So-called Armenian Genocide
 

Excerpts from the book:A Myth of Terror
Armenian Extremism:Its Causes and Its Historical Context
An Illustrated Expose by Eric Feigl

The Relocation Decision: Its Causes and Consequences

Armenians the world over remember April 24 as the day on which "the genocide of the Armenians began". This memory should be reconsidered for a number of reasons. The day of remembrance, April 24, intentionally confuses cause and effect.

The Ottoman minister of tile interior, Talaat Pasha, did indeed send a telegram on the 24th of April, 1915 ordering the arrest of the insurgents. There was still no talk, however, of a relocation, since it was still not seen as necessary.

The coded telegram went to the governors of the provinces effected by Armenian subversion and read as follows:

"Once again, especially at a time when tile state is engaged in war, the most recent rebellions which have occurred in Zeitun, Bitlis, Sivas and Van have demonstrated the continuing attempts of the Armenian committees to obtain, through their revolutionary and political organizations, an independent administration for themselves in Ottoman territory. These rebellions and tile decision of the Dashnak Committee, after the outbreak of war, immediately to incite the Armenians in Russia against us, and to have the Armenians in the Ottoman state rebel with all their force when the Ottoman army was at its weakest, are all acts of treason which would affect the life and future of the country.

It has been demonstrated once again that the activities (it these committees, whose headquarters are in foreign countries, and who maintain, even in their names, their revolutionary attributes, are determined to gain autonomy by using every possible pretext and means against tile Government. This has been established by the bombs which were found in Kayseri, Sivas and other regions, also by the actions of the Armenian committee leaders who have participated in the Russian attack on the country, by forming volunteer regiment,, comprised of Ottoman Armenians in the Russian army, and through their publications and operations aimed at threatening the Ottoman army from the rear.

Naturally, as the Ottoman Government will never condone the continuation of such operations and attempts, which constitute a matter of life and death for itself, nor will it legalize the existence of these committees which are the source of malice, it has felt the necessity to promptly close down all such political organizations.

You are therefore ordered to close down immediately all branches, within your province, of the Hinchak, Dashnak, and similar committees; to confiscate the files and documents found in their branch headquarters, and ensure that they are neither lost nor destroyed; to immediately arrest all the leaders and prominent members of the committees, together with such other Armenians as are known by the Government to be dangerous; further, to gather up those Armenians whose presence in one area is considered to be inappropriate, and to transfer them to other parts of the province or sanjak, so as not to give them the opportunity to engage in harmful acts; to begin the process of searching for hidden weapons; and to maintain all contacts with the (military) commanders in order to be prepared to meet any possible counter actions. As it has been determined in a meeting with tile Acting Commander-in-Chief that all individuals arrested on the basis of files and documents which come into our possession in the course of the proper execution of these orders are to be turned over to the military courts, the above mentioned steps are to be implemented immediately. We are to be informed subsequently as to the number of people arrested, and with regard to the implementation of these orders.

For Bitlis, Erzurum, Sivas, Adana, Mara* and Aleppo: as this operation is only intended to affect the operation of the committees, you are strongly ordered not to implement it in such a manner as will cause mutual killings on the part of the Muslim and Armenian elements of the population.

11. April 1331 (24. April 1915).

Minister of the Interior"

The arrests ordered on April 24 began the following day in Istanbul. In tile provinces they began somewhat later in some cases. These arrests only affected the ringleaders of the Dashnaktsutiun and the Hunchaks, along with a few well-known agitators. The order had absolutely nothing to do with a general relocation.

The government's order to move the Armenians as a group out of the endangered areas (Istanbul and Izmir were not affected since they were considered "safe" and 11 under control") did not come until months later. It was brought on by the horrifying assault of Armenian terrorists and irregulars on the city of Van. This event represented a shocking climax of Armenian terrorism. The rebels conquered Van, declared an "Armenian Republic of Van", and completely destroyed the Moslem part of the city. Some 30,000 Moslems lost their lives in the violence.

