Navigation – Plan du site
Études

Financing the Ruling Party and Its Militants in Wartime:
The Armenian Genocide and the Kemah Massacres of 1915

Financer le parti au pouvoir et ses militants en temps de guerre : le génocide arménien et les massacres de Kemah en 1915
Hilmar Kaiser
p. 7-31

Résumés

En s’appuyant pour une grande part sur des sources ottomanes, cet article étudie les déportations qui ont eu lieu pendant le génocide des Arméniens dans la province d'Erzerum, en Anatolie orientale, et plus particulièrement les massacres perpétrés à Kemah et dans ses environs, dans le district d'Erzindjan. Il met en évidence le rôle central d’acteurs tels que Tahsin [Uzer], Ebu Hindi Djafer Bey, Fuat Sabit [Ağacık] et d’autres membres du Comité Union et Progrès (CUP) et de la Teshkilat-ı Mahsusa (Organisation spéciale), ainsi que celui d’organisations civiles sous le contrôle du CUP. L’article apporte ainsi de nouveaux éléments factuels sur le pillage des biens mobiliers arméniens et sur les modalités de la distribution du butin entre les officiers et donneurs d’ordres sur le terrain, les participants directs aux massacres et le pouvoir central à Constantinople. Au travers du cas étudié, les intérêts économiques du parti au pouvoir et ceux des bourreaux sur place apparaissent ainsi comme des moteurs de l'anéantissement des déportés arméniens, ce qu’avait déjà clairement établi l’enquête d’une cour martiale ottomane en 1915-1916 sur les faits de corruption survenus à Kemah, en montrant la nature préméditée du crime et la responsabilité de l’État.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 K. Baghdjian, 1987; S. Toriguian, 1988.

1For decades the question of Armenian property within the context of the Armenian Genocide had remained a neglected area of research. Comparably few studies, with a limited source basis, offered some preliminary insights.1 Since the 1990s, the publication of Ottoman documents combined with independent archival research expanded our understanding of the phenomenon. It became clear that the Ottoman government followed a systematic approach concerning Armenian real estate and other properties. Research on Armenian movable property, however, remained comparably limited.

  • 2 H. Kaiser, 2002, p. 163.

2During the genocide many deportees carried a significant part of their wealth with them in the form of cash, jewelry, and financial instruments. They did so because they were aware of the difficulties they would have to face and tried to prepare themselves as well as possible. One way to do so was to turn possessions into cash for the journey. Thus, deportee caravans carried sizeable amounts of valuables. A fact that attracted a whole range of offenders who wanted to capitalize on what they saw as an opportunity for enrichment. Survivor memoirs recount extortions, attacks, and atrocities at many locations. Survivor accounts show that plundering regularly went hand in hand with massacres, often under the supervision of officials or local leaders. The mountain region between Malatia and Kahta, inhabited by the Kurdish Reshvan tribe under its leader Zeynel Bey became notorious for large scale massacres and plundering. The crimes were committed in coordination with the Ottoman district authorities at Malatia. The attackers collected life insurance policies, government bonds, stocks, and the like from their victims, indicating an elaborate scheme reaching beyond the understanding of illiterate tribesmen dwelling in isolated mountain valleys. While evidence on plundering is not lacking, the question arises in regards to how far were Ottoman organizations or the state involved in the crimes.2

3To the North of Malatia another place became notorious for large scale massacres of deportees. Kemah, a town within the province of Erzerum in the district of Erzindjan, was located along a major deportation route passing through the defiled Euphrates nearby. Starting in June 1915, the majority of the Armenian population of in the provinces of Erzerum and Trebizond and a considerable part of the Armenian deportees coming from the province of Sivas had to pass through the bottleneck. Ottoman officials organized the massacres as the location offered them favorable conditions for their bloody pursuits. Soon, news about the atrocities spread the surrounding region and beyond. This paper will discuss the Kemah massacres in relation to Armenian movable property. It will become apparent that the massacres as such were neither random nor a mere sequence of events. The atrocities at Kemah were organized in a way designed to secure the ruling “Committee of Union and Progress” (CUP) and its operatives took the major part of the booty.

  • 3 H. Kaiser, 2010, p. 177-180.
  • 4 DH.ŞFR 53-93, Minister to Erzerum, Van, Bitlis provinces, May 23, 1915.

4Ottoman government policies targeting Armenians were not the result of careful administrative preparations. Instead the implementation and directives bore the hallmarks of rushed improvisation and were not carefully thought through. Since March 1915, provincial authorities and the Ottoman Fourth Army had urged for and initiated limited deportations of Armenians in the areas of Dortjol and Zeitun in historic Cilicia. While the central authorities sanctioned the measures, the latter were not part of a comprehensive government program.3 On 24 April 1915, the Ottoman central authorities started arresting or detaining Armenian community leaders in Constantinople and ordering similar action throughout the empire. Initially, 235 Constantinople Armenians were exiled from the city or imprisoned near Angora or detained in Tchankiri. More comprehensive deportation orders for areas in Bitlis and Erzerum followed. None of these orders, however, targeted the property of the prisoners, exiled or banished families. Armenian property only emerged as a corner stone of vastly expanded anti-Armenian policy towards the end of May 1915. 4

  • 5 A-Do, 2015; H. Kaiser, 2019b.
  • 6 US-NA/RG59/867.4016/67, Sharp to Secretary of State, Paris, May 28, 1915, telegram 796, in A. Saraf (...)
  • 7 H. Kaiser, 1999, p. 79-80.
  • 8 Bab-ı Ali Evrak Odası (BEO) 4357-326758, Talaat to Cabinet, May 26, 1915, IAMM 270.
  • 9 Takvim-i Vekayi 2189 (June 1, 1915).
  • 10 Meclis-i Vükela 198-24, May 30, 1915, Minutes 163.
  • 11 BEO 4357-326758, Grand Vizierate to DH, War Ministry, Finance Ministry, May 1915, Dept. Important A (...)

5The administrative targeting of Armenian property followed a failed government attempt to exterminate the Armenian population of Van and parts of Bitlis between 18 April and 19 May 1915.5 The setback was followed by a Russian occupation of parts of the Van province triggering a wave of Kurdish refugees heading west. Secondly, on 24 May 1915 the Entente powers published a declaration that they would hold personally responsible those Ottoman officials who had been involved in “crimes against humanity and civilization.”6 The announcement was a powerful reminder for Talaat Bey, the Ottoman Minister of the Interior, that deportation and other orders for the repression of Armenians lacked legal basis and were in violation of Ottoman law. In response to the declaration, Talaat Bey forwarded memorandum to the Cabinet on 26 May 1915.7 Shukru Bey [Kaya], the director of the Ministry of Interior’s (Dahiliye Nezareti, hereafter: DH) “Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and Immigrants” (İskan-ı Aşair ve Muhacirin Müdüriyeti, hereafter: IAMM) had been in charge of drafting the document.8 The following day, on 27 May 1915 the government passed a so-called provisional law signed by the Sultan Mehmed Reshad, Grand-Vizier Said Halim Pasha, and Minister of War Enver Pasha, who was the de-facto Supreme Commander. The Ottoman official gazette published the law on 1 June 1915. The law sanctioned whole-sale deportations of civilians if ordered by a military commander for reasons of military necessity. The provisional law was short and lacked specifics for its implementation.9 The latter remained secret for the time being. At a meeting on 30 May 1915, the Ottoman Cabinet adopted the line of argument the DH had proposed, it also sanctioned the measures the DH had taken previously.10 But the cabinet not only approved repressions and full-scale deportations of Armenians. It also agreed on regulations for the expropriation of the deportees.11

  • 12 The drafting of the regulations had been in the making for some time. On 23 May 1915, the Ministry (...)

