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James Bryce

THE TREATMENT OF ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

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[page xxxv] Memorandum by the Editor.

MEMORANDUM BY THE EDITOR.

As far as their contents are concerned, the documents collected in this volume explain themselves, and if any reader wishes for an outline of the events they describe, as a guide to their detail, he will find it in the " Historical Summary " at the end of the book, especially in Section V. In this preliminary memorandum the Editor has simply to state the sources, character and value of the documents, and to explain the system on which they have been edited.

The sources of the documents are very varied. Some of them were communicated to the Editor directly by the writers themselves, or, in the case of private letters, by the persons to whom the letters were addressed. Several of those relating to the distribution of relief in Russian Caucasia have been placed in his hands by the courtesy of the British Foreign Office. Others, again, he owes to the courtesy of individuals, including Lord Bryce, who has superintended the work throughout, and given most generously of his time and thought towards making it as accurate and complete as possible ; several members of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief* ; the Rev. G. T. Scott, Assistant Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. ; M. Arshag Tchobanian ; Dr. Herbert Adams Gibbons ; Dr. William Walter Rockwell, of the Union Theological Seminary of New York ; the Rev. Stephen Trowbridge, Secretary of the American Red Cross Committee at Cairo ; the Rev. I. N. Camp, a missionary in the service of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, at present stationed at Cairo; Aneurin Williams, Esq., M.P. ; the Rev. Harold Buxton, Treasurer of the Armenian

_______________________

* AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.

70, Fifth Avenue, New York.

Including work of the Armenian Relief, the Persian War Relief, and
the Syrian-Palestine Relief Committees.

James L. Barton.
Chairman.
Samuel T. Dutton.
Secretary.
Walter H. Mallory. Field
Field Secretary
Charles R. Crane, Treasurer.
Arthur J. Brown. John Moffat.
  Edwin M. Bulkley. John R. Mott.
  John B. Calvert. Frank Mason North.
  John D. Crimmins. Harry V. Osborne.
  Cleveland H. Dodge. George A. Plimpton.
  Charles W. Eliot. Rt. Rev. P. Rhinelander.
  William T. Ellis. Karl Davis Robinson.
  James Cardinal Gibbons. William W. Rockwell.
  Rt. Rev. David H. Greer. George T. Scott.
  Norman Hapgood. Isaac N. Seligman.
  Maurice H. Harris. William Sloane.
  William I. Haven. Edward Lincoln Smith.
  Hamilton Holt. James M. Speers.
  Arthur Curtiss James. Oscar M. Straus.
  Frederick Lynch. Stanley White.
  Chas. S. MacFarland. Talcott Williams.
  H. Pereira Mendes. Stephen S. Wise.

C2

[page xxxvi] Memorandum by the Editor.

Refugees (Lord Mayor's) Fund; Mr. J. D. Bourchier, correspondent of the London Times newspaper in the Balkans ; Mrs. D. S. Margoliouth, of Oxford ; the Rev. F. N. Heazell, Organising Secretary of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Assyrian Mission ; Mr. G. H. Paelian, an American citizen resident in London ; Mr. A. S. Safrastian, of Tiflis ; and Mr. H. N. Mosdit-chian, of London. Another source of material has been the Press. Despatches, letters and statements have been reprinted in this volume from the columns of English, American, Swiss, French, Russian, Italian and also German newspapers, and from Armenian journals published at Tiflis, London and New York. The editors of Ararat, Gotchnag and the New Armenia have shown the Editor of this volume every possible kindness, and have courteously presented him with free copies of their current issues.

The documents are all rendered here in English, but they reached the Editor's hands in various languages—not only English but French, Italian, German and Armenian. The translations from the French, German and Italian have been made by the Editor with the assistance of his wife. For the translation of documents from the Armenian he is indebted to Mr. Paelian, who has devoted a large part of his scanty leisure to doing the Editor this most valuable service. But for Mr. Paelian's promptness and good will, the work might have been considerably delayed.

The character of the documents varies with the writers. Some of the witnesses are native Armenian or Nestorian inhabitants of the Near East, who were either victims of the atrocities themselves or were intimately connected with others who played a direct part in the scenes described. A majority of the witnesses, however, are foreign residents in the Ottoman Empire or the Persian Province of Azerbaijan, and nearly all these, again, are citizens of neutral countries, either European or American—missionaries, teachers, doctors, Red Cross nurses or officials. A few witnesses (and these are the weightiest of all) are subjects of states allied to Turkey in the present war.

