Ambassador Morgenthau's Story

By Henry Morgenthau
Eighth Article

[The World's Work, December 1918]

[Note: In the period 1918-1919, The World's Work serialized the memoirs of Henry Morgenthau, formerly the U. S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The book appeared in nine consecutive issues of the magazine. From the seventh, eighth, and ninth articles, the following excerpts constitute the ambassador's commentary on the Armenian Question and the genocide perpetrated by the government in Constantinople.—JFM]

It was some time before the story of the Armenian atrocities reached the American Embassy in all its horrible details. In January and February fragmentary reports began to filter in, but the tendency was at first to regard them as mere manifestations of the disorders that had prevailed in the Armenian provinces for many years. When the reports came from Urumiah, both Enver and Talaat dismissed them as wild exaggerations, and when for the first time we heard of the disturbances at Van these Turkish officials declared that they were nothing more than a mob uprising which they would soon have under control. I now see, what was not apparent in those early months, that the Turkish Government was determined to keep the news, as long as possible, from the outside world. It was clearly the intention that Europe and America should hear of the annihilation of the Armenian race only after that annihilation had been accomplished. As the country which the Turks particularly wished to keep in ignorance was the United States, they resorted to the most shameless prevarications when discussing the situation with myself and with my staff.

In early April the authorities arrested about two hundred Armenians in Constantinople and sent them into the interior. Many of those who were then deported were educational and social leaders and men who were prominent in industry and in finance. I knew many of these men and, therefore, felt a personal interest in their misfortunes. But when I spoke to Talaat about their expulsion, he replied that the Government was acting in self-defense. The Armenians at Van, he said, had already shown their abilities as revolutionists; he knew that these leaders in Constantinople were corresponding with the Russians and he had every reason to fear that they would start an insurrection against the Central Government. The safest plan, therefore, was to send them to Angora and other interior towns. Talaat denied that this was part of any general concerted scheme to rid the city of its Armenian population, and insisted that the Armenian masses in Constantinople would not be disturbed.

But soon the accounts from the interior became more specific and more disquieting. The withdrawal of the Allied fleet from the Dardanelles produced a distinct change in the atmosphere. Until then there were numerous indications that all was not going well in the Armenian provinces; when it at last became definitely established, however, that the traditional friends of Armenia, Great Britain, France, and Russia, could do nothing to help that suffering people, the mask began to disappear. In April, I was suddenly deprived of the privilege of using the cipher for communicating with American consuls. The most rigorous censorship also was applied to letters. Such measures could mean only that things were happening in Asia Minor which the authorities were determined to conceal. But they did not succeed. Though all sorts of impediments were placed to traveling, certain Americans, chiefly missionaries, succeeded in getting through. For hours they would sit in my office and, with tears streaming down their faces, they would tell me of the horrors through which they had passed. Many of these, both men and women, were almost broken in health from the scenes which they had witnessed. In many cases they brought me letters from American consuls, confirming the most dreadful of their narrations and adding many unprintable details. The general purport of all these firsthand reports was that the utter depravity and fiendishness of the Turkish nature, already sufficiently celebrated through the centuries, had now surpassed themselves. There was only one hope of saving nearly 2,000,000 people from massacre, starvation, and even worse, I was told—that was the moral power of the United States. These spokesmen of a condemned nation declared that, unless the American Ambassador could persuade the Turk to stay his destroying arm, the whole Armenian nation would disappear. It was not only American and Canadian missionaries who made this personal appeal. Several "of their German associates begged me to intercede. These men and women confirmed all the worst things which I had heard, and they were unsparing in denouncing their own fatherland. They did not conceal the humiliation which they felt as Germans in the fact that their own nation was allied, with a people that could perpetrate such infamies, but they understood German policy well enough to know that Germany would not intercede. There was no use in expecting aid from the Kaiser, they said—America must stop the massacres, or they would go on.

Technically, of course, I had no right to interfere. According to the cold-blooded legalities of the situation, the treatment of Turkish subjects by the Turkish Government was purely a domestic affair; unless it directly affected American lives and American interests, it was outside the concern of the American Government. When I first approached Talaat on the subject, he called my attention to this fact in no uncertain terms. This interview was one of the most exciting which I had had up to that time. Two missionaries had just called upon me, giving the full details of the frightful happenings at Konia. After listening to their stories, I could not restrain myself, and went immediately to the Sublime Porte. I saw at once that Talaat was in one of his most ferocious states of mind. For months he had been attempting to secure the release of two of his closest friends, Ayoub Sabri and Zinnoun, who were held as prisoners by the English at Malta. His failure in this matter was a constant grievance and irritation; he was always talking about it, always making new suggestions for getting his friends back to Turkey, and always appealing to me for help. So furious did the Turkish Boss become when thinking about his absent friends that we usually referred to these manifestations as Talaat in his "Ayoub Sabri moods." This particular morning the Minister of the Interior was in one of his worst "Ayoub Sabri moods." Once more he had been working for the release of the exiles and once more he had failed. As usual, he attempted to preserve outer calm and courtesy to me, but his short, snappy phrases, his bull-dog rigidity, and his wrists, planted on the table, showed that it was an unfavorable moment to stir him to any sense of pity or remorse. I first spoke to him about a Canadian missionary, Dr. McNaughton, who was receiving harsh treatment in Asia Minor.

"The man is an English agent," he replied, "and we have the evidence for it."

"Let me see it," I asked.

"We'll do nothing for any Englishman or any Canadian," he replied, "until they release Ayoub and Zinnoun."

"But you promised to treat English in the employ of Americans as Americans," I replied.

"That may be," rejoined the Minister, "but a promise is not made to be kept forever. I withdraw that promise now. There is a time limit on a promise."

"But if a promise is not binding, what is?" I asked.

"A guarantee," Talaat answered quickly. This fine Turkish distinction had a certain metaphysical interest, but I had more practical matters to discuss at that time. So I began to talk about the Armenians at Konia. I had hardly started when Talaat's attitude became even more belligerent. His eyes lighted up, he brought his jaws together, leaned over toward me, and snapped out:

"Are they Americans?"

The implications of this question were hardly diplomatic; it was merely a way of telling me that the matter was none of my business. In a moment Talaat said this in so many words. "The Armenians are not to be trusted," he said, "besides, what we do with them does not concern the United States,"

I replied that I regarded myself as the friend of the Armenians and was shocked at the way that they were being treated. But he shook his head and refused to discuss the matter. I saw that nothing could be gained by forcing the issue at that time. I spoke in behalf of another British subject who was not being treated properly.

"He's English, isn't he?" answered Talaat. "Then I shall do as I like with him!"

"Eat him, if you wish!" I replied.

"No," said Talaat, "he would go against, my digestion."


He was altogether in a reckless mood. "Gott strafe England," he shouted—using one of the few German phrases that he knew. "As to your Armenians, we don't give a rap for the future! We live only in the present! As to the English, I wish you would telegraph Washington that we shall not do a thing for them until they let out Ayoub Sabri and Zinnoun!" Then leaning over, he struck a pose, pressed his hand to his heart, and said, in English—I think this must have been almost all the English he knew:

"Ayoub Sabri—he—my—brudder!"

Despite this I made another plea for Dr. McNaughton.

"He's not American," said Talaat, "he's a Canadian."

"It's almost the same thing," I said.

"Well," replied Talaat, "if I let him go, will you promise that the United States will annex Canada?"

"I promise," said I, and we both laughed at this little joke.

