Der Völkermord an den Armeniern und die Shoah

Kolloquium WS 01 / 02

 

Harput 1915:

Augenzeugenberichte, Dokumente, Auszüge aus Tagebüchern

 

Hans-Lukas Kieser & Dominik Schaller

 

 

 

Mobilisierung, Situation der eingezogenen Soldaten, Deserteure:

"The treatment received by these men by their officers offered spectacles every day that made the blood boil. Some of the officers were trained in Germany, and all were imbued with German ideals of discipline. The poor private must toe the mark exactly and promptly, or it would go hard with him. Neither promptness nor exactness are natural characteristics of the villager in eastern Turkey, so there were sights and sounds under our windows that were not pleasant to see and hear. Sometimes the difficulty was one of language, as the Kurds frequently know no Turkish, and naturally the young military sprigs from Constantinople did not learn Kurdish. […] On the drill ground, cruelty to the soldiers was common enough. It was not at all unusual to see an officer step up to a soldier standing in the line, and for some offense equally unintelligible to the bystander and to the soldier, slap him in the face, or, if the offense was more serious, knock him down, or, as I have seen once or twice, kick him in the stomach. Perhaps it should be said in palliation, if possible, of the Turkish officer’s brutality, that the Kurdish recruit is unbearably stupid, and it is discouraging work trying to teach him anything, especially without a common language, as is too often the case. […] It is not to be wondered at, that with such treatment, the Turkish soldier is prone to desert whenever he gets a chance. A large part of the duty of the officers is to keep the men from escaping, but in this they are only moderately successful. While the soldiers were quartered in our schools we became fairly well acquainted with their officers, so that the facts came to us in a confidential way. It was not at all uncommon for the roll call in the morning to show a shortage of thirty or forty men. And one morning we learned that one hundred and thirty men had deserted from our college buildings during a single night. Dropping from the windows, bribing the doorkeepers, and persuading their petty officers to escape with them were some of the means used when special vigilance had closed the usual ways of escape. On the road the proportion of deserters was much larger than when in barracks. Officers have repeatedly told me that they did not expect to get more than half of their men from the training camp to the front. […] The highways all over Turkey are dangerous because many of these deserters have taken to highway robbery as a means of livelihood. But there are plenty of deserters who go back to their own homes and pursue their own affairs, only hiding when the officers com in search of deserters. In some places, because the Kurdish tribes are unruly, or the villages inaccessible, these officers never go. In all of the Dersim, north of Harpoot, and Aghija Dagh, south of Malatia, and in some other areas, the Turkish government would not dare to arrest a deserter, as general uprising of the Kurds in only held off by treating them with great leniency."

Riggs, S. 40ff.

 

" I did not believe it, there were so many rumours. But when I came down to Emaus I found that it was really true. Karen-Marie was beside herself with sorrow. Together we went to the hospital to telephone Harpoot and hear their opinion. It was decided that we were to wait as there was so much unrest and everyone was feeling fear and trepidation. We waited until Thursday, but the situation did not improve. It got worse day by day and it was decided that we were not to go to Geoljuk as the missionaries of Harpoot thought that thousands of Turks and Kurds would take refuge in the mountains and they would be followed by soldiers. So we stayed. On Friday I went back to Harpoot, and now a hard and difficult period has followed. Mezreh and Husenik were filled with Turks, Kurds and Armenians who had been captured. Food was in short supply, and there was no accommodation for the many people, so the government has now taken over the Turkish, French, and German schools. This school, intended for 80 and at the most 100 pupils, is now packed with 1, 000 men. It is like a swarm of flies. There is no food. They only get the small loaf a day of which a man eats two with his meal. There is no bedding and the soldiers walk from house to house to collect blankets, but there are not enough for everyone to have his own, far from it. They do not have any form of uniform, but walk about in their white shalvars, loose shirts, and bright red or light blue small coats. Everything is rotten among them, and it almost broke our hearts when we had to led our friends, the Armenian men, go. Haw appalling to thing that chaste young Christian men had to live among thousands of these brutal and wild people who are worse than animals in their life and lust. The missionaries in Harpoot did what they could. Every day they went to the Vali and the Bingbashi and spoke to them, because the law says that all teachers of Illahi schools are exempted, and it looked as if they were to go free. But no, this is Turkey, and the law is like a mould which is changed several times a day. The law saying that teachers were exempted was changed, so now they were to be sent to a military academy in Constantinople for training as officers. Poor fellows, they had to go, and several of them were not strong. At home they have wives, old parents, and children, but there was nothing for it, they had to go otherwise they would be hanged. So they left and none of them expected to return. They walked towards an open grave, for epidemics are raging among the soldiers on account the poor sanitary conditions. In the autumn, for instance, 25’000 soldiers died of typhoid fever in the course of a few months and nothing was done about it."

