Armenian Genocide ; Eye-Witness Accounts ( Part 1)

In 1916, a book was published entitled “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16. Documents presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs”, by Viscount Bryce which contained a comprehensive collection of documents produced by a variety of people who were eye-witnesses to the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. This research and abridged summary is taken directly from an original copy published at the time by His Majesty’s Stationery Office in London.

This first part covers the Preface, initial letters and the 1st 6 documents of 149. The intention is to precis all 149 documents, in a series of blogs, in a way that communicates the horror of the events as they unfolded.


Preface by Viscount Bryce

In the summer of 1915 accounts, few and scanty at first, but increasing in volume later, began to found their way out of Asiatic Turkey as to the events that were happening there.

These accounts described what seemed to be an effort to exterminate a whole nation, without distinction of age and sex, whose misfortune it was to be the subjects of a Government devoid of scruples….It contains all the evidence that could be obtained up till July 1916 as to the massacres and deportations of the Armenian and other Eastern Christians….Nearly all of the evidence comes from eye-witnesses, some of whom wrote it down themselves, while others gave it to persons who wrote it out at the time…..Nearly all of it , moreover, was written immediately after the events described when the witnesses’ recollection was still fresh and clear….

…Perhaps the most terrible feature of all was the suffering of the women with child, who were made to march with the convoys and give birth to their babies on the road….The vast scale of these massacres and the pitiless cruelty with which the deportations were carried out may seem to some readers to throw doubt on the authenticity of the narratives. Can human beings (it may be asked) have perpetrated such crimes on innocent women and children?….such crimes are part of the long settled and often repeated policy of Turkish rulers….In 1895 and 1896 more than 100,000 Armenian Christians were put to death by Abd-ul-Hamid…All these massacres are registered not only in the ordinary press records of current history but in the reports of British diplomatic and consular officials written at the time.

Letter dated 8th October 1915 from four members of the German missions staff in Turkey to the Imperial German Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Berlin.

In the face of the scenes of horror which are being unfolded daily before our eyes in the neighbourhood of our school, our educational activity becomes a mockery of humanity…in the compounds next door to our school, death is carrying off their starving compatriots …there are girls and women and children, practically naked, some lying on the ground, others stretched between the dead or the coffins made ready for them beforehand, and breathing their last breath!

Out of 2000 to 3000 peasant women from the Armenian Plateau who were brought here in good health, only 40, or 50 skeletons are left. The prettier ones are the victims of their gaoler’s lust…There are women out of their mind; they have forgotten how to eat; when one offers them bread, they throw it aside with indifference. They only groan and wait for death.

Document 1 ; Despatch from Mr Henry Wood, correspondent of the American “United Press” at Constantinople; published in the American Press 14th August 1915.

For nearly 3 months now the 2,000,000 Armenians of Turkey have been undergoing at the hands of the Young Turk Government a renewal of the atrocities of Abd-ul-Hamid….the position of the Armenians and the system of deportation, dispersion and extermination that is being carried out against them beggars all description.

The terrible feature of this deportation up to date is that it has been carried out on such a basis as to render practically impossible in thousands and thousands of cases that these families can ever again be reunited.

Document 3 ; Letter dated Arabkir 25th June / 8th July 1915 communicated by the American committee for Armenian and Syrian relief.

The Armenian population has been converted to Islam ; it was a means of escaping from the forced migration. Orthodox Turks are given the wives of absent husbands, or their daughters.

Document 5 ; Letter dated Constantinople 12 / 25th July 1915 ; published in the New York Journal “Gotchnag” 28th August 1915.

...From Samsoun and Kaisaria on the one hand to Edessa on the other, about a million and a half people are at this moment on their way to the deserts of Mesopotamia, to be planted in the midst of Arab and Kurdish populations. These people cannot take with them anything but the barest necessities, because of the impossibility of transport and the insecurity of the roads; so that very few of them indeed will succeed in reaching the spot marked out for their exile, while, if immediate relief is not sent them, they will die of hunger…

Document 6 ; Letter dated Constantinople 13 / 26th July 1915 and addressed to a distinguished Armenian resident beyind the Ottoman frontier.

…It is simply a scheme for exterminating the Armenian nation wholesale, without any fuss. It is just another form of massacre, and a more horrible form…..the Armenians in Turkey have only a few more days to live, and if the Armenians abroad do not succeed in enlisting the sympathy of the neutrals on our behalf, there will be extraordinarily few Armenians left a few months hence out of the million and a half that there were in Turkey before the war. The annihilation of the Armenian nation will then be inevitable!

Categories: Armenian Genocide

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