend themselves only with weapons during the so-called Adana massacre in 1909, during which they were in danger of being butchered by their Muslim neighbours.” In a very amused manner, Hoffmann proved that Oppenheim, whom the British liked to call the “lying baron”, made three traitors out of Torosoglu Agop, an Armenian who had been branded a traitor: Toros, Oglu and Agop. It was Oppenheim who claimed that Armenian traitors had caused trains to derail in Alexandrette, which, in truth, a British cruiser achieved with no help whatsoever from the Armenians. “Without doubt, spying and other services took place during a brief enemy landing, which led to the destruction of the railway line of Alexandrette,” Oppenheimer had reported, whereupon Consul Hoffmann derisively remarked, “I have never heard this accusation, not even from the Turkish Muslim side, although I am fully aware of the details of the case.” [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
A supposed uprising in connection with the hunt for deserters took place in the town of Fundadjak, one-and-a-half hours’ distance from Marasch. Armenian deserters, who had probably fled previously from Zeitun, had instructed the Armenian inhabitants of this town, and used arms to force them, to join them in their resistance against a certain death. W. Spieker, a German Baghdad Railway official, reported on this as follows, “On 6 August, the village of Fundadschak near Marasch and its approx. 3,000 inhabitants were shot to pieces. The population, almost all of whom were mule drovers, had often had to transport Armenians in the direction across the Euphrates River during the past 3 months. They had seen the dead in the Euphrates River with their own eyes, had seen how women were sold and raped. ‘Sew-gülü ölüm (desired death)’, the people of Fundadschak who had come to Marash had said to the Germans when talk turned to former massacres. Then, when about 30 Armenian robbers forced their way into the village and threatened to shoot anyone who wanted to surrender to the government – and actually did shoot some who attempted to flee – and the village was forced to oppose the government. At an Armenian school in Marasch, I saw over 100 women and children from Fundadschak with their arms and legs shot to pieces and all kinds of mutilations, among them 1- and 2-year-old children. On 13 August, 34 Armenians, people from the villages surrounding Marasch, from Furnus, Schiwilgi, etc., were shot in Marasch, among them 2 twelve-year-old boys. Again on 15 August, 24 people were shot and a further 14 hanged, also people from the villages surrounding Marasch. The 24 men were bound to one another by a heavy chain around their throats and set up to form a circle (knot); they were shot behind the American College in the presence of the Moslem population. I was an eye witness of how the corpses, still in the throes of death, were left to the mercy of a brutal civilian population who dragged those shot by their hands and feet, and, for the delight of the bystanding Moslem population, the police and the gendarmes continued for half an hour to fire off their guns at the corpses which were, in part, terribly disfigured.” [1915-09-03-DE-002, Enclosure 5]
With regard to the Armenians’ fight in self-defence in Musa Dagh, which the German author, Franz Werfel, used as a basis for his Armenian novel, “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh”, Roessler wrote, “There are 6 Armenian villages near Antioch: Kessab on Mount Cassius and five on Djebel Musa, namely Bityas, Habably, Yoghun-oluk, Khider Bey, Kabbusiye. Farmers from these villages who showed themselves near Antioch were put in chains and taken away to the town. Although the inhabitants of Kessab and Kabusiye then presented themselves upon the request to surrender, those of the other four villages fled to the mountains. Two battalions were sent out to catch them, but they have not yet had any success. The terrain is difficult and the troops are not yet trained. In the course of these days, 30 soldiers were wounded, among them eight by shots which they fired at each other out of clumsiness.” [1915-09-03-DE-002}
Two months later, Roessler reported the following concerning the end of the fighting, “The fighting in Suediye (from 4 villages in the vicinity of Antiochien) ended, whereby the rebels embarked onto a ship, in a hidden bay, under covering fire from an enemy warship. According to the Armenian side, the number of women and children came to 6,000. Despite this fact, and despite the finally contrived connection to an enemy cruiser, there is no evidence whatsoever that the district had previously thought about an uprising. They were more likely driven to resistance by their imminent deportation.” [1915-11-08-DE-001]
The best proof for acts of self-defence found in German files concerns the events in Urfa; particularly the reports by Jacob Künzler, a Swiss deacon working there. Even before the actual fighting began, he had already informed Roessler that the local Armenian prelate by no means denied the ownership of weapons, but that he had informed the governor these were “not in their hands to be used against the war or against the government, but against the ever-growing threat of a massacre by the heavily armed Muslim population. The Armenians are extremely scared. In 1895, they were also pressured into giving up their weapons with the official promise that they would be protected. And what protection was given? The slaughter of 7,000 people!” [1915-06-29-DE-002, Enclosure 1]
When, on 19 August 1915, a former Armenian soldier resisted having his house searched, thereby shooting three Turkish soldiers, the Muslim population attacked the Armenians in the town and, within a short time, killed about 200 of them, mainly in the basaar. After only a few days of peace, the so-called uprising took place. Vice-Consul Hoffmann sent the following telegram, “14 days ago, the Armenian population in Urfa received deportation orders, but decided that an immediate end was preferable to the atrocities of death during deportation and barricaded themselves. Fahri Pasha, who supposedly is in Urfa himself, has blocked off the Armenian quarter and ordered its destruction by artillery.” [1915-10-09-DE-011]
A short while later Roessler describes the course of events in Urfa in detail and comments, “For the Armenian uprising in Urfa it is also unnecessary to assume the influence of outside forces. One would like to think that outsiders arrived from Van and Diarbekr to stir up things and make themselves leaders. It is sufficient to say that the government’s preventive measures, the deportations and, therefore, the inherent decimation of their race and each individual was in the forefront of their minds and was enough for the people of Urfa to reach the decision to put up resistance.” [1915-11-08-DE-001] According to Roessler, the decisive factor in favour of the battle was that the Armenians “knew that the men would be murdered, the women and girls violated, at best put into Muslim harems, and that the rest, namely children and older women, would be abandoned to death by starvation. Thus their decision, rather to die with their weapons in their hands and sell their lives as dearly as possible than to let themselves and their families be destroyed or dishonoured.” [1915-11-16-DE-001] Künzler’s remark should be especially noted, Roessler said to his embassy, “that between 500 and 1,000 Armenians had already been slaughtered before the battles began at the beginning of October.” [1916-01-03-DE-002]
Urfa was also used as an example by Vice-Consul Hoffmann to reveal one of Baron von Oppenheim’s lies. “How easily these kinds of events can be distorted by reference to ‘unquestionable facts’ is shown in the case of the machine guns of Urfa. On the grounds of a testimony which he regarded as being first-rate beyond doubt, Max Baron von Oppenheim, in my presence, treated the use of machine guns by the insurgent Armenians in Urfa as proven and pursued trails to Wan and Russia.” A German officer who, together with the Turkish General Fakhri Pasha, had shot down rebelling Armenians, “dismissed the story of the machine guns as a tale belonging to a fairytale world.” [1916-01-03-DE-001]
Hoffmann then made a summarising comment on the topic of supposed conspiracies in the Mediterranean region, “Apart from the case of Wan and its adjacent zone, particular caution is called for relative to the charge of a ‘militarily organised plot’. Certain local insurrectionary movements cannot be treated as proof of such. For example, the fact that the revolt in Seitun cannot be singled out as a case of a conspiracy of that kind, is clearly evinced in the reports of the Imperial Consulate in Aleppo. Also the anger of the inhabitants of Fundadschak in August and in Urfa in October was probably, as one would put it, ‘militarily organised’, but locally restricted. It did not shape up as a by-product of a planned conspiracy, but developed spontaneously on the spot due to the threat of deportation. The uprising of the Armenians in the region of Suedije (to the south of Alexandrette) was, according to descriptions even on the part of the Turkish military, not a conspiracy but, according to a Turkish admission, a spontaneous uprising, which was due mainly to the tactlessness of the Kaymakam of Latakije in the proclamation of the order for deportation. The recovery of the revolutionaries from Suedije by French warships was also not a long-planned act. This is apparent from the circumstances and the opinions of well-informed Turks.” [1916-01-03-DE-001, Anlage 1]
In other words: in the eyes of German observers who were on the spot, the Turkish versions of uprisings – at best with the exception of Van – were pure propaganda, in order to have a further excuse for annihilating the Ottoman Armenians.
Wangenheim had also pointed out “occurrences” reported to him by the Armenians before the uprising in Van. “Bearing the title ‘Militia’, irregulars and bands of marauders are organised in military fashion. These are being blamed for numerous plunders, murders, for robbery and other acts committed against the Armenian population of the country.” Furthermore, “the clubs affiliated with the Comité Union et Progrès, in which many dishonest elements are said to be present”, played an important role. The clubs in Erzerum “have set up formal proscription lists, and a series of political murders which were committed on various respected Armenians since December of last year are attributed to their activities.” Also among the tormentors were “various civil servants, in particular the Governor of Musch (Vilayet Bitlis) and the Vali of Van. It is stated amongst other things that some 2,000 Muslim families from the Russian occupied district of Alaschgerd, who are hardly in a position to pay for their own keep. In two districts of Van formal butcheries took place under the connivance of the Kaymakams.” [1915-04-15-DE-002] Except for Van, this information from Armenian sources was widely confirmed by German consuls and their informants during the following period. And these occurrences all took place before the uprising in Van.
While there was often mention in the various eyewitness reports of the murderous deeds of the gendarmes, military police and soldiers together with their officers, it was far more difficult for German observers to identify the wire-pullers, especially since the Young Turks wanted to keep their plans for annihilation and their authors as unrecognised as possible; accordingly, they did not inform their German allies, at least not the diplomats. Thus, the man who has meanwhile been identified by Ottoman experts as one of the main culprits, Behaeddin Schakir, appeared only once in a report by Scheubner-Richter as “Beyadin Sehakir, gang leader”, which the embassy corrected and changed to “Behaeddin”. [1915-07-09-DE-003] Another time, the nurses, Thora von Wedel-Jarlsberg and Eva Elvers, wrote about a deportee convoy “on the way through the valley of Kemagh, when, on 10 June, they were caught in crossfire, in front of them Kurds and behind them, in their opinion, the semi-regular troops of a certain Talaat.” [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure]
There are references in several reports to orders that came directly from Constantinople, whereby the authors did not know in detail whether these were given by the government, the Central Committee of Young Turks, the Supreme Commander of the Turkish army or individual persons, or a combination of all of these. Nurses Wedel-Jarlsberg and Elvers wrote, “The owner of a hotel began a conversation with us and told us that orders had come from Constantinople to kill all of the deportees.” [1915-08-21-DE-001, Enclosure] Scheubner-Richter mentions “a very respected and influential Bey” who told him that the deportation of Armenians “was not being done by enraged mobs, but systematically and by the order of the government, ‘the Committee,’ as he added with emphasis.” [1915-08-05-DE-002]
Information became more specific when the informant had direct access to the culprits; this applied in particular to Scheubner-Richter, whose residence of Erzerum was, for a while, the centre of the wire-pullers. “Measures for the deportation of the entire Armenian population in the local area,” Scheubner-Richter wrote in the middle of June 1915, “have been taken at the order of the Supreme Commander of the Army and justified on the basis of military grounds.” [1915-06-16-DE-011]
On 7 July 1915, Scheubner-Richter made the following corrections, “In my opinion, massacres are being carried out with the connivance of the government or the promotion of the Committee. As the supporting government, Committee members play a very nasty role.” [1915-07-07-DE-002] Two days later, he was more precise and considered the local Chief of Police, Chulussi Bey, to be the “main instigator of this regretful massacre”. He added that “a committee has been formed here which consists of Chlusi Bey [Note by the embassy: Halussi], Chief of Police, Seyfullah Effendi, Deputy from Erzerum, Beyadin [Note by the embassy: Behaeddin] Sehakir, gang leader, Mürdar [Note by the embassy: Muhurdar] Zadé Achmed, Jounos Chinasi. This committee carries on a disastrous alternative government and often thwarts the government’s perhaps well-meant intentions, such as, for example, regarding the resettlement of the Armenians.” [1915-07-09-DE-003]
Scheubner-Richter obviously did not know that Schakir’s “band” was the notorious “special organisation” for the annihilation of the Armenians. He wrote the following regarding the role of the military, “The Commander-in-Chief of the 3rd Army, Mahmud Kiamel Pasha, who has relocated his headquarters here, is also interfering harshly in the government of the Vilayets.” The hard-liners of the Committee, “to which almost all military and government civil servants belong,” according to Scheubner-Richter, “openly admit that the final goal of their actions against the Armenians is their total annihilation in Turkey. After the war we will not have ‘any more Armenians in Turkey’, are the exact words of an eminent person.” [1915-07-28-DE-015]
At the beginning of August 1915, after a conversation with the Vali, Tahsin Bey, on those reponsible for the deportations, Scheubner-Richter then reported, “The Vali frankly pointed out that this was not his responsibility, but that of the army's Supreme Command and that he was at their command. They ordered the expulsion of the Armenians.” Tahsin Bey tried “to ensure the safety of the expellees,” Scheubner-Richter wrote, “insofar as this was possible considering the opposing intentions of the Committee and other leading personalities. But neither his influence nor his energy were sufficient to meet the resistance he met with both from the army's Supreme Command as well as from the Committee in his endeavours to achieve this.” [1915-08-05-DE-002]
Bergfeld, the Consul in Trapezunt, also pointed out the role of the Committee, “Without being able to produce any evidence for my opinion, I cannot help thinking that the Young Turkish Committee can be regarded as the driving force behind the measures being taken against the Armenians. The Central Committee seems to want to finally put an end to the Armenian question in this way.” [1915-07-09-DE-002] One-and-a-half months later he wrote, “Apparently the Vali of Trapezunt is a member of the Young Turk Committee, but he attempted to keep his independence, and he endeavoured to soften the measures against the Armenians as far as possible. It was probably his influence, which led to the successful dismissal of the local inspector and Committee leader, Nai Bey Correct: Yenibahçeli Nail..” [1915-08-27-DE-003]
In the south, Consul Roessler had the most reliable information, whereby there was an added complication for his area of competence, namely, that the Supreme Commander of the 4th Army, Djemal Bey, commanded part of the region and did not always agree with the Committee. “There are serious indications that the method for murdering the deportees on their march is also to be followed in the districts of Marasch and Aleppo,” Roessler wrote. “Djemal Pasha’s orders are to the contrary, but the Committee is working in favour of this.” [1915-08-12-DE-011] His colleague in Adana, Buege, also determined that the local Committees were responsible, “The local Committee leader, Ismail Safa [“Identical with the former Musteshar (Undersecretary of State) at the Ministry of the Interior”, so Hohenlohe-Langenburg, which was wrong], threatened general massacres,” he reported, “if the Armenians were not deported.” [1915-09-14-DE-001]
“It finally seems,” said Ambassador Hohenlohe-Langenburg, “as if the authorities in the interior are often under the influence of the leaders of the Unity and Progress Committee and other elements who are not responsible, who do not concern themselves with the Central Government's orders and organise the riots against the Armenians and other indigenous Christians.” [1915-09-14-DE-001]
Shortly after the deportations in Aleppo began, a new centre for deportations was established there. Consul Roessler discovered that the order to deport Armenians who arrived in Aleppo and the surrounding region was “as far as I could determine, not given by the Ministry of the Interior, but by the local Centre for Deportees”. [1916-01-28-DE-002]
According to Roessler, this organisation, called “Sous-direction des déportés”, was originally led by Eyub Bey, “who was responsible for deportations before the commissioner arrived from Constantinople, and he was later assigned to him.” [1921-04-25-DE-001] Vice-Consul Hoffmann quotes him as saying, “You still do not understand what we want: we want to obliterate the Armenian name for good and all!” [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1] This almost became a standing idiomatic expression for those responsible for annihilating the Armenians. After the war, Roessler recalled, “When the Commissioner of Deportation arrived from Constantinople and I believed at first that this was an attempt to organise food for the deportees or even just to care for them a little bit, and I approached the Commissioner of Deportation with a request to release some Armenians who were employed by Germans, he refused this in the most brusque manner and said to me in an incredibly arrogant tone of voice which I will never forget, ‘Vous ne comprenez pas ce que nous voulons. Nous voulons une Arménie sans Arméniens [You do not understand what we want. We want an Armenia without Armenians.]’ I have, however, forgotten the Commissioner’s name, but it must have been Abdul Ahad Nuri Bey, unless it was his superior, Schukri Bey, who was previously in Aleppo for a while.” [1921-04-25-DE-001] Prof. Vahakn. N. Dadrian considers Schükrü to be the author, because Abdulahad Nuri did not speak French well enough, while Schükri mastered this language. [Dadrian, Vahakn N., “The Naim-Andonian Documents on the World War I Destruction of Ottoman Armenians: The Anatomy of a Genocide“ in International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 18 August 1986 No. 3 footnote 55]
Even during their time in Aleppo, German observers reported on the work carried out by this organisation. Vice-Consul Hoffmann, who often stepped in for Roessler in Aleppo, reported that, “according to statements made by the director of political affairs in the Vilayets”, the Armenians were “to be left to themselves at their destination and ‚will all die’.” [1915-10-18-DE-011] Bastendorff, the German engineer at the Baghdad Railway, wrote in a report to Roessler, “All steps taken in respect of the Armenians, as far as I could see and observe, led to the conclusion described to me by the Director of Emigrants, Schuekri Bey, ‘The final result must be the extermination of the Armenian race.’” [1916-01-03-DE-002, Enclosure 2]. And Roessler confirms, “Vali and Commissioner of Deportation are working relentlessly on the annihilation.” [1916-02-10-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Naturally, the ambassadors and their colleagues were best informed about those responsible in Constantinople. Armenian expert Mordtmann hat a regular exchange of ideas with the Ministry of the Interior, usually with Ismail Jambulat, the Head of the Department for Public Safety, as well as his colleagues.