"Every time you come here," Talaat finally said, "you always steal something from me. All right, you can have your McNaughton!"

Certainly this interview was not an encouraging beginning so far as the Armenians were concerned. But Talaat was not always in an "Ayoub Sabri mood." He went from one emotion to another as lightly as a child; I would find him fierce and unyielding one day, and uproariously good-natured and accommodating the next. Prudence indicated, therefore, that I should await one of his more congenial moments before approaching him on the subject that aroused all the barbarity in his nature. Such an opportunity soon presented itself. One day, soon after the interview chronicled above, I called on Talaat again. The first thing he did was to open his desk and pull out a handful of yellow cablegrams.

"Why don't you give this money to us?" he said, with a grin.

"What money?" I asked.

"Here is a cablegram for you from America, sending you a lot of money for the Armenians. You ought not to use it that way; give it to us Turks, we need it as badly as they do."

"I have not received any such cablegram," I replied.

"Oh, no, but you will," he answered. "I always get all your cablegrams first, you know. After I have finished reading them I send them around to you."

This statement was the literal truth. Every morning all the open cablegrams received in Constantinople were forwarded to Talaat, who read them, before consenting to their being forwarded to their destinations. Even the cablegrams of the ambassadors were apparently not exempt, though, of course, the ciphered messages were not interfered with. Ordinarily I might have protested against this infringement of my rights, but Talaat's engaging frankness in pilfering my correspondence and in even waving my own cablegrams in my face gave me an excellent opening to introduce the forbidden subject.


But on this occasion, as on many others, Talaat was evasive and non-committal and showed much hostility to the interest which the American people were manifesting in the Armenians. He explained his policy on the ground that the Armenians were in constant correspondence with the Russians. The definite conviction which these conversations left upon my mind was that Talaat was the most implacable enemy of this persecuted race. "He gave me the impression," such is the entry which I find in my diary on August 3rd, "that Talaat is the one who desires to crush the poor Armenians." He told me that the Union and Progress Committee had carefully considered the matter in all its details and that the policy which was being pursued was that which they had officially adopted. He said that I must not get the idea that the deportations had been decided upon hastily; in reality they were the result of prolonged and careful deliberation. To my repeated appeals that he should show mercy to these people, he sometimes responded seriously, sometimes angrily, and sometimes flippantly.

"Some day," he once said, "I will come and discuss the whole Armenian subject with you," and then he added in a low tone in Turkish:

"But that day will never come!"

"Why are you so interested in the Armenians anyway?" he said, on another occasion. "You are a Jew; these people are Christians. The Mohammedans and the Jews always get on harmoniously. We are treating the Jews here all right. What have you to complain of? Why can't you let us do with these Christians as we please?"

I had always remarked that the Turks look upon practically every question as a personal matter, yet this point of view rather stunned me. However, it was a complete revelation of Turkish mentality; the fact that, above all considerations of race and religion, there are such things as humanity and civilization never for a moment enters their mind. They can understand a Christian fighting for a Christian and a Jew fighting for a Jew, but such abstractions as justice and decency form no part of their conception of things.

"You don't seem to realize," I replied, "that I am not here as a Jew but as American Ambassador. My country contains something more than 97,000,000 Christians and something less than 3,000,000 Jews. So, at least in my ambassadorial capacity, I am 97 per cent Christian. But after all that is not the point. I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or any religion, but merely as a human being. You have told me many times that you want to make Turkey a part of the modern progressive world. The way you are treating the Armenians will not help you to realize that ambition; it puts you in the class of backward, reactionary peoples."

"We treat the Americans all right, too," said Talaat. "I don't see why you should complain."

"But Americans are outraged by your persecutions of the Armenians," I replied. "You must base your principles on humanitarianism, not racial discrimination, or the United States will not regard you as a friend and an equal. And you should understand the great changes that are taking place among Christians all over the world. They are forgetting their differences and all sects are coming together as one. You look down on American missionaries, but don't forget that it is the best element in America that supports their work, especially their educational institutions. Americans are not mere materialists, always chasing money—they are broadly humanitarian, and interested in the spread of justice and civilization throughout the world. After this war is over you will face a new situation. You say that, if victorious, you can defy the world, but you are wrong. You will have to meet public opinion everywhere, especially in the United States. Our people will never forget these massacres. They will always resent the wholesale destruction of Christians in Turkey. They will look upon it as nothing but wilful murder and will seriously condemn all the men who are responsible for it. You will not be able to protect yourself under your political status and say that you acted as Minister of the Interior and not as Talaat. You are defying all ideas of justice as we understand the term in our country."

Strangely enough, these remarks did not offend Talaat, but they did not shake his determination. I might as well have been talking to a stone wall. From my abstractions he immediately came down to something definite.

"These people," he said, "refused to disarm when we told them to. They opposed us at Van and at Zeitan, and they helped the Russians. There is only one way in which we can defend ourselves against them in the future, and that is just to deport them."

"Suppose a few Armenians did betray you," I said. "Is that a reason for destroying a whole race? Is that an excuse for making innocent women and children suffer?"

"Those things are inevitable," he replied. This remark to me was not quite so illuminating as one which Talaat made subsequently to a reporter of the Berliner Tageblatt, who asked him the same question. "We have been reproached," he said, according to this interviewer, "for making no distinction between the innocent Armenians and the guilty; but that was utterly impossible, in view of the fact that those who were innocent to-day might be guilty to-morrow!"


One reason why Talaat could not discuss this matter with me freely, was because the member of the embassy staff who did the interpreting was himself an Armenian. In the early part of August, therefore, he sent a personal messenger to me, asking if I could not see him alone, as he wished to go over the whole Armenian situation. This was the first time that Talaat had admitted that his treatment of the Armenians was a matter with which I had any concern. The interview took place two days afterward. It so happened that since the last time I had visited Talaat I had shaved my beard. As soon as I came in the burly Minister began talking in his customary bantering fashion.

"You have become a young man again," he said; "you are so young now that I cannot go to you for advice any more."

"I have shaved my beard," I replied, "because it had become very gray—made gray by your treatment of the Armenians."

After this exchange of compliments we settled down to the business in hand. "I have asked you to come to-day," began Talaat, "so that I can explain our position on the whole Armenian subject. We base our objections to the Armenians on three distinct grounds. In the first place, they have enriched themselves at the expense of the Turks. In the second place, they are determined to domineer over us and to establish a separate state. In the third place, they have openly encouraged our enemies. They have assisted the Russians in the Caucasus and our failure there is largely explained by their actions. We have, therefore, come to the irrevocable decision that we shall make them powerless before this war is ended,"

On every one of these points I had plenty of arguments in rebuttal. Talaat's first objection was merely an admission that the Armenians were more industrious and more able than the thick-witted and lazy Turks. Massacre as a means of destroying business competition was certainly an original conception! His general charge that the Armenians were "conspiring" against Turkey and that they openly sympathized with Turkey's enemies merely meant, when reduced to its original elements, that the Armenians were constantly appealing to the European Powers to protect them against robbery, murder, and outrage. The Armenian problem, like most race problems, was the result of centuries of ill-treatment and injustice. There could be only one solution for it, the creation of an orderly system of government, in which all citizens were to be treated upon an equality, and in which all offenses were to be punished as the acts of individuals and not as of peoples. I argued for a long time along these and similar lines.


