THE TREATMENT OF ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
Documents presented to
VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
By Viscount Bryce
With a preface by
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PREFACE BY VISCOUNT BRYCE.
In the summer of 1915 accounts, few and scanty at first, but increasing in volume later, began to find their way out of Asiatic Turkey as to the events that were happening there. These accounts described what seemed to be an effort to exterminate a whole nation, without distinction of age or sex, whose misfortune it was to be the subjects of a Government devoid of scruples and of pity, and the policy they disclosed was one without precedent even in the blood-stained annals of the East. It then became the obvious duty of those who realised the gravity of these events to try to collect and put together all the data available for the purpose of presenting a full and authentic record of what had occurred. This has been done in the present volume. It contains all the evidence that could be obtained up till July 1916 as to the massacres and deportations of the Armenian and other Eastern Christians dwelling in Asia Minor, Armenia and that north-western corner of Persia which was invaded by the Turkish troops. It is presented primarily as a contribution to history, but partly also for the purpose of enabling the civilised nations of Europe to comprehend the problems which will arise at the end of this war, when it will become necessary to provide for the future government of what are now the Turkish dominions. The compilation has been made in the spirit proper to an historical enquiry, that is to say, nothing has been omitted which could throw light on the facts, whatever the political bearing of the accounts might be. In such an enquiry, no racial or religious sympathies, no prejudices, not even the natural horror raised by crimes, ought to distract the mind of the enquirer from the duty of trying to ascertain the real facts.
As will be seen from the analysis which follows, the evidence here collected comes from various sources.
A large, perhaps the largest, part has been drawn from neutral witnesses who were living in or passing through Asiatic Turkey while these events were happening, and had opportunities of observing them.
Another part comes from natives of the country, nearly all Christians, who succeeded, despite the stringency of the Turkish censorship, in getting letters into neutral countries, or who themselves escaped into Greece, or Russia, or Egypt and were there able to write down what they had seen.
A third but much smaller part comes from subjects of the now belligerent Powers (mostly Germans) who were in Turkey when these events were happening, and subsequently published in their own countries accounts based on their personal knowledge.
In presenting this evidence it has been necessary in very many cases to withhold the names of the witnesses, because to publish their names would be to expose such of them as are still within
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the Turkish dominions, or the relations and friends of these persons, to the ruthless vengeance of the gang who now rule those dominions in the name of the unfortunate Sultan. Even in the case of those neutral witnesses who are safe in their own countries, a similar precaution must be observed, because many of them, or their friends and associates, have property in Turkey which would at once, despite their neutral character, be seized by the Turkish Government. These difficulties, inevitable in the nature of the case, are of course only temporary. The names of the great majority of the witnesses are known to the editor of this book and to myself*, and also to several other persons †, and they can be made public as soon as it is certain that no harm will result to these witnesses or to their friends. That certainty evidently cannot be attained till the war is over and the rule of the savage gang already referred to has come to an end.
The question now arises—What is the value of this evidence ? Though the names of many of the witnesses cannot be given, I may say that most of them, and nearly all of those who, belong to neutral or belligerent countries, are persons entitled to confidence in respect of their character and standing, and are, moreover, persons who have no conceivable motive for inventing or perverting facts, because they are (with extremely few exceptions) either neutrals with no national or personal or pecuniary interests involved, or else German subjects. Were I free to mention names, the trustworthiness of these neutrals and Germans would at once be recognised.
Let us, however, look at the evidence itself.
(i) Nearly all of it comes from eye-witnesses, some of whom wrote it down themselves, while others gave it to persons who wrote it out at the time from the statements given to them orally. Nearly all of it, moreover, was written immediately after the events described, when the witnesses' recollection was still fresh and clear.
(ii) The main facts rest upon evidence coming from different and independent sources. When the same fact is stated by witnesses who had no communication with one another, and in many cases did not even speak the same language, the presumption in favour of its truth becomes strong.
Take, for instance, the evidence (Section VIII.) regarding the particularly terrible events at Trebizond. We have a statement from the Italian Consul-General (Doc. 73), from the Kavass of the local branch of the Ottoman Bank, a Montenegrin under Italian protection (Doc. 74), and from an Armenian girl whose family lived in the neighbourhood of the Italian Consulate, and who was brought out of Turkey by the Italian Consul-General as his maidservant. The testimony of these three witnesses exactly tallies, not only as to the public crimes committed in the city before they left it, but also as to their personal relations with one another (for they each mention the others explicitly in their several
* Memorandum by the Editor, page xli.
† Memorandum by the Editor, page xl.