Already at the end of June 1915, he reported, “As Djanbulat Bey verbally confirmed to me several days ago with the map of Anatolia in his hand, the Turkish government recently decided to extend the deportation measures against the Armenians even further: the Armenians in the provinces of Djanik, Trapezunt, Siwas and Mamuret ul Aziz are now also supposed to be deported.” Mordtmann stated that this could no longer be justified. “It is a matter of destroying the Armenians, as Talaat Bey told me several weeks ago.” [1915-06-30-DE-001]
In a document he wrote and signed, but withheld, Metternich determined the following with regard to excesses against the lives of those who have been resettled, “In this respect, the Vali of Diarbekir, Reschid Bey, the Vali of Erserum, Tachsin Bey, the Chief of Police in Erserum, Chulussi Bey, and a certain Machmud Kiamil Pasha are particularly heavily incriminated. Private individuals were also often instigated by government officials to exterminate those who were resettled.” [1916-01-31-DE-003]
German diplomats soon discovered that the Ministry of the Interior was one of the centres for this genocide. This was directly confirmed later on when the Armenians were to be deported from Smyrna and some had already been deported. Radowitz, the Chargé d’Affaires in Constantinople, reported that the Vali of Smyrna stated with regard to the orders for deportation “that he received his orders from Constantinople (Talaat Bey).” [1916-11-13-DE-001] The head of the German military mission in Turkey, Otto Liman von Sanders, who, as the highest commander of the region, forbade further measures after the deportation of several hundred Armenians, was even more direct. He reported to the embassy, “The Vali told me in confidence that he had enforced the rules in agreement with Minister Talaat Bey and other significant persons (Committee members) for those reasons previously mentioned.” [1916-11-17-DE-001, Enclosure]
In the opinion of German observers, Minister of the Interior Talaat was, in fact, the person chiefly responsible for the genocide. Consul General Schmidt from Jerusalem reports that the Minister of Naval Affairs and associate in the triumvirate, Djemal, said about Talaat, “Talaat Bey decides how far the deportation should be extended.” [1915-09-09-DE-012] Von Tyszka, the German journalist, on Talaat, “Talaat is extreme. What he wants has happened up until now.” [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 3] Ambassador Wolff-Metternich states more precisely, “Talaat Bey is the brain behind the deportation of the Armenians.” [1915-12-07-DE-001] Von Tyszka characterised Talaat’s personality thus, “A man like Talaat Bey, possessing such an iron will, tends towards the most extreme measures when he believes them to be right. He will not let himself be influenced by anyone and favours any kind of report if it brings him closer to his goal. For this man, the expulsion of the Armenians after the uprising in Wan became a necessity. The resulting injustices and hardships are of no importance. Talaat Bey is the optimist par excellence, especially regarding his own decisions. In the same way he gives commands, he accepts all complaints quite indifferently.” [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 3] Not only did Talaat decree indifferently, but also cynically. According to the Armenian expert at the German embassy in Constantinople, Johann Mordtmann, Talaat told him, “The deportations were a means of protecting the Armenians from worse, namely massacres.” [1915-05-29-DE-011] After the majority of the Armenians had been deported or already murdered, the Chargé d’Affaires, Goeppert, notes that Talaat came to the embassy and declared the Armenian question to be settled, “The measures against the Armenians had, anyway, been stopped. ‘La question arménienne n'existe plus.’ [The Armenian question no longer exists]” [1915-08-31-DE-011] According to Ambassador Wolff-Metternich, Talaat informed him at the height of the actions to kill in the south-east, “Only the deportation of all of them could ensure security.” [1915-12-18-DE-001]
Just how abysmally Talaat lied is proven by the testimony of a German who was not a diplomat, but played a major role in Germany's Turkish policy: Ernst Jaeckh, who had been made a professor by the Kingdom of Württemberg and was Chairman of the German-Turkish Association in Germany and head of the influential "Central Office for Foreign Services" in the German Foreign Office, the man often simply called "Turkish Jaeckh" because of his sympathy for Turkey. He had the best connections to the leaders of the Young Turks, particularly to Enver and Talaat. From the end of August to the middle of October 1915, Jaeckh travelled throughout Turkey and, according to his own statements, had several discussions with the top people in Turkey. "With regard to the Armenian question, Enver repeatedly took the point of view that it was necessary to secure the Turkish Empire against an Armenian revolution that had broken out behind the Turkish troops," Jaeckh reported to Arthur Zimmermann, the Undersecretary of State in the German Foreign Office in the middle of October 1915. "Talaat, to be sure, makes no bones about the fact," Jaeckh continued, "that he welcomes the annihilation of the Armenian people as a political alleviation." [1915-10-17-DE-002]
According to his own statements, Jaeckh had had these discussions in September 1915, i.e. at a time when a great many Armenians were still alive and deportations in several larger towns had not yet begun. No statement in the German documents known until the present makes it clearer that Talaat's objective was the complete annihilation of the Armenians.
On the other hand, there were also Turkish statesmen at the top level who obviously disapproved of the Armenian genocide. One of these was the President of the Chamber, Halil Bey, who, according to Ambassador Hohenlohe-Langenburg, seems not to condone the government’s actions against the Armenians and “maintained that the massacres and other atrocities were not approved by the government, but the government was not always in a position to prevent the excesses of the masses; also that the subordinated authorities had made mistakes in carrying out the deportation measures.” [1915-08-12-DE-001] Meanwhile Metternich wrote with regard to the other leaders of the Yong Turks that Enver and Halil “take refuge behind the plea of necessities of war, that revolutionaries needed to be punished, and carefully evade the accusation that hundreds of thousands of women, children and elderly people are being driven into misery and ultimately to their deaths. Djemal Pasha says that the original orders were indeed necessary, but that their execution had been badly organised.” [1915-12-07-DE-001]
Judgements on Djemal Pasha, the Naval Minister, varied. Ambassador Paul Count Wolff-Metternich concerning him, “Djemal Pasha, who also belongs to those Turks who are ashamed, had up until now met with resistance in the Committee concerning the fulfilment of his wishes. Recently, however, as has been communicated to me by his Chief of Staff, Colonel von Kress, they have now been granted.” [1915-12-09-DE-001] Consul Roessler also reports, “Djemal Pasha, the highest commanding officer in the 4th Army Division, was not personally in favour of destroying the Armenians. His willpower was not strong enough to put a stop to it all, but it is a relief to be able to note a conciliatory gesture just once within this appalling picture. If the conditions among the ranks of the 4th Army, although they are bad enough, still cannot compare with those of the 3rd Army, then, besides the differences caused by the geographical and political situation as well as by the varying conditions of the communication routes, the influence of Djemal Pasha can also be taken into account.” [1916-01-03-DE-002] Metternich reports that Consul Loytved from Damascus had spoken with Djemal in connection with the question of forwarding American aid; the latter “told me in confidence that he personally would like to relieve the lot of the Armenians within the scope of his possibilities, but that he had received strict orders from Constantinople to prevent any German and American participation in the assistance for the Armenians, because the Armenians’ inner resistance against the Turkish government could only be overcome if they were taught that they could not expect any support whatsoever from any foreign government.” [1916-03-29-DE-002] However, Djemal’s influence with his colleagues in Constantinople did seem to be limited, and Consul Loytved Hardegg indicated this to Hussein Kasim Bey, the Commissioner responsible for the Armenians, “I pointed out the anti-Armenian atmosphere among the leading Committee members in Constantinople, against which even Djemal Pasha was seemingly no match.” [1916-05-30-DE-001]
The transmission of genocide orders to those in power in the provinces by couriers from the central government was, for a long time, not as clear to the Germans as it was stated at the end of 1918 by the ambassadorial preacher, Count von Luettichau, after a longer journey through the east, “There is no doubt in my mind that an order was sent from Stambul, not in writing or by telegram, but verbally through couriers with secret orders. I was told so accordingly in Malatia by Mustafa Agha, for example, who personally attended that infamous meeting in which a secret courier from Stambul brought the order to annihilate the deportees.” [1918-10-18-DE-001, Enclosure]
German diplomats found out already in September 1915 that they had been deceived by Turkish politicians. At the insistence of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Talaat had supposedly given orders to the provincial authorities that resulted in more moderate treatment of the Armenians or even a revocation of the deportations. “Talaat Bey gave me the German translation of various telegraphic orders on the persecution of the Armenians which he sent to the provincial authorities concerned,” the ambassador stated. “With these, he wished to deliver proof that the central government is seriously attempting to end the riots, which have taken place against the Armenians in the heart of the country, and to see to it that those who have been deported receive provisions during transport.” [1915-09-04-DE-001]
However, those Turks responsible for the genocide were merely attempting to calm the Germans down. Consul Buege reported from Adana, “Measures against the Armenians have been tightened: widows, orphans and soldiers’ families, even the sick and the blind, are to depart immediately!” [1915-09-13-DE-011] And a day later, “The notification concerning the Armenians and given to the Imperial Embassy from the Porte is merely an audacious deception of the embassy, because, at the instigation of Inspector Ali Munif Bey, who was sent here, the Porte later completely revoked this order. The authorities, of course, are only carrying out the second instruction and continuing with the deportations without considering denomination or creed.” [1915-09-14-DE-001]
On his part, Roessler cabled, “The order given by the Porte to refrain from deporting those who were still in their homes is a complete illusion, as some of them can be termed as being suspicious and this is often used as an excuse. Contrary to the order, the families of soldiers are not being exempted. Also, the severely sick are being transported away mercilessly. Despite assurances by the Porte to the contrary, everything is being directed towards the destruction of the Armenian people.” [1915-09-25-DE-001]
“The well-known telegraphic instructions by the Porte for the improvement of the fate of the deported Armenians,” Hohenlohe finally had to admit to Berlin, “have not fulfilled their purpose due to the various exceptions to the privileges granted, which the Porte itself made at the beginning and later, and also due to the despotism of the provincial authorities.” [1915-09-14-DE-001] Another statement made by the German ambassador was more exactly in accordance with the facts, “It is true that the privileges conceded by the Porte were later often restricted again.” [1915-09-14-DE-001]
Many eyewitness reports name the lower-level executors of the genocide. Ambassador Metternich summarised them in a document he wrote and signed, but withheld, “Turkish police, gendarmes and soldiers were involved in burning down the houses of those who were resettled; the Turkish police, gendarmes and soldiers played an outstanding role in pillaging the houses of those who were resettled and took part in pillaging the convoys of those who were to be resettled. The gendarmes accompanying these convoys as well as other public officials often extorted money from those who were to be resettled.” [1916-01-31-DE-003]
Soldiers and gendarmes could, at least, be recognised because of their uniforms. On the other hand, the “special organisation”, created especially for the purpose of implementing the genocide and headed by Schakir, acted in as secretive a manner as possible. Neither their social nor their ethnic origins were easy to recognise. Nevertheless, there are also references to them in the German sources, sometimes obliquely referred to as irregulars, gangs or Tshetes, among them many criminals who had been released especially for this task.
The first references came from the victims themselves. Wangenheim wrote that the Armenian side held the following groups responsible for the occurrences, “The irregulars and bands of marauders organised in military fashion and bearing the title Militia; these are being blamed for numerous plunders, murders, for robbery and other acts committed against the Armenian population of the country.” [1915-04-15-DE-002]
Consul Bergfeld reports from Trebizond, “In fact, between Erzinghian and Diarbekir, Armenians have been massacred on the mountain road, allegedly by Kurds, and larger bands of ambushers ... have been seen near Erzerum and Baiburt. After all it is remarkable that in that area, which up to now was considered safe, such large bands can be formed.” [1915-07-09-DE-002] Consul Roessler writes that the Turkish government “has called up Circassian volunteers and set them onto the Armenians.” [1915-07-27-DE-001] In July 1915, Ambassador Wangenheim reports on the murder of Armenians in Tell Ermen; von Mikusch, the German major, reported, “The militia and gendarmes have at least tolerated the massacre and probably taken part in it. Replacements (released prisoners) including their officer have spoken happily of massacres between Nisibin and Tell Ermen and have completely plundered an Armenian village, the inhabitants of which were massacred.” [1915-07-09-DE-001] Consul Roessler writes that the Turkish government “has released prisoners from the prisons, put them in soldiers’ uniforms and sent them to the areas where the deportees would be passing through.” [1915-07-27-DE-001]
Pro-Armenian Lieutenant Colonel Stange reports on the fate of the deportees from Erzerum, “It is definitely a fact that these Armenians, almost without exception, were murdered in the region of Mamachatun (Tertjan) by so-called “Tschetes” (volunteers), Ashirets and similar scum. These acts were, in fact, tolerated by the military escort cadres, were even accomplished with their assistance.” [1915-08-23-DE-013] According to Stange, the annihilation of the Armenians was “was well organised and carried out with the help of members of the Army and of voluntary bands.” [1915-08-23-DE-013] Vice-Consul Holstein reports that “gangs have massacred the entire Christian population of the town of Djeziré (Vilayet Diarbekir) with the tacit connivance of the local authorities and the participation of the military.” [1915-09-11-DE-011]
The German journalist, von Tyszka, wrote, “The tchetes, the old bazibazuks from the war of 1877/8, were found once again where easy spoils and murder were to be had without any risk involved. As brave and humane in thought as the Turkish soldier is when he is not spurred on by religion, so cowardly is the irregular. It will certainly be claimed that the tchetes were instigated and led by Young Turks.” And, “The tchetes followed this caravan of defenceless people and robbed, raped and murdered as they pleased.” [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 3] Consul Buege wrote that they especially had it in for the caravans; “in their opinion, they are hardly doing anything that is not right when they attack the Armenians, possibly killing them, because the authorities have rather bluntly given them the order to massacre the Armenians.” [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 4]
Only once was a “special organisation” mentioned in the German files. Questions by a Swiss charity organisation are answered by the consulate in Mossul, “The prerequisite for effective aid is that the deportees are first definitely permitted to remain in towns to be determined, and not, as has happened until now and is still constantly happening, restlessly sent hither and thither at the discretion of whichever Turkish “special organisation” is dealing with those matters in a very unscrupulous manner.” [1916-06-23-DE-001]
Apart from the two large regional centres of Erzerum, at the beginning of the deportations, and Aleppo, which was responsible during the following period for further transportation to Palestine and especially Mesopotamia, there were repeatedly emissaries from Constantinople who were deployed in regional committees for murderous acts against the Armenians. One “horrific pair” was a duo nick-named “Circassian” Ahmed and Lieutenant Halil; Deacon Kuenzler, a Swiss, reported the following on them, “That it is no longer the Mutesarrif or the court martial who make decisions in the matter of the Armenian question, but rather that two of the Committee’s emissaries, Halil and Ahmed Bey, are running a reign of terror,” whereupon Roessler wrote, “This has been confirmed to me by a well-informed, distinguished, local Mohammedan as being undoubtedly true.” Roessler also spoke of a “deportation to Diarbekir, autocratically brought about by the members of the Committee.” [1915-08-11-DE-001]
Other executors are also named. Sarkis Manukian, who completed his doctorate in Germany, reported on the murder of men by Kurds at a place two hours from Malatia and, apart from Seynal Bey, the leader of the Kurds, named two Turks as being responsible: Ali Pasha attended the executions while his brother, Nuri Bey, had already gone ahead. [1915-11-30-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
Sometimes, even officers or public officials who were deployed as governors or sub-governors took an active part in the annihilation of the Armenians. For example, witnesses informed Consul Buege “that they saw no male Armenians along the way in the towns of Tschat, Burun–Kischla, Tschachmachsadé and Keller, and everywhere along the way they learned that all of them had been killed. It was supposedly the Kaymakam from Bogaslajan who ordered the massacre in all of these towns.” [1915-10-01-DE-006, Enclosure 8] Frieda Wolf Hunecke, who had previously worked for a British mission station in Everek, named “the cruel, violent-tempered Kaymakam (Seki Bey)” as one of the main culprits. [1915-07-13-DE-001, Enclosure] The Head of Police in Aleppo and Commanding Officer in Djemal’s 4th Army, Fakhri Pasha, who was mentioned in several documents, was accused as follows by Roessler, “It is becoming ever clearer that the orders for the harshest and most merciless implementation of the deportation decided on by the government must be put down to Fakhri Pasha and comes from him.” [1915-07-17-DE-002]
The Governor-General of Diarbekir, Reschid Bey, was a Vali who was particularly notorious for his brutality. When Vice-Consul Holstein from Mossul complained to the Vali of his region about the deportees from Diarbekir, the latter said “that only the Vali of Diarbekir was responsible.” [1915-06-10-DE-011] “Reschid Bey is causing havoc like an eager bloodhound amongst the Christians of his Vilayets,” Holstein reported shortly thereafter, “Just recently in Mardin he allowed seven hundred Christians, mostly Armenians, and including the Armenian Bishop, to be slaughtered like sheep in one night near the city. They had been gathered together by the gendarmerie sent especially from Diarbekir.” [1915-07-10-DE-011] Holstein wrote to his ambassador, “Everyone knows that the Vali of Diarbekir, for example, is the instigator of the terrible crimes committed against the Christians in his Vilayet.” [1915-08-14-DE-012]
Vice-Consul Hoffmann wrote, “The worst seems to have happened in Vilayet Diarbekir, where the Vali, Reschid Bey, has declared publicly that he will tolerate no Christians in his Vilayet. According to Vice-Consul Holstein’s personal knowledge, gained during his journey from Mossul to Aleppo, the people have been exhorted by gendarme patrols from Diarbekir and Mardin to ‘finish off’ the Armenians.” [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1] After he had exterminated the Christians in his Vilayet, Reschid continued his murderous acts in today’s capital, Ankara. “Vali Reschid Bey, known for his work in Diarbekir, is busy in Angora,” Wolff-Metternich wrote, “finding the last Armenians (solely Catholics) and driving them out.” [1916-07-10-DE-001]
Another butcher, whose name was often mentioned by German observers, was the Mutessarif of Deir-es-Zor, Salih Zeki. Roessler reported that August Bernau, a German traveller, “is convinced that, as long as Zeky Bey, the present Mutesarrif, remains in Der Zor, all the Armenians who enter his territory are doomed.” [1916-09-20-DE-001] Roessler reported on the acts of annihilation that took place on the Chabur River; these were “implemented by the Mutesarrif, Zekki Bey for no special reason.” [1916-11-05-DE-001] Bernau spoke of the “brutal Mutessarrif, Sekki Bey, a Circassian”, who “deported” all Armenians, “except some craftsmen and about 1,200 children. As I have heard, they have been sent to the area of the Chabur River. There, according to general opinion, they will be massacred or will perish somehow.” [1916-09-05-DE-001] The German ambassadorial preacher, Count von Lüttichau, reported on his treatment of the Armenians, “[He] literally led all of them, without exception, into the desert and had them killed there.” [1918-10-18-DE-001, Enclosure]
The Objective of the Genocide
If it was once Sultan Abdul Hamid’s objective to weaken the Armenians for decades in advance, the radical Young Turks had decided on the final annihilation of the Armenian people and carried this plan out. “A Turkish inspector said to me,” one of Roessler’s informants reported, “‘This time we have done our job on the Armenians in a way we have desired for a long time; out of every ten, we have not left nine alive.’” [1915-07-27-DE-001, Enclosure]
The followers of the local Committee, Scheubner-Richter also reported, had their eyes only on the complete annihilation of all Armenians. “As long as this goal is not attainable through the various massacres, one hopes that the deprivation on the long journey to Mesopotamia and the unaccustomed climate there will finish the task This solution to the Armenian question” seems to these hardliners “to be ideal”. [1915-07-28-DE-015] “Only a violent extermination policy, a forcible destruction of a whole people, could lead the Turkish government in this way to its longed-for goal, to a “solution” of the Armenian question.” [1915-08-10-DE-001] Ambassador Wangenheim, who usually tends to be more cautious, confirms his opinion, “The way in which the resettlement is being carried out shows that the government is indeed pursuing its purpose of eradicating the Armenian race from the Turkish Empire.” [1915-07-07-DE-001]
An employee of the Baghdad Railway reported from Sivas that, with regard to the Armenians in prison, the Turkish officer who accompanied him said, “We will kill them all”. [1918-11-01-DE-001} Enclosure 4. “A man such as Ali Issan, who received his military training in Germany and speaks perfect German, the present Commander of the 6th Army in Mossul,” reported the ambassadorial preacher, Count Lüttichau, “has stated a countless number of times for the attention of German ears that within the boundaries of his command he will not permit a single Armenian to be left alive.” [1918-10-18-DE-001, Enclosure] “A German Catholic priest reported,” Martin Niepage, a secondary school teacher, wrote, “that Enver Pasha said to the papal nuncio in Constantinople, Monsignor Dolci, that he would not rest as long as even one Armenian was still alive.” [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
Thus, almost all of the German observers agreed: what happened to the Armenians in Turkey in 1915/16 was a genocide. “The objective of the deportations is the extermination of the entire Armenian people,” [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3] Niepage wrote from Aleppo. Apart from Johannes Lepsius, he was the only German who attempted to draw the attention of German Members of Parliament to the genocide. The German Vice-Consul in Erzerum, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, called the action taken against the Armenians “a violent policy of extermination, a violent annihilation of an entire people” and “the absolute extermination of the Armenians” [1915-08-10-DE-001] His colleague, Heinrich Bergfeld, from Trapezunt also spoke of “plans to destroy the Armenians totally,” even if this did not take place in his town, [1915-07-09-DE-002] and Vice-Consul Hermann Hoffmann-Fölkersamb from Alexandrette wrote, “There is not much difference between the deportation of the Armenians and their extermination.” [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1] The ambassadors made the same judgement regarding the situation. Already on 7 July 1915, Wangenheim had reported to Bethmann Hollweg, “This situation and the way in which the resettlement is being carried out shows that the government is indeed pursuing its purpose of eradicating the Armenian race from the Turkish Empire.” [1915-07-07-DE-001] Ernst Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg called the Armenian genocide “the systematic slaughter of the Armenian people who had been deported from their homes.” [1915-08-12-DE-001] Paul Count Wolff-Metternich considered “the real purpose of the Armenian deportations” to be “the total extermination of the Armenian race,” [1916-01-24-DE-001] and spoke in a further report of “destroying the Armenian race.” [1916-07-10-DE-001] The Ambassador on Extraordinary Mission and later Foreign Minister, Richard von Kühlmann, spoke of an “annihilation of the Armenians which was carried out on a vast scale”. [1917-02-16-DE-003] Finally, one of the heads of German foreign policy, Arthur Zimmermann, had to admit “that the execution of these deportation orders should lead to the destruction of a large proportion of the Armenian population.” [1917-05-09-DE-001]
Turkish Resistance to the Genocide
There were several higher Turkish officials who did not agree with the procedures being carried out against the Armenians, and were therefore removed from their office. The most important one among them was the Vali from Aleppo, Djelal Bey. He “had previously not banned any Armenians from the Vilayet of Aleppo and had guaranteed that they would not cause any trouble,” Roessler wrote, but he already suspected, “Government obviously wants to have a free hand here, too.” [1915-06-21-DE-013] He was transferred in the middle of 1915. His colleague in Angora suffered a similar fate. “Despite repeated requests by the Central government, the Vali there, Masar Bey, had refused,” reported the journalist, von Tyszka, to the German Foreign Office, “to extend the rigorous measures indiscriminately and summarily to the entire Armenian population, and he was then dismissed.” [1915-09-05-DE-001] German observers were also full of praise for the Mutessarif in Deir-es-Zor, Fuad Bey. The Armenians “began to breathe a sigh of relief under the humane attitude of the Mutessarrif,” [1916-09-05-DE-001] Bernau, a German, reported, before his successor, Salih Zeki, took over his position and began and ended a unprecedented act of annihilation.