6The IAMM had put together the expropriation program. Two secret regulations dated 30 May and 10 June 1915 outlined the program. It would take, however, weeks before all local administrations had obtained copies of the documents. From the beginning, the regulations made it clear that the Armenian deportations were not a temporary measure despite all government claims to the contrary. In reality, the government intended a comprehensive re-organization of the empire’s population. Armenians were to be replaced by Muslim settlers who would supposedly also take over their role within the economy. Little if any preparations had been made for the deportees. Everything was left to the imagination of local officials in a war time situation where provisions were lacking, transport was at best difficult, and sanitary conditions were disastrous.12

7In the following pages, I will discus role of provincial officials in the atrocities accompanying the deportations in the province of Erzerum in the summer of 1915. First I will focus on the massacres and extortion of movable properties perpetrated in and around Kemah. Then I will elaborate on an inquiry commission that military authorities had set up at the time. It was to investigate the embezzlement of numerous organizers and the executioners of the genocide. In doing so the commission’s findings revealed the very nature of an organized system of predation.

The deportations in the province of Erzerum: organization and official narratives of mass violence

  • 13 H. Kaiser, 2019b and 2019a. This section further elaborates in some detail and partly revises my ea (...)

8Erzerum was one of the first regions which were to be emptied of all Armenians. Provincial governor Hasan Tahsin Bey [Uzer] was a close confidant of Talaat Bey. In 1913 and 1914 he had served as governor of Van and supervised intelligence operations against Kurdish opposition circles in Persia. While the anti-Kurdish activities included assassinations, those directed against Armenians were, for the time being, non-violent and focused on administrative measures to diminish the Armenian communities’ political and economic influence. In early November 1914, Tahsin Bey arrived to Erzerum where he served together with Bahaeddin Shakir Bey as a leader of the secret “Teshkilat-ı Mahsusa” (“Special Organization,” hereafter: TM). The DH gave the new governor extraordinary powers by granting him supervisory powers over the governors of the neighboring Bitlis and Van provinces. In his new position, Tahsin Bey played a decisive role in shaping CUP’s anti-Armenian policies following the Ottoman attack on Russia. Critically, he advocated the extension of repressive and exterminatory policies from the Armenian political leadership to the wider population in April 1915.13

  • 14 H. Kaiser, 2002, p. 152-156.

9The deportations from Erzerum began earlier in May 1915 and preceded the government’s official deportation program. On 15 May 1915, the Erzerum authorities started the deportation of 30,000 Armenians. The first caravan included the families of local Armenian leaders and, generally speaking, the more affluent part of the community. As many traders owed money to German and other partners, Tahsin Bey was wondering how to protect the interests of the creditors. In the end, he created a committee from dignitaries and local businessmen that stored merchandise and valuables as security for the deportees’ debts.14

  • 15 DH.ŞFR 450-62, Bahaeddin Shakir to Talaat, Erzerum, Nov. 25, 1914; 52-281, Minister to Tahsin, May  (...)

10TM leader Bahaeddin Shakir Bey played an important role in this context. Officially, he worked as a Red Crescent physician. Already during the Balkan wars, he had used this cover at Adrianople where he acted as a kind of political commissar for the CUP. Until early November 1914, the operative had practically controlled provincial affairs. Following Tahsin Bey’s arrival at his post, Bahaeddin Shakir Bey acted as a political commissar at the Third Army’s headquarters. Together with Erzerum governor Tahsin Bey he coordinated efforts with Bitlis, which was to join the deportation program. His actions were in part, however, improvised and needed to be adjusted with pending central government plans. On 23 May 1915, the DH ordered the deportation of all Armenians from Van, Bitlis, and Erzerum. In line with his radical views, Tahsin Bey called for the extension of deportations also to Diarbekir, Harput, and Sivas.15

  • 16 DH.ŞFR 472-145, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, May 29, 1915; 474-123, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 9, 1915; (...)

11By 20 May 1915, the first caravan had reached Erzindjan. Local authorities reported problems with Kurdish outlaws from the Dersim district of Harput. Allegedly, the Kurds had overwhelmed local security forces and begun plundering. Despite their own reports, the Erzindjan authorities expelled 30,000 Armenians from the district and the Baiburt sub-district. Moreover, 20,000 Armenians from the Kighi sub-district had been sent south. The final deportations from the city of Erzindjan and the town of Baiburt were scheduled for 12 June 1915. At the same time, tens of thousands of Armenians from the city of Erzerum and its vicinity were on their way to Erzindjan. Meanwhile, Dersim bandits continued attacking Armenians “from all sides.” Terdjan sub-district reported that Kurds had massacred a caravan of 500 Armenians. The last 15,000 Armenians in the area were expected to suffer the same fate. In response, Tahsin Bey dispatched forces to the area and ordered Erzindjan governor Memduh Sermed Bey to reestablish control along the deportation route. Minister of Interior Talaat Bey as well gave orders for the protection of the deportees. Anyone who tried to escape or attacked security officials had to be punished. It was important to keep in mind the impact of “incidents” would have abroad. The correspondence showed that the DH was well aware of ongoing atrocities. Yet, it refused to delay or change its deportation program.16

  • 17 Bahaeddin Shakir Bey remained in Erzerum until 21 July 1915 when left for Bitlis, coordinating his (...)

12In line with his orders Tahsin Bey continued deportations from the city of Erzerum and its outlying districts. Only a few days later, on 17 June 1915, the governor announced the imminent end of deportations as almost all Armenians had left Erzerum. Erzindjan had already been completely emptied of Armenians as had been the Kighi sub-district. With the end of deportations nearing, Bahaeddin Shakir Bey left for Trebizond where he coordinated deportations with governor Djemal Azmi Bey. Given the importance of the operative’s tasks, Tahsin Bey kept Talaat Bey informed on the TM leaders’ moves. Clearly, Bahaeddin Shakir Bey’s agenda was a matter of highest importance to the DH and CUP. On 21 June 1915, Bahaeddin Shakir Bey was expected to be back in Erzerum. It was the very same day that Third Army Commander Mahmud Kiamil Pasha officially demanded the deportation of Armenians from Diarbekir, Harput, Sivas, and Trebizond. Thus, it seems that the TM leader’s mission to Trebizond had been successful. With arrangements in place, the military’s deportation order became a mere formality satisfying the minimal requirements of the deportation law.17

  • 18 DH.ŞFR 476-45, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 18/19, 1915; 666-26, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 24, 191 (...)

13The expansion of the deportation program brought more deportees to the Erzindjan district where according to Tahsin Bey it was impossible to protect them. Once again, the blame was put on Kurdish “bandits” from Dersim in the neighboring Harput province. The attackers were committing abominable acts against Armenian women and children. While the authorities failed to prevent attacks on Armenians, they, nevertheless, succeeded in killing Armenians who had tried to escape from caravans and the dangers of deportation. Authorities estimated the number of deportees sent by way of Kemah at about 110,000 to 120,000 on 26 June 1915. Despite orders for the protection of deportees, reports about Kurdish attacks on deportees continued. Thus, Tahsin Bey suggested a temporary halt of deportations until roads had been secured. In line with its established policy, the DH insisted, once more, on unrelenting deportations. Not surprisingly, atrocities continued.18

  • 19 DH.ŞFR 474-3, Sabit to Ministry of Interior, Harput, June 5, 1915; 475-30, Sabit to DH, Harput, Jun (...)