"It is no use for you to argue," Talaat answered, "we have already disposed of three quarters of the Armenians; there are none at all left in Bitlis, Van, and Erzerum. The hatred between the Turks and the Armenians is now so intense that we have got to finish with them. If we don't, they will plan their revenge."

"If you are not influenced by humane considerations," I replied, "think of the material loss. These people are your business men. They control many of your industries. They are very large tax-payers. What would become of you commercially without them?"

"We care nothing about the commercial loss," replied Talaat. "We have figured all that out and we know that it will not exceed five million pounds. We don't worry about that. I have asked you to come here so as to let you know that our Armenian policy is absolutely fixed and that nothing can change it. We will not have the Armenians anywhere in Anatolia. They can live in the desert but nowhere else."

I still attempted to persuade Talaat that the treatment of the Armenians was destroying Turkey in the eyes of the world, and that his country would never be able to recover from this infamy.

"You are making a terrible mistake," I said, and I repeated the statement three times.

"Yes, we may make mistakes," he replied, "but"—and he firmly closed his lips and shook his head—"we never regret."

I had many talks with Talaat on the Armenians, but I never succeeded in moving him to the slightest degree. He always came back to the points which he had made in this interview. He was very willing to grant any request I made in behalf of the Americans or even of the French and English, but I could obtain no general concessions for the Armenians. He seemed to me always to have the deepest personal feeling in this matter, and his antagonism to the Armenians seemed to increase as their sufferings increased. One day, discussing a particular Armenian, I told Talaat that he was mistaken in regarding this man as an enemy of the Turks; that in reality he was their friend.

"No Armenian," replied Talaat, "can be our friend after what we have done to them."


One day Talaat made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ever heard. The New York Life Insurance Company, and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians. The extent to which they insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits.

"I wish," Talaat now said, "that you would get the American life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders. They are practically all dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money. It, of course, all escheats to the state. The Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so?"

his was almost too much, and I lost my temper. "You will get no such lists from me," I said, and got up and left him.

One other episode involving the Armenians stirred Talaat to one of his most ferocious moods. In the latter part of September, Mrs. Morgenthau left for America. The sufferings of the Armenians had greatly preyed upon her mind and she really left for home because she could not any longer endure to live in such a country. But she determined to make one last intercession for this poor people on her own account. Her way home took her through Bulgaria, and she had received an intimation that Queen Eleonore of that country would be glad to receive her. Perhaps it was Mrs. Morgenthau's well-known interest in social work that led to this invitation. The late Queen Eleonore was a high-minded woman, who had led a sad and lonely existence, and who was spending most of her time attempting to improve the condition of the poor in Bulgaria. She knew all about social work in American cities, and a few years before she had made all her plans to visit the United States in order to study our settlements at first hand. At the time of Mrs. Morgenthau's visit the Queen had two American nurses from the Henry Street Settlement of New York, instructing a group of Bulgarian girls in the methods of the American Red Cross.

My wife was mainly interested in visiting the Queen in order that, as one woman to another, she might make a plea for the Armenians. At that time the question of Bulgaria's entrance into the war had reached a critical stage, and Turkey was prepared to make concessions to gain her as an ally. It was, therefore, a propitious moment to make such an appeal.


The Queen received Mrs. Morgenthau informally and my wife spent about an hour telling her all about the Armenians. Most of what she said was entirely new to the Queen. Little had yet appeared in the European press on this subject, and Queen Eleonore was precisely the kind of woman from whom the truth would be concealed as long as possible. Mrs. Morgenthau gave her all the facts about the treatment of Armenian women and children and asked her to intercede in their behalf. She even went so far as to suggest that it would be a terrible thing if Bulgaria, which in the past had herself suffered such atrocities at the hands of the Turks, should now become their allies in war. Queen Eleonore was greatly moved. She thanked my wife for telling her these truths and said that she would intercede immediately and see if something could not be done.

Just as Mrs. Morgenthau was getting ready to leave she saw the Duke of Mecklenburg standing near the door. The Duke was in Sofia at that time attempting to arrange for Bulgaria's participation in the war. The Queen introduced him to Mrs. Morgenthau; His Highness was polite, but his air was rather cold and injured. His whole manner, particularly the stern glances which he cast on Mrs. Morgenthau, showed that he had heard a considerable part of the conversation. As he was exerting all his efforts to bring Bulgaria in on Germany's side, it is not surprising that he did not relish the plea which Mrs. Morgenthau was making to the Queen that Bulgaria should not ally herself with Turkey.

Queen Eleonore immediately interested herself in the Armenian cause, and, as a result, the Bulgarian Minister to Turkey was instructed to protest against the atrocities. This protest accomplished nothing, but it did arouse Talaat's momentary wrath against the American Ambassador. A few days afterward, when routine business called me to the Sublime Porte, I found him in an exceedingly ugly humor. He answered most of my questions savagely and in monosyllables, and I was afterward told that Mrs. Morgenthau's intercession with the Queen had put him into this mood. In a few days, however, he was as good-natured as ever, for Bulgaria had taken sides with Turkey. Talaat's attitude toward the Armenians was summed up in the proud boast which he made to his friends: "I have accomplished more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdul Hamid accomplished in thirty years!"

Part II

All this time I was bringing pressure upon Enver also. The Minister of War, as I have already indicated, was a different type of man from Talaat. He concealed his real feelings much more successfully; he was usually suave, cold-blooded, and scrupulously polite. And at first he was by no means so callous as Talaat in discussing the Armenians. He dismissed the early stories as wild exaggerations, declared that the troubles at Van were merely ordinary warfare and attempted to quiet my fears that the wholesale annihilation of the Armenians had been decided on. Yet all the time that Enver was attempting to deceive me, he was making open admissions to other people—a fact of which I was aware. In particular he made no attempt to conceal the real situation from Dr. Lepsius, a representative of German missionary interests. Dr. Lepsius was a high-minded Christian gentleman. He had been all through the Armenian massacres of 1895, and he had raised considerable sums of money to build orphanages for Armenian children who had lost their parents at that time. He came again in 1915 to investigate the Armenian situation in behalf of German missionary interests. He asked for the privilege of inspecting the reports of American consuls and I granted it. These documents, supplemented by other information which Dr. Lepsius obtained, largely from German missionaries in the interior, left no doubt in his mind, as to the policy of the Turks. His feelings were aroused chiefly against his own government. He expressed to me the humiliation which he felt, as a German, that the Turks should deliberately set about to exterminate their Christian subjects, while Germany, ostensibly a Christian country, was making no endeavors to prevent it. To him Enver scarcely concealed the official purpose. Dr. Lepsius was simply staggered by his frankness, for Enver told him in so many words that they at last had an opportunity to rid themselves of the Armenians and that they proposed to use it.

By this time Enver had become more frank with me—the circumstantial reports which I possessed made it useless for him to attempt to conceal the true situation further—and we had many long and animated discussions on the subject. One of these I recall with particular vividness. I notified Enver that I intended to take up the matter in detail and he laid aside enough time to go over the whole situation.


