THE TREATMENT OF ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
[page xxix] Letter from Mr. H. A. L. Fisher. .
LETTER FROM MR. H. A. L. FISHER,
VICE-CHANCELLOR OF SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY,
TO VISCOUNT BRYCE.
August 2nd, 1916.
My dear Lord Bryce,
The evidence here collected with respect to the sufferings of the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire during the present war will carry conviction wherever and whenever it is studied by honest enquirers. It bears upon the face of it all the marks of credibility. In the first place, the transactions were recorded soon after they took place and while the memory of them was still fresh and poignant. Then the greater part of the story rests upon the word of eye-witnesses, and the remainder upon the evidence of persons who had special opportunities for obtaining correct information. It is true that some of the witnesses are Armenians, whose testimony, if otherwise unconfirmed, might be regarded as liable to be over-coloured or distorted, but the Armenian evidence does not stand alone. It is corroborated by reports received from Americans, Danes, Swiss, Germans, Italians and other foreigners. Again, this foreign testimony comes for the most part from men and women whose calling alone entitles them to be heard with respect, that is to say, from witnesses who may fairly be expected to exceed the average level of character and intelligence and to view the transactions which they record with as much detachment as is compatible with human feeling. Indeed, the foreign witnesses who happened to be spectators of the deportation, dispersion, and massacre of the Armenian nation, do not strike me as being, in any one case, blind and indiscriminate haters of the Turk. They are prompt to notice facts which strike them as creditable to individual members of the Moslem community.
I am also impressed with the cumulative effect of the evidence. Whoever speaks, and from whatever quarter in the wide region covered by these reports the voice may proceed, the story is one and the same. There are no discrepancies or contradictions of importance, but, on the contrary, countless scattered pieces of mutual corroboration. There is no contrariety as to the broad fact that the Armenian population has been uprooted from its homes, dispersed, and, to a large though not exactly calculable extent, exterminated in consequence of general orders issued from Constantinople. It is clear that a catastrophe, conceived upon a scale quite unparalleled in modern history, has been contrived for the Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire. It is found that the original responsibility rests with the Ottoman Government at Constantinople, whose policy was actively seconded by the members of the Committee of Union and Progress in the Provinces. And in view of the fact that the representations
Letter from Mr. H. A.L. Fisher.
of the Austrian Ambassador with the Porte were effectual in procuring a partial measure of exemption for the Armenian Catholics, we are led to surmise that the unspeakable horrors which this volume records might have been mitigated, if not wholly checked, had active and energetic remonstrances been from the first moment addressed to the Ottoman Government by the two Powers who had acquired a predominant influence in Constantinople. The evidence, on the contrary, tends to suggest that these two Powers were, in a general way, favourable to the policy of deportation.
LETTER FROM PROFESSOR GILBERT MURRAY,
REGIUS PROFESSOR OF GREEK IN THE
UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, TO VISCOUNT BRYCE.
82, Woodstock Road,
June 21th, 1916.
Dear Lord Bryce,
I have spent some time studying the documents you are about to publish relative to the deportations and massacres of Armenians in the Turkish Empire during the spring and summer of 1915. I know, of course, how carefully a historian should scrutinize the evidence for events so startling in character, reported to have occurred in regions so far removed from the eyes of civilized Europe. I realize that in times of persecution passions run high, that oriental races tend to use hyperbolical language, and that the victims of oppression cannot be expected to speak with strict fairness of their oppressors. But the evidence of these letters and reports will bear any scrutiny and overpower any scepticism. Their genuineness is established beyond question, though obviously you are right in withholding certain of the names of persons and places. The statements of the Armenian refugees themselves are fully confirmed by residents of American, Scandinavian and even of German nationality ; and the undesigned agreement between so many credible witnesses from widely separate districts puts all the main lines of the story beyond the possibility of doubt.
LETTER FROM MR. MOORFIELD STOREY,
EX-PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN
BAR ASSOCIATION, TO VISCOUNT BRYCE.
735, Exchange Building,
7th August, 1916.
My dear Sir,
I have examined considerable portions of the volume which contains the statements regarding the treatment of the Armenians by the Turks, in order to determine the value of these statements as evidence.
I have no doubt that, while there may be inaccuracies of detail, these statements establish without any question the essential facts. It must be borne in mind that in such a case the evidence of eye-witnesses is not easily obtained; the victims, with few exceptions, are dead; the perpetrators will not confess; any casual spectators cannot be reached, and in most cases are either in sympathy with what was done or afraid to speak. There are no tribunals before which witnesses can be summoned and compelled to testify, and a rigid censorship is maintained by the authorities responsible for the crimes, which prevents the truth from coming out freely, and no investigation by impartial persons will be permitted.