14Tahsin Bey’s claim that Kurds from the Dersim district in Harput were to blame for the crimes was a somewhat convenient explanation. It put the blame on Harput governor Sabit Bey [Sağıroğlu] who appeared to be incapable of keeping control over areas of his province. Not surprisingly, the accusation triggered a stern response. Dismissing any responsibility for the crimes in Erzerum, Sabit Bey claimed that it had been the Armenians who had caused trouble. Allegedly, Armenian “bandits” had killed a gendarme from Dersim while wounding many Kurds who were transporting military supplies to Erzerum. At the same time, Armenian deserters had fled to Dersim where they raped women belonging to local tribes thereby inciting Kurds against Armenians. Nonetheless, the authorities had managed to keep the situation under control. The governor informed his Erzerum colleague that only ten percent of the assailants were from Dersim. Most attackers came from the latter’s province. While Harput was allegedly safe for deportees, the problem rested with incapable officials in Erzerum and the lack of discipline among the security forces there. If true, the information supplied by the Harput authorities indicated a wealth of available local information and remarkable measure of control over the Dersim area.19

  • 20 DH.ŞFR 479-107, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, July 12, 1915.

15Faced by determined criticism, Tahsin Bey changed his story. According to new information, the attackers included not only Kurds but also gendarmes and others. It was this mix of perpetrators that had committed rapes and similar outrages. Armenian property, too, had become a target. Some offenders had extorted money from Armenian deportees who had formerly been residents of Baiburt and Erzindjan. Moreover, the Armenians’ so-called abandoned property was not properly registered and administered. Based on the available information, security forces had taken effective measures and shot 34 offenders in Kighi and another 22 Kurds who had blocked the Baiburt – Erzindjan road. Moreover, arrests were going on with two policemen, 16 gendarmes, and ten tax-collectors among the prisoners. By 12 July 1915, four deportee caravans were on the way from Erzindjan to Kemah. Displaying his personal determination to do things right, Tahsin Bey announced that he would visit Baiburt and Erzindjan to punish offenders.20 This was, however, not the full story.

  • 21 DH.ŞFR 477-20, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, June 24, 1915; 479-89, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, July 11, 19 (...)

16Much to the displeasure of the governor, Erzerum’s German Vice-Consul Max Von Scheubner-Richter had been investigating the deportations and atrocities. He had been collecting reports and even taking depositions of survivors at the consulate. Contrary to his embassy’s orders, the Vice-Consul had taken food to deportee caravans and taken photos of what he saw. In his comprehensive reports he denounced the CUP and the administration. Tahsin Bey accused the German official of neglecting his duties and instead busying himself with the protection of Armenians. When he visited the consulate one night, he saw that Scheubner-Richter had been talking to a wounded Armenian survivor. Losing his composure, Tahsin Bey strongly criticized the Vice-Consul for what he labeled his “shameful” behavior. In response, Scheubner-Richter advised the governor that he was simply fulfilling his duties as the embassy had instructed him to report on the massacres. Seeing that he could not stop the German official, Tahsin Bey alerted the DH and intended to turn to the army command for help. One way of obstructing Scheubner-Richter’s efforts was to undermine his social standing. Pointing out that the consulate was protecting a number of young Armenian women on its premises, the governor alluded to what had to be considered immoral behavior of German officers including the Vice-Consul. Moreover, the Armenian employees at the consulate were allegedly Armenian revolutionaries and therefore prime targets for the authorities. In sum, relations between the governor and the German consulate were tense although both sides maintained outwardly cordial relations. The situation became even more critical when Scheubner-Richter announced that he would travel to Erzindjan and the scenes of recent atrocities. Given the sensitivity of the issue, Tahsin Bey did not entrust surveillance to a sub-ordinate but took upon himself the task of going and keeping the German official in his company.21

  • 22 DH.ŞFR 477-79, Djemal Azmi to DH, Trebizond, June 27, 1915; 479-3, Djemal Azmi to DH, Trebizond, Ju (...)
  • 23 DH.ŞFR 480-105, Djemal Azmi to DH, Trebizond, July 21, 1915.

17Meanwhile, more than 40,000 Armenian deportees from Trebizond had arrived at Erzindjan after weeks of walking for lack of means of transport. Others continued arriving from Trebizond. On 7 July 1915, Trebizond governor Djemal Azmi Bey reported that the deportations had been successful and executed in line with the “arrangements” made by Bahaeddin Shakir Bey.22 Thus, when Tahsin Bey met with the Trebizond governor at Gumushkhane discussions focused on supplies for the military. Armenian matters did not enter the report for the DH.23

  • 24 DH.ŞFR 482-130, Tahsin to DH, Aug. 7, 1915; 484-108, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, Aug. 20, 1915; 55-1 (...)

18At Erzindjan Tahsin Bey found the city in a state of “anarchy.” A gang of bandits was supposedly acting in the name of the Ottoman government. Public security had broken down as incompetent politicians were not performing their duties. Two Armenian bishops were dying each day in camps on the outskirts of the city. District Governor Memduh had lost all control over the administration. Tahsin Bey fired the gendarmerie commander and sent a large number of gendarmes to frontline duty as punishment. He also exchanged the entire police force of Erzindjan district. Staff of the agricultural bank lost its position for plundering Armenian property. Other officials involved were the gendarmerie detachment commander and the Refahiye forest official. The culprits were handed over to the court-martial. Altogether 150 persons were to be court-martialed. Tahsin Bey could, however, not remove Madjid Bey, a legal official appointed by the central government, without his superior’s approval. More important was, however, that Madjid Bey was also the responsible secretary of the CUP for Erzindjan and president of the local branch of the “National Defense League” (Müdâfaa-i Milliye Cemiyeti). This combination of official and political position was rather common. The CUP sent high ranking party emissaries usually in some sort of official capacity while their true assignment was only known to party circles. Thus, Tahsin Bey used caution when he urged his superiors to approve the operative’s removal. The governor only vaguely indicated the extent of the man’s crimes. The DH approved Tahsin Bey’s measures in general. In Madjid Bey’s case, however, the central authorities were reluctant to give their consent. Pointedly, the DH reminded the governor that it had been upon his own request that Madjid Bey had been chosen for the position at Erzindjan. Moreover, the DH wondered whether Memduh Bey should be transferred to an assignment in another province. In response, Tahsin Bey described Memduh Bey as a dedicated and reliable official and supported a promotion. The assessment was astonishing given the governor’s own graphic description of the situation in Memduh Bey’s jurisdiction. As the DH hesitated to recall Madjid Bey, the governor used a second avenue and pressed the issue in a second telegram to the CUP’s Central Committee. Once more, he argued that Madjid Bey’s recall was of the highest importance. Not only was the situation bad in Erzindjan, but the conditions in the sub-districts were deplorable. South of Kemah, near Kurutchai and Armudan, armed Armenians had been allegedly attacking Muslim villages. As it turned out, local officials had invented the story. Consequently, a sub-district governor and nahie governor were removed from office. The situation in Refahiye and in Kemah sub-districts was not better. Kemah sub-district governor Rifat Bey was inexperienced. Moreover, Harput governor Sabit Bey’s clan, the Saghirzades, locally commanded an overwhelming influence. Kurdish offenders received a harsher treatment. About 100 of them had been shot. At Kighi 32 Kurds were executed on the spot. Some local officials were dismissed. Given the extent of the scandal, the central government demanded a list of all corrupt officials and of those involved in “shameful acts.”24

  • 25 DH.ŞFR 481-123, Sabit to DH, Hozat, July 30, 1915; 482-28, Sabit to DH, Hozat, Aug. 1, 1915; 482-75 (...)

