Russia plans to invade Armenia

A crime in denial

In November 1914, the troubled Ottoman Empire entered the First World War. When a small group of Armenians rose against Turkish rule six months later, the government responded with unprecedented violence: their henchmen are driving the members of the Christian minority south on death marches. More than a million people die in the process - a genocide that Turkey has denied to this day

The genocide of the Armenians is the first million-fold murder of the 20th century. A crime of monstrous proportions - ordered by the government of the Ottoman Empire. It begins more than 1000 kilometers from the main settlement areas of the Armenians: in Istanbul. On the night of April 24, 1915, police arrested more than 200 members of the Armenian capital elite - members of parliament, journalists, teachers, doctors, pharmacists, merchants and bankers. The Ottoman Empire entered the First World War six months earlier; allegedly those arrested collaborate with the enemy. In many provincial cities too, Armenian notables are thrown into jail, tortured and publicly executed as a deterrent. But that is only the prologue of the actual murder operation.

Trying to wipe out an entire people.

Up until the late 19th century, Armenians achieved high positions in the Ottoman Empire in many places. It is true that the members of this Christian people - like all non-Muslims - have been denied careers in civil service for centuries. However, numerous Armenians achieve considerable prosperity. Both in the highlands of Eastern Anatolia and in the capital Istanbul they control important parts of the economy: the silk industry and textile production, modern agriculture, the shipbuilding and tobacco industries.

They also established modern theater and opera in the empire and wrote the first Ottoman novels. Nine newspapers in Istanbul appear in Armenian, only 13 in Turkish. (The metropolis had more than 900,000 inhabitants in 1914, around ten percent of whom were Armenians.) And since the reform decree of 1856, which gave all Ottoman citizens access to high state offices regardless of religion, there were also more and more Armenians there. But in the last quarter of the 19th century the relationship between the Armenians and the Ottoman government began to deteriorate significantly.

When Sultan Abdülhamid II wages war against Russia in 1877, the Armenian leaders ask the tsar to permanently occupy their territories in Anatolia or to give them an autonomous administration, but to no avail. In the peace treaty after the catastrophic defeat, however, the Sublime Porte, the Ottoman government, had to concede in the following year to give special protection to the Christian minority and to bring about reforms in their favor - which should be monitored by Europeans.

A grave humiliation for the Sultan, whose multinational empire is falling apart faster and faster: As early as 1875, the Grand Vizier, as head of government, declared bankruptcy, the administration of public debts is then placed under European supervision. In the following year, Serbs, Montenegrins and Bulgarians rise against Turkish rule. And with the Berlin Treaty in 1878, the Ottomans lost large parts of their possessions in the Balkans.

Abdülhamid II, on the throne since 1876, sees the uprisings of his Christian subjects and the intervention of the Europeans as a conspiracy against his empire and Islam. When Armenian revolutionaries, who are fighting for their own state, carry out terrorist attacks against Ottoman officials and set up troops of militants, the sultan strikes hard. Kurdish cavalry militias brutally suppress the uprisings in 1894, destroy rebel villages and murder numerous civilians. In Anatolia and the capital, Muslims carried out massacres of the Armenians in the following years - possibly on the direct orders of the monarch, as some historians suspect. At least 80,000 people die.

After a few years of tense calm, the confrontation between the minority and the state leadership intensified dramatically when the leaders of the "Committee for Unity and Progress" (KEF), Enver Pascha, Cemal Pascha and Talat Bey, attacked the government in 1913.

The committee is a particularly nationalist part of the Young Turk movement, which in 1909 ousted Abdülhamid II from the throne and replaced him with his decrepit brother Mehmed V; since then the sultan has only been a figurehead. The new rulers, a triumvirate of two senior officers and a former telegraph clerk, rule from then on with dictatorial power.

They want to keep the crumbling Ottoman empire at all costs; all striving for autonomy is treason to them. They believe in the superiority of the Turkish nation over other peoples. And they want to create a state that is purely Turkish-Muslim - even with violence.

This ideology is propagated all the more uncompromisingly as last year the empire suffered another shameful defeat and (with the exception of small remnants) lost all territories in the Balkans. After more than 500 years, the rule of the Ottomans on the peninsula ended. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees are now pouring into Anatolia and especially the Armenian areas.

Brothers in faith for whom new livelihoods must be created - through the expropriation and expulsion of Christians. The entry of the Ottoman Empire into the First World War on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1914 radicalized the Turkish nationalists even further: the governor of Diyarbakır Province, a doctor, calls the Armenians a lot of "harmful microbes that the body of the fatherland" infested ". And asks if it isn't a doctor's duty to kill the microbes.