There were also leading Turkish officials who paid for their resistance against the deportations with their lives. “In the Vilayet of Diarbekr, a Kaymakam was given verbal orders on the procedure against the Armenians. He refused to carry them out if they were not repeated in writing, whereupon he was dismissed and murdered on the way to Diarbekr,” Roessler reported to his ambassador. “Not one, but rather several public officials were supposedly killed, because they did not act mercilessly against all Armenians in their district.” [1915-07-17-DE-002]
Exceptions were also found among the officers. An official of the Baghdad Railway reported that a Turkish major, who spoke German, told him, “I and my brother have each brought an Armenian girl with us from Ras ul Ain. We found them on our journey. - Our Koran does not allow the sort of treatment that the Armenians are having to tolerate at present.” [1915-07-27-DE-001, Enclosure] “A Turkish major told a German that the children left along the way by the Armenians could not be counted,” reported Ernst Pieper, an engineer. “He and his brother had each taken one into their homes to bring it up.” [1915-08-20-DE-001, Enclosure 5] The Geman journalist, von Tyszka, reports, “A Turkish lieutenant colonel, who had served in the Dardanelles and was in the capital city on a short holiday, tearfully described what his relatives from Trapezunt and Siwas had related to him concerning the Turkish massacres of the Armenians.” [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
German observers also found simple Turks who disapproved. Blank, the German missionary, wrote about a train of deportees from Zeitun; the brutal action against the Armenians “had not met with the approval of many Turks. Some told me directly that it was incorrect to behave like this towards the poor people, but, they said, from our side we can do nothing about it.” [1915-05-27-DE-001, Enclosure 3] Consul Bergfeld reports from Trebizond, “In honour of the Turkish population on the whole it must be said that very many Turks are not in agreement with the expulsion of women and children.” [1915-07-09-DE-002]
“I dare say that the deportation of the Armenians is too much even for the Anatolian Turks,” the Head of the German Orphanage in Harunije, Benno von Dobbeler, wrote. “Those who now have the opportunity of enriching themselves as never before and who are also not averse to enriching themselves. But they detest the way in which this is now offered to them. They would really prefer not to besmirch themselves with this and are more than a bit surprised by the measures which they do not understand, and draw their own conclusions concerning the German government.” [1915-07-11-DE-002, Enclosure] Vice-Consul Hoffmann from Alexandrette wrote, “All kinds of Muslim voices can be heard condemning the atrocious acts, particularly those against women and children, as a sin against the commandments of Islam.” [1916-01-03-DE-001; Enclosure 1] “It should not be forgotten that there are also Mohammedans who disapprove of the atrocities carried out against the Armenians,” an employee of the Baghdad Railway wrote. “A Mohammedan sheikh, a respected personality in Aleppo, said in my presence, ‘When people speak of how the Armenians are treated, I'm ashamed to be a Turk.’” [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 4]
“As I was also able to find out without a doubt, the Turkish Moslem population neither in the Mutessarifat of Ersindjian nor in the Vilayet of Erserum took part in the Armenian massacres,” Weitz, a German journalist, wrote after his journey throughout the east at the beginning of 1918. “Both here and often during the rest of my journey the true regret of the simple Turkish folk for the annihilation of the Armenians was expressed to me.” [1918-06-20-DE-001]
Fear for their own future often played a role here. “The Turkish people themselves are by no means in agreement with this solution to the Armenian question,” Scheubner-Richter wrote, “and across the country they are now already experiencing the severe economic consequences of the deportation of the Armenians.” [1915-07-28-DE-015] “Nor is this policy of extermination approved of by large circles of the Turkish population who still think reasonably, especially by the landowners,” said Scheubner-Richter in a further report. “These circles, which have worked together with Armenians and gotten along well with them, recognise the great economical and political danger of this new system towards a solution of the Armenian question.” [1915-08-05-DE-002]
Consul Loytved Hardegg reports on a conversation with the former Vali from Saloniki and Aleppo. He was deeply shocked by these occurrences and told the consul, “This cruel policy of extermination would greatly harm Turkey after peace had been achieved.” [1916-05-30-DE-001] However, the Vali was wrong. The Armenian genocide disappeared completely in the final peace talks with the Turks – and not only there.
The Reactions of German Politicians to the Genocide
During the months in which decisions were made concerning the Armenians, German diplomacy in Turkey lay in the hands of Ambassador Hans Baron von Wangenheim, of whom U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau sen., the father of the later U.S. Minister of Finance who, as a reaction to the holocaust, supposedly wanted to make Germany an agricultural state after World War II, said that “he had been completely captivated by Prussianism”. [Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, by Henry Morgenthau, Formerly American Ambassador in Turkey. New York, 1918. Chapter II; Abridged title: Morgenthau] Wangenheim was, without doubt, the most influential ambassador in Constantinople. In 1913, together with his Russian colleague, he had pushed through those reforms which gave the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire substantially extended rights as well as a certain autonomy. But Wangenheim was also the first to bring Turkey to Germany’s side from a military point of view. To do so, he had to make concessions to the nationalistic fraction of the Young Turks, thereby destroying the Russian-German reforms for which he was mainly responsible, which the Turks postponed immediately after the beginning of the war until an unspecified date. This meant that the Central Powers, including Germany, no longer offered the Armenians any kind of protection whatsoever.
This was exactly what Wangenehim had suggested to his superiors in Berlin at the beginning of 1913. “The Armenians, who are spread out all over Asia Minor and northern Persia, who, for religious and ethnological reasons, stand in a natural conflict with their Mohammedan masters, are the given element for building up a tight political propaganda network in the Near East,” Wangenheim wrote to his Chancellor and Head of the German Foreign Office, Bethmann Hollweg. “At that moment, when the liquidation of the Asian part of Turkey came within reach, it had to be of the greatest value to have such an instrument of agitation available for use. There can be no doubt whatsoever that Armenians are not sufficiently protected against despotism and suppression on Turkish territory. Whoever offers them this protection today will be the man for them, no matter what other secondary objectives he may also be following.”
“Whatever shape the fate of Turkey may take after peace has been made,” Wangenheim continued, “one thing is certain: the Armenian element, strong in numbers and economically efficient, will emancipate itself more and more. Anyone pursuing economic or political goals in Anatolia will not be able to avoid taking this fact into consideration. If it should become evident in future that the process of dissolution in Turkey can no longer be stopped, then it will be of great value for us in the assertion of our rights in Asia Minor to have the indigenous Armenian element behind us.” [1913-02-24-DE-001] This was to be achieved by enabling German consuls to take on a kind of protective function for the Armenians.
The Germans had, in fact, pursued economical and political objectives in Asian Turkey, even extremely imperial objectives: many Germans considered the area around the Baghdad Railway, built by them, not only as far as Baghdad, but beyond there to Basra on the Persian Gulf, to be a future German colony; the diplomats liked to call it “our sphere of interest” or also “our working area”. While leading German politicians merely thought of an economic German dominance in this region, others went as far as annexation. The key area of this sphere of interest was Cilicia, where Armenians made up the leading economical force.
In previously unpublished private correspondence with Wangenheim in May 1913, Gottlieb von Jagow, Secretary of State of the German Foreign Office, wrote, “It is a matter of course that we may not give the impression along the Asian coast that we wish to settle there permanently. For naturally it is in our interest to postpone the moment of liquidation [of the Ottoman Empire] for as long as possible. Our interests have not yet grown enough roots and our sphere of interest does not yet have a strong border. Of all Turkish property, the area we are interested in in future is the most Turkish. Should Asian Turkey also collapse – and I reckon strongly with this case – I always have in mind the idea of some form of a protectorate, by which we need not take over the direct rule and administration.”[ Letter from Jagow dated 8 May 1913; PA-AA, Wangenheim’s estate] At the end of July 1913, Jagow added, “Turkey no longer has any active strength. There is only one interest left for us in Turkey: that it continues to exist in Asia until we have further consolidated our working areas there and are ready for annexation.” [Letter from Jagow dated 28 July 1913; PA-AA, Wangenheim’s estate]
On 13 May 1914, i.e. closer to the outbreak of war, Jagow made it clear to his representative in Constantinople how he foresaw Germany’s policy towards Turkey, “I never thought much even of Turkey’s ability to build an alliance, nor can I believe in this in the future, just as I do not believe in the reorganisation of Turkey. A state’s or people’s ability to build an alliance includes an active strength, whereas Turkey has been becoming steadily more passive during the past 2 ½ centuries. To me, it is nothing more than the bone which other dogs should not eat as long as I do not wish to eat as well. I consider it to be a great benefit if we maintain the hackney carriage for 1 or 2 years. Winning time means winning a lot. We cannot build something lasting in the Orient for a long time – in my opinion, this will only be possible after Turkey has been liquidated.” [Letter from Jagow dated 13 May 1914; PA-AA, Wangenheim’s estate]
On the other hand, Jagow showed no interest whatsoever in the Armenians. Upon Wangenheim’s request to win the Armenians over for Germany, he replied on 22 March 1913, “If we take on such a patronage, it entails the danger that we’ll be sitting between two chairs and achieve only the opposite of the intended effect: Turkey would feel tempted to make us responsible for the sins of radical Armenian elements, while our protégés would be inclined to make us pay if we do not implement their often utopian pretentions in Constantinople.” [1913-04-22-DE-001]
Thus, the starting point with regard to the future victims of the genocide was clear: the Armenians were to expect nothing from the Germans, even if, after Turkey joined the war, Wangenheim still gave the Armenian Patriarch the hope that German consuls would look after the Armenians “as far as this is possible”. [1915-02-22-DE-001]
The Attitude of the German Ambassadors in Constantinople and that of the Consuls
There was a clearly recognizable grading in the people's perception of the Armenian genocide. At the level of the consuls and their informants, there was a clear description of the multiple forms of this genocide. At the level of the German ambassadors in Constantinople, who had all of these reports at their fingertips, there was a noticeable reserve in their presentation of events during the genocide, with one exception. Those responsible in the German Foreign Office, who were often directly informed by the consuls, but always by the ambassadors, already gave very different depictions of the genocide in their statements, which were usually very appeasing and, in many cases, even real denials. Finally, the top level of the Reich was only informed in fragments of the actual occurrences. Political or propagandistic calculations dominated at this level, and the Armenian genocide was not a subject of interest here.
There was only one among the German consuls, Heinrich Bergfeld in Trapezunt, who was in favour of the deportations of the Armenians, even still at the end of 1918 when he, too, was aware of all the consequences. "Based on the Armenians’ attitude and convictions at the beginning of the war, their evacuation – not just that of the men, but of entire families – was, in my opinion, a compellingly necessary military measure." [1918-09-01-DE-001] Bergfeld may have been led by his disregard for the Armenians ("Anyone who knows the Orient will agree with me that the Armenians are blessed with hardly a trait that humans find attractive."), yet even he himself ascertained, "Despite this, the excesses that took place during their deportation – the mass murders of the men, numerous rapes of women and children, and theft of their possessions – cannot be condemned severely enough." [1918-09-01-DE-001] All of the other consuls criticised the murderous actions of the Turks at a very early stage.
Wangenheim's reaction to the warnings of his consuls was, however, extremely weak. "The deportation of the Armenians from the larger towns, where they are being replaced by Mohammedan immigrants," Wangenheim said succinctly on 6 May 1915, "is continuing." In particular, he reported to his superiors in Berlin that the government had "ordered extensive cautionary measures against the spread of the Armenian movement in the interior." [1915-05-06-DE-002]
With his reference to the "Armenian movement", Wangenheim was alluding to the rebellion of Armenian deserters in Zeitun, but especially to the events in Van. Although the supposed uprising, a result of the atrocities carried out against the Armenian in the other towns in the province, collapsed after several weeks and all of the Armenians were were killed or driven out of Van, it now served among all of the German ambassadors and politicians in Berlin as an authorisation for the first large-scale genocide of the 20th century.
Although ever more alarming reports on the beginnings of this genocide arrived from the German consuls, Wangenheim only appeased at first. He told his consul in Adana, Eugen Buege, off when the latter reported, "With its barbaric methods, the government is obviously damaging the interests of the nation." Wangenheim relied, "As regrettable and, in many respects, also detrimental to our interests as the persecution of the Armenian population is, however, the most recent events in the border provinces, such as the revolt in Van and other procedures in the country’s interior, do, in fact, justify the severe measures taken by the authorities. The Imperial Embassy is, therefore, not in a position to prevent these measures for the time being." [1915-05-18-DE-011]
Upon the urging of Scheubner-Richter ("Misery of the deported Armenians dreadful. Request instructions whether I can take steps in this matter with the Supreme Commander." [1915-05-18-DE-012]), he permitted his consul to protest at least locally, "Under the described circumstances you are authorised to approach your local Supreme Command about the deportation of the Armenians," but immediately qualified this, "if reversal of the measures is inopportune for military reasons." He instructed his consul, "However, you should keep your intervention within the limits of a piece of friendly advice and avoid giving your meeting the character of an official representation." [1915-05-19-DE-015] Wangenheim also appeased reproaches by Roessler, "The government is firmly determined to carry out these measures without regard for other considerations and I must, therefore, at present desist from further audiences, especially with the Minister of War." [1915-06-03-DE-011] Wangenheim's reports to Berlin did not enable the German Foreign Office to suspect, at this time, what was really happening in Turkey.
On 17 June, for the first time, Wangenheim reported to the actual leader of German policy in Turkey, Undersecretary of State Arthur Zimmermann, "The expulsion of the Armenian population from their residences in the east Anatolian provinces and their resettlement in other areas is being carried out without mercy," and made a suggestive comment, "It has come to light that the banishment of the Armenians is not only motivated by military considerations." [1915-06-17-DE-003] This was the first time that there was talk of "military considerations" in German diplomatic correspondence, which, in the eyes of the Germans, obviously justified the expulsions.
In a "strictly confidential" letter to the Head of the German Christian Charity-Organisation for the Orient, Friedrich Schuchardt, the Ambassadorial Councillor in Constantinople, Konstantin Baron von Neurath, informed him as Wangenheim's representative, "The resettlement of the Armenian population in East Anatolia was decided upon by the Turkish government mainly for military reasons, in order to prevent an insurrection of those districts that are heavily populated by Armenians. To my regret, this measure cannot be revoked at present or even stopped." [1915-06-29-DE-001] These deportations, said Wangenheim's representative without giving any reason whatsoever, could be neither prevented nor limited. Neurath added that the press should not be informed of this.
In a memo written on the following day by the Armenian expert, Johann Mordtmann, for the Turkish government, he described how Talaat's representative at the Ministry of the Interior, Djambulat Bey, had confirmed to him that the deportations of the Armenians would be expanded to include further eastern provinces. "This can no longer be justified by military considerations," said Mordtmann, and added, " I believed that I should point out indirectly at the beginning of the new draft that we cannot agree to such an extent of mass deportations." [1915-06-30-DE-001] The embassy had obviously been instructed, or perhaps just informed, to allow a certain number of deportations.