The value of the documents of course depends upon the witnesses' standing and character, and upon the opportunities they possessed of knowing the facts. The Editor is certain in his own mind that all the documents published here are genuine statements of the truth, and he presents them in this assurance. Errors will, doubtless, be here and there discovered, but he believes that any errors there may be have been made in good faith, and that they will prove to touch only points of detail, which do not affect the truth of the whole. At the same time he realises that, considered as legal evidence before a court, the documents differ considerably in probative value. From this legal point of view, they can be tabulated in several classes :—

(a) Evidence published by the editor of a German journal in Germany, and suppressed by the Imperial German Censorship (Doc. 12). This evidence is, of course, above any suspicion of prejudice against the Turks.

[page xxxvii] Memorandum by the Editor

(b) Documents written by German eye-witnesses of the events they describe (Docs. 18, 23, 91, 145), or by neutral eye-witnesses resident in Turkey in the service of German missionary or philanthropic institutions, or of the German Red Cross (Docs. 62, 64, 117, 142). This evidence is equally above suspicion of partiality against the Turks or in favour of the Armenians.

(c) Documents written by other neutral eye-witnesses, principally American and Swiss, who have no connection, either public or private, with the Turco-German Alliance or with the Entente, and who are presumably without bias towards either party. Documents of such authorship constitute the bulk of the material in this volume, and practically all of them are written at first hand. There are no apparent grounds for not reposing full confidence in them.

(d) Documents written by Armenian or Nestorian natives of the regions concerned. This native evidence may be thought to have somewhat less cogency than the rest, as the witnesses have suffered personally from the horrors they describe, and are open to stronger influences of prejudice and emotion than foreign observers. Errors of detail are more likely to occur here, especially as regards estimates of numbers. The Editor wishes to repeat, however, that, after comparing the different statements of these native witnesses with one another, and with the documents in the three preceding classes, he is convinced of the substantial accuracy of all the evidence, of whatever class, that is presented in this volume.

The total body of evidence is large, as the considerable bulk of the volume shows, and this is the more satisfactory because the Ottoman Government has taken every possible precaution to prevent any knowledge of its proceedings from reaching the outer world. Private postal and telegraphic communications were suspended between Constantinople and the provinces, and between one province and another. There was a stringent censorship of outgoing mails, even the consuls of neutral countries were forbidden to telegraph in cypher, and travellers leaving Turkey were searched and divested of every scrap of paper, whether written upon or blank, in their possession. A quotation from a letter, written by the author of one of our documents* just after she had safely passed beyond the Ottoman frontier, will give some idea of the severity of this official embargo upon news of every sort:

" As I was coming out from under the hands of the censor, I was asked to write to you, telling you something of the real situation in our part of the world. In my opinion the censorship now is worse than it was in the olden days, for now they have such highly trained men. One of our censors had a five years' training

_________________
* Doc. 121.

[page xxxviii] Memorandum by the Editor

in the New York Post Office. If our letters seem to tell you little, please remember that there are the strictest orders against the censor's passing anything on politics, war or even poverty. Any sentences that even touch on these subjects are either cut out or marked or blotted out with ink. A German lady even wrote to a friend of hers in Germany, telling her of poverty in BM. and asking her to send relief funds. She purposely mentioned no causes for this poverty, but only said there was such a condition. The only parts of the letter that reached her friend were the opening and closing sentences. The knife had claimed the rest. So, as Mrs. E. said : ' Please tell our friends in America that when we write about concerts and field meets and such things, that does not show that the country is safe or that work is as usual. We write about that simply because there is nothing else about which we are allowed to write.' "

Nearly all our evidence, therefore, comes from residents in Turkey who witnessed, like this lady, the events that occurred in some particular district or districts, and subsequently left Turkey for some other country, where they could record what they had seen without endangering their lives. Yet, even on neutral ground, these witnesses are not beyond the reach of Turkish resentment. Many of them are anxious to take up their work again in Turkey at the earliest opportunity, and nearly all of them still have interests in the country, or fellow-workers, or friends, who are so many gages in the Ottoman Government's hands. That Government is known to have agents in Europe, and possibly in America as well, whose business it is to inform against anyone who exposes its misdeeds; and the Young Turkish gang, by whom the Ottoman Government is controlled, have no shame and no scruple about wreaking vengeance by any and every means upon accusers whose indictments they are wholly unable to answer before the judgment seat of the civilised world. It is, therefore, absolutely essential to withhold in many cases the names of the witnesses themselves, and of people, or even of places, mentioned in their testimony. In fact, some of the documents have only been communicated to the Editor on this express condition—for instance, the document enclosed with the letter quoted a few lines above. "May I ask you, however," continues this very letter, " not to publish my name or that of any missionary from BM., not even the name of BM. itself or any of the places which I shall mention, as the censorship is so strict and terrible now that the mention of names brings us under suspicion at once. May I instance ? Dr. E. and Dr. L. have been under such suspicion or ill-will that they have not been able to get a simple family letter through to members of their family in America for months, and the whole station of AC. is under sufficient suspicion to prevent most of the letters they write to you and Mr. N. from reaching their destination. The reason, we feel quite certain, is a report on Moslem work which was sent to you."