The government no longer has to show diplomatic considerations for western countries during the war. In addition, the events on the Caucasus front provide them with an excuse to strike the Armenians. There, in deep winter, an army under War Minister Enver attacks the Russians. The offensive turns into a fiasco: More than three quarters of Turkish soldiers perish in the cold.

When, in anticipation of the Russian advance, the Armenians rose against Ottoman rule in the city of Van at the beginning of April 1915, drove the garrisons stationed there and destroyed the local fortress and public buildings, panic broke out in Istanbul. The government propaganda turns the limited insurrection into a general uprising, a high treason intended to destroy the empire.

In this situation, the project to create a unified Turkish population turns into a concrete plan for genocide, and the isolated massacres that irregular units have carried out on Armenians since the beginning of the war turns into organized genocide: in the days between the collapse of the Caucasus front and the landing of the Western Allies at the Dardanelles near the capital on April 25, 1915, presumably made the decision in the KEF Central Committee to "eliminate the Armenian problem in a comprehensive and complete manner", as it later said in a memorandum from the Ministry of the Interior.

The first act of the state crime is the arrest of the Armenian elites. The order for deportation immediately follows the wave of arrests. Interior Minister Talat orders the provincial governors to deport the entire Armenian population to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia, which are part of the Ottoman Empire.

At the same time, special representatives of the KEF Central Committee orally and in the strictest secrecy explain the actual plan to the governors: All Armenian men and older boys are to be rounded up and murdered, the women and children kidnapped. Her death - from illness, hunger, cold - is also factored in.

Official documents do not disclose the mass murder instructions issued by Talat and other members of the government. Such outrages are probably too monstrous for someone to take responsibility for them with his signature.

Nevertheless, there are some official testimonies that prove the involvement of numerous government agencies in political measures against the Armenians. And there are countless reports from eyewitnesses: from Germans who worked as diplomats or nurses in the allied Ottoman Empire; from American consuls; and by Armenians who survived the genocide.

They paint a clear picture of what has been going on since April 1915, first in Anatolia, then also on the Euphrates and Tigris.

"Our reservations about the Armenians are based on three different reasons. First, they enriched themselves at the expense of the Turks. Second, they are determined to patronize us and establish their own state. Third, they openly supported our enemies. They have the Russians in the Caucasus; our defeat there can largely be explained by their actions. We have therefore come to the irrevocable decision that we will take their power away from them before the war is over. We will no longer tolerate Armenians anywhere in Anatolia. They can live in the desert but nowhere else. "

Interior Minister Talat in conversation with US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Sr., in early August 1915

"A Muslim who protects an Armenian should be executed in front of his house and his home burned down. If he is a civil servant, he will be dismissed and go to court-martial; members of the military who consider it right to protect such a person will become brought before a court martial for insubordination and sentenced. "

General Mahmud Kamil Pasha, commander of the 3rd Army

"When they came and ordered us to leave, we were surprised. Three days earlier we had checked whether the grapes were ripe enough to be blessed. Everything was still so peaceful. Only three days later the town crier announced, that we would have to leave the place and that they would provide us with carts to take us away. In those three days we had to get ready and sell what we could. "

A survivor

"People were preparing to leave their homes and give up their homes, land and possessions. They tried to sell their furniture and movable effects, food and clothing as they had very little to take with them. They gave their things for everyone Price gone they could get. The streets were full of Turkish women and men on the hunt for opportunities who could buy sewing machines, furniture, carpets and other valuable items for next to nothing. Sewing machines that had cost $ 25 sold for 50 cents Valuable carpets were sold for less than a dollar. The scene reminded me of vultures pouncing on their prey. "

Leslie Davis, US Consul in Harput, Eastern Anatolia

The province of Erzurum in northeastern Anatolia has a particularly high proportion of Armenian population and, due to its location directly on the Russian border, was one of the first areas from which people were deported in May 1915.

What happens there is repeated again and again later in a similar way: A committee, consisting of the local police chief, a high official of the provincial administration, a representative of the KEF and other men, draws up lists of the Armenians and calls on them to stand up for the upcoming "Resettlement" ready while special forces carry out massacres in the surrounding area. By the end of June, gendarmes rounded up the Armenian residents of the eastern and central Anatolian villages and sent them on foot in closely guarded convoys of up to 10,000 people to Aleppo in northern Syria, some 600 kilometers away. Later, the Armenian communities in Western Anatolia are mostly dragged away by train; they are traveling southeast in wagons on the Baghdad Railway. After the villagers, the Armenian population of the cities is also being deported in several batches.