In his draft for the Sublime Porte, Mordtmann described the acts of murder committed against the Armenians, but only referred to the consequences abroad, particularly in the United States, "dont les représentants s’intéressent depuis quelques temps au sort des Armeniens en Turquie (whose representatives have, for some time, been interested in the fate of the Armenians in Turkey)". On the other hand, in the accompanying text (for Wangenheim) he brought up the reaction to be expected by those Germans who were pro-Armenian, and feared for the German mission stations. The personal fate of the Armenians themselves is not mentioned at all. [1915-06-30-DE-001]
On 6 June, Mordtmann presented the Germans' note of protest to Talaat who, according to bearer, "made a somewhat offended impression and promised a reply". [1915-06-30-DE-001] Finally, on 7 July, Wangenheim turned to the Reichskanzler for the first time, "The expulsion and resettlement of the Armenian people was limited until 14 days ago to the provinces nearest to the eastern theatre of war and to certain areas in the province of Adana; since then the Porte has resolved to extend these measures also to the provinces of Trapezunt, Mamuret-ul-Aziz and Siwas, and has begun with these measures even though these parts of the country are not threatened by any enemy invasion for the time being." [1915-07-07-DE-001]
Meanwhile, Ernst Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who represented Wangenheim until shortly before his death on 25 October 1915, continued to appease the consuls. "All of our thoughts with regard to the decisions of the Turkish government to eliminate the indigenous Christians in the eastern provinces [Struck out again from the manuscript, "until they are completely annihilated"]," he cabled to Roessler, "have proved to be ineffective. Therefore, for the time being I must refrain from taking further steps, particularly in favour of the Armenians." [1915-08-02-DE-011]
In the meantime, Wangenheim had travelled to Berlin, where he actually wished to recuperate, but the Turkish policy and the deportations of the Armenians kept him busy there also. When he returned to Constantinople, mortally ill, he told the American ambassador in no uncertain terms what he had already stated at an early stage and now confirmed, namely, that at the present stage in the inner situation in Turkey he would not intervene on behalf of the Armenians. The German ambassador added, "Our one aim is to win this war." [Morgenthau loc cit., Chapter XXVII] And Morgenthau remembered a further remark made by Wangenheim on the deportations of the Armenians. "Germany is not responsible for this," his German colleague had said to him. [Morgenthau loc cit., Chapter XXVII]
After an interlude of three weeks, during which Konstantin Baron von Neurath ran the day-to-day business – who, in a letter to Bethmann Hollweg, had at least spoken of a " terrible need, which arose from these persecutions" [1915-10-26-DE-001] – a new German ambassador arrived, Paul Count Wolff-Metternich, who at least spoke openly about the extermination policy. In a document that was written and signed, but withheld, in which he examined possible economic claims by Germans against Turkey that were the result of the deportation and murder of Armenians, he ascertained that, in addition to the "excesses against the lives of those who have been resettled", the Turkish authorities had themselves created reasons for persecution such as the ownership of weapons, but that they by no means prevented bands of murderers from carrying out their atrocious deeds, and "that the final target of the government's measures is not the resettlement, but rather the extermination of the Armenians"; furthermore, that Turkish policemen, gendarmes and soldiers, "partly upon the orders of their superiors and partly without any authorisation," took part in acts of murder against the Armenians. [1916-01-31-DE-003] This meant that many statements made by German and other witnesses as well as by German consuls were, virtually officially confirmed by the highest German authority in Turkey.
But Metternich did even more and undertook a serious attempt to end the murder of the Armenians. In December 1915, he presented a suggestion to the Reichskanzler that, if the ever more unrestrained acts of annihilation being carried out against the Armenians could not be checked, then they should at least be condemned. Metternich stated that he had spoken to the leaders of the Young Turks in "an exceedingly sharp language," but, "Protests are useless. Should a stop be put to this, then more severe means are necessary." Metternich therefore suggested that the following text be published in the semi-official government newspaper, the Norddeutschen Allgemeinen Zeitung:
"In view of the numerous reports that have reached Germany, partly through the foreign press, about the sad fate of the Armenians of Turkey who have been evacuated from their former homes to be resettled in other areas, a growing concern is spreading among large segments of the German people. If every state should be free to decide, particularly in times of war, to proceed with all severity that is warranted under martial law against rebellious elements of its population, then every precaution should be taken in executing the orders, which are necessary for the safety of the state, to avoid an entire race, including old people, women and children, having to suffer through the fault of a few individuals. In view of the close friendly relations that exist between Turkey and Germany as a result of their alliance, the Imperial Government has felt obliged, as soon as the first news came through about the deeply unfortunate events which have occurred during the resettlement of the Armenian people, and which seem mainly to have been caused by the blunders of subordinates, to urgently direct the attention of the Turkish government through the offices of the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople to the excesses and harshness and to repeatedly demand, both verbally and in writing, that a stop be put to them immediately. The Imperial Government earnestly hopes that in the interest of both Turkey itself and the Armenian race these remonstrations will be complied with." [1915-12-07-DE-001]
According to Metternich, "Our annoyance about the persecution of the Armenians should be clearly expressed [in the German press] and an end be put to our gushings over the Turks." The German Ambassador said that, in order to be of real assistance to the Armenians, "we will have to inspire fear in the Turkish government regarding the consequences. If, for military considerations, we do not dare to confront it with a firmer stance, then we will have no choice but, with further abortive protests which tend rather to aggravate than to be of any use, to stand back and watch how our ally continues to massacre."
The heads of Germany's foreign policy appeared to be impressed by Metternich's philippic. "It looks as though we shall have to do this. Your Excellency should, however, soften this article before publication. In its present form it would suit too well the purposes of the Entente," Arthur Zimmermann noted in the letter, and his superior, Gottlieb von Jagow, assisted as well, "In particular, the end should sound more friendly towards the Turkish government." However, Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, nominally also Minister of Foreign Affairs, completely denied his ambassador's wish. "The proposed public reprimand of an ally in the course of a war would be an act which is unprecedented in history," he wrote in a handwritten note on 17 December, furious with his ambassador. "Our only aim is to keep Turkey on our side until the end of the war, no matter whether as a result Armenians do perish or not." [1915-12-07-DE-001]
Therefore, Wangenheim informed Morgenthau of Bethmann Hollweg's exact words. In other words, the German Reichskanzler had already uttered them many weeks previously to Wangenheim. Even Wangenheim's protestations that Germany was not responsible for the deportations were to become true in part, even if they had a nasty aftertaste.
Germany's Joint Responsibility for the Genocide
On 22 December 1915, in answer to petitions from the Germany embassy, the Turkish government pointed out yet again that the measures against the Armenian population in the empire solely concerned internal matters in Turkey. Every country had the right, the Sublime Porte stated in its reply which, as always, was written in French, "to take measures to extinguish subversive activities carried out in its territory" ("il est incontestable que tout Etat a le droit de prendre les mesures propres à enrayer un mouvement subversif propagé sur son territoire"). The Imperial German Embassy had also confirmed this point of view and, in its memo of 3 July, acknowledged that the measures taken against the Armenian population in the eastern provinces were justified for military reasons and represented a means of legitimate defence ("que les mesures de répression décrétées contre la population arménienne des provinces de l’Anatolie Orientale sont dictées par des raisons militaires et constituent un moyen de légitime défense"). [1916-04-03-DE-002]
The quintessence of this Turkish letter was that, for military reasons, Germany had agreed to the deportation of the entire Armenian population, not only from the east Anatolian regions, but also within the entire imperial territory, since Germany had accepted the principle of non-involvement in interior matters and this non-involvement was valid for the entire territory of the Ottoman Empire. The recipient of this letter, Wolff-Metternich, agreed with this view inasmuch as he wrote in a report to the Reichskanzler dated 3 April 1916, "The Turkish government supports the view that resettlement measures were justified in the entire country for military reasons. Both the present government as well as those that follow, unless there is a complete change in the system, will hold this view doggedly." However, the letter contains a postscript that, for the first time, clearly determines Germany's responsibility. It was not, as was usual, written by Consul General Johann Mordtmann, who was officially appointed responsible for Armenian matters, but by Otto Goeppert, who had been at the Embassy in Constantinople since January 1915 and was mainly responsible for economic matters. Goeppert now added "that resettlement measures were not only justified in the eastern provinces, as we have acknowledged, but also in the entire country." This report was signed not only by Metternich in Constantinople, but also by Neurath; Rosenberg had it resubmitted twice in Berlin, possibly because of the claims for damages also mentioned in this letter. [1916-04-03-DE-002]
The "eastern provinces" regularly referred to in negotiations on the Armenian reforms are synonymous for the so-called "Armenian provinces". In a letter to Asia Minor author Huge Grothe dated 4 October 1915, Lepsius' secretary, Richard Schaefer, reported that Minister of War Enver, who had meanwhile spoken with Lepsius, had decided "to evacuate the entire Armenian population, for the moment in seven [This refers to the six Armenian provinces listed in the reform programme as well as the province of Trapezunt in which, apart from the Armenians, many Greeks had settled] Vilayets". [Deutschland, Armenien und die Türkei 1895-1915. Dokumente und Zeitschriften aus dem Dr. Johannes-Lepsius-Archiv an der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle Wittenberg (Germany, Armenia and Turkey 1895-1915. Documents and Magazines from the Dr. Johannes-Lepsius Archive at the Martin-Luther University of Halle Wittenberg); compiled by Hermann Goltz and Axel Meissner (hereinafter quoted as LAH). Munich 1999. Register number of this article: 653-6670] And in his testimony before the criminal chamber of the regional court of Berlin in the case of the murder of Talaat against Salomon Teilirian, the head of the German military mission in Turkey, Otto Liman von Sanders, spoke of the "evacuation of the Armenians in East Anatolia". Thus, the Germans had agreed to the deportations of the Armenians in eastern Turkey. According to Metternich's document, although they were not the originators – as Wangenheim had also asserted to Morgenthau – the German Empire was jointly responsible for the genocide because it approved of the deportations.
The addition of "for military reasons" in the Turkish note, which is also used by German diplomats in several documents concerning deportation measures, was widely interpreted by those Germans responsible. In his reply to Schuchardt at the end of June 1915, Neurath practically adopted the Turkish version of the term "military reasons", which were also considered applicable in those regions that were "heavily populated" [1915-06-29-DE-001] by Armenians: therefore, "military reasons" existed for deporting the Armenians from the entire region that was their main place of settlement. The Turks went even a step further and considered "military reasons" to be appropriate wherever they believed to have discovered an Armenian "movement", i.e. practically everywhere where even individual Armenians were to be found.
Thus, it was only logical that they abolished regional borders completely and introduced a concept of time, "especially where this movement took place during times of war" ("surtout lorsque ce mouvement se produit en temps de guerre"). [1916-04-03-DE-002] In this manner, according to the view of the Turks, everything that happened to the Armenians in Turkey during World War I was for "military reasons", a point of view which the Germans had also confirmed to a large extent. "It must also be admitted," Metternich wrote in a document that was written and signed, but withheld, "that the evacuation of parts of the Armenian population was justified by military interests and can be considered as having been an act of self-defence." [1916-01-31-DE-003] And, at the end of 1918, ambassadorial preacher Count Luettichau ascertained, "The deportation was a military measure. The reason for the measure is known to everyone and certainly justified," even though he then qualified this statement, "But the annihilation of the deportees, which succeeded only too well and too thoroughly, was a political measure by the government." [1918-10-18-DE-001, Enclosure]
Even Undersecretary of State Arthur Zimmermann stated in September 1916, when renewed aggravations had been ordered against the surviving Armenians, to the Turkish Ambassador in Berlin that "while the earlier deportations of the Armenians could still barely be defended as being justified, taking into account the military situation at that time in the interest of national safety, the measures now planned against the last few pathetic Armenians consisting of women and children are in no way justified nor can they be excused." [1916-09-25-DE-001]
The regional restriction to the eastern regions, which the Germans inserted in their agreement with Turkey, may explain why even the German Foreign Office in Berlin urged the Turkish government to intervene when signs pointed to the possibility that Armenians from the large western cities of Smyrna and especially Constantinople were also to be deported. Naturally, the German ambassadors oversaw this clause in the case of deportations of Armenians from the interior of western Anatolia.
The German Armenian Policy of Central Headquarters in Berlin
German observers of the genocide, who were on the spot, had drawn a clear picture that left no doubt whatsoever of the criminal intentions of the Young Turks. With the exception of Metternich, even the ambassadors adapted the facts to the demands made by their superiors. Finally, the news was filtered again at the German Foreign Office, and the tendency was clear: to minimize the guilt of the Young Turks and increase that of the supposedly rebellious Armenians.
Against their better knowledge, the leading German diplomats had adopted the fantasy figures of their Turkish allies with regard to the numbers of victims in the uprising in Van. Zimmermann only toned this down when appearing before the Budget Committee of the Berlin Reichstag, and spoke only of "a general Armenian rebellion". Although he repeated the contents of this to the Grand Duchess of Baden, who had been informed by Lepsius, he added that the uprising "cost the lives of thousands of Muslims within only a few days", which can almost be interpreted as a correction. [1917-05-09-DE-001]
"The sad events are generally well-known," Zimmermann reported to the parliament's Imperial Budget Committee on 29 September 1916, referring to the Armenian genocide. The German politicians knew nothing. When Karl Liebknecht, a Social Democrat member of the Reichstag, asked in parliament in January 1916, "Is the Reichskanzler aware of the fact that during the present war hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the allied Turkish empire have been expelled and massacred?" he was given the following reply by the Director of the Political Department of the German Foreign Office, Ferdinand Carl Baron von Stumm, "The Reichskanzler is aware that some time ago the Sublime Porte, compelled by the rebellious machinations of our enemies, evacuated the Armenian population in certain parts of the Turkish empire and allocated new residential areas to them. Due to certain repercussions of these measures, an exchange of ideas is taking place between the German and the Turkish governments. Further details cannot be disclosed." When Liebknecht pursued the matter and referred to Johannes Lepsius, who "virtually spoke of an extermination of the Turkish Armenians", the President of the Reichstag interrupted the Member of Parliament by ringing the bell and would not permit any further remarks. [1916-01-11-DE-001]
Strict censorship of the press ensured that all information on the genocide was surpressed. The press departments of the German Foreign Office and other offices decided what the German public was allowed to learn. The government's spokesman was, in this case, the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a newspaper that published only reports by Turkish agencies. Consul Walter Roessler was once beside himself because of the lies reported in this official government newspaper which, on 13 July 1915, had published a statement by the official Ottoman dispatch agency, Agence Milli, which protested against statements that the Ottoman government provided protection for the excesses carried out against the Armenians living in Turkey, and that these excesses often consisted of slaughtering. "I was not able to believe my own eyes when I saw this explanation and I can find no words to describe the depth of this untruth," Roessler wrote to his embassy. "The Turkish government has driven its Armenian subjects, the innocent ones, mark you, into the desert in thousands upon thousands, under the pretext of having to remove them from the war areas, exempting neither the sick nor pregnant women nor the families of conscripted men; has given them both food and water in insufficient quantities and irregularly; has done nothing against the epidemics which have broken out amongst them; has driven the women to such desperation that they set out their babies and newborns by the wayside; has sold their adolescent daughters, with the result that they have thrown themselves even with their small children into the river. It has left them to the mercy of their guards and, therefore, to dishonour; an escort which dragged away the girls and sold them. It has driven them into the hands of the Bedouins, who have plundered and kidnapped them. It has had the men illegally shot in lonely places and has the bodies of its victims fed to the dogs and birds of prey. It is supposed to have arranged for the murders of the representatives whom it had sent into exile. It has released prisoners from the prisons, put them in soldiers’ uniforms and sent them to the areas where the deportees would be passing through. It has called up Circassian volunteers and set them onto the Armenians. But what does it offer as semi-official explanations? "The Ottoman government ... is extending its benevolent protection to all honest Christians living peacefully in Turkey ..." [1915-07-27-DE-001]
The documents of the German Foreign Office that are reproduced in this book give a fairly good coverage of the account and assessment of the Armenian genocide by German diplomatic and other sources. An extensive description of Germany's Turkish and, thus, Armenian policy cannot be carried out using these documents, and is left to later studies. Far more than the Chancellor and the German Foreign Office, it was the German military – the general staff, the Supreme Headquarters and, to a small extent, even the Emperor – who determined German policy. Yet even the documents on hand make it quite clear which values Imperial Germany was committed to.
On 1 August 1916, the Turkish government abolished the Armenian Patriarchat in Constantinople and, thus, its institutions. Johann Heinrich Mordtmann thereupon drew up an elaborate document on the abolition of the Armenian People's District Council and of the constitution which the Armenians had drawn up. "This constitution," Mordtmann stated, "corresponded with the ultra-democratic spirit that had always existed among the Gregorian Armenians." [1916-08-23-DE-001] This was not praise but, in the eyes of German politicians, a strong reprimand.
Imperial Germany was an authoritarian regime, but was it really, as Morgenthau and many others in the West believed, characterized far more strongly by Prussian militarism than any other ideology? It was not a parliamentarian democracy in the British, American and French sense; although it had a very progressive electoral law for the Reichstag, which could also make decisions for the household, but had, in comparison with Western parliaments, not much of a say in matters. But most important of all: which spirit reigned in the Empire before and during this First World War, in which the fate of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was decided?
The ideals of the French Revolution, which many Germans originally welcomed, no longer had any chance whatsoever of being realised after the Civilian Revolution failed in Germany in 1848. Most of those Germans who felt under an obligation to these ideals emigrated: 2.8 million Germans left their native country in the 19th century and most of them went to the United States. Of the Western ideals of freedom, unity and brotherhood, only the idea of unity was left, and a brotherly concept which degenerated into soldierly comradeship. Perhaps the most important inheritance of the French Revolution, namely human rights, disappeared from linguistic usage in German. This central concept of the Western world appears in none of the German documents. Its surrogate was the far less clear "humanity", which German consuls and Wolff-Metternich attempted to call up in the face of the Armenian genocide.
In October 1914, more than 4,000 German professors – practically the entire university world in the Empire – supported the "call to the cultural world" issued by 93 great German minds, which culminated in the demand, "Without German militarism, German culture would be swept off the face of the earth. The former has been brought forward by the latter to protect it." [Ungern-Sternberg, Jürgen von; Ungern-Sternberg, Wolfgang von, Der Aufruf „An die Kulturwelt!“ (The Appeal "To the Cultural World!"); Stuttgart, 1996] German culture versus Western civilisation: this conceptual pair showed the difference between the democratic countries of Europe and the German Empire. And the Armenian elite, generally educated in the West and, therefore, also oriented towards the West, showed little preference for the German variation.