Such statements as you print are the best evidence which, in the circumstances, it is possible to obtain. They come from persons holding positions which give weight to their words, and from other persons with no motive to falsify, and it is impossible that such a body of concurring evidence should have been manufactured. Moreover, it is confirmed by evidence from German sources which has with difficulty escaped the rigid censorship maintained by the German authorities—a censorship which is in itself a confession, since there is no reason why the Germans should not give full currency to such evidence unless the authorities felt themselves in some way responsible for what it discloses.
In my opinion, the evidence which you print is as reliable as that upon which rests our belief in many of the universally admitted facts of history, and I think it establishes beyond any reasonable doubt the deliberate purpose of the Turkish authorities practically to exterminate the Armenians, and their responsibility for the hideous atrocities which have been perpetrated upon that unhappy people.
LETTER, DATED ALEPPO, 8th OCTOBER, 1915, FROM FOUR MEMBERS OF THE GERMAN MISSIONS STAFF IN TURKEY TO THE IMPERIAL GERMAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AT BERLIN.*
We think it our duty to draw the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
to the fact that our school work will be deprived, for the future, of its
moral basis and will lose all authority in the eyes of the natives, if it
is really beyond the power of the German Government to mitigate the brutality
of the treatment which the exiled women and children of the massacred Armenians
In face of the scenes of horror which are being unfolded daily before our eyes in the neighbourhood of our school, our educational activity becomes a mockery of humanity. How can we make our pupils listen to the Tales of the Seven Dwarfs, how can we teach them conjugations and declensions, when, in the compounds next door to our school, death is carrying off their starving compatriots—when there are girls and women and children, practically naked, some lying on the ground, others stretched between the dead or the coffins made ready for them beforehand, and breathing their last breath !
Out of 2,000 to 3,000 peasant women from the Armenian Plateau who were brought here in good health, only forty or fifty skeletons are left. The prettier ones are the victims of their gaolers' lust ; the plain ones succumb to blows, hunger and thirst (they lie by the water's edge, but are not allowed to quench their thirst). The Europeans are forbidden to distribute bread to the starving. Every day more than a hundred corpses are carried out of Aleppo.
All this happens under the eyes of high Turkish officials. There are forty or fifty emaciated phantoms crowded into the compound opposite our school. They are women out of their mind ; they have forgotten how to eat ; when one offers them bread, they throw it aside with indifference. They only groan and wait for death.
" See," say the natives : " Taâlim el Alman (the teaching
of the Germans)."
The German scutcheon is in danger of being smirched for ever in the memory of the Near Eastern peoples. There are natives of Aleppo, more enlightened than the rest, who say : " The Germans do not want these horrors. Perhaps the German nation does not know about them. If it did, how could the German Press, which is attached to the truth, talk about the humanity of the treatment accorded to the Armenians who are guilty of
* A copy of this letter was communicated to the Berner Tagwacht by Dr. Forel, a Swiss gentleman, and reproduced in the Journal de Généve, 17th August, 1916. It was signed by four persons—Dr. Gräter (of Swiss nationality), Dr. Niepage (of German nationality), and two others whose names have been withheld by Dr. Forel.—EDITOR.
[page xxxiv] Letter from Four German Missionaries.
High Treason ? Perhaps, too, the German Government has its hands tied by
some contract defining the powers of the [German and Turkish] States in regard
to one another's affairs ? "
No, when it is a question of giving over thousands of women and children to death by starvation, the words " Opportunism " and " definition of powers " lose their meaning. Every civilised human being is " empowered " in this case to interfere, and it is his bounden duty to do so. Our prestige in the East is the thing at stake. There are even Turks and Arabs who have remained human, and who shake their heads in sorrow when they see, in the exile convoys that pass through the town, how the brutal soldiers shower blows on women with child who can march no farther.
We may expect further and still more dreadful hecatombs after the order published by Djemal Pasha. (The engineers of the Baghdad Railway are forbidden, by this order, to photograph the Armenian convoys ; any plates they have already used for this must be given up within twenty-four hours, under penalty of prosecution before the Council of War.) It is a proof that the responsible authorities fear the light, but have no intention of putting an end to scenes which are a disgrace to humanity.
We know that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already, from other sources, received detailed descriptions of what is happening here. But as no change has occurred in the system of the deportations, we feel ourselves under a double obligation to make this report, all the more because the fact of our living abroad enables us to see more clearly the immense danger by which the German name is threatened here.
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