[page xxxix] Memorandum by the Editor

And the same considerations are urged even more emphatically by Miss A., the author of Doc. 137, who is our chief witness for the occurrences at AC. itself :—

" For the sake of the people left in Turkey, and especially my orphan children, I hope nothing will be published as from me. If any word of it should get into Turkey, it might have very serious consequences for them.

" Although very few magazines or papers were allowed into the interior, yet occasionally we saw one. In the coast towns, pieces are being cut from the papers, and sold at high prices to Turks. I left my post just because I thought my presence there might make it hard for those under my charge ; but if anything that I am supposed to have told gets back into Turkey, I fear the whole of my community may have to suffer. I do not think that those outside Turkey fully realise what danger there is, even in letters, to those left in the country. The local authorities seemed to be always on the watch for something to find as a cause of complaint against both missionaries and Armenians.

" The poor refugees that we saw in BF. as we passed through begged us to help them, but, when we got to BJ., the missionaries there said they had been forbidden to give aid. One woman had been taken to the Government Building because she had been found helping some poor families in her own district that she had been visiting for years. There were many sick at BF., and the pastor and others sent post-cards, begging us to send help quickly. One man asked me to lend him some money, saying I could get it back from his brother in America. It was the danger to him that made me hesitate. The money was finally sent, but one feared to think what it might be an excuse for. And so over all the country.

" All the time when people were in great need, the question was in one's mind : ' Will relief endanger their lives ? ' New rules were constantly being sprung upon us. A person would write a letter, but before it reached its destination it would be ' against the regulations.'

" All money in banks and all property belonging to the exiles was confiscated by the Government. The people who were deported from AC. did not know it, but when they had used up all that they had taken with them, they would write to us. It was in this way that we found out that they had neither money nor property left; but we were powerless to let them know what the difficulty was, so they would write again and again.

" All the time, we felt we were in a trap. The most courageous Armenians dared not come to see me, nor could I go to their homes. We had to meet at some public building if they wanted to see me about anything.

" No one living in freedom can understand what it feels like to be in Turkey these days."

[page xl] Memorandum by the Editor

In face of this, the reader will see for himself that the publication of names, under present circumstances, would often be a grave and perilous breach of trust, and the Editor has, therefore, (though only where absolutely necessary, and without making any change whatever affecting the substance of the documents), substituted arbitrary symbols for the names of persons and places in the text, in the manner shown in the preceding quotation. A complete key to these symbols has been prepared and communicated, in confidence, to the British Foreign Office, Lord Bryce, Dr. Barton, and the Rev. G. T. Scott; and this key will be published as soon as circumstances permit, or, in other words, as soon as the dangers which would threaten the persons referred to have ceased to exist.

The Ottoman Government and its allies, whose good name is almost as seriously compromised as the Ottoman name by the facts, may be expected to make what capital they can out of the precautions imposed by their own treatment of their Christian subjects, and to impugn the genuineness of the documents that have been edited in the way here described. That was the course they adopted in the case of the evidence relating to the conduct of the German Army in Belgium, which was published with the same, equally necessary, reservations. The Editor can best forestall such disingenuous criticism by stating clearly the principles on which this suppression of names has been made:

(a) Names of persons are not published in this volume unless they have already appeared publicly, in the same connection, in print, or unless the person in question is clearly beyond the reach of Turkish revenge.

(b) Names of places are published wherever possible. They are only withheld when they would be certain to reveal the identity of persons mentioned in connection with them.

(c) All names withheld are represented in the text by capital letters of the alphabet or combinations of capital letters. These letters are not the initials of the names in question, but were assigned in an arbitrary order, as the various documents happened to come into the Editor's hands.

(d) The name of a place is always represented by the same symbol throughout the volume, e.g., "X." stands for the same place, whether it occurs in Section I. or Section XI.

(e) In the case of the names of people the same symbol only stands for the same person within a single section, e.g., " Miss A." stands for the same person, in whatever document it occurs in Section XVII. ; but in the documents of Section XI. " Miss A." represents someone different.

The Editor wishes to state, once more, that these documents in which names are represented by symbols are not a whit less valid, as evidence, than the documents in which no such substitutions

[page xli] Memorandum by tht Editor

have had to be made. If the reader desires confirmation of this, the Editor would refer him to the gentlemen mentioned above, who have been placed in possession of the confidential key.

