TWO WAR YEARS IN CONSTANTINOPLE
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German propaganda and ethics—The unsuccessful "Holy War" and the German Government—"The Holy War" a crime against civilisation, a chimera, a farce—Underhand dealings—The German Embassy the dupe of adventurers—The morality of German Press representatives—A trusty servant of the German Embassy—Fine official distinctions of morality—The German conception of the rights of individuals.
Now that we have given a rough sketch of the main events of the war as it affected the economic life of the people, and have devoted a chapter to that sinister crime, the Armenian persecutions, we shall leave the Young Turks for a moment and turn to an examination of German propaganda methods.
It is a very painful task for a German who does not profess to be a "World Politician," but really thinks in terms of true "world-politics," to deal with the many intrigues and machinations of our Government in their rela-
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tion to the so-called "Holy War" (Arab. Djihad), where in their quest of a vain illusion they stooped to the very lowest means. Practically all their hopes in that direction have been sadly shattered. Their costly, unscrupulous, thoroughly unmoral efforts against European civilisation in Mohammedan countries have resulted in the terrific counter-stroke of the defection of the Arabs and the foundation of a purely Arabian Chaliphate under English protection. Thus England has already won a brilliant victory against Germany and Turkey in spite of Gallipoli and Kut-el-Amara, although it seems probable that even these will be wiped out by greater deeds on the part of the Entente before long. One could not have a better example of Germany's total inability to succeed in the sphere of world-politics.
The so-called "Holy War," if it had succeeded, would have been one of the greatest crimes against human civilisation that even Germany has on her conscience, remembering as we do her recent ruthless "frightfulness" at sea, and her attempt to set Mexico and the Japanese against the land of most modern civilisation and of greatest liberty. A success-
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ful "Djihad" spreading to all the lands of Islam would have set back by years all that civilisation so patiently and so painfully won; it would not have been at all comparable with the Entente's use of coloured troops in Europe which Germany deprecated so loudly, for in the Holy War it would have been a case of letting the wildest fanaticism loose against the armies of law and order and civilisation; in the case of the Entente it was part of a purely military action on the part of England and France, who held under their sway all the inhabitants, coloured and otherwise, of those Colonial regions from which troops were sent to Europe and to which they will return.
But the attempt against colonial civilisation did not succeed. The "Djihad," proclaimed as it was by the Turanian pseudo-Chaliph and violently anti-Entente, was doomed to failure from the very start from its obvious artificiality. It was a miserable farce, or rather a tragicomedy, the present ending of which, namely the defection of the Arabian Chaliphate, is the direct contrary of what had been aimed at with such fanatical urgency and the use of such immoral propaganda.
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The attempt to "unloose" the Holy War was due primarily to the most absurd illusions. It would seem that in Germany, the land of science, the home of so many eminent doctors of research, even the scholars have been attacked by that disease of being dazzled by wild political illusions, or surely, knowing the countries of Islam outside-in as they must, they would long ago have raised their voices against such arrant folly. It would seem that all her inherent knowledge, all her studies, have been of little or no avail to Germany, so that mistake after mistake has been committed in the realm of world politics. It may be said that Germany, even if she were doubtful of the issue, should still not have left untried this means of crippling her opponents. To that I can only reply by pointing to the actual position of affairs, well known to Germany, not only in English, but also in French and Russian Islamic colonial territory, which should have rendered the "Djihad" entirely and absolutely out of the question.
Let us take for example Egypt, French North-West Africa, and Russian Turkestan, not to speak of the masterly English colonial
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rule in India, which has now been tested and tried for centuries. Anyone who has ever seen Egypt with the area under culture practically doubled under modern English rule by the help of every kind of technical contrivance for the betterment of existing conditions, and the skilful utilisation of all available means at an expense of millions of pounds, with its needy population given an opportunity to earn a living wage and even wealth through a lucrative cultivation of the land under conditions that are a paradise compared with what they were under the Turkish rule of extortion and despotism—anyone who has seen that must have looked from the very beginning with a very doubtful eye on Germany's and Turkey's illusions of stirring up these well-doing people against their rulers.
The same thing occurs again in the extended territory of North-West Africa from the Atlas lands to the Guinea coast and Lake Chad, where France, as I know from personal experience, stands on a high level of colonial excellence, developing all the resources of the country with consummate skill, shaping her "empire colonial" more and more into a shining
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gem in the crown of colonial endeavour, and, as I can testify from my own observations in Morocco, Senegal, the Niger, and the Interior of the Guinea territories of the "A.O.F." (Afrique Occidentale Francaise), capturing the hearts of the whole population by her essential culture, and, last but not least, winning the Mohammedans by her clever Islam policy.
