During the war Mehmed Talaat was one of the three paramount leaders of the Ottoman Empire. Together with Ahmed Djemal and Ismail Enver he brought Turkey into the war on Germany’s side and then played a leading role in directing a campaign of extermination against the empire’s Armenian community. Defeat has transformed Talaat into an exile.
Under Allied pressure Talaat and his fellows have been tried and sentenced to death in absentia by the Ottoman authorities, both for conspiring to bring the empire into a war that it could not win and for the mass killing and plundering of the Armenians. There seems little chance of the sentence being served on Talaat, who is now living in Germany. However, today a rough form of justice is served on him.
Armenian revolutionaries have been organising a campaign of assassination against leading organisers of the brutalities inflicted on their people. Their agents track Talaat down to Charlottenburg in Berlin. Soghomon Tehlirian, whose family was largely wiped out by the Turks, is given the job of killing Talaat. Today he strikes, despatching Talaat with a single bullet fired into the back of his head after confirming his identity. Tehlirian makes no attempt to escape and is taken into custody by the Berlin police.
My World War 1 blog finished two years ago, but when I saw that today was the 100th anniversary of the main architect of the Armenian Genocide it felt like a piece of the war’s unfinished business that merited marking. The aftermath of Talaat’s killing is intriguing – Tehlirian was put on trial for his murder but acquitted after a short trial on the grounds that that the horrors of the Armenian Genocide had rendered him temporarily insane. Tehlirian died in 1960 in the United States. Talaat’s body was eventually re-interred in Istanbul’s Monument of Liberty.
Soghomon Tehlirian & Talaat Pasha (Armenian Youth Federation-WUS on Twitter)
New York Times report of Talaat’s killing (Wikipedia: Soghomon Tehlirian)