19Tahsin Bey’s description of conditions in the district of Erzindjan did not stop him from continuing to blame the Dersim Kurds. The latter were mostly Alevi tribesmen who had unlike many Sunni tribes failed to answer the call for “djihad.” Nor had they contributed their share for provisioning the army. Instead they had been plundering and been sheltering Armenians. The Erzerum governor did not explain to his superiors his change of argument. Until very recently, it had been foremost the Dersim Kurds who had been slaughtering Armenian deportees. Now, he accused the very same people of protecting Armenians while failing to explain who had been killing the deportees. Most likely, recent events in Harput province had triggered Tahsin Bey’s change of mind. Harput governor Sabit Bey had been operating in Dersim at the head of a security force, increasing government control over the Kurdish tribes. At the same time, he was hunting down Armenian deportees who had fled to the mountainous area or were being sheltered by Kurdish tribes. Thus, Tahsin Bey did simply admit to what had become an undeniable fact, Kurds had been protecting Armenians. The Kurds’ protection of Armenians, however, was as much a crime as plundering and not serving at the frontline. In the end, the Erzerum governor still attempted to deflect responsibility for conditions in the Erzindjan district by placing the blame at Sabit Bey’s doorsteps. It is obvious that the provincial authorities were fully aware of the atrocities accompanying the deportations. Their reports show that they could hardly hide their direct involvement in the violence. Tahsin Bey’s most serious distortion, however, was the total omission of the massacres along the Euphrates between Erzindjan and Kurutchai, generally referred to as the Kemah massacres.25

Kemah: the economy of a slaughterhouse

  • 26 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankensch (...)

20Kemah was a small sub-district center west of Erzindjan on the Euphrates. Further to the south lay Kurutchai, the center of a sub-district bordering on the Harput province. At the provincial border Erzerum security forces handed over the deportees under their guard to officials from Harput. The entire region south-west of Erzindjan to the Kurutchai formed a large killing zone with numerous execution sites close to the main river or in smaller side valleys. The Euphrates valley and ravines around Kemah afforded the Ottoman authorities a suitable location for massacres. The area could be easily sealed off and deportees had very few options to escape. The gorges also allowed for fast mass killings by pushing people over the edges of cliffs, thereby economizing on manpower or ammunition. Moreover, the strong current carried the corpses away making space for more victims. Unlike at Gumushkhane the need for digging mass graves and the smell of rotting corpses remained limited.26

21Most important was careful planning. The victims earmarked for extermination had to be delivered to the killing fields according to schedule. Therefore, a holding area nearby was indispensable. The authorities turned fields around the garrison town Erzindjan into transit camps. Erzindjan was ideal due to its strategic location on a vast plain where major deportation routes from Erzerum, Trebizond, and Sivas merged. The city possessed modern military installations, hospitals, and a functioning communication infrastructure allowing for coordination with military and civilian authorities within the region, neighboring provinces or, if necessary, with the central government in Constantinople.

  • 27 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankensch (...)
  • 28 National Archives, United Kingdom, Foreign Office (hereafter: FO) 371/2768/1455/261608, Dec. 26, 19 (...)
  • 29 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankensch (...)
  • 30 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankensch (...)

22Almost all arriving deportees had witnessed atrocities. They had lost loved ones or had been personally subjected to outrages. Those arriving from Erzerum to the east had passed through several killing fields like those around Mamakhatun and Terdjan.27 The Trebizond caravans had come from the north and passed through the slaughterhouse Gumushkhane district had become.28 Caravans arriving from eastern sub-districts of Sivas, like Sushehri, had suffered as well but probably to a somewhat lesser extent. In sum, authorities along the way to Erzindjan had executed a series of atrocities and abductions which significantly reduced the size of passing caravans. At Erzindjan the caravans were halted and merged with other convoys thereby regaining the desired number of deportees per caravan. Efficiency was important as at least 150,000 deportees had to pass through Erzindjan and the Euphrates gorge near Kemah. The deportees remained for this purpose several days camping in open fields in the vicinity of the town. They were not allowed to enter the city. Still, they were able to acquire supplies provided they still had enough money to pay for the inflated prices. At times, the transit camps became the scene of massacres when gendarmes began robbing people or abducting girls. Often local Muslims took advantage of the situation and abducted girls and children.29 Others warned the deportees of imminent massacre in the Kemah area or offered their help to those who wanted to escape against reward. The deportees were fully aware that they were walking towards a massacre site when they left Erzindjan for Kemah. In one case, the leader of a gang of chetes, Nadjib Bey, promised an Armenian family he knew protection claiming that he entertained good relations with the governor of Kemah. Such information served to some extent also the interests of authorities as deportees knew that they needed to have their money or jewelry ready, which was usually hidden within their clothes or they had swallowed it. The delay at Erzindjan gave them time to prepare. In this way the deportees were made to cooperate with the perpetrators who would have hardly been able to extract coins and precious stones from among the clothes and bodies of thousands of their victims. 30

  • 31 AAA, Hagob Mihran Ferahian; Pailag Khatchadourian; Hagob Mihran Ferahian; Gegham Petros Hatsagordsi (...)

23The deportee caravans left the fields around Erzindjan once the killing squads in the Kemah area were able to slaughter new victims. The frightened people had to pass several locations, most notably the Euphrates bridge at Kemah, which functioned as a toll booth. Deportees were only allowed to cross or pass if they were able to pay for the privilege. The bridge was also an ideal place for security forces to spot and separate from the caravan men who had been hiding among the women. Those who could not pay ransom or were deemed too important to be allowed to stay alive were killed. Regularly the ransom had to be paid as a group and a representative had to hand it over. There were simply too many deportees to rob each individual. On one occasion about three hundred men from one caravan alone were marched off and murdered. At the bridge and nearby, the perpetrators also targeted Armenian girls. Many of them committed suicide along the gorge by throwing themselves into the river in order to escape abduction, rape or mutilation. The bodies of those who had fallen on rocks became a gruesome sight for those passing by.31

  • 32 T. Lehmann-Haupt, 1921, p. 38.
  • 33 Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 245-246.

24Some men, especially the wealthier, were separated from the caravans and kept in a church or an old khan at Kemah. The walls of the latter were covered in the blood of recently killed Armenians. In the location the deportees were body searched while those who resisted were taken away and killed.32 Local officials and leaders of the killing squads interrogated the wealthier trying to extort significant sums. They were aware that their demands were likely to exceed the sums their victims could hand over in cash on the spot. Thus, the men in charge accepted payment by check indicating that they and their superiors had the necessary instruments and legal backing to turn the checks into money. Gendarmes for their part robbed deportees randomly demanding money, taking gold watches and other valuables. This was, however, illegal and could lead to punishment if reported to the superiors.33

  • 34 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankensch (...)
  • 35 FO 371/2768/1455/261608, Dec. 26, 1916, Armenian Massacres. Report by an eye witness Lieutenant Say (...)
  • 36 Onnik Kouyoumdjian, “Les atrocités de Kémach,” Renaissance (April 27, 1919).

25Like on other occasions, gendarmes and irregulars coordinated their killing activities or worked directly together.34 Still the manpower remained a problem and regular troops were ordered to join the slaughter. Some survivors escaped to Erzindjan where they informed the staff of a German Red Cross hospital. Similarly, perpetrators, among them regular soldiers, told nurses how they had killed dozens of women and children. They also identified the 86th cavalry regiment as a unit that had participated under its own officers.35 The situation was similar in an Ottoman military hospital where an Armenian working under a false identity was attending the needs of a certain Omer Bey. The latter’s rank of first lieutenant did not reflect his real importance. He had been dispatched from Constantinople to Kemah on massacre duty as commander of a killing squad. He made it clear that he had been most successful in killing Armenians, still he suffered from nightmares about the massacres.36

  • 37 Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 246.

26At Kemah, the authorities registered those men who had been separated from the caravans. The deportees had to give their names, ages, places of residence, and in case of city dwellers also their town quarter. Evidently, the data was to be correlated with the population registers. The processing of the deportees was a preparation for massacre. The government required precise information on the progress of the killings.37

  • 38 Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 247-250; H. Ilgaz, A (...)