That, finally, Russia, at any rate from the psychological standpoint, is perhaps the best coloniser of Further Asia, even German textbooks on colonial policy admit unreservedly, and the glowing conditions that she has brought about especially in the basin of Ferghana in Turkestan by the introduction of the flourishing and lucrative business of cotton-growing are known to everyone. Only politicians of the most wildly fantastic type, who see everywhere what they want to see, could believe that in this war the Turkish "Turanistic" bait would ever have any effect in Russian Central Asia, or make its inhabitants now living in security, peace, and well-being wish back again the conditions which prevailed under the Emirs of Samarkand, Khiva, and Bokhara. But Germany, who should have been
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well informed if anyone was, believed all these fantastic impossibilities.
One could let it pass with a slight feeling of irritation against Germany if it were merely a case of the failure of the "Djihad." But unfortunately the propaganda, as stupid as it was unsuccessful, exercised in this connection, will be written down for all time as one of the blackest and most despicable marks against Germany's account in this war. In Turkey alone, the underhand manipulation for the unloosing of the "Holy War" and the German Press propaganda so closely allied with it, indeed the whole way in which the German cause in the East was represented journalistically throughout the war, are subjects full of the saddest, most biting irony, to sympathise with which must lower every German who has lived in the Turkish capital in the eyes of the whole civilised world.
In order to demonstrate the role played in this affair by the German Embassy at Constantinople I will not make an exhaustive survey but simply confine myself to a few episodes and outstanding features. An eminent German Red Cross doctor, clear-sighted and
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reliable, who had many tales to tell of what he had seen in the "Caucasus" campaign, said to me one evening, as we sat together at a promenade concert: "Do you see that man in Prussian major's uniform going past? I met him twice in Erzerum last winter. The man was nothing but an employee in a merchant's business in Baku, and had learnt Russian there. He has never done military service. When war broke out, he hurried to the Embassy in Pera and offered his services to stir up the Georgians and other peoples of the Caucasus against Russia. Of course he got full powers to do what he wanted, and guns and ammunition and piles of propaganda pamphlets were placed at his disposal so that he might carry on his work from the frontier of the then still neutral Turkey. Whole chests full of good gold coins were sent to him to be distributed confidentially for propaganda purposes; of course he was his own most confidential friend! He went back to Erzerum without having won a single soul for the cause of the 'Djihad.' That has not prevented his living as a 'grand seigneur,' for the Embassy are not yet daunted, and now the fellow struts about in a major's
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uniform, lent to him, although he has never been a soldier, so that the cause may gain still more prestige."
Numerous examples of similar measures might be cited, and instances without number given, of the German Embassy being made the dupe of greedy adventurers who treated them as an inexhaustible source of gold. First one would appear on the scene who announced himself as the one man to cope with Afghanistan, then another would come along on his way to Persia and play the great man "on a special mission" for a time in Pera while money belonging to the German Empire would find its way into all sorts of low haunts. And so things went on for two years until, with the Arabian catastrophe, even the eyes of the great diplomatic optimists of Ayas-Pasha might have been opened.
I will only mention here how even a bona fide connoisseur of the East like Baron von Oppenheim, who had already made tours of considerable value for research purposes right across the Arabian Peninsula, and so should have known better than to share these false illusions, doled out thousands of marks from his
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own pocket—and millions from the Treasury!—to stir up the "tribes to take part in the "Djihad," and how he returned to Pera from his propaganda tour with a real Bedouin beard, and, still unabashed, took over the control of the German Embassy's "News Bureau," which kept up these much-derided war telegraph and picture offices known in Pera and elsewhere by the non-German populace as sacs de mensonges, and which flooded the whole of the East with waggon loads of pamphlets in every conceivable tongue—in fact these, with guns and ammunition, formed the chief load of the bi-weekly "culture-bringing" Balkan train!