Once again, the idea of moving the Armenian population (and not just the terrorist ringleaders) out of the endangered areas did not arise until after the catastrophe of Van. The government troops were forced by the rebels to leave Van, on May 17, 1915. At this time, Van was behind Russian lines, which were moving deeper and deeper into eastern Anatolia. The spearhead of the Russian-Czarist assault troops was made up of Armenian volunteers, who distinguished themselves with their particularly brutal treatment of the Moslem population of eastern Anatolia. In the meantime, the true dimensions of the catastrophe of Van became known in Istanbul. It was at this point that the idea arose of relocating the Armenian population of Anatolia as a whole. Until this time, there had only been arrests of ringleaders and known terrorists on a local level - nothing more.

The concept of a relocation came up when the acting commander of the army, who had learned his lesson from the horrid Outcome of the Van revolt, suggested responding to steps taken by the Russians (which appear to have been discussed with the Armenians!) with similar measures from the Ottoman side, This suggestion was made in a secret communique of the Minister of the Interior (No. 2049):

The Armenians around tile periphery of Lake Van, and in other regions which are known to the Governor of Van, are engaged in Continuous preparations for revolution and rebellion. I am of the opinion that this population should be removed from this area, and that this nest of rebellion be broken up.

According to information provided by the Commander of the Third Army, the Russians, oil April the 7th (April the 20th), began expelling their Muslim population, by pushing them, without their belongings, across Our borders. It is necessary, in response to this (Russian) action, and in order to reach tile goals that I have outlined above, either to expel the Armenians in question to Russia, or to relocate them and their families in other regions of Anatolia. I request that tile most suitable of these alternatives be chosen and implemented. If there is no objection, I would prefer to expel the creators of these centres of rebellion and their families outside our borders, and to replace them with the. Muslim refugees pushed across our borders. 19. April, 1331 (2. May 1915).

The importance of this document lies in the fact that it clearly states what the Supreme Military Commander's motive was. The Russians had sent the entire Moslem population of the Caucasus region to eastern Anatolia, leaving them with nothing but the shirts on their backs. At the same time, the Armenians in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire (particularly in Van) had siezed total power, killed the Moslems, and proclaimed their "Armenian Republic of Van". Under these circumstances, the decision to relocate the Armenians of Anatolia - those living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire - is understandable. They were to be moved "to areas considered safer", areas not so exposed to the grasp of the Russians and the Allied powers of Europe.

A few weeks later, on May 19,1331 June 1, 1915), the Ottoman government published the following decree in the Takvimi Vakaya (the Ottoman official gazette):

Article 1. In time of war, the Army, Army Corps, and Divisional Commanders, their Deputies, and the Independent Commanders, are authorized and compelled to crush in the most severe way, and to eradicate all signs of aggression and resistance by military force, should they encounter any opposition, armed resistance and aggression by the population, to operations and measures relating to orders issued by the Government for the defense of the country and the maintenance of order.

Article 2. The Army, Army Corps, and Divisional Commanders are authorized to transfer and relocate the populations of villages and towns, either individually or collectively, in response to military needs, or in response to any signs of treachery or betrayal.

Article 3. This provisional law will come into effect when it is published.

It is undoubtedly true that many innocent people lost their property, their health, and even their lives in the relocation of 1915 - many Armenians and even more Moslems. To try to place blame for a wartime tragedy such as this is truly senseless, but in light of the almost universal assumption that everything was the fault of the "Terrible Turks", something must be said about the passive behavior of the overwhelming majority of Ottoman Armenians at the time. Above all else, they just wanted peace, and they remained silent because they did not want a confrontation with the terrorists. For decades, they tolerated the presence of a small number of fanatics among them who held absurd, impracticable, and completely unjust ambitions for independence (unjust because the Armenians did not have a majority anywhere in the Ottoman Empire). The extremists became more and more Powerful; they terrorized Moslems and Armenians; and eventually, after the beginning of the First World War," they were openly waging civil war.