There are other documents, however, where the names have, on similar grounds, been withheld from the Editor himself, either by the authors of the documents or by those through whose hands the Editor obtained them, or where the ultimate source of the testimony is for some reason obscure. The Editor has been careful to indicate these cases as conspicuously as possible. Where there is any name, either of a place or of a person, unknown to him in the text, he has represented it by a blank (---------).

Where the name of the author of the document is unknown to him, he has stated this in a footnote to the title by which the document is headed.*

The Editor is, of course, aware that these documents which he only possesses in a defective form cannot be presented as evidence in the strict sense by himself, and can plausibly be repudiated by the parties whose crimes they describe. He is the more content to admit this legal objection to them because they merely confirm what is established by the other evidence independently of them. They constitute no more than twenty-two out of the 150 documents in the whole collection, and, if they are passed over, the picture presented by the far larger mass of documents that cannot be impugned remains perfectly precise and complete. The Editor has chosen to publish them, in their natural order, with the rest, because he has no more doubt about their genuineness than about the genuineness of the others—and with good reason, for, out of the twenty-two documents in question, not less then eleven have been communicated to him by the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief— citizens of high standing in a neutral country and gentlemen of unimpeachable good faith. He repeats, however, that these Twenty-two documents are in no way essential to the presentation of the case as a whole.

The documents are arranged in groups, in a geographical order, which is adjusted as far as possible to the general chronological order in which the different regions were affected by the Ottoman Government's scheme. The first group or section contains documents that do not confine themselves to any one region, but give general descriptions of events occurring throughout the Ottoman Empire. These documents are for the most part earlier in date than those relating to particular districts, and are therefore placed at the beginning. The second section opens the geographical series with the documents relating to Van, the north-easternmost province of the Ottoman Empire in the direction of the Caucasus and Azerbaijan. The third section deals with Bitlis, the province adjoining Van on the west, which suffered next in

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* In other words, wherever the title of a document is given without such a footnote, that means that the Editor is in possession of the author's name, even if the name is not published but represented by a symbol (e.g., " Dr. L."), or by such periphrases as " A foreign resident," &c.

[page xlii] Memorandum by the Editor

order; the fourth with Azerbaijan, the Persian province on the eastern side of Van, which suffered during the Turkish offensive in the winter of 1914-5; the fifth with Russian Trans-Caucasia, where the refugees from Van and Azerbaijan sought refuge in August, 1915. The succeeding sections follow one another in geographical order from east to west, beginning with Erzeroum, the border province adjoining Van on the north-west along the Russo-Turkish frontier. Erzeroum constitutes the sixth section, Mamouret-ul-Aziz the seventh, Trebizond the eighth, Sivas the ninth, Kaisaria the tenth, the town of X. the eleventh, Angora the twelfth, Constantinople and the adjacent districts the thirteenth. From this point the sections run in reverse order from north-west to south-east, following the track of the Baghdad Railway. The fourteenth section deals with places along this route between (but excluding) Adapazar and Aleppo ; the fifteenth deals with Cilicia, the region through which the Baghdad Railway passes half-way along its course, and this is the only case in which the chronological and geographical arrangements seriously conflict, for the Cilicians were the first to suffer—they were already being deported twelve days before fighting broke out at Van. The sixteenth section is Jibal Mousa, a group of villages adjoining Cilicia on the south ; the seventeenth the Armenian colonies at Ourfa and AC, two cities on the Mesopotamian fringe ; the eighteenth Aleppo, upon which nearly all the convoys of exiles converged; and the nineteenth Damascus and Der-el-Zor, the two districts where the greater part of the survivors were finally deposited. A twentieth section has also been added for documents received while the volume was in the press.

Wherever a date is given without further indication, it may be assumed to be in " New Style." Where two alternative dates are given (e.g., 26th September/9th October), the first is " Old Style" and the second " New." Dates are never given in " Old Style " alone. Where sums of money are given in Turkish or Persian units, the English equivalent is usually added in brackets. Sums given in dollars have always been translated into English pounds sterling.

The names of places have not been spelt on any consistent system, there being no recognised system in general use. The Editor has merely endeavoured to standardise the spelling of each particular name wherever it occurs.

An index of all places referred to by name in the documents that are in the Editor's possession, whether the name has been withheld in the text or not, has been compiled for him most accurately by Miss Margaret Toynbee, to whom he is grateful for this important addition to the usefulness of the book. This index is printed at the end of the volume. The map which accompanies it has been compiled by the Editor himself from various sources, chiefly from Kiepert's excellent sheets of Asia Minor, in the Map Room of the Royal Geographical Society, where he has received most kind and valuable assistance from the staff.


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

Acknowledgements:

Source: Viscount Bryce The Treatment of Armenians.London, 1916
Scanned by: Irina Minasyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan
Corrections: Anna Vrtanesyan, Lina Kamalyan

See also:
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