Already at the end of 1914, the German consul in Aleppo, Walter Roessler, noticed "[an] acute antipathy towards Germany" in his field of work. [1914-10-16-DE-001] In the same year, Wangenheim stated that his colleague in Adana, Buege, experienced an "unfavourable mood of the Armenian population of those territories towards the German cause". [1914-12-29-DE-001] "At the bottom of their hearts," said the German propagandist, Baron Max von Oppenheim, "with few exceptions, those Armenians who think, irrespective of whether they are Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, were always hostile towards us Germans: they knew that we wanted to strengthen the Turkish empire while they were working towards its destruction." [1915-08-29-DE-001] The Undersecretary of State in the German Foreign Office, Zimmermann, stated in his notes for the 86th sitting of the Imperial Budget Committee on 29 September 1916, when the Armenian genocide entered its final phase, that "a considerable hatred of the Germans was apparent in the Armenians." [1917-05-09-DE-001]
This corresponded with a hatred on the part of the Germans against the Western-oriented Armenians: "This is first and foremost the consequence of the American and British missionary work, which began in the middle of the 19th century, as well as the rabble-rousing subversive activities of the Russian, British and French consuls," Oppenheim stated with regard to the causes of the Armenians' position. "The half-educated Armenians who were then introduced to modern civilisation in Europe and the United States and who absorbed revolutionary opinions, the idea of raising a great Armenian kingdom once again which, in fact, had no longer existed for thousands of years, returned to their native country and inoculated their countrymen with the germ of listlessness and dissatisfaction with the present conditions." [1915-08-29-DE-001] The German Ambassador and later Minister of Foreign Affairs, Richard von Kuehlmann, took a more objective point of view, "The Americans have done a great deal to rouse the Armenians intellectually," he wrote, and added maliciously that "in this way, [they] indirectly contributed to the sad fate of the Turkish Armenians." [1917-01-20-DE-001] Zimmermann, Secretary of State of the German Foreign Office, spoke to members of the German parliament of "agitations by the Armenians. The revolution against the Turks was keenly preached by those Armenians who were living in neutral and hostile foreign countries. The result was revolts." [1917-05-09-DE-001]
A revolution against Turkey and, thus, against Germany, was constantly in Germans' thoughts whenever talk turned to the Armenians. The danger of revolution and external remote control, especially from Russia, were essentially German topoi. And treason went practically hand-in-hand with revolution. "The complaints lodged about desertions and switching of numerous Armenians to the Russian side were ever increasing," Zimmermann stated before the Budget Committee of the Reichstag. "Regretfully, a general Armenian rebellion finally broke out in Wan in the rear of Turkish troops who were advancing against Azerbeidzhan. Anyone will find it comprehensible that the Turks then decided to evacuate the area, which was being plagued by the Armenian revolution. In addition, there was, of course, the fanaticism of the Turks and their hatred, which to a certain degree was justified by the acts of treason and the disloyalty of the Armenians. And the consequence, "The deportations took a deplorable course." [1917-05-09-DE-001]
Just how much members of the German parliament were lied to is evident from reports by the German consuls, which contradicted all of Zimmermann's statements. But the fiction of treason being everywhere and coming from everywhere was not just a constant among German politicians that had been inherited especially from the Prussians, but even more so among the German military, whether it was a question of German Catholics or Socialists or Armenians. The Empire had worked itself into a state of hysteria regarding a complot between the Entente Powers against Germany, and went to almost no ends to search for proof. "I remember an article in the Daily Chronicle in September 1915," Zimmermann said to the representatives of the German people, "that was full of praise and recognition of the fact that the Armenian people, from the beginning of the war onwards, had accepted the matter of the Entente as their own, from the very beginning had fought on the side of the Entente uncompromisingly and had a right to be considered as the seventh ally of the Entente. The article is signed: The seventh Ally!" [1917-05-09-DE-001] An article by a British daily newspaper served as an excuse for justifying the annihilation of more than one million Armenians.
In Berlin, the Armenian genocide developed ever more into a means of propaganda. The Imperial Government attempted to present itself as aiding the Armenians and to blame the Entente for the fate of the Armenians. Finally, pro-Armenian Wolff-Metternich joined this propaganda campaign, receiving great praise for this from the Emperor himself.
"Although - for various reasons - it is regrettable that we did not succeed in bringing the Armenian policy of the Porte onto a reasonable course," he wrote to Berlin on 10 June 1916, "on the other hand neither our enemies nor the so-called neutrals have the slightest right to put the blame on us or even only to demand that we publicly pronounce our disapproval. The nameless atrocities of all kinds, which were committed against German civilian and military prisoners in the course of the World War by the English, French and Russians, by those three nations who call themselves the champions of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox faiths, were never the subject of protests on the part of any one of the Entente powers against another; there is just as little evidence that a voice was ever raised in the enemy press on behalf of trampled human rights." This was completely in line with the Emperor's ideas, who graded the paragraph "very good".
"This circumstance is also known to the Porte," Metternich continued, "which repeatedly countered our protests in the Armenian question by referring to it. Not we, as is so often claimed, but rather our enemies have shown the Turks the ways of rendering suspicious elements of the population harmless without any respect for human rights." [1916-07-10-DE-001] William II was in complete agreement with his ambassador's philippica and wrote underneath the entire report, "Correct!" It was the only time that William II, who usually made comments on even the most unimportant details, made any kind of statement whatsoever regarding the genocide in any of the German Foreign Office's files that have so far been discovered.
In his memoirs, Henry Morgenthau sen., the United States ambassador, dealt not only extensively with Ambassador Hans von Wangenheim, but he also left no doubt about whom he considered to be truly guilty of Germany's non-intervention on the part of the Armenians: the German military in Turkey. The US ambassador believed them to be the executors of the German Emperor's policy, but in this case he probably conceded William II too much political leadership. However, his assumption was correct that, apart from the classical diplomatic track, there was also a military path of command and communication. Although important military files, possibly even the most important ones, were burned in the fire of Allied bombs during the final days of World War II, the diplomatic files permit at least a rudimentary sketch of the activities of the German military in Turkey, some of which were directly responsible for the death of hundreds some of which were directly responsible for the death of hundreds, if not thousands of Armenians and indirectly perhaps even for the genocide itself.
The German Military in Turkey
Almost all of the German officers who were stationed in Turkey during World War I – a maximum of about 800 – came to Turkey as a result of the German military mission that was agreed upon with the Ottoman Empire in 1913. They not only trained Turkish officers, as was previously the case, but were also an integral part of the Turkish Army. If a Turk was the commanding officer of an army, a German headed the general staff, and vice versa. This meant that German officers were to be found in all of the key positions. And since, with the exception of the Dardanelles, their sphere of action was usually on the Palestinian front or in Mesopotamia, many of them travelled on routes that were also allocated to the deported Armenians. Thus, more German officers experienced the effects of the genocide than did German diplomats, some of whom were even forbidden to stay in those areas where the actual acts of murder took place, and who could only report what they had seen themselves if, similar to Consul Wilhelm Litten, who was stationed in Persia, they had to travel to the west along typical deportation roads.
The Turks even attempted to conceal the entire extent of their acts of annihilation from these officers. "There was a large camp of half-starved, deported Armenians near Djerablus when Field Marshal von der Goltz travelled to Baghdad and had to pass the Eurphrates River there," secondary school teach Martin Niepage reported. "I learned in Djerablus that shortly before the Field Marshal's arrival, the unfortunates, together with the sick and the dying, were driven with lashes of the whip a few kilometres over the next hill. When von der Goltz passed by there was nothing left to see of the adverse sight. When we visited that place shortly afterwards with several colleagues, we still found the corpses of men and children, bits of clothing and skulls and bones, the flesh of which had only partly been eaten off by jackals and birds of prey." [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3]
Only few remarks are to be found in diplomatic documents concerning the general attitude of the German military in Turkey towards the Armenian genocide, and these were written solely by private persons. "I often notice how embarrassed silence or a desperate attempt to change the subject took hold of their circles," Martin Niepage wrote, "when a German with deep feelings and an independent judgement came to speak of the dreadful misery of the Armenians." [1916-09-10-DE-001, Enclosure 3] And someone who wrote an anonymous letter to the head of the Baghdad Railway, Guenther, noted, "It is wrong on Germany's part, as was expressed by officers, to believe that the lives of thousands of Armenians don't matter." [1918-11-01-DE-001, Enclosure 4 ].
But there were only a few German officers who were openly against the deportations and acts of murder. Erzerum was an island of protest against the deportations, even if this was only internal, where Scheubner-Richter, a reserve officer who was against the deportations, ran the consulate. Apart from him, only three German officers were situated permanently in the town: the German Colonel and Turkish Major General Posseldt, who was the commander of the fort; the Prussian major and commander of the batallion in Infantry Regiment No. 21, Stange; as well as the major and head of the reconnaissance staff of Pioneer Batallion No. 27, von Staszewski who offered his observations on deportation to Lepsius after the war, but did not meet with any interest. [LAH 2193] These three officers, known through the files of the German Foreign Office, and probably Staszewski as well, were well-disposed towards the Armenians, but they had to pay a price for this. From then on, Scheubner-Richter was deployed as an officer only in the east and in Persia; Posseldt, according to insinuations made by German witnesses, was transferred because he spoke up for the Armenians; the same applied to Major Stange who, from then on, had to do duty at the post office in Constantinople before being sent to the west front where he died from poison.
German Officers in Action Against Civilians
"Germany gave Turkey three 15 cm batteries for field howitzers, the most modern ones available at that time: they had an air counterrecoil mechanism. These were missing on the western front, where they were desperately needed. We German officers in Turkey cursed solidly about how we were, for the most part, wasting time uselessly carting around valuable material and merely taking it for a drive," Stumpf, a German captain later wrote to a stamp magazine, which was only interested in the field postmark of the German military mission, and this was probably why he spoke so openly. In Diarbekir, even mud houses had to be torn down, he reported, to enable the ten to twelve pairs of buffaloes or the group of one hundred soldiers replacing them to pull these monsters through the town at all. Soldiers were even killed by the long rope. [Philatelie und Postgeschichte (Philately and Postal History), Frankfurt am Main, Numbers 10 to 12, 1970, pp. 66-67] Captain Stumpf should have asked his colleague, Eberhard Count Wolffskeel von Reichenberg, about the use of such modern German artillery. The latter would have been able to tell him why this artillery was being taken for a ride here in this region, far away from the theatre of war: in order to shoot down rebellious Armenians or those who were simply fighting for their existence.
On 30 March 1915, i.e. long before the Armenian uprising in Van, which the Turks and the Germans gave out as being the trigger for the deportations, the embassy in Constantinople received a telegram from its representative in Damascus, Padel, where Djemal Pasha resided, the commander of the 4th Army, which was responsible for Zeitun. "Count Wolfskel informed me," it says in the text, in which the German artillery officer's name is spelled incorrectly, "that Consul Roessler in Aleppo plans to travel to Zeitun because of the events there, which have meanwhile developed satisfactorily. The military authority considers this journey to be extremely questionable and requests that he refrain from undertaking it. As requested, I telegraphed this to Roessler. On behalf of Count Wolfskel, I request that instructions be sent accordingly from there to Aleppo," and this was then done. In a telegram dated 30 March 1915, the embassy instructed Roessler, "Please do not travel to Zeitun, but rather restrict yourself to a visit to Marasch." [1915-03-30-DE-001]
When Roessler arrived in Aintab late on the evening of 8 April, he reported later, "I learned that General Fakhri Pasha was in town, accompanied by the German Major Count Wolffskeel, in order to go on a tour of inspection of Marash, Zeitun and elsewhere." [1915-10-25-DE-011] Roessler was aware of Wolffskeel's function as Fakhri Pasha's deputy; concerning the latter, he wrote, "The harshest and most merciless implementation of the deportation decided on by the government must be put down to Fakhri Pasha and comes from him." [1915-07-17-DE-002] And it must have been clear to him what the two artillerymen planned to do in Zeitun: shoot down the monastery together with the deserters.
Wolffskeel also took part in the pursuit of the Armenian refugees on Musa Dagh, Roessler reported, "I would like to add that Count Wolffskeel also accompanied Fakhri Pasha at the end of September during the military measures against the rebels near Suediye." [1915-10-25-DE-011] And finally, it was Wolffskeel who shot down the Armenian rebels in Urfa – in front of German witnesses.
In October 1915, the two artillerymen invited the German head of the carpet factory that had been built up by Lepsius, Franz Hugo Eckart, to their shooting range above Urfa, from which point there was a good view of the Armenian quarter. Eckart was meant to insure that neither the buildings of the German mission nor those of the Americans suffered any damage. Wolffskeel hit the Armenian Church and the leader of the rebels hiding in it so well that they gave up. His countryman's accuracy made little impression on Roessler; rather, he wrote to his ambassador, "I respectfully leave it to Your Excellency’s worthy consideration whether it is expedient that a German officer takes part in an expedition against an inner-Turkish enemy." [1915-10-25-DE-01]
Wolffskeel was not the only German officer who distinguished himself less in the war against external enemies and more in that against supposedly internal enemies. Another one was Lieutenant Colonel Boettrich, the head of the transport system (railroad department) at the Turkish Supreme Headquarters, and who was, therefore, from a military point of view, in charge of the personnel at the Baghdad Railway companies. Boettrich did not join in the shooting, as Wolffskeel did; instead, he did something that, in the eyes of some Germans, was even worse: he signed deportation orders and, therefore, death sentences for the Armenian employees of the Baghdad Railway. Since these well-educated Armenians were irreplaceable for the German operators, the deportation orders hit the company badly.
"There will come a time when our adversaries will pay a lot of money," the Deputy Director of the Railway prophesied gloomily as he sent one of the orders signed by Boettrich to the German Foreign Office in Berlin, "to own this document, because with the signature of a member of the military mission they will prove that not only did the Germans do nothing to prevent the persecution of the Armenians, but that certain orders towards this objective were even sent out, i.e. signed by them. The Military Commissioner put his finger on Mr. Boettrich’s signature with a caustic smile, for the fact that this document, which will be cause for a lot of talk in the future, carries a German and not a Turkish signature, is also invaluable for the Turks." [1915-11-18-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
After the war, several high-ranking German militaries described this signature as a grave error, because it appeared to provide the opponents of a world war with propagandistic ammunition. They could not know that none of these documents would be published in the foreseeable future, but rather lie sleeping for over 80 years in the archives. And further files are probably also sleeping there, which bear witness to the true role played by German officers.
If Wangenheim had wanted to do so, Morgenthau claimed in his memoirs, he would have been in a position to stop the deportations. The documents refute this theory, but they show another possibility: while German diplomats were powerless and often also simply lacked courage, the German military had the possibility not only to kill, but also to save lives.
On 8 November 1916, " a number of arrests were made" in the harbour town of Smyrna, "and the next day 300 Armenians were deported by train, irrespective of age and gender," the Chargé d'affaires in Constantinople, Radowitz, reported to the Reichskanzler. "Other transportations are to follow. The deportation is being organised by the Chief of Police in Smyrna, whom the Vali has given a free hand." The Vali had "declared for his own justification that the Young Turkish Committee in Smyrna was becoming more and more dissatisfied with his leniency towards the Armenians. The orders for the expulsion of the Armenians had come from Constantinople." Then the diplomat gave his estimation of the situation, "I regard it as quite out of the question that this order can be rescinded by protests to the Sublime Porte,and must fear that in the not too distant future they will also begin with the deportation of the local Armenians here." [1916-11-13-DE-001] Even Secretary of State of the German Foreign Office, Jagow, obviously held no hope and, therefore, although he routinely requested his deputy in Constantinople "[to] also work as far as possible towards stopping or at least delaying Armenian deportation from Smyrna," he connected this request with an unusual offer, "As Germany is short of workers, it should be considered whether we suggest to the Sublime Porte that the Armenians be deported to Germany." [1916-11-13-DE-002]
Otto Liman von Sanders, the German general and head of the military mission, who happened to be in Smyrna at that time, showed what the German military would have been capable of if they had wanted to. At once, he forbid the deportations, and the provincial Turkish government complied with this order, despite strict orders from Constantinople and Minister of the Interior Talaat himself. [1916-11-12-DE-001; 1916-11-17-DE-001] Naturally, Liman was especially interested in ensuring the supplies for his troops, which were endangered by the withdrawal of the Armenians, as well as the planned withdrawal of the Greeks. Smyrna was the only case, where German military stopped the deportations.
But German officers were also sent on other missions, and at least an attempt was made to deploy them against supposedly rebellious Armenians. "On the way to Mossul, we passed through the newly created area of command of the 6th Army. Omer Nadji’s and my units were given the order to attack and punish an Armenian village near Hesak in which supposedly rebellious Armenians had barricaded themselves," Scheubner-Richter wrote at the end of 1916 from one of his missions as an officer. "I discovered in time that the so-called “rebels” were people who had barricaded themselves for fear of being massacred and who would have gladly been prepared to give up their weapons if only they were assured of being left alive. An attempt at mediation offered by the administrator of the German consulate in Mossul and me was rejected on the part of the Supreme Command of the 6th Army, to whom I had presented the facts. I evaded the conflict I was threatened with by ordering the Germans, officers and men under my command, to Mossul and by passing command of the Turkish troops entrusted to me to one of my Turkish officers, explaining that this was an ‘inner Turkish’ matter and, thus, I did not consider it to be correct that Germans should have command of Turkish troops carrying out ‘gendarme service’." [1916-12-04-DE-001]
He himself had been given such tasks. "As I have heard," Vice Consul Holstein reported from Mossul, "Baron v. d. Goltz has given the 4th Army orders to send troops to Midiat to suppress the rebellion." [1915-11-04-DE-001] Neurath, the Ambassadorial Councillor, stated this more precisely, "As the 4th Army (Djemal Pasha), which was originally given the order for this expedition, was too far away, the Field Marshal had given the order to restore order to a detachment of the 3rd Army." [1915-11-12-DE-013] In the end, German intervention was used to avoid this mission. However, this episode shows that Holstein did not consider it to be unusual to deploy German troops against Christians and Armenians in the interior. In the beginning, according to the Embassy's military representative, Otto von Lossow, von der Goltz had refused the order simply "in order not to stop the troops of the 51st and 52nd Divisions, which are to move to Baghdad as quickly as possible." [1915-11-04-DE-001]
The German Military and the Example of Belgium
German military officers in the field only had limited possibilities of influencing what occurred during the genocide. It was a completely different matter for the commanding officers in the metropolis and the top military leaders at the embassy. US Ambassador Morgenthau assumed that the German military was jointly guilty of deporting about 100,000 Greeks on Agean islands along the Agean coast to Greece. "The German Admiral Usedom," he wrote, "told me that it was the Germans 'who urgently made the suggestion that the Greeks be moved from the seashore'," [Morgenthau, loc cit., Chapter III, p. 49] and went even a step further, "But the all-important point is that this idea of deporting peoples en masse is, in modern times, exclusively Germanic." [Morgenthau, loc cit., Chapter XXVII, p. 372]
Mass deportations a German idea? In actual fact, after the conquest of French territory, the Germans had deported at least 10,000 Frenchmen to Germany and interned them there in empty barracks. Even more important were the deportations of Belgians. The Supreme Command of the Army had demanded that 400,000 Belgians be deported for industrial deployment, a deportation that was forbidden by the state war regulations of the Hague, which the Prussian general and governor-general of Belgium, Moritz Ferdinand Baron von Bissing, refused to comply with. Despite this, several thousand Belgians, among them women and children, were deported to French industrial centres and Germany already during the first year of war. According to Alan Kramer from the University of Dublin, these first deportations were "meant to be a collective punishment in cases of resistance and insubordinate behaviour". [Encyclopaedia of World War I, p. 434 f] Similar to the situation later on in Turkey, it sufficed to belong to the notabilities or even to be opposed to the occupation, as was the mayor of Brussels, Adolphe Max, in order to be marched off. Finally, around Easter in 1916, about 30,000 Belgian women and girls were deported from their native country, often in cattle wagons, as previously the men had been. Altogether, 2,614 French and Belgians died during these compulsory measures.