"The Armenians had a fair warning," Enver began, "of what would happen to them in case they joined our enemies. Three months ago I sent for the Armenian Patriarch and I told him that if the Armenians attempted to start a revolution or to assist the Russians, I would be unable to prevent mischief from happening to them. My warning produced no effect and the Armenians started a revolution and helped the Russian's. You know what happened at Van. They obtained control of the city, used bombs against government buildings, and killed a large number of Moslems. We knew that they were planning uprisings in other places. You must understand that we are now fighting for our lives at the Dardanelles and that we are sacrificing thousands of men. While we are engaged in such a struggle as this, we cannot permit people in our own country to attack us in the back. We have got to prevent this no matter what means we have to resort to. It is absolutely true that I am not opposed to the Armenians as a people. I have the greatest admiration for their intelligence and industry, and I should like nothing better than to see them become a real part of our nation. But if they ally themselves with our enemies, as they did in the Van district, they will have to be destroyed. I have taken pains to see that no injustice is done; only recently I gave orders to have three Armenians who had been deported returned to their homes, when I found that, they were innocent. Russia, France, Great Britain, and America are doing the Armenians no kindness by sympathizing with and encouraging them. I know what such encouragement means to a people who are inclined to revolution. When our Union and Progress Party attacked Abdul Hamid, we received all our moral encouragement from the outside world. This encouragement was of great help to us and had much to do with our success. It might similarly now help the Armenians and their revolutionary programme. I am sure that if these outside countries did not encourage them, they would give up all their efforts to oppose the present government and become law-abiding citizens. We now have this country in our absolute control and we can easily revenge ourselves on any revolutionists,"

"After all," I said, "suppose what you say is true, why not punish the guilty? Why sacrifice a whole race for the alleged crimes of individuals?"

"Your point is all right during peace times," replied Enver. "We can then use platonic means to quiet Armenians and Greeks, but in time of war we cannot investigate and negotiate. We must act promptly and with determination. I also think that the Armenians are making a mistake in depending upon the Russians. The Russians really would rather see them killed than alive. They are as great a danger to the Russians as they are to us. If they should form an independent government in Turkey, the Armenians in Russia would attempt to form an independent government there. The Armenians have also been guilty of massacres; in the entire district around Van only 30,000 Turks escaped, all the rest were murdered by the Armenians and Kurds. I attempted to protect the non-combatants at the Caucasus; I gave orders that they should not be injured, but I found that the situation was beyond my control. There are about 70,000 Armenians in Constantinople and they will not be molested, except those who are Dashnaguists and those who are plotting against the Turks. However, I think you can ease your mind on the whole subject as there will be no more massacres of Armenians,"

I did not take seriously Enver's concluding statement. At the time that he was speaking, massacres and deportations were taking place all over the Armenian provinces and they went on almost without interruption for several months.

As soon as the reports reached the United States the question of relief became a pressing one. In the latter part of July, I heard that there were 5,000 Armenians from Zeitan and Sultanieh who were receiving no food whatever. I spoke about them to Enver, who positively declared that they would receive proper food. He did not receive favorably any suggestion that American representatives should go to that part of the country and assist and care for the exiles.

"For any American to do this," he said, "would encourage all Armenians and make further trouble. There are about 28 million people in Turkey and one million Armenians, and we do not propose to have one million disturb the peace of the rest of the population. The great trouble with the Armenians is that they are separatists. They are determined to have a kingdom of their own, and they have allowed themselves to be fooled by the Russians. Because they have relied upon the friendship of the Russians, they have helped them in this war. We are determined that they shall behave just as Turks do. You must remember that when we started this revolution in Turkey there were only two hundred of us. With these few followers we were able to deceive the Sultan and the public, who thought that we were immensely more numerous and powerful than we were. We really prevailed upon him and the public through our sheer audacity and in this way established the Constitution. It is our own experience with revolutions which makes us fear the Armenians. If two hundred Turks could overturn the government, then a few hundred bright, educated Armenians, could do the same thing. We have, therefore, deliberately adopted the plan of scattering them so that they can do us no harm. As I told you once before, I warned the Armenian Patriarch that if the Armenians attacked us while we were engaged in a foreign war, that we Turks would hit back and that we would hit back indiscriminately."


Enver always resented any .suggestion that American missionaries or other friends of the Armenians should go to help or comfort them.

"They show altogether too much sympathy for them," he said over and over again.

I had suggested that particular Americans should go to Tarsus and Marsivan.

"If they should go there, I am afraid that the local people in those cities would become angry arid they would be inclined to start some disturbance which might create an incident. It is better for the Armenians themselves, therefore, that the American missionaries should keep away from them."

"But you are ruining the country economically," I said at another time, making the same point that I had made to Talaat. And he answered it in almost the same words, thus showing that the subject had been completely canvassed by the ruling powers.

"Economic considerations are of no importance at this time. The only important thing is to win. That's the only thing we have on our mind. If we win, everything will be all right; if we lose, everything will be all wrong anyhow. Our situation is desperate, I admit it, and we are fighting as desperate men fight. We are not going to let the Armenians attack us in the rear."

The question of relief to the starving Armenians became every week a more pressing one, but Enver still insisted that Americans should keep away from the Armenian provinces.

"How can we furnish bread to the Armenians," Enver declared, "when we can't get enough for our own people? I know that they are suffering and that it is quite likely that they cannot get bread at all this coming winter. But we have the utmost difficulty in getting flour and clothing right here in Constantinople." I said that I had the money and that American missionaries were anxious to "go and use it for the benefit of the refugees."

"We don't want the Americans to feed the Armenians," he flatly replied. "That is one of the worst things that could happen to them. I have already said that it is their belief that they have friends in other countries which leads them to oppose the Government and so brings down upon them all their miseries. If you Americans begin to distribute food and clothing among them, they will then think that they have powerful friends in the United States. This will encourage them to rebellion again and then we shall have to punish them still more. If you will give such money as you have received to the Turks, we shall see that it is used for the benefit of the Armenians."

Enver made this proposal with a straight face, and he made it not only on this occasion but on several others. At the very moment that Enver suggested this mechanism of relief, the Turkish gendarmes and the Turkish officials were not only robbing the Armenians of all their household possessions, of all their food, and all their money, but they were even stripping women of their last shreds of clothing and prodding their naked bodies with bayonets as they staggered across the burning desert. And the Minister of War now proposed that we give our American money to these same guardians of the law for distribution among their charges! However, I had to be tactful.

"If you or other heads of the Government would become personally responsible for the distribution," I said, "of course we would be glad to intrust the money to you. But naturally you would not expect us to give this money to the men who have been killing the Armenians and outraging their women."

But Enver returned to his main point.

"They must never know," he said, "that they have a friend in the United States. That would absolutely ruin them! It is far better that they starve, and in saying this I am really thinking of the welfare of the Armenians themselves. If they can only be convinced that they have no friends in other countries; then they will settle down, recognize that Turkey is their only refuge, and become quiet citizens. Your country is doing them no kindness by constantly showing your sympathy. You are merely drawing upon them greater hardships."

In other words, the more money which the Americans sent to feed the Armenians, the more Armenians Turkey intended to massacre. Enver's logic was fairly maddening; yet he did relent at the end and permit me to help the sufferers through certain missionaries. In all our discussions he made this hypocritical plea that he was really a friend of this distracted nation and that even the severity of the measures which he had adopted was mercy in disguise. Since Enver always asserted that he wished to treat the Armenians with justice—in this his attitude to me was quite different from that of Talaat, who openly acknowledged his determination to deport them—I went to the pains of preparing an elaborate plan for bettering their condition. I suggested that, if he wished to be just, he should protect the innocent refugees and lessen the suffering as much as possible, and that for that purpose he should appoint a special committee of Armenians to assist him and send a capable Armenian, such as Oskan Effendi, formerly Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, to study conditions and submit suggestions for remedying the existing evils. Enver did not approve either of my proposals; as to the first, he said that his colleagues would misunderstand it, and, as to Oskan, he said that he admired him for his good work while he had been in the Cabinet and had backed him in his severity toward the inefficient officials, yet he could not trust him because he was a member of the Armenian Dashnaguist Society.