I will only cite the one example of the far-famed Mario Passarge—a real Apache to look at. With his friend Frobenius, the ethnographer and German agent, well known to me personally from French West Africa for his liking for absinthe and negro women and his Teutonic brusqueness emphasised in comparison with the kindly, helpful French officials, as well as by hearsay from many scandalous tales, Passarge undertook that disastrous expedition to the Abyssinians which failed so
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lamentably owing to the Italians, and then after its collapse came to Turkey as special correspondent of the Vossische Zeitung and managed to swindle his way through Macedonia with a false Italian passport to Greece, where he wrote sensational reports for his wonderful newspaper about the atrocities and low morale of Sarrail's army—the same newspaper that had made itself the laughing-stock of the whole of Europe, and at the same time had managed to get the German Government to pursue for two years the shadow of a separate peace with Russia, by publishing a marvellous series of "Special Reports via Stockholm," on conditions in Russia that were nothing but a tissue of lies inspired by blind Jewish hate; if a tithe of them had been true, Russia would have gone under long ago.
I need not repeat my own opinion on all the machinations of the German Embassy, but I will simply give you word for word what a German Press agent in Constantinople (I will mention no names) once said to me: "It is unbelievable," he declared, "what a mob of low characters frequent the German Embassy now. The scum of the earth, people who would
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never have dared before the war to have been seen on the pavements of Ayas-Pasha, have now free entry. Any day you can see some doubtful-looking character accosting the porter at the Embassy, whispering something in his ear, and then being ushered down the steps to where the propaganda department, the news bureau, has its quarters. There he gives wonderful assurances of what he can do, and promises to stir up some Mohammedan people for the "Djihad." Then he waits a while in the ante-room, and is finally received by the authorities ; but the next time he comes to the Embassy he walks in through the well-carpeted main entrance, and requests an audience with the Ambassador or other high official, and we soon find him comfortably equipped and setting off on a 'special mission' as the confidential servant of the German Embassy." But even the recognition of these truths has not prevented this journalist from eating from the crib of the German Embassy!
I cannot leave this disagreeable subject without making some mention of a type that does more than anything to throw light on the morale of this German propaganda. Every-
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one in Constantinople knows—or rather knew, for he has now feathered his nest comfortably and departed to Germany with his money— Mehmed Zekki "Bey," the publisher and chief editor of the military paper Die Nationalver-teidigung and its counterpart La Défense, published daily in French but representative of Young Turkish-German interests. Hundreds of those who know Zekki also know that he used to be called "Capitaine Nelken y Waldberg." Fewer know that "Nelken" alone would have been more in accordance with fact. I will relate the history of this individual, as I know it from the mouths of reliable informants—the members of the Embassy and the Consulate. Nelken, a Roumanian Jew, a shopkeeper by trade, had been several times in prison for bankruptcy and fraud, and at last fled from Roumania. He took refuge in the Turkish capital, where he continued his business and married a Greek wife. Here again he became bankrupt, as is only too clear from the public notice of restoration in the Constantinople newspapers, when his lucrative political activity as the champion of Krupp's, of the German cause and "the holy
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German war," as much a purely pan-Germanic as Islamic affair, provided him with the wherewithal to pay off his former disreputable debts.
To go back to his history—with money won by fraud in his pocket, he deserted his wife and went off, no doubt having made a thorough and most professional study of the subject in the low haunts of Pera, as a white-slave trader to the Argentine, and then—I rely for my information on an official of the German Consulate in Pera—set up as proprietor of a brothel in Buenos Ayres. Then, as often happens, the Argentine special police took him into their service, thinking, on the principle of "setting a thief to catch a thief," that he would have special experience for the post. Grounds enough there for him to add on the second name of his falsified passport "Nelken y Waldberg" and to call himself in Europe a "Capitaine de la Gendarmerie" from the Argentine.
From there he went to Cairo and edited a little private paper called Les Petites Nouvelles Egyptiennes. For repeated extortion he was sentenced to one year's imprisonment, but unfortunately only in contumaciam, for he
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had already fled the country, not, however, before he had been publicly smacked on the face in the "Flasch" beer garden without offering satisfaction as an "Argentine General" should —a performance that was later repeated in every detail in Toklian's Restaurant in Constantinople.
He told me once that he had been sentenced in this way because, on an understanding with the then German Diplomatic Agent in Cairo, von Miquel, he had attacked Lord Cromer's policy sharply, and that his patron von Miquel had given him the timely hint to leave Egypt. I will leave it to one's imagination to discover how much truth there was in this former brothel-keeper's connection with official German "world-politics" and high diplomacy. From what I have seen personally since, I believe that Zekki, alias Nelken, was probably speaking the truth in this case, although it is certainly a fact that in German circles in Cairo at that time ordinary extortion was recognised as being punishable by imprisonment for a considerable length of time.