Among other things, the reason for these deportations was the supposed threat by 'franctireurs' or irregulars. In the opinion of the commanders of the German army, they had attacked German troops, particularly during the conquest of the Belgian town of Loewen from 25 to 28 August, who then shot back at them. In fact, it could not be proven in a single case that Belgian irregulars had attacked Germans. In truth, German troops had probably shot at their comrades themselves when the latter were driven back to Loewen by a Belgian counterattack. The Germans then shot 248 Belgian civilians, just as they had previously executed civilians during the conquest of Luettich by Erich Ludendorff, who was the head of the brigade at that time (and received the order "Pour le mérite" for this act).
Similarly, the neutral, Western general public was upset by the fact that the Germans not only destroyed one-sixth of all the buildings in Loewen, but especially because they set fire to the extremely valuable university library with its numerous handwritings from the Middle Ages, which then burned to the ground. Their strange excuse was that they had believed the library to be the university. The real reason for this destructive rage was probably because Loewen was the most important centre of education for both the Belgian military as well as civil elite.
However, with a cruelty unknown until then, the German bands of soldiers also caused havoc among the civilians, which the Turks later used as an excuse to commit such cruel acts against the Armenians. When inhabitants attempted to flee after their houses had been put to flames, they were "thrust back into the flames or butchered like dogs" by the German soldiers, according to Leon van der Essen, a Belgian professor who had been entrusted with drawing up a legal report. Van der Essen stated that a German officer on horseback had directed the arson in the Rue de la Station. At the railway station, the Germans separated women and children from the men and haphazardly selected those men from among the men, whom they then shot. They acted particularly harshly against Belgian clergymen. Even members of neutral countries – Dutch, Spaniards and South Americans – became the victims of the Germans' murderous frenzy. The Germans announced that the town would be bombarded, whereupon many inhabitants fled. According to van der Essen, the soldiers then forced their way into the houses and plundered them. "The burning continued, simultaneously with the sack, down to 2 September. On that day the last houses were set on fire in the Rue Marie-Therese. In the evening drunken German soldiers were still dragging heavy bags full of things stolen in the Rue Leopold to the station." Hundreds of Belgians were waiting at the railway stations to be deported. "While the human herd stood there," van der Essen stated, "suddenly, without motive, some enraged soldiers began to fire into the mass. Some were killed and wounded, including women and children." [All of the quotes from Leon van der Essen taken from “Source Records of the Great War, Vol. II”, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923, published under http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/louvain_judicialreport.htm] Finally, the Germans drove the approximately 10,000 inhabitants of Loewen out of the town and deported about 1,500 of them to Germany, among them 150 women and children. In some cities, such as Cologne, the deportees were exhibited to the population. Further towns, among them Dinant, suffered similar fates.
"We cannot deny that some of our war measures not only seemed terrible, but actually were terrible," Paul Rohrbach had to admit after the war. "This includes the forced transport of Belgian workers to Germany, where they were then not even properly deployed. This also included the deportations from among the citizens of Lille, the excesses in the devastation of northern France, which were justified from a military point of view." [Paul Rohrbach: Der Deutsche Gedanke in der Welt (The German Idea in the World)", Karl Robert Langewischen Publishing House, revised 1920, p. 127]
German proceedings in Belgium, which were supposedly observed by Turkish scouts, are important, because they appear several times in the German files on the Armenian genocide as "Belgian atrocities", and those Turks responsible for the genocide referred to German proceedings in Belgium and northern France. Armenian expert Mordtmann noted,
"Talaat Bey pointed out to me a few days ago, as he has already done before, that we had murdered 40,000 Belgians in Belgium. I have also heard this from another source." Vice-Consul Hoffmann from Aleppo wrote the following concerning the fate of the Armenians, "General conviction that all deportees will meet their death. Moreover, agreement of Germany to this mass murder is being assumed not only by all Christians, but also by the Muslim population of the country, partly with approval, but also with disapproval." Hoffmann added, "These occasionally refer to Germany’s example (Belgium!)." [1915-10-18-DE-011]
The German Officers, Humann and Lossow, in the Embassy
As the originator of deportations in the Ottoman Empire, apart from Guido von Usedom, Morgenthau named only one principal witness who, according to German sources, held a key role that went far beyond his function: Hans Humann, Lieutenant Commander and Naval Attaché at the Embassy.
Humann, who grew up mostly in Turkey, was a close friend of the Chairman of the German-Turkish Association, Ernst Jaeckh, who had been made a professor by the Kingdom of Württemberg (and was often called "Turkish Jaeckh") and head of the influential "Central Office for Foreign Services" in the German Foreign Office, as well as a personal friend of Enver Pasha, the Minister of War, almost all of whose contacts to Germany went through him. As one diplomat once said, everyone at the German Embassy in Constantinople had to decide for themselves whether to belong to the Weitz network or the Humann network.
For the past three decades, Paul Weitz had been a correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung in Constantinople and a permanent adviser for the German representation. "Weitz was more than a journalist," Morgenthau wrote about him, "he had the most intimate personal knowledge of Turkish affairs, and he was the confidant and adviser of the German Embassy." It was common talk that he knew every important man in the Turkish Empire, the best way to approach him, and his price. He probably knew more about affairs in the Near East than any other German." Wangenheim also profited from the journalist's knowledge, who was always very reserved, with one exception: when it was about the Armenians, whose deportation Weitz objected to. "I remember that you told me at the beginning," said Weitz to Morgenthau, "what a mistake Germany was making in the Armenian matters. I agreed with you perfectly. But when I urged this view upon Wangenheim, he threw me out of the room twice!" [Morgenthau, loc cit., Chapter XXVII, p. 372]
The officer Hans Humann was the opposite to Weitz the journalist, someone who stirred things up regarding the deportation of the Armenians.
"I have lived in Turkey the larger part of my life," he confided in Morgenthau, "and I know the Armenians. I also know that both Armenians and Turks cannot live together in this country. One of these races has got to go. And I don't blame the Turks for what they are doing to the Armenians. I think that they are entirely justified. The weaker nation must succumb. The Armenians desire to dismember Turkey; they are against the Turks and the Germans in this war, and they therefore have no right to exist here." [Morgenthau, loc cit., Chapter XXVII, p. 376] Although, after the war, Humann denied having made these remarks, he denied many things that were on record. [PA-AA, R 13753, S. 95, A 31746a] The request to keep a "loving eye" on the Turkish Eichmann says it all concerning Humann.
Together with the Bavarian Colonel von Lossow, Humann was the most important officer in the German Embassy in Constantinople. It is clear from the manifold intrigues against Wolff-Metternich just how strong his influence on German policy was. Because Wolff-Metternich was the only German ambassador to really stand up for the needs of the Armenians, the Turks discredited him as the "Armenian Ambassador", as Humann revealed after the war. [1919-04-19-DE-001]
During Wolff-Metternich's term of office, the important correspondence from the German supporters in the Young Turk triumvirate, Enver and Talaat Pasha, was, in effect, channeled through the military representatives of the Embassy, Humann and Lossow, or directly through the German military in Turkey, instead of through the ambassador, as was usual. "Thanks to the poor relationship between M. and the Turkish ministers," Neurath informed the official in Berlin, Frederic Rosenberg, "almost the entire correspondence passes through military offices." Finally, the German Foreign Office even permitted Ambassadorial Councillor Neurath ("I myself find it very embarrassing") to bypass his superior, if necessary. [1916-07-27-DE-002] When Metternich found out about a very doltish discussion between Enver and von Lossow in which confidential material from the German Foreign Office was used, he exploded. Lossow had "irreparably damaged the most important political interests by means of his indiscretions," he railed, and prophesied, "If these uncomprehending outgrowths of militarism are not controlled we will lose this war politically." At the end of his angry letter to the German Foreign Office dated 16 July 1916, Metternich wrote, "If the military representative is not, to some extent, put in his place professionally, I can no longer carry the responsibility for the policy to be followed here. A sergeant who follows orders would be better suited than an Imperial Ambassador."
Jaeckh repeatedly intervened personally in German-Turkish relations and even had his correspondence coded and sent via his friend, Humann. Metternich reported in an almost amused tone to Berlin that he had given Jaeckh a friendly reception in Constantinople, and added a request, "Therefore, I recommend that he is advised in a friendly manner not to use the Naval Attaché's code behind my back any more to send political reports." [PA-AA; R 1915, AG 2297] In the end, upon pressure from the Turkish lobby, Wolff-Metternich – of whom Bethmann Hollweg actually held a high opinion ("personally very close in a long-standing friendship" [1916-07-27-DE-002], according to Rosenberg) – was finally recalled by the German Foreign Office, which showed the power held by the German military.
The German Officers at the Military Mission
Humann and Lossow – although the latter only arrived in Constantinople in the summer of 1915 and, therefore, had nothing to do with the decision to annihilate the Armenians – were the military leaders at the German embassy. Even more powerful were those German officers who had arrived in Turkey before the war and were at the military mission headed by the Prussian general, Otto Karl Viktor Liman von Sanders.
Some of the German military actors also have a chance to speak out in reports or comments found in the diplomatic files. One of the most important of them was the Prussian major general and, until December 1917, head of the general staff at the Turkish Supreme Headquarters ("SHQ") in Constantinople, Fritz Bronsart von Schellendorff. It is clear from German diplomatic sources that Bronsart was also in favour of the deportation of Armenians. The embassy had presented a report by Scheubner-Richter, the Vice Consul of Erzerum, to him, which was commented upon by the Ottoman Head of Planning.
"I went in person to the evacuees who were camping around the town," Scheubner-Richter wrote, “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 poor, moaning 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 1,000 Turks by Armenian people near Zeitun!" According to Roessler's reports, which were also available to Bronsart, less than a dozen Turks were killed in Zeitun, and they were not killed by the "Zeitun people", but by deserters, including Turks. When Scheubner-Richter wrote, "The Armenian population considers the representative of the German Reich to be its only protection at present and expects assistance from him," Bronsart noted, "We simply cannot assist a population, which is involved in dangerous rebellion against the Turkish Government." Concerning this, Scheubner-Richter had written in the same report, "I cannot rule out the possibility that this resettlement 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." [1915-05-20-DE-001] The step was not taken.
Whether Bronsart had ordered the annihilation of the Armenians or was jointly responsible for it cannot be proven using the files from the German Foreign Office that have previously become known. The only historian who has previously made a thorough examination of the role of the German military in connection with the Armenian genocide is Christoph Dinkel, a Swiss. However, he has published only one article on this in the Armenian Review.[ Dinkel, Christoph, “German Officers and the Armenian Genocide” in Armenian Review, Spring 1991, Volume 44, Number 1/173, pp. 77-133]
According to Dinkel's research, as head of the general staff of the Ottoman army in the field, Bronsart was among Enver's closest circle of advisers, the Minister of War, who, in Dinkel's opinion, always signed orders issued by Bronsart. But Bronsart himself had signed deportation orders, several times in fact; however, according to Dinkel, not against Armenians, but against Greeks who lived along the coast. In the beginning, Liman von Sanders stopped these deportations, because they were of no military use. After the war, Liman emphasised that both Bronsart as well as the head of the operative department at the Turkish Supreme Headquarters, Otto von Feldmann, were both removed by Enver from his, Liman's, sphere of control and were directly responsible to Enver. Thus, in the Archives of the Foreign Office it has not yet been possible to find documentary proof of the roles played by Bronsart and Feldmann in the deportations, which were supposedly necessary for military reasons, and, therefore, the annihilation of the Armenians.
On the other hand, another Prussian general, Colmar Baron von der Goltz, reports that he agreed to Enver's deportation order. However, the source for this is not the German Foreign Office, but rather the "German-Armenian Correspondence" dated 25 November 1918 and headed by Lepsius.
"First and foremost, the deportations were a military measure and, therefore, could not very well be kept secret from the German army leaders in Turkey," the Correspondence wrote. "In fact, the plan was also presented to Field Marshal von der Goltz and approved by him." According to Article 2 of this government order, "The commanders of the army of independent army corps and divisions may, in case of military necessity, and in case they suspect espionage and treason, deport individual or groups of inhabitants in villages or towns and resettle them in other places." According to the Correspondence, von der Goltz must be accused of the following, "Considering his long residency in Turkey, he must be reproached for not having foreseen how such a measure would be carried out by Turkish officials, for not having become suspicious, taking into account the history of Turkish-Armenian relations and the ever-spreading Pan-Turkism. But Goltz lived with the same incorrect estimation of the nature of the Turks as everyone else who knows the Turks only as soldiers." [1918-11-25-DE-001]
During the actual genocide, Lepsius was in close contact with the German Foreign Office and, therefore, was probably well informed by the office. The official ambassadorial preacher, Count von Luettichau, was close to the seat of power at the embassy in Constantinople; from May until August 1918, he travelled throughout eastern Turkey and reported his impressions in an extensive letter. He found it alarming "that higher German officers unfortunately made repeated remarks that caused severe damages, without being aware of the political consequences, but simply applying a strategic military point of view," [1918-10-18-DE-001, Enclosure] whereupon the missionary scientist, Professor Julius Richter, wrote in the "General Mission Newspaper", "It was German officers who advised the Turks during the advance of the Turkish Army against the Transcaucasian Federation, and even more so during their withdrawal to the large Armenian Vilayets, to evacuate the unreliable Armenian population in the border regions." [1919-02-06-DE-002]
The Chairman of the Orient and Islamic Commission, Karl Axenfeld, followed up on both publications and then reported, "In answer to my question, Professor Richter named Ambassadorial Preacher Count Luettichau as his source of information. The latter wrote me that he never said that German officers gave "advice", i.e. that they were the originators of the idea, so to speak. He carries on, "However, for military-strategic reasons, German officers did agree to the evacuation measures, and it may often have been the case, as I explained in my report, that the Turks twisted this agreement to seem to be a German request or order." [1919-02-07-DE-001]
Was it really so? A German missionary had described this strategy for murder as follows: "Clean up, hang 'em up, shoot 'em down to the very last man." The Armenian victims suffered in this manner until their convoys of misery reached the desert. "The death rattle of the dying and the angry cries of insanity echoed in the exalted silence of infinity," a German officer described his impressions of the people perishing in the desert. But this tragedy described by the two Germans did not take place on the Euphrates and Chabur rivers, but rather a decade previously in the Southwest-African Omaheke desert. The victims were not Armenians, but Hereros, the culprits not Turks, but the Imperial German Colonial Troops under General Lothar von Trotha, who had already ravaged with a German brigade among the so-called "Boxer" rebels in China in 1900. Trotha had chased the Hereros into the desert ("I believe that the nation as such must be annihilated," he wrote to Berlin) and then continued to use military measures to prevent them from leaving this place of death. Had German officers perhaps recommended their recipe for African genocide to the Turks? [Arne Perras: "Who owns the land of the Hereros" in Süddeutsche Zeitung dated 11 August 2004]
Whatever. This results in the following conclusion based on the various statements on the Armenian genocide, insofar as they have previously been confirmed by German documents from the German Foreign Office or credible witnesses: German officers had at least agreed with the deportation orders, naming or pleading military reasons, which were then construed in such a way that they included practically all of the Armenians. The area from which the Armenians were to be deported with Germany's approval was limited to the eastern part of Turkey, but, apart from Smyrna and Constantinople, the Germans did not oppose when those responsible among the Young Turks extended these to include all of Turkey.
The German Christians and Johannes Lepsius' Role
"How we were lied to" was the title of a book published immediately after World War I on imperial censorship. Everyone was lied to: journalists, members of the Reichstag – in a parliament that was practically powerless almost no one lifted a finger to assist the Armenians – and even those who were the only one prepared to do something for the oldest Christian people in the world: the German Christians. But "our pious, politically naïve people in the missions," said the Chairman of the Association of German Newspaper Publishers and head censor, Friedrich Faber, to the Undersecretary of State in the German Foreign Office, Friedrich Zimmermann [1915-09-30-DE-003] were easy to manipulate.
Shortly before his scathing judgement on the Armenians, Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg had given the German Christians a formal assurance, "The Imperial Government, as it has done until now, will in future always regard it as its foremost duty to exercise its influence so that Christian races are not persecuted because of their religion. German Christians may rest assured that, guided by this basic principle, I will do everything in my power to ensure that these worries and wishes conveyed to me are borne in mind." [1915-11-12-DE-012] This promise remained almost without any consequences, because it was contrary to Germany's Turkish policy, and the German Foreign Office official in Berlin, Frederic von Rosenberg, had the cynicism to dispel Christian doubts by arguing that the Armenians were not being pursued because of their Christianity.
When the American embassy in Berlin called upon the government of the Reich to intervene on behalf of the Armenians in Turkey, who were being threatened with a new wave of persecution, the new ambassador in Constantinople, Richard von Kuehlmann, advised his government to "restrict our intervention to the unpolitical field of relief actions for the suffering Armenians." [1916-11-25-DE-002] Even this restriction did not correspond with political reality. The Ottoman Empire had an eye on all of the missions, including the American ones, which they presented as transmitters of foreign interests. According to the Ambassadorial Councillor in charge of operations, Konstantin Baron von Neurath, the German mission stations had "spent many hundreds of thousands of marks and done a lot of selfless work [for this assistance], which could have been put to better use at home in Germany or for Germans residing abroad." "I take the liberty of recommending that we work privately and by means of appropriate administrative measures to ensure that the volume of the collections for the Armenians in Germany does not become too extensive." [1915-10-26-DE-001]
Undersecretary of State Arthur Zimmermann intervened during the following period on behalf of the Armenians for a collection to be carried out discretely, and justified this aid politically, "For they will give us a welcome handle with which to confront the defamatory statements of our opponents after peace has been made." [1916-03-15-DE-001] Thus, although the German representatives arranged for funds to be sent to the suffering Armenians, they increasingly came almost solely from Switzerland and the United States, and even these were "inofficial", Zimmermann said to his minister in Switzerland. [1916-10-08-DE-001] German politicians refused to accept the German Christians' own relief funds offered for the Armenians; they argued that "in this way, German money would wander abroad that could be better used for German purposes inside the country", Ambassador Kuehlmann said to his superiors. [1917-06-15-DE-001]
A deep ravine separated Imperial Germany from the West and its beliefs. For decades, a large part of the German intellectual elite had preached that Germans should follow a special route which would lead them away from people such as the Armenians, but especially from their opponents in the West and the elite in neutral countries. Already at the beginning of the war, intellectual Germany was completely isolated from the mainstream of development in the rest of the civilised world.
