15/9/1918 Massacres in Baku as the city falls to the Turks

Turkish forces are advancing in the Caucasus, hoping to recover territories lost to Russia in previous wars. They are also seeking to assist their ethnic kinfolk in Azerbaijan, where fighting is taking place between Azeri nationalists on the one hand and a motley alliance of socialists, Armenians and a British intervention force on the other.

A Turkish attempt to capture Baku in August was repulsed with the aid of a British formation led by Lionel Dunsterville, but now the reinforced Turks have another go. Under the command of Nuri Pasha, brother of war minister Enver Pasha, the Turks rout the defenders and storm the city.

Disorder in Baku in March saw atrocities committed against Azeris living in the city. Now it is the turn of the city’s Christian population, with Armenians in particular being subjected to massacres by the victors. In some respect the slaughter is revenge for events of earlier in the year, but it is also a continuation of the extermination of the Armenians that the Turkish authorities have been implementing over the last number of years.

image source:

Turkish troops on the move (Wikipedia)

16/12/1917 Turkey’s extermination of the Armenians #1917Live

Since the start of the war the Turkish authorities have been doing their best to exterminate the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. Many of the Armenians have been shot but more have been killed by deliberate starvation as the Turks deport them from their homes in Anatolia and send them on death marches without adequate provisions to inhospitable desert regions, where they are left to die.

Turkey’s allies have been doing a lot of hand-wringing about the Armenian genocide but are unwilling or unable to put a stop to it. German and Austro-Hungarian diplomats have made greater efforts to protect Armenians that have converted to Catholicism or Protestantism, but even here their efforts are rather ineffectual. Today the German embassy reports that less than a quarter of Anatolia’s pre-war Catholic Armenian population remains alive.

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Armenian deportees; a mother and the corpses of her children (Wikipedia: Armenian Genocide)

16/12/1916 Documenting the Hell of Horrifying Ghosts

Armin T. Wegner had been serving as a medical officer with the German army in the Turkish Empire. He noticed the extermination of the Armenians taking place around him: the massacres, the deportations, the death marches, the killings by starvation and so on. Horrified by what he saw, he did what he could to stop the slaughter or, failing that, to document it so that it could not be denied in future. A keen photographer, he captured many disturbing images of the Armenians’ suffering across Syria and Mesopotamia. Against military orders he had these smuggled these and notes describing the mass killings smuggled back to Germany and to diplomats from neutral countries.

Now Wegner is back in Germany, apparently recalled because the German authorities were concerned at the potential embarrassment his efforts cause to relations with their Turkish allies. Today he writes to Marga von Bonin, a German nurse he had befriended in Constantinople. He tells her that he has written a book about the Turks’ extermination of the Armenians, but the censors’ have blocked its publication. He describes again the horrors that he has seen and then adds “It was more of a chance and a miracle, that I was able to get out alive once more from the hell of those horrifying ghosts”.

Wegner has brought more photographs back with him to Germany. He continues his efforts to spread the word of what his country’s ally is doing to the Armenians.

image sources:

Armin T. Wegner (Wikipedia)

Wegner photograph of child and murdered man, Syria (Columbia University:
Documents and Wegner Photographs Reporting on the Armenian Genocide)

see also:

Armin Wegner, the German who stood up to genocide of both Armenians and Jews (Irish Times)

A. V. MusheghyanArmin T. Wegner’s letters and diary of 1915-1916 and struggle for condemnation of the Armenian Genocide [PDF] (Fundamental Armenology, no. 1, 2015)

18/9/1916 Despite German and American protests, Turkey’s extermination of the Armenians continues

The Turkish authorities are continuing their elimination of their Armenian minority. Some of the Armenians (particularly young adult men) are being shot or killed by other kinds of direct violence. For most though the killing is by more drawn-out and indirect methods. Armenians are being sent off to inhospitable death camps in the Syrian desert and left to die of hunger, thirst and exposure.

The extermination is not happening in secret. Newspapers in the neutral United States have carried shocking reports of Armenian suffering, with a recent article in the New York Times quoting a Presbyterian missionary saying that starving Armenians have tried to feed themselves on locusts or wild dogs, while others have resorted to cannibalism. The missionary also reports that other Armenians have given up hope, killing themselves or begging for execution by their tormentors.

The Armenians’ extermination is causing disquiet on the part of Turkey’s allies but they are unable or unwilling to stop the slaughter. Paul Wolff Metternich, Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, reports back to Berlin that the Turkish authorities are intent on the complete elimination of the Armenian population and that his protests and those of American diplomats have done nothing to ease their suffering. Turkey’s leaders are determined to exterminate the Armenians and will not be swayed from this course of action.