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statements). Yet they were in no touch whatever with one another when their respective testimonies were given. The Consul-General gave his at Rome, in an interview with an Italian journalist; the Kavass gave his in an interview with an Armenian gentleman in Egypt; and the girl hers in Roumania to a compatriot resident in that country. The three statements had certainly never been collated till they came, by different channels, into the hands of the editor of this book. In addition to this, there is a statement from another foreign resident at Trebizond (Doc. 72), which reached us through America.
Or take the case of the convoys of exiles deported from the Vilayet of Erzeroum, and, in particular, from the towns of Erzeroum and Baibourt. We have a second-hand account of their fate in Doc. 2, a despatch from a well-informed source at Constantinople ; we have a first-hand account, which completely bears out the former, from a lady who was herself deported in the third convoy of exiles (Doc. 59) ; we have the narrative of two Danish nurses in the service of the German Red Cross at Erzindjan, who witnessed the passage of the Baibourt exiles through that place (Doc. 62) ; and finally there are three witnesses from the town of H., several days' journey further along the exiles' route, who refer independently to the arrival of convoys from Erzeroum and the neighbourhood. One of these latter witnesses is a (third) Danish Red Cross nurse (Doc. 64), one a neutral resident at H. of different nationality, and one an Armenian inhabitant of the town.
These are two typical instances in which broad groups of events are independently and consistently recorded, but there are innumerable instances of the same kind in the case of particular occurrences. The hanging of the Armenian Bishop of Baibourt, for example, is mentioned, at second-hand, in Doc. 7 (written at Constantinople) and Doc. 12 (a selection of evidence published in Germany) ; but it is also witnessed to by the author of Doc. 59, an actual resident at Baibourt who was present there at the time of the murder. Again, the disappearance of the Bishop of Erzeroum on the road to exile is not only recorded in Doc. 11, a memorandum from a competent source at Bukarest, but is confirmed, in Docs. 57 and 76, by testimony obtained from eye-witnesses on the spot after the Russian occupation of Erzeroum had left them free to speak out.
(iii) Facts of the same, or of a very similar, nature occurring in different places, are deposed to by different and independent witnesses. As there is every reason to believe—and indeed it is hardly denied—that the massacres and deportations were carried out under general orders proceeding from Constantinople, the fact that persons who knew only what was happening in one locality record circumstances there broadly resembling those which occurred in another locality goes to show the general correctness of both sets of accounts.
Thus, the two Danish Red Cross nurses (Doc. 62) state that they twice witnessed the massacre, in cold blood, of gangs of
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unarmed Armenian soldiers employed on navvy work, along the road from Erzindjan to Sivas. In Doc. 7 (written at Constantinople) we find a statement that other gangs of unarmed Armenian soldiers were similarly murdered on the roads between Ourfa and Diyarbekir, and Diyarbekir and Harpout; and the massacre on this latter section of road is confirmed by a German lady resident, at the time, at Harpout (Doc. 23).
Again, there is frequent mention of roads being lined, or littered, with the corpses of Armenian exiles who had died of exhaustion or been murdered on the way. If these allusions were merely made in general terms, they might conceivably be explained away as amplifications of some isolated case, or even as rhetorical embellishments of the exiles' story without foundation in fact. But when we find such statements made with regard to particular stretches of road in widely different localities, and often by more than one witness with regard to a given stretch, we are led to infer that this wholesale mortality by the wayside was in very-deed a frequent concomitant of the Deportations, and an inevitable consequence of the method on which the general scheme of Deportation was organised from headquarters. We hear in Doc. 7, for instance, of corpses on the road from Malatia to Sivas, on the testimony of a Moslem traveller ; we hear of them on the road from Diyarbekir to Ourfa in Doc. 12 (a German cavalry captain), and on the road from Ourfa to Aleppo in Doc. 9 (an Armenian witness), in Doc. 135 (an interned Englishwoman), and also in Doc. 64 (a Danish Red Cross nurse). The latter gives the detail of the corpses being mangled by wild beasts, a detail also mentioned by the German authors of Docs. 12 and 23. Similar testimony from German officers regarding the road between Baghdad and Aleppo is reported independently in Docs. 108 and 121.