Jacobsen, S. 33f. (3. 11. 1914)

 

"Two men were hanged in the market today. Another man, now in hospital, is to be hanged as soon as he is well enough to leave. He had refused to serve as a soldier and when two soldiers came after him, he shot at them. Typhus rages in Mezreh. In one of the military hospitals 20 die daily. It has been said that conditions are terrible. Patients suffering from all kinds of diseases are in the same wards, and the wards are so full that they are almost lying on top of each other on the floor. Lice and dirt are everywhere. They have to brush the lice from the floor to make a place for a patient to lie down.

Recaptured deserters are sent to Erzeroum in hand irons. They are then sent to the front, to serve in the first line. Turks as well as Armenians are escaping in thousands and are being treated terribly. Their families are being evicted from their homes and their houses burned."

Jacobsen, S. 59f. ( 6. 4. 1915)

 

 

Während der ersten Kriegsmonate spannungsfreies Verhältnis zwischen Armeniern und Türken bzw. Kurden, Gerüchte, Misstrauen wird geschürt:

"At every village where I stopped I found homes desolate, and suffering was beginning to be keen because the breadwinners had gone to the front. Armenians and Moslems alike shared in this hardship, and a bond of sympathy was everywhere manifest between the two races. And this in spite of the fact that for the Moslems this was a Holy War, while the Armenians were being forced to fight in defense of all that they loathed and feared in the Turkish government. Yet all were suffering together, and neighbors became more neighborly under the stress of the common anxiety and the common hardships."

Riggs, S. 15.

 

"As for the feelings of the Moslem population, I saw no evidence whatever during the early months of 1915 that they suspected or feared their Armenian neighbors. There was no animosity nor religious fanaticism evident, and when the storm finally broke, we, who were living in the midst of it realized, clearly, as we remarked frequently in our conversations at the time, that this was no popular outbreak. The attack on the Armenian people, which soon developed into a systematic attempt to exterminate the race, was a cold blooded, unprovoked, deliberate act, planned and carried out without popular approval, by the military masters of Turkey. The attempt was made, during the period just preceding the edict of deportation, to inflame the minds of the Moslem population. Reports were circulated of seditious activity in distant points, and later on, of outrages perpetrated by the Russians and Armenians against the Turkish border population. These reports were spread and dilated on by high officials. I myself heard some fantastic tales of outrage from the lips of the Vali himself, told in a way to arouse resentment in the hearts of Turks present, though the stories never appeared in official print and, so far as I have been able to ascertain, had no atom of foundation in fact."

Riggs, S. 46f.

 

 

Inhaftierung und Folterung von Armeniern, Angst vor einem grossen Massaker:

" There is great unrest in Harpoot. Many shops and private houses are being searched and closed up. Three of our professors and a teacher were taken by soldiers and brought to the government building. Later they were brought back to their houses, which were searched, in their presence. Every piece of paper on which there was writing was taken, and all the men were put in prison. The same happened in Mezreh and Husenik. Everybody is frightened and expects a massacre."

Jacobsen, S. 61 (1. 5. 1915)

 

"Still many more have been put in prison. Together with the house-searching and the imprisonment here, they have also started in other towns and villages - Malatia, Bitlis and Van. At the same time guards were set in the streets, to make sure that people were not going from house to house, passing messages or bringing things out. The young minister in Houlakegh has also been imprisoned."

Jacobsen, S. 62 (2. 5. 1915)

 

"Last night houses were searched again and people are in fear and dread. Today Perchenj and other villages are being searched and the number of prisoners increases. The poor, poor people. It will take a long time before all the confiscated books are censored. When food is brought to the prisoners it is eaten by the soldiers, so the poor prisoners have to live on dry bread. Everyone believes it is the beginning of a massacre."

Jacobsen, S. 62 (3. 5. 1915)

 

"The people are in great dread. They all say this is the carrying-out of a well-laid plan, and they are certain that it is the beginning of a massacre. A respite of five days has been given during which all weapons are to be handed over to the government, but everyone says they will not obey, as then the Turks would become furious and take revenge. A lot of Armenians have been sent away to repair the roads. In Hooiloo 600 young trees have been felled to lay blame on Armenians and enable them to say that they punish with justice."