In the turmoil of the war, with the Ottoman Empire forced to fight for its very existence, there remained no other choice but to carry out the relocation. The events that followed the end of the war - when the Allies penetrated into Anatolia and the Greeks advanced almost as far as Ankara - prove just how wisely those responsible for the relocation had acted.

If the "silent majority" of Ottoman Armenians had objected to the insane plans of the extremists and the "romantic" visions of the missionaries, many Armenians and even more Moslems would have been spared tremendous suffering. As it was, however, many had to pay for the offenses of a minority.

Often - far too often - it is the success of the rational, level-headed majority in prevailing over the irrational minority of agitators, fanatics, and romantics which determines whether or not disaster will befall a nation.

No nation that has let itself be seduced or silenced by a minority has ever been spared. The National Socialists in Germany were also a minority, but they forced the majority of peace-loving Germans into a world war. In the end, all Germans had to pay for that war - with their property, their homes, their lives - whether they had been National Socialists or not.

It would seem that the horrible thing about the history of the Armenians is that the overwhelming majority of hardworking, intelligent, highly educated Armenians have let themselves be manipulated, blackmailed, misled, and oppressed by a handful of fanatics waging an irrational campaign of revenge. This majority silently ignores the acts of terror of the "task forces" or "freedom fighters" or whatever else the terrorists choose to call themselves. They fear for their property, their safety, their lives. They give money to the terrorist groups without saying anything, and they act as if nothing has happened when another bomb goes off, killing more innocent, respectable citizens. it was no different before the First World War. Today, the myth of the genocide has been added. This will have to suffice as a rationalization, even if the truth is totally different.

Franz Werfel's world-famous novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, is supposed to be a "modem saga of a persecuted minority, determined to fight back". It is supposed to "snatch from the Hades of all that was, this incomprehensible destiny of the Armenian nation".

The American edition of the novel was the basis for Werfel's worldwide fame. According to the blurb on a German edition, the novel was seen not only by the Armenians, but also by the Jews as "a simile for the Suffering of their people". But the central, the fundamental message of Franz Werfel's novel - that those in charge within the Ottoman government issued an extermination order - is false.

In Werfel's version, the macabre scene between the Ottoman Minister of War, Enver Pasha, and the Minister of the Interior, Talaat Pasha (who are portrayed as being responsible for a genocide) reads as follows:

"A secretary brought in a sheaf of dispatches, which Talaat began to sign without sitting down again. He did not look up has we was speaking: 'These Germans are only afraid of the odium of being made partly responsible. But they may have to come begging to us for more important things than Armenians,'

This might have ended that day's discussion of the banishment, had Enver's inquisitive eyes not rested on the dispatches in casual scrutiny. Talaat Bey noticed his glance and made the papers rustle as he waved them. 'The precise directions for Aleppo. Meanwhile, I suppose, the roads will be clearer again. In the next few weeks Aleppo, Alexandretta, Antioch, and the whole coast can begin to move out.'

‘Antioch and the coast?’ Enver repeated interrogatively, as though he might have something to say on the point. He did not speak another syllable but stared enthralled at Talaat's fat fingers, which, irresistible as a storming-party, kept scribbling signatures under texts. These same forthright and stumpy fingers had composed that order, sent out to all walis and mutessarifs: 'The goal of these deportations is annihilation.' The short pen-strokes showed all the impetus of complete, implacable conviction; they had no scruples.

Jemal Pasha fares surprisingly well in Johannes Lepsius' book Deutschland und Armenien (which Franz Werfel used extensively in writing his "Forty Days"). This is reflected in an indirect statement from Werfel concerning Jernal Pasha. At one point in his novel, the following is said disparagingly about a zealous young Turk:

"One of the younger MUdirs went so far as to claim that Jernal Pasha, in spite of his well-known role in the government, was not entirely reliable as concerns, the Armenians and even made a deal with them in Adana."