Nelken then returned to Constantinople and devoted himself with unflagging energy to
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his previous business of agent. He turned to the Islamic faith and became a citizen of the Ottoman Empire because he found it more profitable so to do, and could thus escape from his former liabilities. Then in spite of lack of means, he managed to found a military newspaper, which, however, soon petered out. Nelken became Mehmed Zekki and a journalist, and of course called himself "Bey.
Up to this point the history of this individual is nothing but a characteristic extract from life as it is lived by hundreds of rogues in the East. But now we come to something which is almost unbelievable and which leads me to give credence to his version of his relations with von Miquel, which after all only shows more clearly than ever that German "world-politics" are not above making use of the scum of the earth for their intrigues. In full knowledge of this man's whole black past—as Dr. Weber of the German Embassy himself told me—the German Embassy with the sanction of the Imperial Government (this I know from letters Zekki showed me in great glee from the Foreign Office and the War Office) appointed this fellow, whom all Pera said they would not
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touch with gloves on or with the tongs, to be their confidential agent with a large monthly honorarium and to become a pillar of "the German cause" in the East. And it could not even be said in extenuation that the man had any great desire or any wonderful vocation to represent Germany, for—as the Embassy official said to me—"We knew that Zekki was a dangerous character and rather inclined to the Entente at the outbreak of war, so we decided to win him over by giving him a salary rather than drive him into the enemy's camp." So it simply comes to this, that Germany buys a bankrupt, a blackmailer, a procurer, a brothel-keeper with cash to fight her "Holy War" for her!
As publisher of the Defense Zekki received a large salary from Germany, one from Austria, afterwards cut down not from any excess of moral sense, but simply from excess of economy, and a very considerable sum from Krupp's. As representative of German interests he did all he could to propitiate the Young Turks by the most fulsome flattery, and more recently he was pushing hard to get on the Committee of Union and Progress. But the
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Turks jibbed at what the German Embassy had brought on themselves—seeing Zekki "Bey" moving about their sacred halls with the most imposing nonchalance and condescension. Zekki himself once complained to me bitterly that in spite of his having presented Enver Pasha with a valuable clock worth eighty Turkish pounds which Enver had accepted with pleasure, he would not even answer a written request from Zekki craving an audience with him. (This, incidentally, is a most excellent example of the working of Enver's mind, a megalomaniac as greedy as he was proud.)
The military director of the Turkish Press said to me once: "We are only waiting for the first 'gaffe' in his paper to get this filthy creature hunted out of his lair," and one day when through carelessness a small uncensored and really quite harmless military notice appeared in print (everything is submitted to the censor), the Turkish Government gave it short shrift indeed, and banned sine die this "Ottoman" paper which lived by Krupp and the German trade advertisements, and had become an advocate of the German Embassy,
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because it was paid in good solid cash for it. The paper was replaced by a new one in Turkish hands, called Le Soir.
I could go on talking for ages from most intimate personal knowledge about this man, superb in his own way. His doings were not without a certain comic side which amused while it aggravated one. I could mention, for example, his great lawsuit in Germany in 1916, in which he brought an accusation of libel against some German who had called him a blackmailer and a criminal who had been repeatedly punished. He managed to win the lawsuit—that is, the defenders had to pay a fine of twenty marks, because the evidence brought against Zekki could not be followed up to Egypt on account of England's supremacy on the sea, and also no doubt because the interests of Krupp and the German Embassy could not have this cherished blossom of German propaganda disturbed! So for him at any rate the lack of "freedom of the seas" he had so often raged about in his leading articles was a very appreciable advantage.
The last time I remember seeing the man he was engaged in an earnest tête-à-tête about the
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propagation of German political interests by means of arms with the Nationalist Reichstag deputy, Dr. Streesemann, a representative of the German heavy goods trade and of German jingoism who had hastened to Constantinople for the furtherance of German culture. Most significantly, no doubt in remembrance of his days in Buenos Ayres, Zekki had chosen for this interview the most private room of the Hôtel Moderne, a pension with a bar. where sect could be had; and the worthy representative of the German people, probably nothing loth to have a change from his eternal "Pan-German" diet, accepted his invitation with alacrity. I followed the two gentlemen to make my own investigations, and I certainly got as much amusement, although in a different sense, as one usually does in such haunts. It was really most entertaining to watch Nelken the ex-Jew and Young Turk, with his fez on his head, nodding jovially to all the German officers at the neighbouring tables, and settling the affairs of the realm with this Pan-German representative of the people.