In another talk with Enver I began by suggesting that the Central Government was probably not to blame for the massacres. I thought that this would not be displeasing to him.

"Of course I know that the Cabinet would never order such terrible things as have taken place," 'I said. "You and Talaat and the rest of the Committee can hardly be held responsible. Undoubtedly your subordinates have gone much further than you have ever intended. I realize that it is not always easy to control your underlings."

Enver straightened up at once. I saw that my remarks, far from smoothing the way to a quiet and friendly discussion, had greatly offended him. I had intimated that things could happen in Turkey for which he and his associates were not responsible.

"You are greatly mistaken," he said. "We have this country absolutely under our control. I have no desire to shift the blame on our underlings and I am entirely willing to accept the responsibility myself for everything that has taken place. The Cabinet itself has ordered the deportations. I am convinced that we are completely justified in doing this owing to the hostile attitude of the Armenians toward the Ottoman Government, but we are the real rulers of Turkey, and no underling would dare proceed in a matter of this kind without our orders."

Enver tried to mitigate the barbarity of his general attitude by showing mercy in particular instances. I made no progress in my efforts to stop the programme of wholesale massacre, but I did save a few Armenians from death. One day I received word from the American Consul at Smyrna that seven Armenians had been sentenced to be hanged. These men had been accused of committing some rather vague political offense in 1909; yet neither Rahmi Bey, the Governor General of Smyrna, nor the Military Commander believed that they were guilty. When the order for execution reached Smyrna these authorities wired Constantinople that under the Ottoman law the accused had the right to appeal for clemency to the Sultan. The answer which was returned to this communication well illustrated the extent to which the rights of the Armenians were regarded at that time:

"Technically, you are right; hang them first and send the petition for pardon afterward."


I visited Enver in the interest of these men on Bairam, which is the greatest Mohammedan religious festival; it is the day that succeeds Ramadan, their month of fasting. Bairam has one feature in common with Christmas, for on that day it is customary for Mohammedans to exchange small presents, usually sweets. So after the usual remarks of felicitation, I said to Enver:

"To-day is Bairam and you haven't given me any present yet."

Enver laughed. "What do you want? Shall I send you a box of candies?"

"Oh, no," I answered, "I am not so cheap as that. I want the pardon of the seven Armenians whom the court-martial has condemned at Smyrna."

The proposition apparently struck Enver as very amusing.

"That's a funny way of asking for a pardon," he said. "However, since you put it that way, I can't refuse."

He immediately sent for his aide and telegraphed to Smyrna, setting the men free.

Thus fortuitously is justice administered and decision involving human lives made in Turkey. Nothing could make clearer the slight estimation in which the Turks hold life, and the slight extent to which principle controls their conduct. Enver spared these men not because he had the slightest interest in their cases, but simply as a personal favor to me and largely because of the whimsical manner in which I had asked it. In all my talks on the Armenians the Minister of War treated the whole matter more or less casually; he could discuss the fate of a race in a parenthesis, and refer to the massacre of children as nonchalantly as we would speak of the weather.


One day Enver asked me to ride with him in the Belgrade forest. As I was losing no opportunities to influence him, I accepted this invitation. We motored to Buyukdere, where four, attendants with horses met us. In our ride through the beautiful forest, Enver became rather more communicative in his conversation than ever before. He spoke affectionately of his father and mother; when they were married, he said; his father had been sixteen and his mother only eleven, and he himself had been born when his mother was fifteen. In talking of his wife, the Imperial Princess, he disclosed a much softer side to his nature than I had hitherto seen. He spoke of the dignity with which she graced his home, regretted that Mohammedan ideas of propriety prohibited her from entering social life, but expressed a wish that she and Mrs. Morgenthau could meet. He was then furnishing a beautiful new palace on the Bosphorus; when this was finished, he said, the Princess would invite my wife to breakfast. Just then we were passing the house and grounds of Senator Abraham Pasha, a very rich Armenian. This man had been an intimate friend of the Sultan Abdul Aziz, and, since in Turkey a man inherits his father's friends as well as his property, the Crown Prince of Turkey, a son of Abdul Aziz, made weekly visits to this distinguished Senator. As we passed through the park, Enver noticed with disgust that woodmen were cutting down trees and stopped them. When I heard afterward that the Minister of War had bought this park, I understood one of the reasons for his anger. Since Abraham Pasha was an Armenian, this gave me an opportunity to open the subject again.

I spoke to him of the terrible treatment from which the Armenian women were suffering.

"You said that you wanted to protect women and children," I remarked, "but I know that your orders are not being carried out,"

"Those stories can't be true," he said. "I cannot conceive that a Turkish soldier would ill-treat a woman who is with child."

Perhaps, if Enver could have read the circumstantial reports which were then lying in the archives of the American Embassy, he might have changed his mind.

Shifting the conversation once more, he asked me about my saddle, which was the well-known "General McClellan" type. Enver tried it and liked it so much that he afterward borrowed it, had one made for his own use—even including the number in one corner—and adopted it for one of his regiments. He told me of the railroads which he was then building in Palestine, said how well the Cabinet was working, and pointed out that there were great opportunities in Turkey now for real estate speculation. He even suggested that he and I join hands in buying land that was sure to rise in value! But I insisted in talking about the Armenians. However, I made no more progress than before.

"We shall not permit them to cluster in places where they can plot mischief and help our enemies. So we are going to give them new quarters,"

This ride was so successful, from Enver's point of view, that we took another a few days afterward, and this time Talaat and Dr. Gates, the President of Robert College, accompanied us. Enver and I rode ahead, while our companions brought up in the rear. These Turkish officials are exceedingly jealous of their prerogatives, and, since the Minister of War is the ranking member of the Cabinet, Enver insisted on keeping a decorous interval between ourselves and the other pair of horsemen. I was somewhat amused by this, for I knew that Talaat was the more powerful politician; yet he accepted the discrimination and only once did he permit his horse to pass Enver and myself. At this violation of the proprieties, Enver showed his displeasure, whereat Talaat paused, reined up his horse and passed submissively to the rear.

"I was merely showing Dr. Gates the gait of my horse," he said, with an apologetic air. But I was interested in more important matters than such fine distinctions in official etiquette; I was determined to talk about the Armenians, But again I failed to make any progress. Enver found more interesting subjects of discussion.

He began to talk of his horses, and now another incident illustrated the mercurial quality of the Turkish mind—the readiness with which a Turk passes from acts of monstrous criminality to acts of individual kindness. Enver said that the horse races would take place soon and regretted that he had no jockey.

"I'll give you an English jockey," I said. "Will you make a bargain? He is a prisoner of war; if he wins, will you give him his freedom?"

"I'll do it," said Enver.

This man, whose name was Fields, actually entered the races as Enver's jockey, and came in third. He rode for his freedom, as Mr. Philip said! Since he did not come in first, the Minister was not obliged, by the terms of his agreement, to let him return to England, but Enver stretched a point and gave him his liberty.


On this same ride Enver gave me an exhibition of his skill as a marksman.

At one point in the road I suddenly heard a pistol shot ring out in the air. It was Enver's aide practising on a near-by object. Immediately Enver dismounted, whipped out his revolver, and, thrusting his arm out rigidly and horizontally, he took aim.