27One group numbered about 900-1000 men. Once they had been robbed, gendarmes tied them together forming groups of about 30 men each. After that they marched off the men to a nearby location where irregulars were waiting. In charge of the massacre was Ebuhindi Djafer Bey [Erçikan]. He was a TM commander who before the war had been in charge of intelligence operations including the assassination of leading Armenian community members at Erzerum. He personally oversaw the arrival of the new batches of victims at a valley near the Euphrates. When a man tried to escape, Djafer Bey ordered the gendarmes to kill the victim by bayonet. After the murder, the deportees were separated in two groups with the first one let behind a hill where gendarmes shot them. Meanwhile, the irregulars who were officially under Djafer Bey’s command robbed the remaining deportees before dispatching them in smaller groups to the massacre site. The process, however, turned out to be too slow to finish off all victims before sunset. Thus, Djafer Bey decided that the last 250 to 300 men still alive should be killed together. Given the large number of victims, the gendarmes did not dare to approach the group. Instead they fired from a distance and killed only few of the men. In defiance, the victims cursed Djafer Bey and his wife as well as his religion, prophet, and the latter’s wives. Some of the deportees were members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. They assured Djafer Bey that their party would take revenge on him and others like him. When Djafer Bey understood that shooting the people did not work fast enough, he ordered gendarmes to kill the men by bayonet. Djafer Bey encouraged the killers by shouting loudly that he would pay them their share of the booty at Kemah once the slaughter had been accomplished. The gendarmes made three rounds along the lines of deportees stabbing each of them. Despite Djafer Bey’s warning that none must survive, some men managed to hide under the corpses of their fellow victims. Only six men survived.38

  • 39 AAA, Nazeli Tehlirian; Hagob Mihran Ferahian; Puras Stepanian; Gegham Petros Hatsagordsian, “Testim (...)
  • 40 MAE, Kaiané Abrahamian, Basra, n. d., enclosure in Roux to Pichon, Basra, Mar. 17, 1918; Arakel Gha (...)

28The survival chances of those deportees who had not been earmarked for slaughter around Kemah were higher but nevertheless not good. The route along the Euphrates became littered with human remains, abandoned children, and the sick. The river itself turned into a cemetery of floating corpses. Some women threw their babies and toddlers into the river when they ran out of food. Given the desperate conditions, families gave up girls to Muslims who promised to let them stay alive. Often the girls were simply abducted without asking. Gendarmes killed those who could not keep pace with the caravan.39 Weak and sick deportees had little if any chance to stay with the other deportees as at Kemah or soon later the deportees had to surrender their animals and ox-carts. Those were not to leave the province. When they finally reached the border of Harput, the authorities merged the decimated caravans once more into large units. They were fully aware on the extent of the killings and wanted to realize the possible economies in security forces’ manpower. The deportees’ ox carts and beasts of burden were intended for military use.40

29From the testimonies cited above, it is clear that massacres and plundering in Kemah went hand in hand. TM officers as well as gendarmes and various civil authorities were involved in this organized predation. The inquiry which followed immediately after the perpetration of these crimes also implicated the CUP central committee and Constantinople political elites.

The Inquiry: tracking embezzlement in times of genocide

  • 41 FO 6501, No. 2790, Ejzaji Mehmed Bey.

30Survivor accounts demonstrated that the violence was not as random as Erzerum governor Tahsin Bey had suggested in his reporting. His silence was, however, not based on ignorance. At Erzindjan abundant information was available about the extent and nature of the atrocities. The governor of Erzerum province had held meetings with Memduh Bey, Deputy Halet Bey, CUP leader Pharmacist Mehmet Bey, and apparently also Madjid Bey. Moreover, Tahsin Bey had himself visited the Euphrates area himself on a tour of inspection and inevitably must have seen the scenes or traces of the atrocities. Nevertheless, despite his silence, the Erzerum governor became instrumental in further clarifying the circumstances of the mass slaughter.41

  • 42 DH.Emniyet-i Umumiye Müdüriyeti 2. Şube 29-50, Madjid to DH, [Constantinople], July 22, 1916; DH to (...)

31Soon after Tahsin Bey’s return to Erzerum, military authorities started investigating officials and other staff for abuse of office. In line with the Erzerum governor’s views the military officers investigated the disappearance of large amounts of money and valuables as well as draught animals. The inquiry was not focusing on the massacres that were inextricably connected to the theft of valuables. From the onset, the murder of tens of thousands of Ottoman citizens was excluded from legal investigation. Moreover, Tahsin Bey and his superiors took additional precautions. Under false guise of punishing offenders and through an administrative reshuffle, many perpetrators had left the area and thereby remained outside the reach of the inquiry. Thus, many gendarmes who had taken part in the killings and plundering were called on Tahsin Bey’s orders. Soon, the DH promoted Erzindjan district governor Memduh Bey to a new position at Bitlis. CUP Member of Parliament Halet Bey, a member of the Saghirzade clan of Kemah, had been anyhow beyond the reach of the officials. Madjid Bey, the local CUP boss of Erzindjan had been called back to Constantinople. The DH rejected calls by the inquiry commission for his return and interrogation at Erzindjan. Two implicated TM leader were also unavailable. Ebuhindi Djafer Bey was with Tahsin Bey at Erzerum and Dr. Fuat Sabit [Ağacık] had joined a TM expedition sent to Iran under the command of Ömer Nadji Bey and Scheubner Richter. Still the military officials arrested a number of gendarmes and a few TM operatives, among them was a certain Mirza Bey.42

  • 43 For another case of plundering movable Armenian property and the government’s response see H. Kaise (...)
  • 44 FO 6500-6501, No. 2704 Madjid Bey, No. 2733, Memduh Bey; No. 2790 , Ejzaji Mehmed Bey; AAA, Krieger (...)

32Starting in August 1915, the inquiry commission investigated for about one year. While the original owners of the funds and properties in question had all been Armenians, the Ottoman government assumed that the stolen property had belonged to the state. In other words, by robbing Armenians the offenders had stolen from the state and not from their victims.43 Searches in the houses of gendarmerie officers turned up large amounts of money and large quantities of valuables. Some of the interrogated men implicated the responsible CUP secretary Madjid Bey and his collaborators. The men alleged that they had turned over the booty as ordered but Madjid Bey and his staff did not necessarily issue receipts for it. The CUP boss and his staff were officially representing the CUP controlled “National Defense League.” The organization had functioned before as an instrument for covert operations of the CUP. Moreover, it became apparent that local “National Defense League” staff had been sharing booty with governor Memduh Bey and not Madjid Bey. Further questioning revealed that a local committee had been formed by governor Memduh Bey, Madjid Bey, and local party leader Pharmacist Mehmet Bey. The latter was also a TM member and had been meeting with Bahaeddin Shakir Bey and was in touch with Djevad Bey, the TM commander at Constantinople. Another member was Dr. Fuat Sabit, a native of Kemah, relative of CUP deputy Halet Bey and Harput governor Sabit Bey, and prominent TM leader. At Erzerum he had been a personal aide to Bahaeddin Shakir Bey. He was also founding member and treasurer of the CUP-controlled Pan-Turkist “Turkish Hearths Society.” At the TM headquarters in Constantinople he headed at one point the intelligence branch for Afghanistan, Arabia, Egypt, and India. During the initial deployment of TM units along the Russian border he had been commanding a TM detachment in the Karakilise and Bayezit region. Although all of its members were personally involved in killing Armenians, it is still unclear if this committee was in charge of organizing the massacres. It is, however, beyond doubt that it had been auctioning off booty instead of registering and storing it before it was handed over to the DH’s representatives.44

  • 45 AAA, Krieger files, reel 60, Erzindjan court martial investigation file.