(iv) The volume of this concurrent evidence from different quarters is so large as to establish the main facts beyond all question. Errors of detail in some instances may be allowed for. Exaggeration may, in the case of native witnesses, who were more likely to be excited, be also, now and then, allowed for. But the general character of the events stands out, resting on foundations too broad to be shaken, and even details comparatively unimportant in themselves are often remarkably corroborated from different quarters. The fact that the Zeitounli exiles at Sultania were for some time prevented by the local Turkish authorities from receiving relief is attested in Doc. 4 (Constantinople) and Doc. 123 (the town of B. in Cilicia), as well as in Doc. 125 from Konia. The malicious trick by which the exiles from Shar were deflected from a good road to a bad, in order that they might be compelled to abandon their carts, is recorded independently in Docs. 12 and 126.
(v) In particular it is to be noted that many of the most shocking and horrible accounts are those for which there is the most abundant testimony from the most trustworthy neutral
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witnesses. None of the worst cruelties rest on native evidence alone. If all that class of evidence were entirely struck out, the general effect would be much the same, though some of the minor details would be wanting. One may, indeed, say that an examination of the neutral evidence tends to confirm the native evidence as a whole by showing that there is in it less of exaggeration than might have been expected.
Docs. 7 and 9, for instance, both of which are native reports at second-hand, refer in somewhat rhetorical terms to the corpses of murdered Armenians washed down by the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates. Yet their words are more than justified by many concrete and independent pieces of evidence. The description in Doc. 12 (German material) of how barge-loads of Armenians were drowned in the Tigris below Diyarbekir, renders more fully credible the accounts of how the Armenians of Trebizond were drowned wholesale in the Black Sea. Doc. 12 also contains the statement, from a German employee of the Baghdad Railway, that the Armenian exiles who reached Biredjik were drowned in batches every night in the Euphrates; and similar horrors are reported from almost every section of the Euphrates' course. Docs. 56, 57, 59 and 62 describe how the convoys of exiles from the Vilayet of Erzeroum were cast into the Kara Su (western branch of the Euphrates) at the gorge called Kamakh Boghaz, and were then either shot in the water or left to drown. The author of Doc. 59 was present at such a scene, though she was herself spared, and the information in Docs. 56 and 57 was obtained direct from a lady who was actually cast in, but managed to struggle to the bank and escape. The authors of Doc. 62 received their information from a gendarme who had been attached to a convoy and had himself participated in the massacre. Doc. 24 records the experiences of an Armenian woman deported from Moush, who was driven with her fellow-exiles into the Mourad Su (eastern branch of the Euphrates), but also managed to escape, though the rest were drowned. Doc. 66 describes corpses floating in the river in the neighbourhood of Kiakhta, and Doc. 137 the drowning of exiles in the tributaries of the Euphrates between Harpout and Aleppo. These are evidently instances of a regular practice, and when we find the exiles from Trebizond and Kerasond being disposed of in the same fashion in a comparatively distant part of the Turkish Empire, we are almost compelled to infer that the drowning of the exiles en masse was a definite part of the general scheme drawn out by the Young Turk leaders at Constantinople.
Perhaps the most terrible feature of all was the suffering of the women with child, who were made to march with the convoys and gave birth to their babies on the road. This is alluded to in Doc. 12, from a German source, at second-hand, but in Docs. 129 and 137 we have the testimony of neutral witnesses who actually succoured these victims, so far as the extremity of their plight and the brutality of their escort made
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succour possible. It should be mentioned that in Doc. 68 an Armenian exile testifies to the kindness of an individual Turkish gendarme to one of her fellow-victims who was in these straits.
(vi) The vast scale of these massacres and the pitiless cruelty with which the deportations were carried out may seem to some readers to throw doubt on the authenticity of the narratives. Can human beings (it may be asked) have perpetrated such crimes on innocent women and children ? But a recollection of previous massacres will show that such crimes are part of the long settled and often repeated policy of Turkish rulers, "In Chios, nearly a century ago, the Turks slaughtered almost the whole Greek population of the island. In European Turkey in 1876 many thousands of Bulgarians were killed on the suspicion of an intended rising, and the outrages committed on women were, on a smaller scale, as bad as those here recorded. In 1895 and 1896 more than a hundred thousand Armenian Christians were put to death by Abd-ul-Hamid, many thousands of whom died as martyrs to their Christian faith, by abjuring which they could have saved their lives. All these massacres are registered not only in the ordinary press records of current history but in the reports of British diplomatic and consular officials written at the time. They are as certain as anything else that has happened in our day. There is, therefore, no antecedent improbability to be overcome before the accounts here given can be accepted. All that happened in 1915 is in the regular line of Turkish policy. The only differences are in the scale of the present crimes, and in the fact that the lingering sufferings of deportations in which the deaths were as numerous as in the massacres, and fell with special severity upon the women, have in this latest instance been added.