Germany's Turning Away from the West
Instead of a rationally effective society, the breach with the West after the failure of the Civil Revolution of 1848 brought an organic feeling of community to the foreground that developed ever more from Germanic ideas and which was to reach its zenith in national unity. The Germans thwarted the supposedly mechanical western civilisation with their organic German culture.
Shortly before World War I, German scholars opposed the French "ideas of 1789" with their "ideas of 1914" as a counter-position to the enlightened rationalism of the western world. The democratic-parliamentarian society with its basic, supranational-cosmopolitan attitude was now contrasted by a world of adventure and feelings of a national body that was enough for itself. According to Klaus von See, an expert on Scandinavia, these ideas of 1914 are "the expression, reduced to a minimum, of an outlook which gradually developed during the four human generations between the French Revolution and World War I, and which did not experience its completion in 1914 but, at best, its first zenith."[ See, Klaus von, Freiheit und Gemeinschaft (Freedom and Community), Heidelberg, 2001, p. 11.] It was already the humanists who had stylised the picture of the Germanic tribes and the Germans "to a kind of anti-type of a Roman", according to von See, "stated in an exaggerated way: Germanic people are respectable, faithful, sentimental, integrated in larger communities, in the nation, the clan, the allegiance to a leader, because Romans are talented as legal advocates and economic tradesmen, down-to-earth and individualistic"[ See, Freedom and Community, p. 13] This was the ideological background of German arrogance, which was to accompany the Armenians in their downfall.
Many renowned authors and artists in Germany were pushing for a war in order to experience a new beginning. Even before it began, this war was called the "Great War", which only very few wrote against, such as Arnold Zweig in his sequence of novels, "Der Große Krieg der weißen Männer (The Great War of the White Men)", while his famous colleague, Thomas Mann, portrayed the Great War as the defence of a typically German intellect. According to New York Professor Bernd Hueppauf, much read authors such as Georg Simmel or Max Scheler in "Der Genius der Krieges und der deutsche Krieg (The Genius of War and the German War)" considered the Great War to be "a homage to the war as the realisation of the vitalistic principle of life", while other authors considered it to be a "catharsis and departure to a new art and a new world". [Encyclopaedia of the First World War, p. 632 ff.] "How could the artist not have praised God for the breakdown of a world of peace with which he was so fed up, so completely fed up," Thomas Mann, the later Nobel prize winner for literature, wrote. [Encyclopaedia, p. 630] For Rohrbach, the war was a "German war", because it would carry the "German idea" into the world. This enthusiasm for war was widely spread among German scholars and artists, but by no means among farmers and workers. One of the fundamental ideas of these circles was that only through the war would it be possible for German culture to conquer the world. There was little room in this German culture for intellectuals, journalists, democrats, cosmopolitans and, in general, individualists.
The inventor of the "ideas of 1914" was Johann Plenge, a Professor for Political Sciences. He wrote, "The 20th century is in us. We are the exemplary people. Our ideas will become humanity's aims in life." [Encyclopaedia, p. 568 f.] Rudolf Klellén, a Swede, condensed the principles of the ideas of 1914 into duty, orderliness and justice; Ernst Troeltsch, a theologian and cultural philosopher in Berlin, opposed civilisation with "German freedom", which was fired by a supra-individual common spirit. In his book with the symptomatic title of " Händler und Helden - Patriotische Besinnungen (Traders and Heroes – Patriotic Reflections)", the co-founder of sociology in Germany, Werner Sombart, accused the "hollow British commercialised culture", whom he compared with the German heroes, who defended the last "dam against the slimy flood of commercialism". Paul Rohrbach had made out his German war to be a war of German values such as honesty, good humour and selflessness against the British values of materialism and individualism.
"It should be a slap in the face to every person with Christian feelings that England and France march Senegalese riflemen and Congo Negroes into battle against the people who gave the world a Kant," Arthur Zimmermann chimed in a letter to the Chairman of the Association of German Newspaper Publishers, Friedrich Faber. "It will only be thanks to our good sword if these hordes do not flood the Rhineland and Westphalia, dishonour German women and daughters and destroy places with a thousand years of culture." [1915-10-04-DE-001]
The "ideas of 1914" and German cultural chauvinism had far-reaching consequences for the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, for they were part of the despised Roman-Levantine counterworld. Thus, German observers did not understand that Armenians had such little love for German culture. "Remarkable is the fact – as also noted in other countries," Vice-Consul Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter wrote from Erzerum in May 1915, "that we have few Armenian friends among those who were educated in Germany or received their education through German missionaries." [1915-05-15-DE-012] The Germans in Turkey soon realised that they had learned the fundamental principles of western civilisation, especially at American schools, and, therefore, had little sympathy for such a German culture. Added to this was the influence of the West on the Armenian diaspora organised in France, England and the United States, as well as Russia's control of the most important Armenian party, the Daschnaken.
The commercial competence of the Armenians is compared in almost all of the descriptions by German consuls or observers to the supposedly British "commercialised culture". "Cunning tradespeople," Vice-Consul Scheubner-Richter, who is usually so well-disposed towards them, [1915-08-05-DE-002] calls them, and, "Because of their extremely distinctive keenness to work and their avariciousness, they do not make a particularly pleasant impression." [1915-08-10-DE-001]
The Armenians had to suffer in particular under the "tradesmen and heroes" ideology. "Here in Germany we have become accustomed," Wangenheim wrote in 1913, "to viewing the periodically repeated Armenian massacres as being merely a natural reaction to the Armenian businessmen's system of draining others dry." [1913-02-24-DE-001] Even Consul Scheubner-Richter, usually pro-Armenian, made fun of "their commercial capabilities, which usually go as far as being unscrupulous". "Thanks to their naturally inborn mercantile capabilities," the Armenians, he wrote, "would be in a position to monopolise the entire economic life and, just like the Jews, would play an often useful, but not always desirable role in it." [1915-08-10-DE-001]
German diplomats, completely attached to the ideology so popular in Germany, compared the caricature of the Armenian merchant with the image of an honest, home-minded worker. "If every Armenian, as one occasionally hears and reads on the German side, were essentially an usurer and nothing else, then, of course, there would be no question of such a loss for the empire," said Vice-Consul Hermann Hoffmann. "In reality, the hundreds of thousands of employable Armenians - whose total number on Turkish soil is estimated at being two million - are industrious and skilled craftsmen and energetic, hard-working and enterprising farmers." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
"The Armenians were called the 'Jews of the Orient', and people forgot that in Anatolia there is also a strong tribe of Armenian farmers which has all the good characteristics of a healthy rural population," Wangenheim wrote, [1913-02-24-DE-001] und Hoffmann added, "Physically healthy, fertile, mentally active and industrious, they are too valuable an asset to the economic development of this backward country." [1916-01-03-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
All of the leading classes in Germany were on this singular German course, including the Christians and even the pro-Armenians. Their international contacts had not resulted in a decisive influence on their thinking structures. The two most important people among the German friends of the Armenians, Johannes Lepsius and Paul Rohrbach, remained committed to this German cultural tradition throughout their entire lives: German thinking and German intellect should, in their eyes, "elevate" the people of Asia Minor.
Pro-Armenians Johannes Lepsius and Paul Rohrbach
During the middle of June 1914, the German-Armenian Association was founded at the Museum for Ethnology in Berlin. The most well-known founding members were Johannes Lepsius, who became the Association's first Chairman, and the most popular political author at that time, Paul Rohrbach, who was one of Lepsius' two representatives.
In a call to potential members, the founders had directed public interest to "the political reorganisation of the Orient" and, thus, especially to plans for the reform of Armenia which, at this time, promised to come to a good end. According to the call, in this way the Armenian people would have the opportunity to develop its possibilities. Germany also had "a direct interest" in this, it was stated in the call. "By means of its great economic undertakings in Asia Minor, some of which are situated in areas that are predominantly inhabited by Armenians and some of which lead directly to such areas, the need to maintain closer relations with Armenians is pointed out, for in all of these areas they are the moving forces for both economic and cultural life." Undersecretary of State Arthur Zimmermann sent his thanks for having been sent the call and noted, "I expect that it would be most practical for the new association to begin its work in Cilicia, using the German interests that exist there as a foundation." [1914-02-22-DE-001]
From the very beginning, apart from their purely missionary work and the relief programmes, both of the two friends, Lepsius and Rohrbach, both theologians, both with political ambitions, were interested in the political future of Germany and the Armenians in Asia Minor. Rohrbach was among the most prominent representatives of a group called the "governmental imperialists" by the historian, Fritz Fischer. Like his friend of long standing, Ernst Jaeckh, he was in favour of Germany's expansion in Asia Minor, whereby Jaeckh definitely acted on the assumption of an economic expansion for which it was a prerequisite that Turkey be fully preserved, while Rohrbach's imperialistic objectives were more vague: he pleaded for German occupation in Central Africa, but for a more economic expansion in Asia Minor.
Those Armenians who settled in both Russia as well as Turkey also increasingly caught the eyes of German colonial strategists. On the one hand, they could be a safety chain against Russian ambitions towards the Mediterranean; on the other hand, they could build a bridge to the Mediterranean. For a long time, both German military, but also the two pro-Armenians, Johannes Lepsius and especially Paul Rohrbach, had thought about this aspect.
Rohrbach, a Balt who studied theology in Dorpat, had a special relationship with Russia, as did almost all Balts. Although, at first, he was not at all anti-Russian as were most of his countrymen, towards the beginning of the war he completely switched over to the camp of almost fanatical Russian adversaries. In June 1913, he wrote in the Frankfurter Zeitung that "a very competent personality" from among the Russians had promised the Armenians that the people in St. Petersburg hat nothing against it if the Armenians revolted in self-defence against the Turks, and the Russian governorship in the Caucasians would probably then be inclined to assist them. According to Rohrbach, Russia could provoke such a case of self-defence at any time by setting hired Kurdist tribes on the Armenians. If, however, Russia had once freed the Turkish Armenians, all of Armenia "would immediately become Russian territory, just like Poland." In this case, Rohrbach concluded that, "all of the Near East, from the Persian Gulf right up to the Mediterranean countries and as far as the Aegean Sea would lie in front of this Russian Power, just like a fortification glacis that is controlled by the canons of the main rampart. You could not think of any position that would be more formidable against all of western Asia than the union of Armenian, the Transcaucasian Federation and northern Persia in the hands of Russia." [1913-06-22-DE-001, Enclosure] A Near East dominated by Germany from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean: that was the colonial objective, in any form whatsoever, of the German imperialists around Rohrbach.
Lepsius' arguments were similar to those of Rohrbach, "A Russian advance into eastern Anatolia can only be supported by the Armenians," he wrote to Zimmermann on 15 November 1913. "According to human discretion, if Russia had an option on Turkish Armenians the future of Anatolia would be decided and the threat to the German field of work in Meospotamia and Cilicia would become visible." [1913-11-15-DE-001]
Lepsius then quotes an "intermediary agent" from the Daschnakzutiun. This party had been "creating a political organisation for the past 24 years that included most of the Armenian people in Turkey, Russia and abroad. At present, the leadership of the Armenian people lies in the hands of this party." Apart from this political party, there was also a "military organisation", whose task it was to defend the people or, in case of war, to arm them. According to Lepsius, this military organisation of the Daschnakzagan believed that it was in a position to organise an armed resistance in Turkish Armenia, all the more "because, in any case, they can be sure of preferential treatment, probably even assistance from the Caucasian government in the form of money and weapons, as soon as they submit to their directives. The Daschnakzutiun is prepared for whatever way things turn. It can bring its power to bear either in favour of the Turks or the Russians." Only desperation would cause the Daschnakzagan "to throw themselves into the arms of Russia. As soon as they have reached a decision here, an uprising would be organised in Armenia and it would break out at a moment that would suit Russia's wishes. Russian propaganda has already succeeded in making most of the people forget the former hostile attitude, and in playing the role of 'liberator'." [1913-11-15-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
Lepsius wrote all this at the end of 1913, clearly with the intention of exerting pressure on the German government to pass reforms that were acceptable to the Armenians. "Opting for Russia would only be an act of desperation for the Daschnakzagan," he quoted his intermediary agent. "The Armenian people can count on autonomy neither in Russia nor in Turkey; therefore, it must make use of the advantages of an equilibrium between these two powers, so that it can at least protect its national character, which would be endangered if it were to be completely absorbed in Russia. No other nation is as interested in the existence of Turkey as the Armenians are. The Armenians themselves should create a Turkey, if it did not already exist, in order to be supported by it against Russian expansion." [1913-11-15-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
However, his reports, which he also sent to the German ambassador in Constantinople, had to be fatal if the Young Turks as well as German circles considered his description to be a warning should – as was then the case – the reforms for the Armenians be passed, but then immediately revoked after the beginning of the war. This could have led to an orientation towards Russia, the case heralded by Lepsius, and to an excellently organised uprising in the Armenian vilayets.
Wangenheim was also observing this uprising when he warned the Reichskanzler at the beginning of 1913 about an Armenian uprising. In March 1915, he was able to refer to a report by Louis Mosel, an agent working for the German Foreign Office along the Turkish-Russian border, who had reported to his superiors, "In my opinion, the entire Armenian population on Ottoman territory is organised and waiting only for Russia's success and its advance, respectively, before rising up against the Turkish rulers. The well-known Armenian party, the Daschakzütüm, controls the leadership of the Armenian movement, which appears to have extensive financial means, weapons, ammunition and bombs at its disposal." [1915-03-26-DE-003]
Yet Lepsius did not wish to play just the role of a Cassandra in case of an attack on the Turkish-Armenian population: he obviously also wished to take an active role in politics. And this led to a conflict of interest between the pro-Armenian who, in the past, had always placed the greatest emphasis on humanitarian acts for the Armenians, and the advocate of imperialistic German power politics, who aspired colonies for his native country. Johannes Lepsius quickly reached the limits of his possibilities and his skill.
Lepsius, who was also an internationally reputable pro-Armenian, was obviously very certain that he could strongly influence the Armenians to accept the imperial policy. Comparable with French imperialists, the export of their culture played an important role for German imperialists such as Rohrbach and Lepsius. To bring the German way of life to supposedly less developed peoples was also part of their missionary work. "What a loss," Lepsius wrote in November 1913 when he wanted to prevent the Russians from advancing in eastern Anatolia, "if we would have to leave the only area that is not yet occupied by a foreign language to the Russians. Using the Armenian school, Russia would conquer all of Asia Minor for the Russian language." Lepsius believed that he was in a position to "conquer the school system of the Gregorian-Armenian Church with its approximately 100,000 pupils for the German language." [1913-11-15-DE-001]
It was not the only illusion that Lepsius fostered. Still in June 1915, when the first Armenian convoys were already marching towards the Mesopotamian desert, Lepsius demanded that "we should encourage the Armenians who listen to us even more in their loyalty towards Turkey and support their harmony with the Sublime Porte. It should certainly be possible to prevent our Turkish friends from being peeved by Armenian sympathy, which should be all grist to their mill." In case the Turks were to stop their annihilation campaign against the Armenians, Lepsius believed that he could also make the following suggestions, "Our efforts should not be limited to reconciling the Turkish Armenians with the Sublime Porte. Turkey should also win the sympathy of the Caucasian Armenians. It is ten times more valid to regard the Caucasians, or at least Kars, Erivan and the Araxes Valley, as irredenta of Turkish Armenia, rather than passing off Upper Armenia as a Russian irredenta." [1915-06-17-DE-001, Enclorsue 1]
A considerable overestimation of his own possibilities of winning the Turkish-Armenians over for Germany, but also a considerable underestimation of the determination of the Turks to annihilate the Armenians as a people led Lepsius to campaign far too long for a German policy with regard to Turkey, and this was to prove fatal for the Armenians. The German Foreign Office in Berlin made use of Lepsius' great reputation, about which Zimmermann wrote in a letter to Wangenheim, "The personality of this easily tractable gentleman should offer a guarantee that he will not undertake anything in Constantinople, which would not meet with the approval of Your Excellency and the Turkish statesmen." [1915-06-13-DE-001] In this, he was to err decidedly, but it remains a fact that Lepsius did not notice that his nationalism had robbed him of his sense of reality. How else is one to understand that he sent military documents which his colleague, Liparit Nasariantz, had put together for him, some of which were from newspaper articles from the Armenian press in Bulgaria, to the German Foreign Office with the express request that it pass these on to the German general staff. [1915-06-12-DE-001]
At the end of December 1914, Lepsius had sen Liparit to Constantinople, justifying the latter's orders according to agreements with the German Foreign Office as follows, "In accordance with the guidelines given to us verbally during a meeting, we have instructed Dr. Liparit to work on the Armenian Patriarch, the leaders of the Daschnakzutiun Party and the leading Armenian circles in Constantinople so that the Armenian people, in close connection with Turkey, will use its national strength to achieve a victory for the Ottoman weapons and, wisely realising its own interests, support the Turkish government with all its strength in the implementation of all measures and military operations in the provinces occupied by Armenians." [1914-12-24-DE-001, Enclosure]
What Lepsius understood at this time by "all measures" is not clear from the document, but it was certainly not mass deportations which, at this time, had probably not been decided upon. However, things were different when Lepsius decided at the end of May to undertake a journey to Constantinople. Wangenheim had not only informed his department of the planned deportations, but also that the Minister of War planned to "shut down a large number of Armenian schools, suppress Armenian newspapers, prohibit Armenian postal correspondence". And he added, "Please inform Professor Lepsius and other German Armenian committees accordingly that, unfortunately, the measures mentioned cannot be avoided considering the political and military situation in Turkey." [1915-05-31-DE-001]
Lepsius himself obviously did not wish to oppose these intended measures. "Dr. Lepsius wishes to journey there, not to apply pressure to the Porte, but rather to bring the Armenians to their senses," Zimmermann cabled to his ambassador. "If the Porte agrees, he is prepared to go to the provinces and make it clear to the Armenian leaders there that their loyalty towards the Turkish government is a necessity." There were also no objections to the journey, Zimmermann said, "as Lepsius would gladly subordinate himself" to the embassy's directives. [1915-06-06-DE-001] Even two weeks later, on 17 June 1915, Lepsius still wrote, "The fact should not be underestimated that, from the very beginning, we have routed German sympathy for Armenia onto Turkish ground." [1915-06-17-DE-001,Enclosure 1]
With regard to Wangenheim's report, which was shown to Lepsius at the department, the latter had written, "Harsh measures against Armenian subjects, which appear to be necessary to suppress espionage and local unrests, are of only episodic importance and do not affect our German interests." And, "I do not take the measures of the Ministry of War against the Armenian schools, press, etc., to heart. The closing of the American Colleges will meet with the least resistance from the Patriarchy. Deportations would also be harmless if it were not for the fact that the Turkish administrative techniques (as proven by the Circassians) usually led to the demise of the deportees." [1915-06-17-DE-001 Enclosure 1] Even after the Armenians had already been expelled from Zeitun and other towns, Lepsius still generally considered deportations to be acceptable and only feared disastrous consequences for the Armenians in Turkey. An explanation for this can only be that Lepsius accepted deportations such as those carried out by the Germans in Belgium. For Lepsius very obviously not only approved of the occupation of Belgium, but also its permanent conquest, as his later work will prove. In his most important speech during the war, he renamed "Berlin-Baghdad", Germany's most prestigious project, "Antwerp-Baghdad". [1915-10-12-DE-001, Enclosure 2]
However, there are also comments made by Lepsius on the deportations of the Armenians in Turkey that are more than confusing. Immediately after the war, Lepsius quotes Article 2 of the Turkish government's order to deport the Armenians in his German-Armenian Correspondence, and comments, "However, the official version looked harmless enough." [1918-11-25-DE-001] A deportation order that was harmless enough?