33During the interrogations, suspects identified TM commanders in charge in and around Kemah. They described in detail location and procedures during the imprisonment and extortion of Armenian men. Dr. Fuat Sabit personally took part in the body searches of the men. Another implicated TM leader was Seydi Bey. He had previously been involved in deportations and massacres at Gumushkhane. At Kemah he had been in charge of the TM until Dr. Fuat Sabit Bey took over the coordination of deportations and massacres. The latter had brought with him more TM operatives for the slaughter. Like other TM perpetrators, Seydi Bey himself had profited from the atrocities. Upon his return from Kemah to Erzindjan, he went to the post office and sent by registered mail a package of valuables worth 22,000 piasters to Constantinople. While the booty was intended for his mother, he had the package forwarded to his uncle Ottoman Senator Ahmed Riza Bey.45

  • 46 AAA, Krieger files, reel 60, Erzindjan court martial investigation file; FO 371/2768/1455/261608, D (...)

34Mirza Bey was another prominent TM operative the investigators confronted with theft. An Ottoman officer recalled that the official had been at the local TM headquarters at Kemah. Moreover, Mirza Bey had boasted to have killed 70,000 Armenians. In his case, 7,000 gold pounds had gone missing. Like Seydi Bey, he had been closely collaborating with Gumushkhane District Governor Aintabli Abdulkadir Bey before coming to Kemah. The operative faced, however, additional charges. A Muslim shepherd had been killed which was a serious crime. Mirza Bey explained that his men had been executing Armenian deportees in large numbers. The Muslim victim had come too close and had been hit by a stray bullet. Trying to demonstrate his good intentions, Mirza Bey became a witness for the prosecution and implicated Seydi Bey. The latter had been leading a caravan of 700 Armenians to a location near Kemah’s Saghirzade neighborhood where all had been massacred. On another occasion Seydi and his associates massacred 1,400 Armenians again in the same neighborhood. Mirza Bey had also seen TM leader Djafer Bey with a gang of mounted men on massacre duty in the area. It had been Djafer Bey who had taken away oxen from Armenians. In sum, the massacres and plundering of Armenians from Erzerum generated large amounts of cash, letters of credit, and valuable draught animals and carts. For the occasion Madjid Bey joined Dr. Fuat Sabit and the other TM leaders on the killing fields. Finally, Mirza Bey implicated Tahsin Bey. The governor had dispatched Djafer Bey to Kemah. Furthermore, it seemed that the 33 Muslims shot in Kighi had not been Kurdish bandits but had been eliminated by Tahsin Bey’s men for other reasons.46

  • 47 DH.ŞFR 519-99, Vehib to Talaat, [?], May 15, 1916.
  • 48 AAA, Krieger files, reel 42, Vehib to EUM, Constantinople, Dec. 5, 1918.

35In 1916, Vehib Pasha took over the command of the Third Army. He conducted his own inquiries which confirmed the commission’s findings to a large extent.47 In drastic words, he warned Talaat Bey that Memduh Bey was thief. The files of the court-martial had also proven the plundering of Armenian women. The commander was at a loss to understand that such man was still in government office. Instead, he belonged in prison. Following the CUP’s fall from power in 1918, Vehib Pasha went on record confirming details of massacres at Kemah and calling for Memduh Bey’s punishment. He also deplored that the Erzindjan court martial had been unable to try Bahaeddin Shakir Bey and Madjid Bey for their crimes. Moreover, the commander shed light on what would have been the distribution of the plunder according to the CUP plans. Perpetrators had been allowed to a third of plunder, while local authorities were entitled to another third, and the rest was due to be handed over to the CUP. This was in line with Djafer Bey’s announcement to the killing squad under his command that they would be paid at Kemah. It also confirmed the role of the “National Defense League” at Erzindjan as recipient of the booty earmarked for the CUP.48

*

36Far from being ignorant about the situation in and around Erzindjan, Tahsin Bey was involved in the crimes in the Kemah and Erzindjan region through the dispatch of trusted TM operatives. The men had orders to plunder and annihilate Armenians. Deportations were scheduled accordingly. The Erzindjan plain functioned as a holding area which allowed the authorities to optimize the operations of the killing squads at Kemah. The TM operatives were comparably few in numbers and recruited locals, including Kurds, for the crimes against payment. The participation of paid Kurdish killers gave the operations a Kurdish face and afforded people like Tahsin Bey a measure of plausible deniability. Men called up for gendarmerie service were routinely involved in the killings, as were regular soldiers at least occasionally. The TM members did not act within the context of the military or established TM units but within the framework of the CUP. In this perspective, the TM was just another organizational tool for the CUP’s illegal activities in the killing zone. Others were the Red Crescent, the “National Defense League”, and, at least to some extent, the Turkish Hearths. Responsible CUP secretary Madjid Bey functioned as a drop-box for incoming booty and had through the account of the “National Defense League” the administrative means to forward the CUP’s share of the plunder to Constantinople.

37The case of Kemah shows that CUP’s extermination plans did make provisions for movable Armenian property the deportees were taking with them. Immovable property could not be taken and concealed. Therefore, the government expropriated it by supposedly legal means. Movable property, however, could be simply taken by force and hidden. Thus, no legal blunder was needed and the CUP dispatched its trusted operatives for the job. While immovable property was earmarked for financing government policies, Armenian movable property funded the CUP and its activities. Hired cut-throats as well as CUP, TM, civil and military officials sought to profit from the loot that exceeded their pre-determined share of what had officially become state property. Thus, embezzling plunder constituted a crime. The mass murder of Armenians did not. It was an unwanted byproduct of the thieves’ prosecution that military officials ascertained details of the massacres, the CUP’s and TM’s involvement, the role of leading officials and their links to the elites at Constantinople. In doing so they certified compelling evidence of the Ottoman government’s intent to commit genocide as well as its implementation.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

A-Do [Ter Martirossian Hovhannes], Van 1915. Les grands événements du Vaspourakan, Paris: Société Bibliophilique Ani, 2015.

Akçam Taner and Kurt Ümit, The Spirit of the Laws. The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide, New York, Oxford: Berghahn, 2015.

Baghdjian Kévork K., La confiscation, par le gouvernement turc, des biens arméniens dits “abandonnés”, Montreal : n. p., 1987.

Gözel-Durmaz Oya, A City Transformed: War, Demographic Change and Profiteering in Kayseri (1915-1920), Ph. Dissertation, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, 2014.

Ilgaz Hasene and Birinci Ali, “Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa Günleri Ebûhundili Cafer Bey: Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa Erzurum Müfreze Kumandanı,” Türk Yurdu 21, 165 (2001), p. 44-57.

Kaiser Hilmar, “Le génocide arménien: négation ‘à l’allemande’,” in L’actualité du Génocide des Arméniens. Actes du colloque organisé par le Comité de Défense de la Cause Arménienne, Paris: Edipol, 1999, p. 75-91.

Kaiser Hilmar, “‘A Scene from the Inferno.’ The Armenians of Erzerum and the Genocide, 1915-1916,” in Hans-Lukas Kieser and Dominik J. Schaller, eds., The Armenian Genocide and the Shoah, Zurich: Chronos Verlag, 2002, p. 129-186.

Kaiser Hilmar, “Armenian Property, Ottoman Law, and Nationality Policies During the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1916,” in Olaf Farschild, Manfred Kropp and Stephan Dähne, eds., The First Word War as Remembered in the Countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2006, p. 46-71.

Kaiser Hilmar, “Historical Introduction,” in Paul Leverkuehn, A German Officer during the Armenian Genocide. A Biography of Max von Scheubner-Richter, London: Gomidas Institute, 2008, p. xxvii-cxxvi.

Kaiser Hilmar, “Regional Resistance to Central Government Policies: Ahmed Djemal Pasha, the Governors of Aleppo, and Armenian Deportees in the Spring and Summer of 1915,” Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 12, 2010, p. 173-218.

