The Armenian genocide during World War I was the first violent crime against humanity in the 20th century, a century which witnessed genocide very frequently.

Even today, the official Turkish government denies that it occurred, and in Germany, which was allied to Turkey at that time and was jointly responsible for this crime, little is known of this. To fill this lacuna, documentation of the genocide is provided by this Internet website, which has reproduced the official German documents and described the events in detail.

As long as the Ottoman files on the genocide remain unpublished, the German documents - together with the American documents - appeaar to be the most important ones. For, during World War I, Germany was the closest ally of the Ottoman Empire. German diplomats and the military were the only ones able to send uncensored reports by telegram, the fastest means of communication at that time.

This was a privilege to which not even the Austrians, also allies, were entitled. Apart from the neutral Americans, German diplomats and their informants from the missions or from among the employees of the Baghdad Railway were the most important non-Armenian eye- and earwitnesses of the genocide.

The German military were able to enter practically unhindered those areas in which the genocide mainly took place. German diplomats travelled only sporadically to the Mesopotamian desert, along the Euphrates river and south of the Baghdad railway line, those areas to which the Armenians had been driven, to die there or be killed. But they also gathered military reports on this area and often they were in a position to verify the ongoing genocide at least in part.

Publications of German diplomatic files from this period, however, were stigmatised for a long time, by the argument that they had served first and foremost political purposes, and not the historical truth. After World War II, the Western Allies confiscated almost all the German files of the Foreign Office and put them on microfilm. These served, first, as documents for the Nuremberg War Trials, but later they were to be used mainly by the Allies' own experts in their treatment of the history of National Socialism, -- so deep was their mistrust in the objectivity of German historians to depict the history of their own country without prejudice.

In particular, the Western experts had the documentary publication, "Die Grosse Politik der Europäischen Kabinette (The Great Policy of the European Cabinets) 1871-1914", in their sights. Using this, the government of the German Reich had attempted to clear itself of any joint responsibility for the outbreak of World War I and to cast German pre-war policy in the most favourable light. American and British researchers had even taken exception to the documents selected, but especially to the extremely subjective footnotes which usually described the German government's point of view.

One of the three editors of "The Great Policy" was Johannes Lepsius. The theologian Lepsius was also the editor of the very much smaller, but extremely explosive documentary publication, "Deutschland und Armenien (Germany and Armenia) 1914-1918". Although Lepsius documented the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire of that time very well in this work, he placed the attempts of the German Empire to avert or to mitigate the mass murders - attempts which were half-hearted - in the foreground and in a highly partisan manner, while at the same time leaving out Germany's involvement altogether. The enclosed article, "Magical Square", provides information on the background of the manipulations.

In our edition, “The Armenian Genocide 1915/16”, we published nearly all the documents published by Lepsius but here in their original wording. They are indicated as DuA-r (Deutschland und Armenien – revidiert; Germany and Armenia revised). Information can be found in a list of the parts of documents missing in the Lepsius edition, and a detailed study of all of the differences in the Lepsius publication can be found in this Internet version. In addition, we are publishing more than 500 new documents concerning the Armenian Genocide which have never been published before.

In our new publication “Deportationsbestimmungen”, we are publishing some 350 documents concerning the regulations for the deportees, reports of German banks and companies on the legal and economic consequences of the deportations, and the fate of Armenians in German services. Another edition publication, “Adana 1909”, of German and British official documents, is devoted to the events in Cilicia in 1909. Most of the German documents were found in the files of the German Embassy in Constantinople. Some documents about the Caucasian campaign and the events during the advance of the Russian army before and after its retreat - which were part of the Lepsius edition - are part of an unfinished publication which will be completed later.

Some 380 documents have been translated into English. In these documents, the spelling of personal names and towns has mostly been kept as found in the original German text. Only capital cities or very important places were rendered in the English translation in the manner usual at that time in the English language. Because the transliteration of Armenian and Ottoman, but also Russian and Arabic names, differs, they have been written in the document heading in the form usually used (but not uniformly) at that time.

In the German original, language peculiarities have been preserved, even if they are misleading or even incorrect. The same applies for punctuation. Only a few gross or obvious errors have been carefully corrected. Words which are illegible have been marked [illegible]. Square brackets have been reserved for the editor's comments. All the footnotes in normal type are footnotes in the original documents. The editor's footnotes, which have deliberately been used very sparingly, are in italics. Most of the footnotes in the English version are in square brackets in a font which is two or three points smaller.

The names of the documents are given according to the year, the month, the day, the ISO abbreviation of the country in which the document is located, as well as an available three-digit figure. The Gregorian calendar was selected. Documents from countries which had not introduced the Gregorian calendar by the end of World War I have been converted.

The structure of the original documents themselves has been preserved. The heading of the actual document contains the digit of the central records office for documents sent to Berlin, as well as the registration of documents sent and received by the embassies and consulates. Each year was counted anew, whereby the embassy and each consulate had their own digital sequence which, in addition, was kept separately for telegrams and reports. Furthermore, the official heading contains the time of entries (pr = praesentatum) as well as the times telegrams were sent and received. The document headings in colour include additional information from the editor.

A documentary publication of the scope planned, - both the documents published here as well as those of future editions in various stages of process, - would, of course, have been difficult to carry out without outside assistance. We wish to express our deep gratitude to the Zoryan Institute’s principals and staff for their financial support and for translation assistance. Armenians in Yerevan whom we do not know personally were brought into contact with us through our prematurely departed friend Armen Haghnazarian, who worked most conscientiously to compile French and English texts; Armenian and German friends in Germany compiled the German texts. All of them provided great support for our work and encouraged us. We thank each and everyone of them for their valuable support.

Copyright © 1995-2019 Wolfgang & Sigrid Gust (Ed.): A Documentation of the Armenian Genocide in World War I. All rights reserved