I trust my readers will forgive me if, in spite of the distaste I feel at having to write
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this unsavoury chapter about German Press representatives and those in high diplomatic authority who commission them, I relate one more episode of a like character before I close. One of these writers employed in the service of the German Embassy had done one of his female employees an injury which cannot be repeated here. His colleague—out of professional jealousy, the other said—gave evidence against him under oath at the German Consulate, and the other brought a charge of perjury against him. The German Consulate, in order not to lose such a trusty champion of the German cause for a trifle like the wounded honour of a mere woman—an Armenian to boot!—simply suppressed the whole case, although all Pera was speaking about it.
Against this we have the case later on of a German journalist, most jealous of German interests, who had a highly important document stolen out of his desk with false keys by one of his clerks in the pay of the Young Turkish Committee. The document was the copy of a very confidential report addressed to high official quarters in Germany, in which there were some rather more uncomplimentary re-
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marks about Enver and Talaat than appeared in the version for public consumption. An Embassy less notoriously cowardly than the German one would simply have shielded their man in consideration of the fact that the report was never meant for publication and of the reprehensible way it had been stolen and made public. But our chicken-hearted diplomats allowed him to be dismissed in disgrace by the Turks, and so practically gave their official sanction to the meanest Oriental methods of espionage.
I have, however, now come to the conclusion from information I have received that German cowardice in this case probably had a background of hypocrisy and malice, for this same journalist had spoken with remarkable freedom, not indeed as a pro-Englander, but in contrast to German and Turkish narrow-mindedness, of how well he had been treated by the English authorities, and particularly General Maxwell in the exercise of his profession in Cairo, where he had been allowed for fully five weeks, after the outbreak of war, to edit a German newspaper. (I have seen the numbers myself and wondered at the al-
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most incredible liberality of the English censorship.) Instead of being sent to Malta he had been treated most fairly and kindly and given every opportunity to get away safely to Syria. Of course the narration of events like these were rather out of place in our "God Punish England" time, and it was no doubt on account of this, apart from all cowardice, that the German Embassy made their fine disstinctions between personal and political morality in the case of their Press representative.
We have spoken of German propaganda for the "Holy War," as carried out by individuals as well as by pamphlets and the Press. The Turkish capital saw a very appreciable amount of this in the shape of wandering adventurers and printed paper. Several thousand Algerian, Tunisian, French West African, Russian Tartar, and Turkestan prisoners of war of Mohammedan religion from the German internment camps were kept for weeks in Pera and urged by the German Government in defiance of all the laws of the peoples to join the "Djihad" against their own rulers.
They were told that they would have the
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great honour of being presented to the Caliph in Stamboul; as devout Mohammedans they could of course not find much to object to in that. A wonderfully attractive picture was painted for them of the delights of settling in the flourishing lands of the East, and living free of expense instead of starving in prison under the rod of German non-commissioned officers till the far-distant conclusion of peace. One can well imagine how such marvellous conjuring tricks would appeal to these poor fellows.
They have repeatedly told me that they had been promised to be allowed to settle in Turkey without any mention being made of using them again as soldiers. But once on the way to Constantinople there was no further question of asking them what their opinion was of what was being done to them. They were simply treated as Turkish voluntary soldiers and sent off to the Front, to Armenia, and the Irak. How far they were used as real frontline soldiers or in service behind the lines I do not know; what I do know is that they left Constantinople in as great numbers as they came from Germany, armed with rifles and
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fully equipped for service in the field. One can therefore guess how many of them became "settlers" as they had been promised. Several days running in the early summer of 1916 I saw them being marched off in the direction of the Haidar-Pasha station on the Anatolian Railway. They were headed by a Turkish band, but on not one single face of all these serried ranks did I see the slightest spark of enthusiasm, and the German soldiers and officers escorting each separate section were not exactly calculated to leave the impression with the public that these were zealots fighting voluntarily for their faith who could not get fast enough out to the Front to be shot or hanged by their former masters!
In her system of recruiting in the newly founded kingdom of Poland, Germany demonstrated even more clearly of what she was capable in this direction.
Stuermer, Harry. Two War Years in Constantinople. USA: George H. Doran