"Some wealthy Armenians were informed [on July 11, 1915] that they would have to leave the city with the entire population in three days, but that they would have to leave behind all their belongings, which now belonged to the government. Without waiting for this period to expire, The Turks began to penetrate and loot Armenian houses after just two hours. On Monday the 12th, the gun and rifle fire continued all day.In the evening, soldiers broke into the girls' orphanage to look for hidden Armenians. While trying to close the gate, a woman and an orphan girl were killed by bullets next to sister Johansson. Wednesday morning the named went to the local governor to obtain protection and protection for the institution and its inmates a madman and harshly refused the request. After the city was evacuated, the Armenian quarter was set on fire and razed to the ground, as was the poor one niche villages. "

Report by Alma Johansson, a Swedish sister in German service in Mus, Eastern Anatolia, recorded by the German consul general in Istanbul Johann Mordtmann

"The most beautiful of the older girls are locked in houses here - for the amusement of the gang that appears to be in control here. A local member of the Committee on Unity and Progress is holding ten of the prettiest girls in a city center house for him and her his friends can harm them. "

Oscar S. Heizer, U.S. Consul in Trabzon, Northeast Anatolia, July 28, 1915

"Our squad set out on June 14th. It numbered 400 to 500 people, 15 gendarmes accompanied us. We were barely two hours away from the city when gangs of villagers and bandits in large numbers with rifles, rifles and axes on us Surrounded the street and stole everything we had with us. The men separated from us. They killed one after the other over the course of seven to eight days. No man over the age of 15 was left. Two blows of the butt were enough to dismiss one The bandits attacked all the good-looking women and girls and kidnapped them on their horses, dragging a great many women and girls into the mountains, including my sister, whose one-year-old child they threw away.

We were not allowed to sleep in the villages at night, but had to lie down on the bare ground outside of them. To satisfy their hunger, I saw people eating grass. Under cover of darkness, the gendarmes, bandits and villagers committed unspeakable things. "

An Armenian widow from the northeastern Anatolian town of Bayburt

"They instructed the men and boys to separate from the women. Some boys were dressed like girls and hid. They stayed behind. But my father had to go. He was an adult with a mustache. As soon as they separated the men , a group of armed men came from the other side of the hill and killed all the men in front of our eyes. They murdered them with bayonets which they stuck in the stomach. Many women could not bear that and threw themselves into the river. "

A survivor from Konya, Central Anatolia

"The corpses on the streets should be buried, not thrown into lakes, wells or rivers, and their belongings should be burned."

Instructions from Interior Minister Talat, July 21, 1915

"Anyone who fell back was shot immediately. They drove us through lonely areas, through the deserts and on mountain paths so that we would not get near cities where we could have got water and food. At night we got wet with dew and during the day Scorched by the sun. I remember we ran and ran. "

A survivor

"On the 52nd day they arrived in another village; there the Kurds took everything they had, even shirts, and for five days the whole procession had to march naked under the blazing sun. For another five days there was no one Piece of bread another drop of water. Hundreds and hundreds fell dead, their tongues like charcoal; and when they reached a well at the end of the fifth day, of course, the entire caravan rushed on it, but the police stood in their way and forbade them to drink even a drop of water, because they wanted to sell the water for one to three lira per cup, and sometimes they didn't even give out the water after they got the money. "

A survivor from Harput, Eastern Anatolia

"At every station we stopped at, we stood next to one of these trains. They were made up of cattle cars, and the faces of small children peered out through the tiny barred windows of each car. The side doors were open and you could clearly see old men and." recognize old women, young mothers with small babies, men, women and children all crammed together like sheep or pigs. "

Anna Harlow Birge, American, from the US Commission on Foreign Missions, on her way to Istanbul, November 1915

“One of the first bodies we saw was that of an old man with a white beard whose skull had been smashed into by a large stone that was still in it. A little further on, we saw the ashes of six or eight people, only fragments of bones and clothing were not burned. One red fez was particularly noticeable. We estimated that during our ride around the lake, in a period of 24 hours, we had seen no less than 10,000 Armenians murdered near Lake Gölcük . "

Leslie Davis, US Consul in Harput

"On the Bo˘gazlıyan – Erkilet route [Central Anatolia], the six gendarmes who came to guard demanded money from the exile caravan on August 22. The 120 families together collected ten liras in order to be able to use the The gendarmes, enraged because of the small amount, separated all the men, around 200 people, from the women and locked them in an inn. The gendarmes then brought the people out of the inn in groups, tied up, robbed them of all their hard cash and They were sent to a nearby valley in a tied up. Later the gendarmes used rifle shots to signal the nearby Turkish murderer gangs, who were already ready, to storm. All men and youths over the age of twelve were clubbed with stones, sabers, daggers and knives martyred and killed, and all of this happened in front of the women and children. "