"Do you see that twig on that tree?" he asked me. It was about thirty feet away.

When I nodded, Enver fired—and the twig dropped to the ground.

The rapidity with which Enver could whip his weapon out of his pocket, aim and shoot, gave me one convincing explanation for the influence which he exercised with the piratical crew that was then ruling Turkey. There were plenty of stories floating around that Enver did not hesitate to use this method of suasion, at certain critical moments of his career; how true these anecdotes were, I do not know, but I can certainly testify to the high character of his marksmanship.

Talaat also began to amuse himself in the same way, and finally the two statesmen began shooting in competition and behaving as gaily and as carefree as boys let out of school.

"Have you one of your cards with you?" asked Enver. He requested that I pin it to a tree, which stood about fifty feet away. Enver then fired first. His hand was steady; his eye went straight to the mark, and the bullet hit the card directly in the centre. This success rather nettled Talaat. He took aim, but his rough hand and wrist shook slightly—he was not an athlete like his younger, wiry, and straight-backed associate. Several times Talaat hit around the edges of the card, but he could not duplicate Enver's skill.

"If it had been a man I was firing at," said the bulky Turk, jumping on his horse again, "I would have hit him several times,"

So ended my attempts to interest the two most powerful Turks of their day in the destruction of one of the most valuable elements in their empire!

Part III

I have already said that Said Halim, the Grand Vizier, was not an influential personage. Nominally, his office was the most important in the empire; actually, the Grand Vizier was a mere place-warmer, and Talaat and Enver controlled the present incumbent, precisely as they controlled the Sultan himself. Technically, the Ambassadors should have conducted their negotiations with Saïd Halim, for he was Minister for Foreign Affairs; I early discovered, however, that nothing could be accomplished this way, and, though I still made my Monday calls as a matter of courtesy, I preferred to deal directly with the men who had the real power to decide all matters. In order that I might not be accused of neglecting any means of influencing the Ottoman Government, I brought the Armenian question several times to the Grand Vizier's attention. As he was not a Turk, but an Egyptian, and a man of education and breeding, it seemed not unlikely that he might have a somewhat different attitude toward the subject peoples. But I was wrong. The Grand Vizier was just as hostile to the Armenians as Talaat and Enver. I soon found that merely mentioning the subject irritated him greatly. Evidently he did not care to have his elegant ease interfered with by such disagreeable and unimportant subjects. The Grand Vizier showed his attitude when the Greek Chargé d'Affaires spoke to him about the persecutions of the Greeks. Said Halim said that such manifestations did the Greeks more harm than good.

"We shall do with them just the opposite from what we are asked to do," said the Grand Vizier.


To my appeals the nominal chief minister was hardly more statesmanlike. I had the disagreeable task of sending him, in behalf of the British, French, and Russian governments, a notification that these Powers would hold personally responsible for the Armenian atrocities the men who were then directing Ottoman affairs. This meant, of course, that in the event of Allied success, they would treat the Grand Vizier, Talaat, Enver, Djemal, and their companions as ordinary murderers. As I came into the room to discuss this somewhat embarrassing message with this member of the royal house of Egypt, he sat there, as usual, nervously fingering his beads, and not in a particularly genial frame of mind. He at once spoke of this telegram; his face flushed with anger, and he began a long diatribe against the whole Armenian race. He declared that the Armenian "rebels" had killed 120,000 Turks at Van. This and other of his statements were so absurd that I found myself spiritedly defending the persecuted race, and this aroused the Grand Vizier's wrath still further, and, switching from the Armenians, he began to abuse my own country, making the usual charge that our sympathy with the Armenians was largely responsible for all their troubles.

Soon after this interview Saïd Halim ceased to be Minister for Foreign Affairs; his successor was Halil Bey, who for several years had been Speaker of the Turkish Parliament. Halil was a very different type of man. He was much more tactful, much more intelligent, and much more influential in Turkish affairs. He was also a smooth and oily conversationalist, good-natured and fat, and by no means so lost to all decent sentiments as most Turkish politicians of the time. It was generally reported that Halil did not approve the Armenian proceedings, yet his official position compelled him to accept them and even, as I now discovered, to defend them. Soon after obtaining his Cabinet post, Halil called upon me and made a somewhat rambling explanation of the Armenian atrocities. I had already had experiences with several official attitudes toward the persecutions; Talaat had been bloodthirsty and ferocious, Enver subtly calculating, while the Grand Vizier had been testy. Halil now regarded the elimination of this race with the utmost good humor. Not a single aspect of the proceeding, not even the unkindest things I could say concerning it disturbed his equanimity in the least. He began by admitting that nothing could palliate these massacres, but, he added that, in order to understand them, there were certain facts that I should keep in mind.


"I agree that the Government has made serious mistakes in the treatment of the Armenians," said Halil, "but the harm has already been done. What can we do about it now? Still, if there are any errors we can correct, we should correct them. I deplore as much as you the excesses and violations which have been committed. I wish to present to you the view of the Sublime Porte; I admit that this is no justification, but I think there are extenuating circumstances that you should take into consideration before judgment is passed upon the Ottoman Government."

And then, like all the others, he went back to the happenings at Van, the desire of the Armenians for independence, and the help which they had given the Russians. I had heard it all many times before.

"I told Vartkes" (an Armenian deputy who, like many other Armenian leaders, was afterward murdered) "that, if his people really aspired to an independent existence, they should wait for a propitious moment. Perhaps the Russians might defeat the Turkish troops and occupy all the Armenian provinces. Then I could understand that the Armenians might want to set up for themselves. Why not wait, I told Vartkes, until such a fortunate time had arrived? I warned him that we would not let the Armenians jump on our backs, and that, if they did engage in hostile acts against our troops, we would dispose of all Armenians who were in the rear of our army, and that our method would be to send them to a safe distance in the south. Enver, as you know, gave a similar warning to the Armenian Patriarch. But in spite of these friendly warnings, they started a revolution."

I asked about methods of relief, and told him that already twenty thousand pounds ($100,000) had reached me from America.

"It is the business of the Ottoman Government," he blandly answered, "to see that these people are settled, housed, and fed until they can support themselves. The Government will naturally do its duty! Besides, the twenty thousand pounds that you have is in reality nothing at all."

"That is true," I answered, "it is only a beginning, but I am sure that I can get all the money we need,"

"It is the opinion of Enver Pasha," he replied, "that no foreigners should help the Armenians. I do not say that his reasons are right or wrong. I merely give them to you as they are. Enver says that the Armenians are idealists and that the moment foreigners approach and help them, they will be encouraged in their national aspirations. He is utterly determined to cut forever all relations between the Armenians and foreigners."

"Is this Enver's way of stopping any further action on their part?" I asked.

Halil smiled most good-naturedly at this somewhat pointed question and answered:

"The Armenians have no further means of action whatever!"'

Since not far from 500,000 Armenians had been killed by this time, Haiti's genial retort certainly had one virtue which most of his other statements in this interview had lacked—it was the truth.

"How many Armenians in the southern provinces are in need of help?" I asked.

"I do not know; I would not give you even an approximate figure."

"Are there several hundred thousand?"

"I should think so," Halil admitted, "but I cannot say how many hundred thousand."

"A great many suffered," he added, "simply because Enver could not spare troops to defend them. Some regular troops did accompany them and these behaved very well; forty even lost their lives defending the Armenians. But we had to withdraw most of the gendarmes for service in the army and put in a new lot to accompany the Armenians. It is true that these gendarmes committed many deplorable excesses."