Just how seriously the Armenian extremists take such statements is illustrated by the fact that in the current American edition of the "Forty Days" (published by Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, by arrangement with Viking Pengiun, Inc.), this passage has simply been dropped. A very meticulous proofreader (or more accurately, censor) crossed out all the paragraphs in Werfel's novel that approach objectivity. In the case of Jemal Pasha, it was apparently a matter of justifying the murder of a man who did everything humanly possible for the Armenians.

The Armenian forces interested in the fight against Turkey know the weak points in, Franz Werfel's novel all too well. One such point occurs where the author strays into the realm of historical facts. He meant well, but he was terribly careless in gathering his data and thus had the uprising of Van breaking out 4fter the issuing ot the relocation order.

Franz Werfel told it like this:

'The raison d'etat has never depended on making a graceful volt between cause and effect. The bad, but lazy conscience of the world, the press of the respective groups in power, and the minds of the readers, which the press has cut to size, have always twisted and understood the issue as was required at that particular time."

It is as if the censor who eliminated this passage from the English translation must have meant to strike the next one, which is also missing:

"On the subject of Van, one could in certain circles write with indignation and read with even more indignation: 'The Armenians have taken up arms against the Ottoman Nation, which is involved in a burdensome war, and they have gone over to the Russian side. The vilayets inhabited by Armenians must therefore be freed from these people through deportation.'

Similar things could be read in the Turkish bulletins, but not the reverse, which was the truth: 'The Armenians of Van and Urfa, in despair over the deportations, which had been proceeding for a long time, defended themselves against the Turkish military forces until they were relieved by the arrival of the Russians."'

It is certainly true that Franz Werfel, who relied entirely on Armenian sources and a certain Johannes Lepsius in writing The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, was convinced of the truth of what he wrote - that, the uprising of Van was a reaction to a relocation order, a sort of desperate attempt at self-defense.

The truth is just the opposite: the uprising was the prelude to a civil war in the eastern province of Van and began in February of 1915 - almost two months before the relocation order, which was a consequence of the uprising of Van. In no way was the uprising of Van a "defensive reaction" to the relocation order - that is really the truth turned on its head!

The Armenian circles that shorten and mutilate Werfel's novel in the English edition know exactly why they must take these passages - in this particular case a whole page -~ out of the book. (There is, by the way, not one word to indicate that the novel has been altered in this fashion.) Today, there are a few scattered historical works in which anyone who is interested can find out about the true events and the sequence in which they occurred. In some libraries, one can even still find publications in which the Armenians boast of their war with the Ottomans, although these publications have now disappeared from nearly all libraries, and it has become truly difficult to find a magazine like Der Orient, put out by Johannes Lepsius.

The Minister raised up his bent torso. 'That's done. In the autumn I shall be able to say with perfect candour to all these people: >La question armenienne n'existe pas.<"

With this choice of words, Franz Werfel anticipates almost prophetically the "Wannsee Conference", where the leaders of the Third Reich - diabolical figures like Himmler and Kaltenbrunner - agre~d upon the extermination of the Jewish people. The key scene in The Forty Days of Musa Dagh - the scene in which Enver Pasha and Talaat Pasha decide on the extermination of the Armenians - is for many people a sufficient rationalization for blind terror and savage acts of vengeance. They ignore the fact that Franz Werfel's argumentation rests entirely on the forged "documents" of Aram Andonian.

Werfel's novel is based on his personal knowledge, which he acquired from Armenian contacts - undoubtedly in good faith. When he realized that he had been taken in by forgeries, fear of Armenian reprisals kept him from acknowledging the truth. (We will come later to the statement made on this subject by a Jewish friend of Franz Werfel.)

 

 


 
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