Kaiser Hilmar, “A Man for all Regions: Aintabli Abdulkadir and the Special Organization,” in Hans-Lukas Kieser, Margaret L. Anderson, Seyhan Bayraktar, Thomas Schmutz, eds., End of the Ottomans: The Genocide of 1915 and the Politics of Turkish Nationalism, London: I.B. Tauris, forthcoming [2019a], p. 67-91.

Kaiser Hilmar, “Tahsin Uzer: Talaat’s Man in the East,” in Hans-Lukas Kieser, Margaret L. Anderson, Seyhan Bayraktar, Thomas Schmutz, eds., End of the Ottomans: The Genocide of 1915 and the Politics of Turkish Nationalism, London: I. B. Tauris, forthcoming [2019b], p. 93-115.

Kaiser Hilmar, “Scenes from Angora, 1915: The Commander, the Bureaucrats and Muslim Notables during the Armenian Genocide,” in Hans-Lukas Kieser, Margaret L. Anderson, Seyhan Bayraktar, Thomas Schmutz, eds., End of the Ottomans: The Genocide of 1915 and the Politics of Turkish Nationalism, London: I.B. Tauris, forthcoming [2019c], p. 141-166.

Kévorkian Raymond, The Armenian Genocide. A Complete History, London-New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

Lehmann-Haupt Therese, “Erlebnisse eines zwölfjährigen armenischen Knaben, der von 300 vertriebenen Kindern mit seinem Bruder allein am Leben blieb,” Der Orient, 1921, p. 33-43.

Leverkuehn Paul, Posten auf ewiger Wache. Aus dem abenteuerlichen Leben des Max von Scheubner-Richter, Essen: Essener Verlagsanstalt, 1938.

Sarafian Ara, compiler, United States Official Records on the Armenian Genocide 1915-1917, Princeton (NJ), London: Gomidas Institute, 2004.

Sürmenyan Kalusd, Harbiyeli Bir Osmanlı Ermenisi. Mülâzım-ı Sânî Sürmenyan’ın Savaş ve Tehcir Anıları, Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 2015.

Svazlian Verjiné, The Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of the Eyewitness Survivors, Yerevan: National Academy of Sciences, 2011.

Tetik Ahmet, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa (Umûr-ı Şarkiye Dairesi) Tarihi Cilt I 1914-1916, Istanbul: İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2014.

Toriguian Shavarsh, The Armenian Question and International Law, La Verne, CA: La Verne University Press, 1988.

Virabyan Amatuni, ed., Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey 1915. Testimony of Survivors. Collection of Documents, Yerevan: Zangak Publishing House, 2013.

Yervant John, Needle, Thread and Button, Cambridge, MA: Zoryan Institute, 1988.

Haut de page

Note de fin

1 K. Baghdjian, 1987; S. Toriguian, 1988.

2 H. Kaiser, 2002, p. 163.

3 H. Kaiser, 2010, p. 177-180.

4 DH.ŞFR 53-93, Minister to Erzerum, Van, Bitlis provinces, May 23, 1915.

5 A-Do, 2015; H. Kaiser, 2019b.

6 US-NA/RG59/867.4016/67, Sharp to Secretary of State, Paris, May 28, 1915, telegram 796, in A. Sarafian, 2004, p. 29.

7 H. Kaiser, 1999, p. 79-80.

8 Bab-ı Ali Evrak Odası (BEO) 4357-326758, Talaat to Cabinet, May 26, 1915, IAMM 270.

9 Takvim-i Vekayi 2189 (June 1, 1915).

10 Meclis-i Vükela 198-24, May 30, 1915, Minutes 163.

11 BEO 4357-326758, Grand Vizierate to DH, War Ministry, Finance Ministry, May 1915, Dept. Important Affairs 163/652. As this article focuses on the plunder of movable property in the summer of 1915, it will not address the law on the so-called abandoned property, which was passed in September 1915 nor the administrative manuals produced thereafter.

12 The drafting of the regulations had been in the making for some time. On 23 May 1915, the Ministry of Interior had informed the Ottoman Fourth Army that it was preparing regulations for the administration of immovable Armenian properties. Taner Akçam and Ümit Kurt claim that by that date the regulations of 30 May 1915 had been already finalized. Their claim is, however, not substantiated by the archival record as Shukru Bey’s communication shows. DH.SFR 53-94, Minister to Fourth Army Command, May 23, 1915, EUM (Emniyet-i Umumiye Müdüriyeti); DH.İdare-i Umumiye Müdiriyeti (IUM) EK 8-57, Shukru to IUM, June 10, 1915, IAMM Spec. 191, secret; Shukru to IUM, June 13, 1915, IAMM Spec. 193. H. Kaiser, 2006, p. 46-71; O. Gözel-Durmaz, 2014; T. Akçam, Ü. Kurt, 2015, p. 20-21.

13 H. Kaiser, 2019b and 2019a. This section further elaborates in some detail and partly revises my earlier findings. Recently made available Ottoman documentation has been included as it substantially adds to our understanding of the deportations. H. Kaiser, 2002 and 2008.

14 H. Kaiser, 2002, p. 152-156.

15 DH.ŞFR 450-62, Bahaeddin Shakir to Talaat, Erzerum, Nov. 25, 1914; 52-281, Minister to Tahsin, May 9, 1915; 471-62, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, May 17, 1915; 471-114, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, May 19, 1915; 53-93, Minister to Erzerum, Van, Bitlis provinces, May 23, 1915; 472-71, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, May 25, 1915; 53-129, Minister to Erzerum province, May 27, 1915; National Archives, Britain, Foreign Office (hereafter: FO), 424/245/20954, Samson to Grey, Adrianople, Mar. 30, 1913; 195/4260, Monahan to Mallet, Erzerum, Oct. 14, 1914; K. Sürmenyan, 2015, p. 60.

16 DH.ŞFR 472-145, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, May 29, 1915; 474-123, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 9, 1915; 475-29, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 12, 1915; 54-10, Talaat to Erzerum prov., June 14, 1915.

17 Bahaeddin Shakir Bey remained in Erzerum until 21 July 1915 when left for Bitlis, coordinating his moves directly with Talaat Bey. DH.ŞFR 475-121, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 16, 1915; 476-3, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 16, 1915; 476-4, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, June 17, 1915; 476-44, Bahaeddin Shakir to Talaat, Trebizond, June 19/20, 1915; 476-100, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, June 21, 1915; 480-94, Bahaeddin Shakir to Talaat, Erzerum, July 19, 1915.

18 DH.ŞFR 476-45, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 18/19, 1915; 666-26, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 24, 1915; 479-82, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, July 11, 1915; 477-54, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, June 26, 1915; 54-156, Minister to Erzerum prov., June 26, 1915; 481-66, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, July 28, 1915.

19 DH.ŞFR 474-3, Sabit to Ministry of Interior, Harput, June 5, 1915; 475-30, Sabit to DH, Harput, June 12, 1915; 54-162, Minister to Harput province, June 26, 1915; 477-77, Sabit to DH, June 27, 1915; 480-144, Sabit to Talaat, Harput, July 24, 1915.

20 DH.ŞFR 479-107, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, July 12, 1915.

21 DH.ŞFR 477-20, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, June 24, 1915; 479-89, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, July 11, 1915; Auswärtiges-Amt, Politisches Archiv (AA-PA), Konstantinopel 943, J. No. 5476, Scheubner-Richter to Embassy, Erzerum, July 12, 1915; Türkei 183/39, A 28584, Scheubner-Richter to Hohenlohe, Erzerum, Aug. 5, 1915, copy, enclosure in, Scheubner-Richter to Bethmann Hollweg, Erzerum, Aug. 10, 1915; H. Kaiser, 2002.

22 DH.ŞFR 477-79, Djemal Azmi to DH, Trebizond, June 27, 1915; 479-3, Djemal Azmi to DH, Trebizond, July 6, 1915; 479-20, Djemal Azmi to DH, Trebizond, July 7, 1915.