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Armenians butchering a horse (Wikipedia)

8/8/1916 The Armenian calvary continues

The Turkish authorities continue their extermination of the Armenians. While many Armenians have been shot or otherwise executed, most are suffering a slow death from starvation, dehydration, sickness or exposure. The Turks have sent the Armenians on death marches from their homes in Anatolia to camps in the Syrian desert. Little or no food or shelter is provided to the Armenians while they are on the move. Once in the desert they find themselves left to die.

The extermination is not happening in secret. While the Turkish authorities are keen to deny that anything untoward is taking place, their abuse of the Armenians is being extensively reported. In neutral America the press carries frequent reports of the Armenians’ sufferings, relying on information gleaned from US diplomats in the Ottoman Empire or from journalists operating there.

Today the New York Times carries another report on the Armenian calvary based on a diplomatic source in the Turkish Empire. The paper notes that the source is not an American one, which may mean that the account derives ultimately from a German or Austro-Hungarian diplomat; many of Turkey’s allies have been shocked by what is happening. The report paints a disturbing picture.

“The witnesses have seen thousands of deported Armenians under tents in the open, in caravans on the march, descending the river in boats and in all phases of their miserable life. Only in a few places does the Government issue any rations, and those are quite insufficient. The people, therefore, themselves are forced to satisfy their hunger with food begged in that scanty land or found in the parched fields.

“Naturally, the death rate from starvation and sickness is very high and is increased by the brutal treatment of the authorities, whose bearing toward the exiles as they are being driven back and forth over the desert is not unlike that of slave drivers. With few exceptions no shelter of any kind is provided and the people coming from a cold climate are left under the scorching desert sun without food and water. Temporary relief can only be obtained by the few able to pay officials.”

image source (Wikipedia)

19/6/1916 Turkey sends Armenian railway workers to their deaths

In Anatolia the Turkish authorities’ extermination of the Armenians continues. By now so many of the Armenians have been sent off to die in the Syrian desert that the Turks are struggling to find more Armenians to get rid of. They turn their attentions increasingly to those Armenians working on the construction of the railway line from Constantinople to Baghdad. The strategic importance of the railroad had given a certain protection to the men building it. Now, though, the Turks order the deportation of the Armenian railway workers.

The German and Austro-Hungarian engineers directing the railway’s construction are aghast. Without the Armenian workers, progress on the railway will slow to a crawl. But the Turks are adamant. Out of perhaps as many as 10,000 Armenian railway workers, only around a hundred specialists are not sent away on death marches. Even these survivors are put under increasing pressure to convert to Islam.

image source:

Turkish troops guard Armenian deportees (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

18/4/1916 Russian forces seize Trebizond; the scale of Turkey’s abuse of the Armenians becomes increasingly apparent

In eastern Anatolia the Turks have been on the back foot since the Russian capture of Erzurum. Russian advances are continuing, taking advantage of the Turks’s disarray and encountering little or no effective resistance. Today the ancient city of Trebizond (also known as Trabzon) falls, abandoned by the Turkish military.

Their victories should be a source of great rejoicing to the Russian forces, but their advances are leading to a shocking discovery. The territories they are advancing into used to house the Ottoman Empire’s thriving Armenian community, but now the Armenians are gone. Seeing them as disloyal and pro-Russian, the Turks are removing the Armenians from Anatolia. Some have been murdered en masse (several thousand of Trebizond’s Armenians have reportedly been driven into the sea or thrown overboard from boats). Most though have been deported from their homes and sent off on death marches, dying from exhaustion or lack of food and water while facing the constant threat of robbery, rape and murder from the ghouls who see the deportations as an opportunity for random cruelty and personal enrichment. The survivors of the death marches find themselves in remote concentration camps, where they are deprived of food, water and shelter, with no future ahead of them save a lingering death.

It seems also that the Armenians are not the only victims of the fear and loathing of Turkish authorities. Members of the Assyrian and Greek communities are also facing persecution and abuse, including murder.

The diplomats of Turkey’s German and Austro-Hungarian allies have reported the scale of the horror back to their respective capitals. The Germans have made some protests but they are wary of alienating Turkey and do not press the Turkish leaders too closely on the issue.

But blood will have blood. There are reports that the Russians are wreaking vengeance on the Turkish civilians in areas they have conquered.

image sources:

The surrender of Trebizond (Western Front Association)

Armenian Genocide (Mental Floss)