In 1925, in a later article Lepsius wrote in connection with his argument with the Board of Trustees of the German Mission for the Orient, "How can anyone give up a mission because of the Armenian matter, a people who (whether rightly or wrongly) were wiped out by our allies?" The Armenians "rightly" wiped out? [Der Orient, 1925, issue no. 8, p. 104] A linguistic lapse, no doubt, but a fatal one.
"The orders," Lepsius said in the retrospection in 1918, "allowed for the deportees to be sent to areas owned by the Baghdad Railway, where new property would be surveyed for them. von der Goltz agreed to the plan in this form, which was reasonably consistent with the necessary military measures of civilised nations." [1918-11-25-DE-001] Was it this passage which possibly misled Lepsius to agree to a plan if it had been carried out "reasonably consistent with the necessary military measures of civilised nations"?
The Armenians immediately recognised the consequences of such considerations in Turkey. For by settling along the completed and planned Baghdad railway, they would have been available for that area which the Germans had selected for themselves as a colony. The Armenians did not connect this plan with Lepsius, but Rohrbach, of whom Morgenthau also claimed in his memoirs that he had been the originator of such a plan. His source was an article in Temps, a Paris magazine, in which Rohrbach is quoted. However, until the present no speech and no manuscript by Rohrbach have turned up containing this plan.
However, in an article published in his magazine, Mesrop, in the summer of 1914, Lepsius had also made insinuations that could have been misinterpreted, to say the least. He made a clear statement with regard to negotiations on reforms for Armenia, which were mostly carried out by Russia and Germany, that Germany "had driven its economic sphere of work along the Baghdad railway like a wedge between between the British and Russian spheres." His following remarks were less clear, "Germany and Russia know very well that railways are not built to turn agricultural land into steppe. To save the fields from the steppe means protecting the Armenians from the Kurds."
According to Lepsius, Germany had replaced England in Anatolia, Cilicia and Mesopotamia, where it was "not [out] to gain more territory, but to expand economically". [Mesrop, July/August 1914, p. 22 f] However, this especially presumes that there is a population in the area of German economic interest that could be of use to this interest. The tenor of several of Rohrbach's publications was that no other people in this region would have been more suitable than the Armenians, whereby Rohrbach had his eye particularly on Mesopotamia, which he praised as the possible main supplier for grain, and which could supplement or even replace the Ukraine as a granary. But this Mesopotamian region would first have to be developed.
Reports by German witnesses show how deportations and resettlements even in Turkey could also have been carried out in Germany's interest, and had possibly been hoped for by Rohrbach and Lepsius. After this, it was also possible to carry out deportations in Turkey in a manner that was considered orderly according to German standards. Neukirch, a German doctor from Ersindjan, wrote the following concerning such an "orderly deportation convoy", "The inhabitants of Erzerum were the last to pass in huge, well-equipped ox cart caravans. The people (all of the men were obviously also present) looked very well, travelled in short treks and were protected by a great many gendarmes under the leadership of officers." According to Neukirch, the convoys had "proceeded in a fairly orderly fashion for Oriental conditions." [1915-11-06-DE-011, Enclosure]
Above the town of Sabcha, located on the Euphrates route from Aleppo to Baghdad, a German sent by Roessler to Deir-es-Zor saw a "settlement set up in straight alleys, laid out at right angles; thousands of hands were working with the greatest diligence; long rows of quarrystones are stored there, over 100 new houses have been built. A further 250 houses are to be completed shortly. The authorities provide the ground for building and permit stones to be quarried. One of the settlers is a blacksmith; a butcher's, 1 plumber and 2 – 3 small general stores have been set up." [1915-11-16-DE-002, Enclosure] Although many Armenians had died of illness, and the sick were mercilessly sent by their countrymen into the desert to die there, yet it appeared to be a real settlement, the German witness reported, particularly since both up- and downriver there was fertile ground.
However, beyond Ersindjan the previously protected deportees marched from Erzerum beyond Ersindjan directly to their deaths. And one year later, when a German officer travelled along the Euphrates route, he reported, "Of the largest stations, Sabcha has been completely emptied." [1916-08-29-DE-001] The connection between the deportations and a settlement in Mesopotamia after the end of the war was so sensitive for Lepsius that he manipulated an article written by Harry Stuermer, a German newspaper correspondent who wrote the following under his alias, von Tyszka, "The Turkish plan of forcing all Armenians out of the provinces and relocating them in Mesopotamia has been superseded." [1915-10-01-DE-001, Enclosure 3] In 1920, Lepsius published the article in his magazine, The Orient, but left out the phrase "according to a brochure by Dr. Rohrbach". [Der Orient No. 1/2, 1920, p. 27]
The Turnabout of Johannes Lepsius
Up to June 1915, Lepsius pleaded in favour of Germany's Turkish policy. But on 22 June, he informed the German Foreign Office, "Courses are open to negotiate with the leaders of the Russian Armenians in order to obtain compensations from them for suspending the measures against the Turkish Armenians." After Persian provinces were recaptured, he argued, "There is a danger that the Bitlis and Musch area will also be occupied by Russian Armenians with Russian assistance." His suggestion, "In return for the release of the approx. 120 arrested Armenian leaders and intellectuals and the waiver of further deportations, the Russian Armenians will cease operations in the Wan area and separate their cause from Russia's cause." And he went even a step further, "I was assured that the leaders of the Russian Armenians share these views and can be won over to German-Turkish interests in future." [1915-06-22-DE-002] However, Lepsius had greatly overestimated his influence here. Mordtmann noted, "At the present stage of the question I consider it unlikely that the Porte will pay any attention to the suggestion," [1915-06-22-DE-002] and Wangenheim disposed of Lepsius' suggestion by remarking, "I consider his view of the possibility of winning over the Russian Armenians by revoking or mitigating the compulsory measures taken by Turkey to be utopian." [1915-07-02-DE-001]
However, several days earlier, with regard to the assessment of the deportations, which had begun, Lepsius had already turned away completely from the official German line of placation. Reports from his own sources had convinced him that "this is not a case of deporting individual families, but rather of mass deportations of large parts of the Armenian population from Anatolian areas and from Cilicia to various districts, especially to Mesopotamia." "These measures," Lepsius said, "cannot be justified for military reasons." [1915-06-22-DE-001] So it was "measures for military reasons" which Lepsius had obviously, until that time, been prepared to suffer or to which he had agreed.
Although Wangenheim attempted to prevent Lepsius from travelling to Constantinople ("I consider his journey to be inopportune" [1915-06-09-DE-001]) the German friend of the Armenians had already departed. On his outward journey, Lepsius visited his Swiss friends in Geneva and the Daschnaken in Sofia. By now already extremely worried about the entire extent of the deportations, he informed himself, after his arrival in Constantinople on 24 July, by speaking with the Armenian Patriarchat, but especially also with the American Ambassador Morgenthau, who allowed him to see the reports of his consuls, information which the German embassy largely refused to give him. After a meeting with Minister of War Enver, which had been arranged by Jaeckh and his friend, Hans Humann, it was clear to Lepsius that, at best, the German Christians would be able to influence German policy and achieve more moderateness for the Armenians, a hope that was not to be fulfilled.
At the beginning of October 1915, all of the Protestant mission stations working in the Orient had met at an Orient Conference, at which Lepsius held a brilliant speech in front of his brothers in faith as well as journalists who had been sworn to secrecy. After this, his friend, Paul Rohrbach, was very agitated. "These occurrences make it impossible for us to continue to bear the joint responsibility for the Turkish alliance," he stormed afterwards, "When these facts become public, the German people will stand in front of the entire world in the deepest shame." After this, Lepsius called Rohrbach "the prophet of our entire German-Turkish policy" and thanked him for his reaction, "I take off my hat to him!" [1915-10-12-DE-001, Enclosure 1]
During the following months, Lepsius drew up the "Report on the Situation of the Armenian People in Turkey", which was published after the war under the title of "The Death March of the Armenian People". In July 1916, he sent about 20,000 copies of this to members of the national and state parliaments, which was stopped by the censors, but especially to his friends in the missions and Protestant vicarages. Even today, this script is probably still the most profound report on the Armenian genocide written in German.
After this, Lepsius travelled to Holland, supposedly to cure his diabetes there, but in fact as part of a political mission. From there he contacted Armenian groups abroad, especially in Switzerland and France, to continue his support of the Armenians. Mainly, however, he worked for a new employer in the German Foreign Office, the Head of the Propaganda Department, Hans von Haeften, who was a tool of the new strong man in German politics, Erich Ludendorff. Chancellors such as Bethmann Hollweg, but also Michaelis and Herting, as well as Secretaries of State of the German Foreign Office such as Kuehlmann were the victims of his intrigues. He supported extensive annexations and was also the driving force behind the German peace diktat of Brest-Litovsk, which gave the German Empire more new territories in the east – and opened the sluices for Turkey to Russian Armenia.
The political figurehead of the new leadership was the last Reichskanzler, Prince Max von Baden, who held Lepsius in high esteem ("an important scholar with the soul of an artist, an artist with the will of a missionary" [Prince Max von Baden: Erinnerungen und Dokumente (Memories and Documents); Berlin, 1927]). The heir to the Baden throne owes his, even today, mainly liberal image on the one hand to the concessions he was forced to make towards the end of the war because of the political situation (he even dismissed Ludendorff), but especially to his closest employee, Kurt Hahn – a Jewish liberal and later pedagogical head of the Salem school and teacher to the British prince consort, Philip of Edinburgh, who always admired Hahn – who generally led his mentor. It was only recently that the close friendship between Max von Baden and Richard Wagner's son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, became known [Urbach, Karina; Buchner, Bernd, Prinz Max von Baden und Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Aus dem Briefwechsel 1909-1919 (Prince Max von Baden and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. From their correspondence between 1909 and 1919), in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte (Quarterly Journals for Contemporary History), 52nd year, Issue No. 1, January 2004]. , who created the idea of universal Germanness and was the intellectual father of Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg and also Adolf Hitler. Lepsius praised Chamberlain's script, "The Foundations of the 19th Century" in the highest tones ("great! great!" [In a letter to the Danish friend of the Armenians, Aage Meyer-Benedictsen.; LAH 1484 (3)]) and Emperor William II, who was highly respected by this German friend of the Armenians, read to his entourage evey evening from the main work of this preacher of German master race mentality.
Lepsius evaluated British newspapers in Holland for von Haeften, but, in particular, he had been selected together with Kurt Hahn as the liaison to the British "Union of Democratic Control", a British association of radical-liberal and socialist politicians, whose organisation finally numbered 750,000 members in 1918 and who were in favour of peace through negotiation with Germany. Several pro-Armenians, such as James Lord Bryce and Arthur Ponsonby, were also members; Lepsius had good contacts to them from the pre-war days. On behalf of the Germans, Dutch politicians also had discussions at a high level, but this did not end in close contact with the British, because Germany showed no willingness whatsoever to retreat from Belgium, a policy which Lepsius fully supported while Hahn was in favour of concessions in Belgium or the country's restoration.
The fact that Lepsius seriously believed he would be able to wring from his old friend, James Lord Bryce, the abandonment of Belgium, makes it clear just how naive Lepsius was with regard to politics. For before Lepsius completed his brilliant documentation of the Armenian genocide, Lord Bryce had written a no less brilliant charge against Germany's crimes in Belgium.
Lepsius was still highly regarded by the German Foreign Office even after the war. In October 1918, the long-standing head of the Imperial Colonial Department, Wilhelm Heinrich Solf, was appointed as Imperial Minister of Foreign Affairs. On 20 November 1918, Johannes Lepsius offered to work for him. "Application must be taken into earnest consideration," Solf wrote on the letter, "Lepsius has a reputation abroad!" [1918-11-20-DE-001]
Lepsius had previously applied to Solf with a request to "grant me permission to inspect the files in order to refute the outrageous slanders which were not only circulated throughout the entire press in both foreign enemy and neutral countries, but also honestly believed, as if the German government had ordered the Turkish government to annihilate the Armenian people and, with the assistance of German consuls, higher and highest officers, organised and implemented this with German thoroughness." [LAH 13533] Solf authorised Lepsius to publish a documentation on Germany's Armenian policy. Thus, Lepsius' own project to justify Germany's Armenian policy with the aid of a White Book became obsolete. The latter had been drawn up by Ambassadorial Councillor Alexander von Hoesch according to exact instructions by Zimmermann. "As requested, a lot of space has been given in this record to the guilt of the Armenian element of the population against the Turkish Empire and the attempts of the Imperial Government and its representatives in Turkey to improve the lot of the Armenians," Wolff-Metternich wrote in an accompanying letter. "Special emphasis has also been placed on the responsibility our enemies have burdened themselves with towards the Armenian people." [1916-09-18-DE-001] Until today, the extensive bundle of papers of the man who later became Germany's ambassador in Paris and London has been lying unpublished in the files. [1916-09-18-DE-001, Enclosure]
Lepsius considered Solf's order, the result of which was soon published by Tempel Publishing House under the title of "Germany and Armenia, 1914-1918 – A Collection of Diplomatic Documents", to be a wonderful opportunity to finally make a larger audience in Germany aware of the Armenian genocide, and he made use of this. According to the state documents which he selected, there was not the slightest question of doubt that the Young Turks wanted to kill the Armenians, and did so. However, the main purpose of publication for the German Foreign Office was to rebuff Germany's joint responsibility, an aspect with which Lepsius also agreed. He wrote that he had followed the principle "of keeping an eye [on] exonerating Germany from Turkish and international slanders when making my selection." [LAH 14213 (6)] This was only possible by striking or amending passages in several documents that proved Germany's joint guilt. However, it is unclear who carried out these deletions and forgeries: the German Foreign Office itself (perhaps even former Consul Roessler, who had returned to Berlin and put together the documents for Lepsius) or Lepsius with the permission of the German Foreign Office.
It was understandable that Lepsius worked only with copies, for during a large part of this task he was still living in Holland, where the German Foreign Office would hardly have sent original documents. However, the fact that he passed off these copies as originals was, without doubt, a grave offence against the rules for source books, as was the fact that he did not compare them with the originals, which were accessible to him.
It can no longer be determined today what the copies used in "Germany and Armenia" looked like for, upon the instructions of the German Foreign Office, they were all burned on 18 June 1920. A remark by the central office of the German Foreign Office makes it clear that these were only copies, "Originals were not amongst the material." [1919-05-26-DE-001] But not all of the copies made available to Lepsius have disappeared. Some of the copies from the files not used by Lepsius can be found in the Lepsius Archive in Halle, large parts of which were published as a microfilm fiche edition. Among the copies stored there are several that are incomplete, i.e. that were already amended or deleted in part by the German Foreign Office. One copy even proves that the German Foreign Office did not even shrink from forgery. In this copy, Undersecretary of State Zimmermann is named as the author of the quote by Bethmann Hollweg on the Armenians, LAH 1368-13824. who, in truth, had even agreed to the telling off against Turkey proposed by Metternich. But Lepsius had also made changes, as is clear from the documents. All of the manipulations have the same purpose: to hide Germany's guilt or at least to minimise it. [These manipulations are described in detail inthe an article entitled, "The Magical Square", on this portal . All of the manipulations of individual documents, insofar as they are of importance, that have been proven can also be found here]
Whoever carried out more manipulations – Lepsius or the German Foreign Office at that time – the response to the documents published was disappointing for both. "'The Times’ sees in it the documentary proof of Germany’s joint responsibility," the German Foreign Office complained in an answer to Lucius von Stoedten, the Minister in Stockholm, "and is using it in a smear campaign against our present policy," [1919-08-21-DE-001] or even as "proof of Germany's guilt," Goeppert wrote to Lepsius. LAH 14341. Complete or almost complete translations into English and French made by the German Foreign Office were withdrawn by it.
After the Russian Communists refused to give the Armenians military protection when the former came into power in 1917, and withdrew their troops, whereupon Turkey stormed into the territory of what is today the Republic of Armenia, the remaining former allies, gathered in Paris, also withdrew their political protection from the Armenians and allied themselves with the victorious Kemal Party in Turkey. Even the Armenians' most faithful partner during the World War, the United States, left the Armenians to their fate. A treaty that foresaw Armenia as being independent, something which could only have been ensured by the Americans, was not finalized; instead, a treaty was drawn up with a Turkey in which the few surviving Armenians continued to remain without protection.
Although German diplomats already used the word "genocide" during the First World War, the term 'genocide' that is internationally accepted today was first used by the Polish lawyer and survivor of the Holocaust, Raphael Lemkin. It was at his instigation that the United Nations agreed on a convention on the prevention and punishment of genocides in 1948. According to this, the culprit must act with the intention "of destroying all or part of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group"; he must also commit certain crimes such as "murdering members of the group" or "causing serious physical or psychological damage to members of this group". According to this definition – and the documents drawn up by German diplomats all agree on this – the actions against the Armenians fulfilled the definition of a classical genocide. The reports by American diplomatic representatives in Turkey, which have only been treated in passing in this book, reach exactly the same conclusion.
"However, the files on the catastrophe have not yet been closed, and it must be strongly hoped that we, too, will speak out again," Count von Luettichau, the German ambassadorial preacher, concluded his chapter on Germany's guilt. "A time must come in which that which has been neglected must be made up for, otherwise the Turkish captain who sits between Malatia and Sivas and meticulously records in a chronicle all the shameful deeds carried out by his countrymen would, in the end, turn out to be right when he says, ‘If the German government does not cleanse itself of the shame that rests on it, then I must despise it even more than my own.’ No doubt he is right, and such a cleansing will have to take place, for the sake of our German name and the name of Christianity." [1918-10-18-DE-001, Enclosure]
There is nothing more to add to this.