Armenia—Germany's Guilt

[The Outlook, November 27, 1918]

The Armenians in Turkey are intellectually and economically superior to the Turks. Their Christian civilization far antedates the Turkish Mohammedan regime. The Turkish Government has shown its hatred of them by previous massacres, but never on such a scale as in 1915.

So far as we have been able to find out, the only excuse since given by the Turkish Government for these massacres was its alleged discovery of a conspiracy among the Armenians—that they had collected firearms and bombs and had arranged, with the help of England and Russia, for a widespread slaughter of the Turks as soon as the English fleet should capture the Dardanelles.

"Surely this massacre of Armenians is not happening with German connivance!" exclaimed many, especially those who had known about the work of German missionaries in Asia Minor. Disclaimers from Germany and were believed by the credulous. They were not worthy of this credence, however.

This is evident in two recently published books. One is a diplomat's journal, the other a war correspondent's impressions.

As a member of our Embassy at Constantinople, Mr. Einstein spent the years from 1906 to 1909 there; also the months from April to September, 1915. These months marked the period of the Armenian massacres and the period when Germany gradually assumed such charges of Turkish governmental departments as to call forth the comment, "Deutschland über Alles"

Dr. Stuermer, a Badener, naturally never looked with Prussian eyes upon the war. For half a year he was with the army and then, invalided, went to Constantinople as correspondent of the "Kölnische Zeitung." Now, from the safe shelter of Switzerland, he has published the present volume to show, we are glad to learn, that there are still Germans who find it impossible to condone even tacitly the moral transgression and political stupidity of their own Government.

Both writers were indignant at what they saw of German callousness. Writing in 1915, Mr. Einstein says that "in most instances the German consuls have refused their assistance in mitigating the persecution of Armenians. They themselves have been willing enough, but had received instructions not to interfere in this from their Embassy…. The German Embassy is ready enough to make paper declarations for purpose of record, but with no idea of their utility.

When the Armenian Patriarch appeared at the Embassy with his suite, adds Dr. Stuermer, "after some particularly frightful sufferings of the Armenian population, and begged with tears in his eyes for help from the Embassy, however late, I never saw any concern for the fate of the Armenian people."

If in later years German officialdom should seek to disclaim responsibility, the broad fact remains, as Mr. Einstein asserts, that the Germans had military direction at Constantinople, and he wrote at the time: "The Germans, to their eternal disgrace, will not lift a finger to save the Armenians." This condemnation was natural from an American. But the same, judgment from a German is more impressive. It turned Dr. Stuermer from an espousal of his country's cause into a denial of it. What he had to witness for more than a year every time he set foot out of doors reached a climax one day. He writes:

My wife came back to the house trembling all over.... She had heard the agonizing groans of a tortured being, a dull wailing like the sound of an animal being tormented to death. "An Armenian," she was informed by the people standing at the door….

"If such scenes occur in broad daylight in the busiest part of the European town of Pera [a part of Constantinople], I should like to know what is done to Armenians in the uncivilized interior," my wife asked me...."You are brutes, you Germans, miserable brutes, that you tolerate this from, the Turks when you still have the country absolutely in your hands. You are cowardly brutes, and I will never set foot in your horrible country again. God, how hate Germany!"

It was then, when my own wife, trembling and sobbing, in grief, rage, and disgust at such cowardliness, flung this denunciation of my country in my teeth, that I finally and absolutely broke with Germany.

In long confidential reports to his paper the correspondent made clear to it the whole position with regard to Armenian persecutions, and he tells us that "the Foreign Office too took notice of these reports. But I saw no trace of the fruits of this knowledge in the attitude of my paper." He adds:

The case is well known, and has been absolutely verified of the scandalous conduct of two German officers passing through a village in far Asia Minor, where the Armenians had taken refuge....The order had been given-that guns were to be turned on them, but not a single Turk had the courage to carry out this order and fire on women and children. Without any authority whatsoever, the two German officers then turned to and gave an exhibition of their shooting capacities!

But the crowning proof of German compliance with Armenian extinction was found in the demand on Russia by Germany, namely, to hand over the Caucasus to the Turks. This region includes Russian Armenia, with its population of 1,200,000 Armenians. The Turks counted upon the millions of their coreligionists in the Caucasus to help them to a new Armenian massacre, if the Turks thought it desirable.

The German mask is dropped. We see the hideousness of calculated brutality. Perhaps one result will be to turn other Germans from their former loyalty.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —


A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald

The Headlong Fury