Testimony of six Armenian women from Hacıköy, recorded by Eugen Buge, German consul in Adana, October 1, 1915

German diplomats repeatedly send reports to Berlin in which they describe the course and extent of the Armenian atrocities. But the imperial government made a conscious decision not to interfere in the affairs of the important war ally. To the urgent request of the German ambassador in Istanbul, Paul Graf Wolff-Metternich, to publicly denounce the genocide, Reich Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg replied: "Our only goal is to keep Turkey by our side until the end of the war, regardless of whether that means Armenians perish or not. " As Ottoman military advisers, several German officers are also involved in important decisions about deportations.

The transformation of Christian Armenians into Muslim Turks is also a central element of the plan to unify the population of Anatolia. It is unclear how many Armenian women are forcibly married and how many children are taken in by Turkish families or sent to specially set up orphanages for re-education, possibly 200,000. Thousands of girls are auctioned off, and the placement of Armenian women is a main source of income for teams accompanying the deportation trains.

"When the deportees arrived, the trek was stopped in front of the government building. All the boys and girls were taken from their mothers and brought inside; then the trek was forced to move on. Then it was announced in the surrounding villages that everyone would come and join the Allowed to serve children. "

Zaven der Yeghiayan, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, August 15, 1915

"The Turks took away all mature girls and young women and violated them. Two girls resisted and were so abused by the gendarmes that they were killed. A girl named Rosa Kirasian surrendered to a gendarme. He is said to have promised To do no harm to the girl and to give her to his brother in marriage. The Turks from Erkelet took away 50 girls and twelve boys. "

Testimony of six Armenian women from Hacıköy, September 1915

"At the end of July 1915, when the thermometer read between 40 and 46 degrees Celsius, a group of more than 1000 women and children were abducted from Harput; east of Diyarbakır they were handed over to a gang of Kurds who selected the most beautiful women, girls and children. Fearful of the fate that would await them at the hands of such cruel monsters, the women fought as best they could, angering the Kurds, who murdered many of their victims most of the other women took off their clothes, forcing them to continue the trek naked. "

Jesse B. Jackson, US Consul in Aleppo

"After the massacre, Turks and Kurds looked for booty among the dead. A man also searched me and found that I was still alive. He took me home without anyone noticing. He changed my name and gave me a Turkish one , Ahmad. He taught me to pray in Turkish. I became a Turk and lived there for five years. "

A survivor

The first stop on the deportation routes are interim camps in the outskirts of Aleppo, where tens of thousands die of hunger, thirst and repeated epidemics. From there the Armenians are driven through the hostile desert land along the Euphrates from one quickly established camp to the next. The last and largest of these camps is outside the city of Der Zor (today: Dayr az-Zawr). When the interim camps in Aleppo were closed in the spring of 1916 and thousands arrived in Der Zor every day, the number of displaced people crowded together in a confined space rose to over 200,000. Shortly thereafter, Interior Minister Talat appoints a new provincial governor who is considered particularly brutal and who immediately commits massacres. In December 1916, after the murders of the previous year, this second wave of extinction was also completed. However, the camp will remain in existence until the end of the war. When British soldiers moved into Der Zor in October 1918, they found only 1,000 people, most of them sick and half starved.

"People slaughter and eat the street dogs. Recently they slaughtered and ate a dying man, an eyewitness told me. A woman cut her hair and sold it for bread. A woman I saw her blood clotted on the street Until now everyone was feeding on grass, but that too has now dried up. Last week we came to a house whose inhabitants hadn't eaten for three days. The woman was holding a small child and was trying to get him one To give breadcrumbs to eat, the child could no longer, it gasped and died in her arms. "

Araxia Djibedjian, Armenian employee of the German mission in Der Zor, June 22, 1916

"The number of deaths in the city was so great that health officials couldn't handle the situation and the military put large ox carts ready. The bodies were thrown into the carts, ten to twelve in each, and the procession of seven or." eight carts drove to the nearby cemetery with their gruesome loads of hideously uncovered corpses, mostly naked, their heads, legs and arms hanging out from the sides and back of the open car. "

Jesse B. Jackson, US Consul in Aleppo

"I left Der Zor on January 31 at eleven o'clock in the morning. For three hours I didn't see a single corpse and I hope the stories are exaggerated.

But then the horrific parade of corpses begins:

1.00 a.m.: A young woman is lying on the left side of the road. Naked, only brown stockings on the feet. Back up. Head buried in crossed arms.