Jacobsen, S. 62 (4. 5. 1915)

 

"Turks and Kurds threaten and speak very roughly to Armenians, telling them that a massacre is on the way. Turkish women are also full of hatred and say that the Christians are to blame for the war reaching them, and it is their fault that so many die. They also say that the Christian doctors give the soldiers poison."

Jacobsen, S. 62 (5. 5. 1915)

 

"A further step in the direction of creating suspicion and racial animosity was the arrest and prosecution of a large number of leading Armenians. This campaign began with the arrest, on May 1st, of the senior professor of Euphrates College. This man, whose attitude on all political matters was well known to be scrupulously correct, was trusted and admired by Moslems as well as Christians, and was above any suspicion on any clandestine activity against the government. Without any matter of accusation or warrant, he was suddenly arrested and imprisoned, and his house searched. For some time he was detained without examination, while the police examined his private letters and papers, which had been very ostentatiously gathered up and taken to headquarters. Within a few days, a considerable number of other arrests were made of men in similarly prominent position. All the arrests were similar, and considerable publicity was given to this activity. […] Before the examination had proceeded far, the prisoners one by one were put into secret confinement, so that it was impossible for their friends to see them, nor to know what treatment they were receiving. Rumour soon had it that they were being tortured in prison, a report that we were slow to believe, though eventually we were forced to believe it. Arrests continued, the persons arrested being supposedly implicated by the confessions of those already under examination. Probably all those whose names appeared in letters or other documents held to be suspicious were included among those arrested, though there were one or two persons known to have been named in such letters who escaped arrest for a good while. Within six weeks of the first arrest, there were in prison some forty or fifty of the leading citizens Harpoot, all Armenians of prominence and influence. […] The purpose of this torture was, ostensibly, to extort from the victims information about the seditious plots of the Armenians. The sort of confessions secured, so far as I know, were of no value whatever along this line as, for example, that evidence secured as to the organization of the ecclesiastical body, already referred to, was an organization already pubic and well known. The real purpose of the action of the authorities, however, was probably not to secure any information, but to produce an effect on the minds of both Moslems and Christians, an effort in which they were highly successful. The friendly attitude of the Moslems underwent a marked change. Suspicion took the place of confidence, as many of the common people were persuaded of the reality of charges brought against the imprisoned Armenians. […] The result of the so-called confessions and of the surrender of weapons was naturally to awake greater suspicions in the minds of the Moslem population, suspicion and animosity that was carefully fanned into flame by the government officials and others. The member of Parliament already mentioned was especially active in propagating the idea that a dangerous plot had been unearthed and was being vigorously prosecuted by the government. […] At the same time that these local activities were terrifying the Armenians and arousing the indignation of the Moslems, events in other parts of the country were assuming an ominous appearance. The loss of Van to the Russians, through the activity and bravery of the Armenians, produced a tremendous impression. Of course it was not then generally known that the Armenians had only acted in self-defense after the Turks had massacred many of them. Outbreaks were reported in various places, and some of these, notably in the region of Diarbekir, were real enough, though the Armenians were the victims not the aggressors in these disturbances. Although the idea of an uprising of the Armenians was under the circumstances absolutely absurd, the government officials made a great show of taking precautions against this possibility, even to the extent of arming the civilian Moslem population. The possibility of an open outbreak and uncontrollable massacre of the Armenians became very real and threatening. Apparently, however, this was not a part of the general plan of the government, and the city was put under military guard., which, though not much of a restraint on the Moslem population, yet helped to allay the much overwrought fears of those who might otherwise have been inclined to take matters in their own hands."

Riggs, S. 47ff.

 

"One day announcement was made that the orders had come from Constantinople that if the Armenians would surrender their weapons, arrests and prosecutions should cease. The Governor General had summoned Mr. Ehmann, director of the German Mission, and Der V. , the leading Armenian priest in the city, and had commissioned them to go about the city together urging the Armenians to take advantage of this order. He also took upon himself the most solemn oaths of which a Moslem is capable, swearing by the "Koran and by the Nikiah", that if the Armenians would submit, no further harm should come to any of them. The Armenians did not trust the word of the Vali. But such solemn oaths were unusual, and the two men so commissioned urged their people to submit. There were only a few weapons left, and the owners of these decided that there was no use in further clinging to the hope of self- defense. So the weapons were surrendered, and, to make the more complete show of surrender, some few Armenians who had no weapons, actually bought some and surrendered them to the police. Instead of bringing relief, however, this action seemed to further inflame the Turks. It became known that the Vali, Sabit Bey, who had persuaded the Armenians by his solemn oaths to trust him, had - to his eternal damnation be it said - sent a photograph of those weapons to Constantinople, with a report that he had uncovered a plot to overthrow the government.