"A great many Turks do not approve these measures," I said.

"I do not deny it," replied the ever-accommodating Halil, as he bowed himself out. Enver, Halil, and the rest were ever insistent on the point which they constantly raised, that no foreigners should furnish relief to the Armenians. A few days after this visit the Under-Secretary of State called at the American Embassy. He came to deliver to me a message from Djemal to Enver. Djemal, who then had jurisdiction over the Christians in Syria, was much annoyed at the interest which the American consuls were displaying in the Armenians. He now asked me to order these officials "to stop busying themselves in Armenian affairs." Djemal could not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty, this messenger said, and so had to punish them all! Some time afterward Halil complained to me that the American consuls were sending facts about the Armenians to America and that the Government insisted that they should be stopped.

As a matter of fact, I was myself sending most of this information—and I did not stop.

Part IV

I suppose that there is no phase of the Armenian question which has aroused more interest than' this: Had the Germans any part in it? To what extent was the Kaiser responsible for the wholesale slaughter of this nation? Did the Germans favor it, did they merely acquiesce, or did they oppose the persecutions? Germany, in the last four years, has become responsible for many of the blackest pages in history; is she responsible for this, unquestionably the blackest of all?

I presume most people will detect in the remarks of these Turkish chieftains certain resemblances to the German philosophy of war. Let me repeat certain phrases used by Enver and other Turks while discussing the Armenian massacres: "The Armenians have brought this fate upon themselves." "They had a fair warning of what would happen to them." "We were fighting for our national existence," "We were justified in resorting to any means that would accomplish these ends." "We have no time to separate the innocent from the guilty." "The only thing we have on our mind is to win the war."


These phrases somehow have a familiar ring, do they not? Indeed, I might rewrite all these interviews with Enver, use the word Belgium in place of Armenia, put the words in a German general's mouth instead of Enver's, and we should have almost a complete exposition of the German attitude toward subject peoples. But the teachings of the Prussians go deeper than this. There was one feature about the Armenian proceedings that was new—that was not Turkish at all. For centuries the Turks have ill-treated their Armenians and all their other subject peoples with inconceivable barbarity. Yet their methods have always been crude, clumsy, and unscientific. They excelled in beating out an Armenian's brains with a club—and this unpleasant illustration is a perfect indication of the rough and primitive methods which they applied to the Armenian problem. They have understood the uses of murder, but not of murder as a fine art. But the Armenian proceedings of 1915 and 1916 evidenced an entirely new mentality. This new conception was that of deportation. The Turks, in five hundred years, had invented innumerable ways of physically torturing their Christian subjects, yet never before had it occurred to their minds to move them bodily from their homes, where they had lived for many thousands of years, and send them hundreds of miles away into the desert. Where did the Turks get this idea? I have already described how, in 1914, just before the European war, the Government moved about 100,000 Greeks from their age-long homes along the Asiatic littoral to certain islands in the Aegean. I have also said that Admiral Usedom, one of the big German naval experts in Turkey, told me that the Germans had suggested this deportation to the Turks. But the all-important point is that this idea of deporting peoples en masse is, in modern times, exclusively Germanic. Any one who reads the literature of Pan-Germany constantly meets it.

These enthusiasts for a German world have deliberately planned, as part of their programme, the ousting of the French from certain parts of France, of Belgians from Belgium, of Poles from Poland, of Slavs from Russia, and other indigenous peoples from the territories which they have inhabited for thousands of years, and the establishment in the vacated lands of solid honest Germans. But it is hardly necessary to show that the Germans have advocated this as a state policy; they have actually been doing it in the last four years. They have moved we do not know how many thousands of Belgians and French from their native land. Austria-Hungary has killed a large part of the Serbian population and moved thousands of Serbian children into her own territories, intending to bring them up as loyal subjects of the empire. To what degree this movement of populations has taken place we shall not know until the end of the war, but it has certainly gone on extensively.


Certain German writers have even advocated the application of this policy to the Armenians. According to the Paris Temps, Paul Rohrbach "in a conference held at Berlin, some time ago, recommended that Armenia should be evacuated by the Armenians. They should be dispersed in the direction of Mesopotamia and their places should be taken by Turks, in such a fashion that Armenia should be freed of all Russian influence and that Mesopotamia might be provided with farmers which it now lacked." The purpose of all this was evident enough. Germany was building the Bagdad railroad across the Mesopotamian Desert. This was an essential detail in the achievement of the great new German Empire, extending from Hamburg to the Persian Gulf. But this railroad could never succeed unless there should develop a thrifty and industrious population to feed it. The lazy Turk would never become such a colonist. But the Armenian was made of just the kind of stuff which this enterprise needed. It was entirely in accordance with the German conception of statesmanship to seize these people in the lands where they had lived for ages and transport them violently to this dreary, hot desert. The mere fact that they had always lived in a temperate climate would furnish no impediment in Pan-German eyes. I found that Germany had been sowing those ideas broadcast for several years; I even found that German savants had been lecturing on this subject in the East. "I remember attending a lecture by a well-known German professor," an Armenian tells me. "His main point was that throughout their history the Turks had made a great mistake in being too merciful toward the non-Turkish population. The only-way to insure the prosperity of the empire, according to this speaker, was to act without any sentimentality toward all the subject nationalities and races in Turkey who did not fall in with the plans of the Turks."

The Pan-Germanists are on record in the matter of Armenia. I shall content myself, with quoting the words of the author of "Mittel-Europa," Friedrich Naumann, perhaps the ablest propagator of Pan-German ideas. In his work on "Asia," Naumann, who started life as a Christian clergyman, deals in considerable detail with the Armenian massacres of 1895-96. I need only quote a few passages to show the attitude of German state policy on such infamies. "If we should take into consideration merely the violent massacre of from 80,000 to 100,000 Armenians," writes Naumann, "we can come to but one opinion—we must absolutely condemn with all anger and vehemence both the assassins and their instigators. They have perpetrated the most abominable massacres upon masses of people, more numerous and worse than those inflicted by Charlemagne on the Saxons. The tortures which Lepsius has described surpass anything we have ever known. What then prohibits us from falling upon the Turk and saying to him: 'Get thee gone, wretch!'? Only one thing prohibits us, for the Turk answers: 'I, too, I fight for my existence!'—and indeed, we believe him. We believe, despite the indignation which the bloody Mohammedan barbarism arouses in us, that the Turks are defending themselves legitimately, and before anything else we see in the Armenian question and Armenian massacres a matter of internal Turkish policy, merely an episode of the agony through which a great empire is passing, which does not propose to let itself die without making a last attempt to save itself by bloodshed.

All the great Powers, excepting Germany, have adopted a policy which aims to upset the actual state of affairs in Turkey. In accordance with this, they demand for the subject peoples of Turkey the rights of man, or of humanity, or of civilization, or of political liberty—in a word, something that will make them the equals of the Turks. But just as little as the ancient Roman despotic state could tolerate the Nazarene's religion, just as little can the Turkish Empire, which is really the political successor of the eastern Roman Empire, tolerate any representation of western free Christianity among its subjects. The danger for Turkey in the Armenian question is one of extinction. For this reason she resorts to an act of a barbarous Asiatic state; she has destroyed the Armenians to such an extent that they will not be able to manifest themselves as a political force for a considerable period. A horrible act, certainly, an act of political despair, shameful in its details, but still a piece of political history, in the Asiatic manner.... In spite of the displeasure which, the German Christian feels at these accomplished facts, he has nothing to do except quietly to heal the wounds so far as he can, and then to let matters take their course. For a long time our policy in the Orient has been determined: we belong to the group that protects Turkey, that is the fact by which, we must regulate our conduct.... We do not prohibit any zealous Christian from caring for the victims of these horrible crimes, from bringing up the children and nursing the adults. May God bless, these good acts like all other acts of faith. Only we must take care that acts of charity do not take the form of political acts which are likely to thwart our German policy.