The evidence is cumulative. Each part of it supports the rest because each part is independent of the others. The main facts are the same, and reveal the same plans and intentions at work. Even the varieties are instructive because they show those diversities of temper and feeling which appear in human nature everywhere.
The Turkish officials are usually heartless and callous. But here and there we see one of a finer temper, who refuses to carry out the orders given him and is sometimes dismissed for his refusal. The Moslem rabble is usually pitiless. It pillages the houses and robs the persons of the hapless exiles. But now and then there appear pious and compassionate Moslems who try to save the lives or alleviate the miseries of their Christian neighbours. We have a vivid picture of human life, where wickedness in high places deliberately lets loose the passions of racial or religious hatred, as well as the commoner passion of rapacity, yet cannot extinguish those better feelings which show as points of light in the gloom.
It is, however, for the reader to form his own judgment on these documents as he peruses them. They do not, and by the nature of the case cannot, constitute what is called judicial
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evidence, such as a Court of Justice obtains when it puts witnesses on oath and subjects them to cross-examination. But by far the larger part (almost all, indeed, of what is here published) does constitute historical evidence of the best kind, inasmuch as the statements come from those who saw the events they describe and recorded them in writing immediately afterwards. They corroborate one another, the narratives given by different observers showing a substantial agreement, which becomes conclusive when we find the salient facts repeated with no more variations in detail than the various opportunities of the independent observers made natural. The gravest facts are those for which the evidence is most complete, and it all tallies fatally with that which twenty years ago established the guilt of Abd-ul-Hamid for the deeds that have made his name infamous. In this case there are, moreover, what was wanting then, admissions which add weight to the testimony here presented, I mean the admissions of the Turkish Government and of their German apologists.* The attempts made to find excuses for wholesale slaughter and for the removal of a whole people from its homes leave no room for doubt as to the slaughter and the removal. The main facts are established by the confession of the criminals themselves. What the evidence here presented does is to show in detail how these things were effected, what cruelties accompanied them, and how inexcusable they were. The disproval of the palliations which the Turks have put forward is as complete as the proof of the atrocities themselves.
In order to test the soundness of my own conclusions as to the value of the evidence, I have submitted it to the judgment of three friends, men for whose opinion everyone who knows them will have the highest respect—a distinguished historian, Mr. H. A. L. Fisher (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield); a distinguished scholar, Mr. Gilbert Murray (Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford) ; and a distinguished American lawyer of long experience and high authority, Mr. Moorfield Storey, of Boston, Mass.—men accustomed in their respective walks of life to examine and appraise evidence; and I append the letters which convey their several views.
This preface is intended to deal only with the credibility of the evidence here presented, so I will refrain from comment on
* For instance, the conversation of a German officer reported in Doc. 108, p. 420. For the general attitude of the Turks and Germans towards the treatment of the Armenians, see " Historical Summary," chapter V.
On the 11th January, 1916, Herr von Stumm, Chief of the Political Department of the German Foreign Office, gave the following answer in the Reichstag to a question from Dr. Liebknecht:
"It is known to the Imperial Chancellor that revolutionary demonstrations, organised by our enemies, have taken place in Armenia, and that they have caused the Turkish Government to expel the Armenian population of certain districts and to allot to them new dwelling-places. An exchange of views about the reaction of these measures upon the population is now taking place. Further information cannot be given."
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the facts. A single observation, or rather a single question, may, however, be permitted from one who has closely followed the history of the Turkish East for more than forty years. European travellers have often commended the honesty and the kindliness of the Turkish peasantry, and our soldiers have said that they are fair fighters. Against them I have nothing to say, and will even add that I have known individual Turkish officials who impressed me as men of honesty and good-will. But the record of the rulers of Turkey for the last two or three centuries, from the Sultan on his throne down to the district Mutessarif, is. taken as a whole, an almost unbroken record of corruption, of injustice, of an oppression which often rises into hideous cruelty. The Young Turks, when they deposed Abd-ul-Hamid, came forward as the apostles of freedom, promising equal rights and equal treatment to all Ottoman subjects. The facts here recorded show how that promise was kept. Can any one still continue to hope that the evils of such a government are curable ? Or does the evidence contained in this volume furnish the most terrible and convincing proof that it can no longer be permitted to rule over subjects of a different faith ?
Contents Cover Map Title page Insert Contents (as in the book)
Correspondence Preface Letters Memorandum
Chapter I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV
XV XVI XVII XVIII XIX XX
Summary Annexe Index of place Message
Viscount Bryce The Treatment of Armenians.London, 1916