Riggs, S. 77

 

Erste Massaker an Gefangenen:

"It was evident that some terrible fate was being planned for the Armenians, though as yet no hint had been given as to what that fate should be. By June 20th several hundred of the leading Armenians had been put in prison, and on that day one hundred and fifty from the prison in Harpoot were sent to Mezireh, and three days later were sent out to their death."

Riggs, S. 77

 

"The prisoners were sent away. Among them were a lot of our friends - teachers and professors - whom we know are absolutely innocent. They were sent away under the pretence that they were being exiled, but they had nothing at all with them, and they were not allowed to see their families or friends. They were sent away in the night in order that no one should see them. It was a hard blow for all of us. How much we longed to set them free, but our hands were tied. We can only pray for them, that they will remain faithful till the end."

Jacobsen, S. 71 (15. 6. 1915)

"Rumours were circulating that the prisoners who had been sent away on the 15th were to be returned. A committee had been appointed to examine them. The guilty would then be punished and the innocent set free. We were happy to hear this news, and we began to hope again, but it turned out not to be true. Then we heard that all these men had been taken up to the mountains and killed. At the same time all the young Armenian men who were soldiers were imprisoned in a large building in Mezreh for several days. They were given neither bread nor water, and they cried and shouted to the passers-by to give them just a drop of water. They stretched out their handkerchiefs from the windows in order that merciful people could dip them in water and give them back to them, but not even that was allowed, as the police who were patrolling did not allow people near the building. This big crowd of young men were then sent away - many of them had obtained degrees at out College - and we do not know exactly what has happened to them, but we fear that they have also been killed when they reached the mountains."

Jacobsen, S. 71 (17. Juni 1915)

 

Der Befehl zur Deportation:

"Then on Saturday June 26 the people were told that they were all to be exiled, and they were to be given five days to get ready. Many prisoners were released. They were told not to take more than twenty liras with them but the rest was to be deposited with the government. They were told first that these men who had gone were to be recalled, then they were told that they were to wait for their families. We asked permission for two or three of the missionaries to go with them. This was refused. We were allowed to buy things from them but not to store things. They were told they were to go to Ourfa. Then began buying their things and giving money to the poor, making knapsacks and filling them with bread and giving out. At first we wept till it seemed that in our lives we could never do anything again but weep. Then the horror of it began to settle on us. We find it impossible to weep. This past week the police have been selling their things at auction. The Moslems crowd in and the streets are crowded with men, women and boys carrying all sorts of household goods. They are buying things for almost nothing. Many things are brought here and dumped down saying, "If I never come back it is yours." One of the Professor’s son, a special friend of Henry’s came in and said, "Henry, I am going into exile, here are my stamp collection, if I die they are yours." […]

Atkinson, S. 38f. (26. Juni 1915)

 

" It was proclaimed from all mosques today that all Armenians are to be sent into exile. They are to be given four days in which to dispose of all their possessions, and be ready for the journey to an unknown destination for an indefinite period. It is said that they will be sent down to the desert south of Ourfa. If this is true, then it is obvious that the whole meaning behind this movement of the Armenian people is their extermination. The Consul went to the Vali and asked if one of the missionaries would be allowed to accompany the Armenians from Harpoot, but the Vali answered that it was impossible. The Consul asked what would become of the thousands of children, the old, and the weak? The Vali answered, "Doctors will travel with them." The Consul also reminded the Vali of the great number of prisoners who had been sent away under the pretence of exile, but who had been killed as soon as they reached the mountains. The Vali answered that they had been attacked by Kurds, but promised that the people being sent away now would be well-guarded. There was nothing else for us to do but to tell all this to the people to comfort them, but how difficult it will be to send them off, helpless, in the charge of the Turks, when we have so much proof of how they will ill-treat them. Oh, if only we could go with them. It would be such a comfort to them, and better for us, even to suffer torment and death with them, than to remain here and let them go alone.