The internationalist, he who belongs to the English school of thought, may march with the Armenians. The nationalist, he who does not intend to sacrifice the future of Germany to England, must, on questions of external policy, follow the path marked out by Bismarck, even if it is merciless in its sentiments.... National policy: that is the profound moral reason why we must, as statesmen, show ourselves indifferent to the sufferings of the Christian peoples of Turkey, however painful that may be to our human feelings.... That is our duty, which we must recognize and confess before God and before man. If for this reason we now maintain the existence of the Turkish state, we do it in our own self-interest, because what we have in mind is our great future.... On one side lie our duties as a nation, on the other our duties as men. There are times, when, in a conflict of duties, we can choose a middle ground. That is all right from a human standpoint, but rarely right in a moral sense. In this instance, as in all analogous situations, we must clearly know on which side lies the greatest and most important moral duty. Once we have made such a choice we must not hesitate. William II has chosen. He has become the friend of the Sultan, because he is thinking of a greater, independent Germany,"


Such was the German state philosophy as applied to the Armenians, and I had the opportunity of observing German practice as well. As soon as the early reports reached Constantinople, it occurred to me that the most feasible way of stopping the outrages would be for the diplomatic representatives of all countries to make a joint appeal to the Ottoman Government. I approached Wangenheim on this subject in the latter part of March. His antipathy to the Armenians became immediately apparent. He began denouncing them in unmeasured terms; like Talaat and Enver, he affected to regard the Van episode as an unprovoked rebellion, and, in his eyes, as in theirs, the Armenians were simply traitorous vermin.

"I will help the Zionists," he said, thinking that this remark would be personally pleasing to me, "but I shall do nothing whatever for the Armenians."

Wangenheim pretended to regard the Armenian question as a matter that chiefly affected the United States. My constant intercession in their behalf apparently created the impression, in his Germanic mind, that any mercy shown this people would be a concession to the American Government. And at that moment he was not disposed to do anything that would please the American people.

"The United States is apparently the only country that takes much interest in the Armenians," he said. "Your missionaries are their friends and your people have constituted themselves their guardians. The whole question of helping them is, therefore, an American matter. How, then, can you expect me to do anything as long as the United States is selling ammunition to the enemies of Germany? Mr. Bryan has just published his note, saying that it would be unneutral not to sell munitions to England and France. As long as your Government maintains that attitude we can do nothing for the Armenians."

Probably no one except a German logician would ever have detected any relation between our sale of war materials to the Allies and Turkey's attacks upon hundreds of thousands of Armenian women and children. But that was about as much progress as I made with Wangenheim at that time. I spoke to him frequently, but he invariably offset my pleas for mercy to the Armenians by references to the use of American shells at the Dardanelles. A coolness sprang up between us soon afterward, the result of my refusal to give him "credit" for having stopped the deportation of French and German civilians to the Gallipoli peninsula. After our somewhat tart conversation over the telephone, when he had asked me to cable Washington that he had not hetzed the Turks in this matter, our visits to each other ceased for several weeks. There were certain influential Germans in Constantinople who did not accept Wangenheim's point of view. I have already referred to Paul Weitz, for thirty years the correspondent of the Frankfurter Zeitung, who probably knew more about affairs in the Near East than any other German. Although Wangenheim constantly looked to Weitz for information, he did not always take his advice. Weitz did not accept the orthodox, imperial attitude toward Armenia, for be believed that Germany's refusal effectively to intervene was doing his fatherland everlasting injury. Weitz was constantly presenting this view to Wangenheim, but he made little progress. Weitz told me about this himself, in January, 1916, a few weeks before I left Turkey. I quote his own words on this subject:

"I remember that you told me at the beginning," said Weitz, "what a mistake Germany was making in the Armenian matters. I agreed with you perfectly. But when I urged this view upon Wangenheim, he threw me twice out of the room!"

Another German who was opposed to the atrocities was Neurath, the Conseiller of the German Embassy. His indignation reached such a point that his language to Talaat and Enver became almost undiplomatic. He told me, however, that he had failed to influence them.

"They are immovable and are determined to pursue their present course," Neurath said.

Of course no Germans could make much impression on the Turkish Government as long as the German Ambassador refused to interfere. And, as time went on, it became more and more evident that Wangenheim had no desire to stop the deportations. He apparently wished, however, to reestablish friendly relations with me, and soon sent third parties to ask why I never came to see him. I do not know how long this estrangement would have lasted had not a great personal affliction befallen him. In June, Lieutenant Colonel Leipzig, the German Military Attaché, died under the most tragic and mysterious circumstances in the railroad station at Lule Burgas. He was killed by a revolver shot; one story said that the weapon had been accidentally discharged, another that the Colonel had committed suicide, still another that the Turks had assassinated him, mistaking him for Liman von Sanders. Leipzig was one of Wangenheim's intimate friends; as young men they had been officers in the same regiment and at Constantinople they were almost inseparable. I immediately called on the Ambassador to express my condolences. I found him very dejected and careworn. He told me that he had heart trouble, that he was almost exhausted and that he had applied for a few weeks' leave of absence. I knew that it was not only his comrade's death that was preying upon Wangenheim's mind. German missionaries were flooding Germany with reports about the Armenians and calling upon the Government to stop the massacres. Yet, overburdened and nervous as Wangenheim was this day, he gave many signs that he was still the same unyielding German militarist. A few days afterward, when he returned my visit, he asked:

"Where's Kitchener's army?"

"We are willing to surrender Belgium now," he went on. "Germany intends to build an enormous fleet of submarines with great cruising radius. In the next war, we shall, therefore, be able completely to blockade England. So we do not need Belgium for its submarine bases. We shall give her back to the Belgians, taking the Congo in exchange."

I then made another plea in behalf of the persecuted Christians. Again we discussed this subject at length.

"The Armenians," said Wangenheim, "have shown themselves in this war to be enemies of the Turks. It is quite apparent that the two peoples can never live together in the same country. The Americans should move some of them to the United States, and we Germans will send some to Poland and in their, place send Jewish Poles to the Armenian provinces—that is, if they will promise to drop their Zionist schemes."

Again, although I spoke with unusual earnestness, the Ambassador refused to help the Armenians.

Still, on July 4th, Wangenheim did present a formal note of protest. He did not talk to Talaat or Enver, the only men who had any authority, but to the Grand Vizier, who was merely a shadow. The incident had precisely the same character as his pro forma protest against sending the French and British civilians down to Gallipoli to serve as targets for the British fleet. Its only purpose was to put Germany officially on record. Probably the hypocrisy of this protest was more apparent to me than to others, for, at the very moment when Wangenheim presented this so-called protest, he was giving me the reasons why Germany could not take really effective steps to end the massacres. Soon after this interview, Wangenheim received his leave and went to Germany.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald

The Headlong Fury