1.30 p.m.: On the right by the road in a ditch an old man with a white beard. Naked. Lying on the back. Two steps further a youth. Naked. Back up. Left buttocks torn out.

2.00 a.m .: five fresh graves. On the right a clothed man. Genitalia exposed.

2.05 a.m.: On the right a man, abdomen and bleeding genitals bared.

2.07 a.m.: On the right a decayed man.

2.08 a.m.: On the right a man, fully clothed, on his back, mouth wide open, head tilted back, face disfigured by pain.

2.10 a.m.: On the right a man, lower body clothed, upper body pitted.

2.15 a.m.: Trace of a boiling point. Scraps of laundry everywhere on the way.

2.25 a.m .: A woman on the left, lying on her back, her upper body wrapped in a scarf around her shoulders, her lower body pitted, only the bloody thigh bones sticking out of the cloth.

3.10 a.m.: Traces of a boiling point and a storage place. Lots of scraps of laundry. Fireplaces, a brazier. Six male corpses, only dressed in trousers, torso bare, lie around a fireplace.

3.22 a.m.: 22 fresh graves.

3.25 a.m.: On the right a clothed man.

3.28 a.m.: On the left a naked man, eaten up.

3.45 a.m .: bloody skeleton of a ten-year-old girl, long blonde hair still on, lies with her arms and legs wide open in the middle of the path.

3.55 am: on the left, fully clothed man with a black beard, lying on his back in the middle of the path, as if he had just fallen from the boulder on the left of the path.

4.03 a.m .: on the right a woman, wrapped in a cloth, crouched next to her a child of about three years in a blue calico dress. Child probably starved to death next to the collapsed mother.

4.10 a.m .: 17 fresh graves.

5.02 am: A dog eats a human skeleton. "

Report by the German consul Wilhelm Litten on a trip from Baghdad to Aleppo

"I will deliver you convoy after convoy of Armenians. Whatever gold, money, jewelry and valuables you have with you, we will take it together. You will drive them over the Tigris on rafts. When you come to a place when no one sees or hears it, you will kill them all and throw their corpses into the Tigris. You will cut their bellies open and fill them with stones so that they do not float to the surface. Any belongings you find will go to your people . And half of the gold, money and precious stones belong to you, the other half you will bring me. "

Address by the governor of Diyarbakır (Southeast Anatolia), the former doctor Res¸id Bey, to the tribal leaders of the Raman who settled there, handed down by a member of the tribe

"The next day at the lunch break we met a whole Armenian camp. The poor people had made primitive goat hair tents under which they rested. For the most part, however, they lay defenseless on the glowing sand under the scorching sun. The Turks had because of the many sick people A day of rest is allowed. Something more desolate than such a crowd in the desert under the given circumstances is hard to imagine. The torments of thirst for poor people must be unbearable. "

Laura Möhring, German nurse, July 12, 1915

"Since many young children were still alive and wandering around their dead parents, the Çeten [death squads made up of prisoners released for this purpose and Kurds] were sent out to surround and kill them. They captured and brought thousands of children they to the bank of the Euphrates, where they took them by the feet and smashed their heads against the rocks. "

Greek eyewitness

"The next morning a band of Circassians on horseback came and surrounded the caravan - they took everything they had with them and tore their clothes off. Then the whole bunch, men, women, children, was driven on naked, three hours to the Karadag˘ [a mountain on the Chabur, a tributary of the Euphrates], where the Circassians threw themselves at their victims for the second time, cutting into the crowd with axes, sabers and daggers until the blood was like a blow Electricity flowed and the whole plain was covered with mutilated corpses. Hosep saw how the governor of Der Zor watched everything from a car and encouraged the butchers with loud shouts of bravo. Hosep threw himself under a pile of corpses. The Circassians got up and away. After three days, 31 people still alive crawled out of their horrific hiding place. Another three days were to hike without bread and water to the Euphrates. One after the other b Lie dearly exhausted, only Hosep finally managed to reach Aleppo disguised as a dervish. "

Report by survivor Hosep Sarkissian from Antep in Southeast Anatolia

"As we approached the village, the road was full of corpses on both sides. I saw thousands of corpses with my own eyes. I didn't see them being killed, but I saw the dead. It was summer, so it melted Body fat from the corpses. It was so bad it started to stink everywhere, so [the Turks] picked up all the corpses, doused them with kerosene and burned them. "

A survivor

"On the Euphrates, the gendarmes threw all remaining children under the age of 15 into the river. Those who could swim were shot while fighting the waves."

An Armenian widow from Bayburt