Jacobsen, S. 72 (26. 6. 1915)

 

Letzte Vorkehrungen:

" But in the case of the Armenians at this time, the situation was made infinitely worse by the fact that practically all of the preparations had to be made by the women. In spite of the Vali’s promises the men were still in prison, and new arrests were being made at an accelerating rate, so that the men who were still out of jail dared not show their heads for fear of being dragged away to prison. So it transpired that in those early days of July, thousands of delicate women, entirely unaccustomed to business affairs, had to undertake the task of closing out the business affairs of their households, selling all their household goods, and in many cases their husband’s stock in trade, and making all necessary preparations for a hurried departure for a journey of many weeks duration. As all were going, none could look to another for much help, as each was busy with her own problems. The selling of household goods under those circumstances was not an easy matter. Four fifths of the population of the city, it is true, were Moslems who were not affected by the deportation order. But the Moslem population had been impoverished by months of war, so that they were in no position to spend much money for the ordinary sort of household goods, much less for those luxuries that many of the Armenians possessed but to which the Turks hod not accustomed themselves to any general extent. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that pots and pans were a drug on the market, and desks and typewriters could hardly be given away. Mountains of bedding, furniture and utensils were stacked in the public square and sold at auction, seldom bringing more than one fifth of their value, and often far less than that. Foodstuffs, being scare and immediately necessary, brought a fair price, but aside from that, the Armenians got very small returns for the sale of all the accumulations of years of thrifty and industrious living. Among the buyers of these goods there were, of course, all sorts of characters. Many of the Moslems considered this the opportunity of a lifetime to get-rich-quick. Not content with buying at ridiculously low prices at the public auctions, they went to the homes of the Armenians and often frightened the poor women into parting with their property for a song in order to get rid of their truculent customers. Not a few were common thieves, who, after gaining admittance to a house on the pretext of buying goods, helped themselves without even the pretense of paying for what they got. There were those, too, who went to the homes of these defenseless Armenian women for more hideous motives, and the life of the poor victims was made so unbearable that not a few gave up the attempt to sell their things, and simply locked their doors and waited for the end."

Riggs, S. 84f.

 

Ein weiteres Massaker:

"Terrible things happened today in Harpoot. Soldiers surrounded the town trying to capture all men and boys over 13 years. Two hundred were taken and sent to Mezreh where they were joined by prisoners already there, and all were taken to Khankeoy. There were 800 in all and they were then killed by their guards. […]"

Jacobsen, S. 73 (6. 7. 1915)

 

Die Art der Deportation:

"Though we heard such meager reports from our won friends, we had abundant material from others for forming a picture of what was the nature of that ordeal that the Turks called deportation. […] There was a good deal of variety in the experiences of the different parties. The people were usually started off in great thongs of several hundred or some thousands at a time; the entire population of a village or a large section of a city being herded along together. In one respect, the experience of all was remarkably uniform. The men had, with terribly few exceptions, been put to death either before starting or on the journey. […] It was not only the men, however, who met wholesale and violent death. There were several cases where women shared the same fate, though in those cases there seemed to be some special motive for the atrocity. […] But for most of the women and children was reserved the long and lingering suffering that made massacre seem to them a merciful fate - suffering such as was foreseen and planned by the perpetrators of this horror. […] It seemed to be the intention of the authorities that the journey should be prolonged as much as possible, and even when they were protected and cared for - which cases were very rare - the people were kept travelling so long that there was little hope of any but the most hardy surviving. The routes chosen were often the most roundabout. […] Even where actual violence was not used, the guards were frequently active in tormenting their charges. Hunger and thirst are terrible tortures. […] Instead of allowing the people to camp near to some abundant supply of water, the guards sometimes forced them to stop at a great distance from water, so that only by walking a long way each time could the people get water. In other cases, where the water supply was not sufficient for the multitude, the guards were said to have taken possession of the spring and allowed only those to drink who would pay for it. But it is possible that starvation was the means most generally used to reduce and exterminate the people. […]

Riggs, S. 138ff.

 

 

Auszüge aus:

Atkinson, Tacy: The German, the Turks and the Devil Made a Triple Alliance. Harpoot Diaries, 1908-1917, Princeton/New Jersey, 2000.

Jacobsen, Maria: Diaries of a Danish Missionary. Harpoot 1907-1919, hg. von Ara Sarafian, Princeton/London, 2001.

Riggs, Henry H. : Days of Tragedy in Armenia. Personal Experiences in Harpoot, 1915-1917, Ann Arbor/Michigan, 1997.

 

 

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2. 11. 2001