23 DH.ŞFR 480-105, Djemal Azmi to DH, Trebizond, July 21, 1915.

24 DH.ŞFR 482-130, Tahsin to DH, Aug. 7, 1915; 484-108, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzerum, Aug. 20, 1915; 55-133, DH to Tahsin, Aug. 21, 1915; 484-116, Defterdar Djemal to Talaat, Erzerum, Aug. 21, 1915; 485-77, Tahsin to Talaat, Erzindjan, Aug. 26, 1915; 487-28, Tahsin to DH, Erzindjan, Sept. 4, 1915; 487-120, Tahsin to DH, Erzindjan, Sept. 6, 1915; 55/A-110, Minister to Tahsin, Sept. 7, 1915. Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), Krieger files, reel 60.

25 DH.ŞFR 481-123, Sabit to DH, Hozat, July 30, 1915; 482-28, Sabit to DH, Hozat, Aug. 1, 1915; 482-75, Sabit to DH, Ovadjik, Aug. 4, 1915; 482-113, Sabit to DH, Hozat, Aug. 6, 1915; 483-40, Tahsin to DH, Erzerum, Aug. 9, 1915; 483-95, Sabit to DH, Dirik, Aug. 11, 1915.

26 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankenschwestern im Dienste des Roten Kreuzes, enclosure in Valentini to Bethmann Hollweg, Great Headquarters, Sept. 10, 1916.

27 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankenschwestern im Dienste des Roten Kreuzes, enclosure in Valentini to Bethmann Hollweg, Great Headquarters, Sept. 10, 1916; AAA, Oral History Project (hereafter: AAA) Pailag Khatchadourian; Gegham Petros Hatsagordsian, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 206; Arakel Ghazar Tagoyan, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 230; “Les déportations des Arméniens d’Erzeroum,” Renaissance (Apr. 17, 1919).

28 National Archives, United Kingdom, Foreign Office (hereafter: FO) 371/2768/1455/261608, Dec. 26, 1916, Armenian Massacres. Report by an eye witness Lieutenant Sayied Ahmed Moukhtar Baas; H. Kaiser, 2019a; Philomène Norian, “Comment Djémal Azmi fit égorger les Arméniens,” Renaissance (Jan. 28, 1919); “Le procès de Trébizonde,” Renaissance (Apr. 27, 1919); T. Lehmann-Haupt, 1921, p. 35-37.

29 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankenschwestern im Dienste des Roten Kreuzes, enclosure in Valentini to Bethmann Hollweg, Great Headquarters, Sept. 10, 1916; AAA, Pailag Khatchadourian; Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Centre des archives diplomatiques de la Courneuve, Série E, Levant, Armenie 1 (hereafter: MAE), Kaiané Abrahamian, Basra, n. d., enclosure in Roux to Pichon, Basra, Mar. 17, 1918; “Les déportations des Arméniens d’Erzeroum,” Renaissance (Apr. 17, 1919); “Le procès de Trébizonde,” Renaissance (Apr. 27, 1919); Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 242; Gegham Petros Hatsagordsian, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 206; J. Yervant, 1988, p. 13. Vardanian’s report has survived in two versions. A second version is kept at the Nubarian Library in Paris. Raymond Kévorkian has discussed this second version in detail. My discussion differs from Kévorkian’s in its contextualization. R. Kévorkian, 2011, p. 297-298.

30 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankenschwestern im Dienste des Roten Kreuzes, enclosure in Valentini to Bethmann Hollweg, Great Headquarters, Sept. 10, 1916; AAA, Hagob Mihran Ferahian; Poghos Vardanian “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 242.

31 AAA, Hagob Mihran Ferahian; Pailag Khatchadourian; Hagob Mihran Ferahian; Gegham Petros Hatsagordsian, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 206; MAE, Kaiané Abrahamian, Basra, n. d., enclosure in Roux to Pichon, Basra, Mar. 17, 1918; Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 244; Arakel Ghazar Tagoyan, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 230; J. Yervant, 1988, p. 14, 17.

32 T. Lehmann-Haupt, 1921, p. 38.

33 Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 245-246.

34 AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankenschwestern im Dienste des Roten Kreuzes, enclosure in Valentini to Bethmann Hollweg, Great Headquarters, Sept. 10, 1916.

35 FO 371/2768/1455/261608, Dec. 26, 1916, Armenian Massacres. Report by an eye witness Lieutenant Sayied Ahmed Moukhtar Baas; AA-PA, Türkei 183/44, A 24633, Bericht von Fräulein Thora von Wedel und Fräulein Elvers, Krankenschwestern im Dienste des Roten Kreuzes, enclosure in Valentini to Bethmann Hollweg, Great Headquarters, Sept. 10, 1916; Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 242-250.

36 Onnik Kouyoumdjian, “Les atrocités de Kémach,” Renaissance (April 27, 1919).

37 Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 246.

38 Poghos Vardanian, “Testimony,” Erzerum, Oct. 2, 1916, in A. Virabyan, 2013, p. 247-250; H. Ilgaz, A. Birinci, 2001, p. 44-45.

39 AAA, Nazeli Tehlirian; Hagob Mihran Ferahian; Puras Stepanian; Gegham Petros Hatsagordsian, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 206; J. Yervant, 1988, p. 18.

40 MAE, Kaiané Abrahamian, Basra, n. d., enclosure in Roux to Pichon, Basra, Mar. 17, 1918; Arakel Ghazar Tagoyan, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 230; Gegham Petros Hatsagordsian, “Testimony,” in V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 206-207; J. Yervant, 1988, p. 18.

41 FO 6501, No. 2790, Ejzaji Mehmed Bey.

42 DH.Emniyet-i Umumiye Müdüriyeti 2. Şube 29-50, Madjid to DH, [Constantinople], July 22, 1916; DH to Erzerum prov., Sept. 18, 1916; AAA, Krieger files, reel 42, Vehib to EUM, Constantinople, Dec. 5, 1918.

43 For another case of plundering movable Armenian property and the government’s response see H. Kaiser, 2019c, p. 156-158.

44 FO 6500-6501, No. 2704 Madjid Bey, No. 2733, Memduh Bey; No. 2790 , Ejzaji Mehmed Bey; AAA, Krieger files, reel 60, Erzindjan court martial investigation file; P. Leverkuehn, 1938, p. 65-66; A. Tetik, 2014, p. 24, 275, 294; H. Ilgaz, A. Birinci, 2001, p. 44.

45 AAA, Krieger files, reel 60, Erzindjan court martial investigation file.

46 AAA, Krieger files, reel 60, Erzindjan court martial investigation file; FO 371/2768/1455/261608, Dec. 26, 1916, Armenian Massacres. Report by an eye witness Lieutenant Sayied Ahmed Moukhtar Baas.

47 DH.ŞFR 519-99, Vehib to Talaat, [?], May 15, 1916.

48 AAA, Krieger files, reel 42, Vehib to EUM, Constantinople, Dec. 5, 1918.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Hilmar Kaiser, « Financing the Ruling Party and Its Militants in Wartime:
The Armenian Genocide and the Kemah Massacres of 1915
 », Études arméniennes contemporaines, 12 | 2019, 7-31.

Référence électronique

Hilmar Kaiser, « Financing the Ruling Party and Its Militants in Wartime:
The Armenian Genocide and the Kemah Massacres of 1915
 », Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 12 | 2019, mis en ligne le 28 février 2019, consulté le 29 mai 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eac/1942 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/eac.1942

Haut de page

Auteur

Hilmar Kaiser

Yerevan State University

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Bibliothèque Nubar de l’UGAB

Haut de page
  • Logo Bibliothèque Nubar de l'UGAB
  • Logo Union générale arménienne de bienfaisance (UGAB)
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals