Difference between revisions of "Trial of Soghomon Tehlirian-First Afternoon"
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*Trial of Talaat Pasha in Russian, with original foreword by Armin T. Wegner
*Trial of Talaat Pasha in Russian, with original foreword by Armin T. Wegner
*Trial of Talaat Pasha in Armenian, published by Mekhitarian Printing House, Vienna 1921
*Trial of Talaat Pasha in Armenian, published by Mekhitarian Printing House, Vienna 1921
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*Proofreading: Karen Vrtanesyan (http://www.ArmenianHouse.org)
*Proofreading: Karen Vrtanesyan (http://www.ArmenianHouse.org)
*Special thanks to Mr. Arman Galstyan for historical consultations
*Special thanks to Mr. Arman Galstyan for historical consultations
Latest revision as of 05:31, 15 October 2018
CONTINUATION OF THE TRIAL AFTER THE NOON RECESS
Witness Vahan Zakariantz (interpreter and merchant, 38 years old, Armenian-Apostolic, Wilmersdorf, Berlin) takes the oath. Not related to the defendant by blood or marriage.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — You are a member of the executive body of the German-Armenian Friendship Club, and you met the defendant when he came to the Armenian Consulate, is that correct?
WITNESS — No, I met the defendant at the Persian Consulate. I worked for the Persian Consulate at the beginning of the war. One day I was asked by my superior to assist the defendant. He had come to inquire about the procedure to follow in order to stay as a resident in Germany. I told him what documents he needed and how to get in touch with the Police Department.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did he ask for your help again?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you ever have occasion to speak to him again?
WITNESS — Yes, he had gotten hold of my address.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did the defendant live on Augsburgerstrasse?
WITNESS — I did not know where he lived as I had never visited him. He told me he was sick and needed a physician who specialized in nervous disorders. He was not satisfied with the physician he was seeing. He wanted a specialist.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you then take him to Professor Cassirer?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — When was that?
WITNESS — I do not remember exactly. I assume the Professor can tell us.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — What was the Professor s diagnosis?
WITNESS — That Tehlirian was an epileptic, but that he should not be informed of the fact.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were you present when the Professor examined the defendant?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were you also present at subsequent examinations?
WITNESS — I was present on two occasions.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Had the defendant told you that he had an epileptic seizure once, in the street?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Would you please tell us what he told you about the incident?
WITNESS — That he passed out on Erusalemerstrasse in front of a bank and that some passersby had helped him up and brought him by subway to his residence.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did he describe his condition to you in detail?
WITNESS — He could not recall it.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Has the defendant ever spoken to you about his immediate family?
WITNESS — No, but I was present when he told Professor Cassirer that the first time be lost consciousness was when he returned and found his home destroyed.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — On this occasion did you talk about the massacres with him?
WITNESS — No, as a general rule I did not discuss the massacres, particularly with others who, like him, had suffered from them. In general, I prefer not to excite people.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you ever speak to the defendant about the massacres or what happened to his relatives?
WITNESS — No, because I knew he had suffered and I did not want to revive those painful memories.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How did you know that?
WITNESS — Professor Cassirer told me that the defendant had lost consciousness when thinking about the massacres.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you maintain a friendly relationship with the defendant while he was living at Augsburgerstrasse?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you know Mr. Eftian and Mr. Terzibashian?
WITNESS — I have known Mr. Terzibashian for some time.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Now then, you helped the defendant twice while he was going to Professor Cassirer. Were you ever present when the defendant had epileptic fits?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is that why you cannot tell us anything about that?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you know that Talaat Pasha was here in Berlin?
WITNESS — No, I was not aware of it personally, but it was written in the newspapers that he was living in Germany.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — What newspapers are these?
WITNESS — I cannot remember now. I read French, Armenian, Ottoman, Russian, and Persian newspapers. In one of these newspapers I read that Talaat was most likely living in Germany.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — When a member of the Armenian community encounters Talaat or another Turk in the street, would that not be such startling event that news of it would spread like wildfire among the Armenians? Did the defendant never tell you that he had seen Talaat?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Can you tell us anything about the defendant's physical condition?
WITNESS — I have seen the defendant quite infrequently. He was always dejected and had a vacant stare.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Have you had any other contact with him?
WITNESS — Once we exchanged a few words.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you include the defendant in any soda gatherings or outings?
WITNESS — No.
DEFENDANT — When we were at Professor Cassirer's, I told him I had fallen after having seen my family's house in ruins and that, ever since then, I have had these attacks.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — The witness also stated that he personally had never seen the defendant during any of the latter's attacks.
(No more questions are asked of the witness)
PRESIDING JUSTICE (to the second interpreter, Mr. Kaloustian) — Would you please tell the defendant that this witness testified that they met at the Persian Consulate and he helped him obtain permission to stay in Berlin, that he took the defendant on two occasions to Professor Cassirer, and that there was no discussion between them about the massacres.
Witness Kevork Kaloustian (interpreter and merchant, 27 years old, Armenian Apostolic Berlin) takes the oath. Not related to the defendant by blood or marriage.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Can you tell us anything about the defendant or the incident in question.
WITNESS — The defendant would come to my store and buy things. This is how I met him.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Exactly when did your meeting occur?
WITNESS — Three or four months before the incident.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you have any conversation other than that of a merchant and customer?
WITNESS — The defendant told me that he was ill. I suggested that he buy chocolate to give him strength and he did. He also told me that, as he got well, he meant to continue with his studies.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — When did this conversation take place?
WITNESS — Three or four months before the incident. That is all I can say.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Had the defendant told you that whenever he had an attack, he would lose consciousness?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Had you met the defendant prior to his coming to your store?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Then you saw him in your store for the first time?
WITNESS — Yes, in my store.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you see each other often?
WITNESS — He might have come another time to my store.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you ever visit him at his residence?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Can you tell us anything about his way of life in Berlin?
WITNESS — No, the next time I saw him was when I acted as his interpreter in Court during the preliminary hearing.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — One of the witnesses testified that, in your eyes, the defendant is a great man. Would you consider him a great man?
WITNESS — In my estimation he is a great man.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you lose members of your family in the massacres?
WITNESS — My parents were killed in Aintab in 1896.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were you an eyewitness to that massacre?
WITNESS — Yes, in 1896. I was five years old. It is very fresh in my memory.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were both your parents killed at that time?
WITNESS — My father, mother, grandfather, a brother, and an uncle. I saw my father killed.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — These events took place in 1896. Could you have so sharp a memory as to remember what happened when you were only five years old?
WITNESS — Yes, it is easy to remember because the events were so terrible.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Could you have kept such a clear memory of all this?
WITNESS — These stories have been repeated so often that they have always stayed fresh in my mind.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Then you also felt an inner glow of satisfaction that this act had been committed and it was perfectly logical to you that one could have done such a thing.
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Do you consider the confession of the defendant before the judge to be accurate and correct?
WITNESS — No, I did not consider it correct then for the simple reason that the defendant was in no condition to be interrogated. His head was injured and bandaged at the time. He said he did this and that, that he killed Talaat. When he was asked whether he killed with premeditation, he answered yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Therefore you are confirming what is recorded in the transcript of the confession of March 16th. But you were under the impression that the defendant gave answers for the sake of giving answers. Did you raise this objection at the time of the interrogation?
WITNESS — Yes, that is why I purposely did not sign the transcript.
PRESIDING JUSTICE (examines the transcript) — Indeed, the interpreter has not signed said transcript.
VON GORDON — Did you refuse to sign the transcript?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — The transcript bears the names of Tehlirian and a few others, but not that of the interpreter.
WITNESS — I told the interrogators that the defendant did not know what was going on, did not understand what he was saying, and that we should not interrogate him right then.
VON GORDON — Were you under the impression that the defendant had a fever?
WITNESS — I do not know. I did not examine him. I read later on in the newspapers that he had a fever. All I know is that he had the bandage around his head and seemed to be satisfied. He kept saying, I killed him. I killed him.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Was there any discussion about your not signing the transcript? Did the interrogator ask you to sign the transcript?
WITNESS — I told the interrogator that I could not sign the transcript because I was not sure that the defendant understood the questions or the answers that he gave.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — There is grave doubt as to the validity of the contents of this transcript in terms of its acceptability as evidence.
NIEMEYER — It is impossible to accept this document as a transcript. This is not the transcript of the interrogation since it has not been acknowledged that the interpreter interpreted what is included in these pages.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — In any case, you met the defendant in your store and, other than during the interrogation, you had no other contact with him.
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE (to the defendant) — Do you recall that the witness did not want to sign the transcript?
DEFENDANT — I do not remember.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Are there any more questions to be directed to this witness?
(There are none)
Witness Mr. Friedrich (dance Instructor) takes the oath.
VON GORDON — I believe there is nothing Mr. Friedrich can add to what has already been established — namely that the defendant took dancing lessons from him and that he had a fainting spell. We will dispense with asking any questions of this witness.
(Witness is excused)
Witness Mr. Terzibashian (tobacconist, 29 years old, Catholic, Berlin) takes the oath. Not related to the defendant by blood or marriage.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Do you know the defendant?
WITNESS — Yes. I have known him since December 19, 1920.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is that when the defendant came to Berlin from Paris and, through Mr. Eftian, met you and your family?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — The defendant knew Mr. Eftian from Paris, is that not right?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — You have a shop located at 75 Oranienstrasse, is that not so?
WITNESS — Yes, I have a tobacco shop.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Are you and your wife Armenian?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Have you been in Berlin since 1914?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were you an eyewitness to the massacres?
WITNESS — No, I was not there when they took place.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Even the earlier massacres?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How about your parents?
WITNESS — My father is in Constantinople and my mother has already passed away from natural causes. But my relatives and friends were all killed in Garin, in my homeland.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Have you had frequent conversations with the defendant?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Have you spoken about past events, about the massacres?
WITNESS — No, we never spoke about that. Neither my wife nor I cared to discuss the subject.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is it very disturbing to you to discuss this horrible topic?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is that the reason you did not discuss it?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you know that Talaat was in Berlin?
WITNESS — Yes, just as the others did.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — When did you find out about it?
WITNESS — In 1919, after the war.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you tell the defendant that Talaat was here?
WITNESS — No, the subject never came up.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — What can you tell us about the defendants health?
WITNESS — He came and told us that he was not well, he was sick. He wanted to be examined by a physician.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did he see a physician?
WITNESS — Yes, he went with a friend.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did he go to Professor Cassirer?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you ever see him when he was suffering epileptic fits?
WITNESS — No, but the defendant told us that he was very sick. A couple of times my wife prepared meals for him and on occasion he took medication while visiting us.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Then was he under the care of a physician?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is there anything about the way the defendant looked that caught your attention?
WITNESS — No, I cannot say there was.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Was he happy and carefree or rather sad and dejected?
WITNESS — Sometimes he was happy and sometimes he was sad. But overall he was more often sad than happy.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did he ever tell you about his dancing lessons?
WITNESS — Whenever he came to visit us, he was usually with Mr. Eftian, who was also taking dancing lessons.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Had you ever been with the defendant other than at your home?
WITNESS — No, only at my home.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How large is the Armenian community in Berlin?
WITNESS — I do not know.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Does it comprise a hundred persons?
WITNESS — Almost.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Do you have social gatherings? Do you help each other out?
WITNESS — Yes, certainly we help each other.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Then you know most of the people in the Armenian community.
WITNESS — I know many, but not the majority.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Has the defendant ever told you that he saw Talaat in the street?
WITNESS — No, he never told me that.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — During the period you saw the defendant, did you notice a change in him?
WITNESS — No, I did not notice anything.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did he tell you why he moved to Hardenbergstrasse?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you ask him?
WITNESS — Yes, he said he did not like his old quarters. He was sick and needed a better room.
PRESIDING JUSTICE (to the attorneys) — Are there any questions still to be directed to this witness?
(No further questions)
Witness Mrs. Christine Terzibashian (wife of the preceding witness, 26 years old) takes the oath. Not related to the defendant by blood or marriage. Interrogation with the help of an Interpreter.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Do you have any information pertaining to the incident?
WITNESS — No.
VON GORDON — This witness has information pertaining to the Armenian massacres. Questions should be asked as to whether she was in her homeland during the war and where she was living.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Where are you from.
WITNESS — Garin, Eastern Anatolia.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is that where you were born?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were there deportations of Armenians from there?
WITNESS — In July 1915 the population was gathered together and we were told that it was necessary to leave the city.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were notices posted in the city informing the Armenians that they had to emigrate?
WITNESS — The police officers and city officials first informed the well-to-do Armenians. They were told that it was necessary to evacuate the city as it was in direct line of military operations. The well-to-do Armenians were informed eight days before the evacuation. The rest heard about it an hour before it happened. We soon found out that this was a lie and that the Armenians were the only ones who were being evacuated.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were all the Armenians of the city evacuated one time?
WITNESS — At four separate times.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were there four groups?
WITNESS — Yes, four groups were evacuated within eight days.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were those who were left behind aware of what had happened to the others?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were the groups told where they were going?
WITNESS — We were told we were going toward Erzinga.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — In which group were you?
WITNESS — In the second.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Would you tell us in your own words how many persons were evacuated? How did it happen? How far did you advance? What happened?
WITNESS — All together there were 500 families. My immediate family consisted of twenty-one persons, only three of whom survived.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How large was the entire group?
WITNESS — 500 families.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How did your relatives meet their death?
WITNESS — We put as many of our possessions as possible in three ox carts we had rented. We took food and money with us as we thought we were going to Erzinga. There were my father and mother; my three brothers, the oldest of whom being 30 years old; three boys, the youngest one being six months old; one of my married sisters with her husband and six children, the oldest of whom was 22 years old. I saw with my own eyes how they all died. Only three of them managed to escape death. I swear to you that the orders to deport the Armenians came from Constantinople.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — In what way?
WITNESS — As Soon as we left the city limits and were in front of the gates to the Garin fortress, the gendarmes came and looked through all our belongings for arms. They took knives and umbrellas and other things. We marched on to the next city, Papert. When we were at the city limits, we were forced to march over corpses of people who had recently been killed. My legs were covered with the blood of the corpses I stepped on.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were these the bodies of the people who had left Garin in the first group?
WITNESS — No, they were the inhabitants of Papert. We then arrived in Erzinga. They had promised to give us shelter, but they did not allow us to stop or to drink water. All the oxen and cows we had with us were taken away and driven up into the mountains.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How did the massacre in which your relatives were killed take place?
WITNESS — They separated about 500 of the boys in their teens. One of them was my brother - But he slipped away from the group and came to us. We dressed him up as a girl so he could stay with us. The other youths were massacred.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — What happened to those who were separated?
WITNESS — After they tied them all together, they pushed them into the river.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How do you know that?
WITNESS — I saw it with my own eyes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — You saw them being pushed into the river?
WITNESS — Yes, they were pushed in and the current was so strong that they all drowned or were swept along by it.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Those who were left, what did they do?
WITNESS — We all shouted and cried. We did not know what to do. But they would not even allow us to cry. They pushed us all forward sticking bayonets in our backs.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Who?
WITNESS — Thirty gendarmes and a detachment of soldiers.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did they strike you now and then?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — What happened to the other members of your family?
WITNESS — We carried whatever we could with us until we came to Malatia. There they took us up a mountain and separated the men from the women. They took the men a distance of ten meters from the women, so that we could see with our own eyes what was happening to them.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — What happened next?
WITNESS — They were killed with axes and thrown in the river.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Were the men and the women really killed in this manner?
WITNESS — Only the men were killed this way. When it grew somewhat dark, the gendarmes came and selected the most beautiful women and girls and kept them for themselves. A gendarme came and wanted me as his woman. Those who did not obey were pierced with bayonets and had their legs torn apart. They even crushed the pelvic bones of pregnant women, took out the fetuses and threw them away.
(Major commotion in the courtroom)
WITNESS — I swear to you this is true.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How did you escape?
WITNESS — They split open my brothers head. My mother dropped dead upon seeing this. A Turk came toward me and wanted to take me as his woman; because I would not consent, he took my son and killed him.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How did you escape?
WITNESS — I noticed smoke in the distance. I walked toward it and there I found my brother and his pregnant wife who was having labor pains. They told us we had to leave that night. My brother and I were forced to leave his wife there because she was pregnant.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — How many of you were left when you reached Samsek?
WITNESS — Approximately six hundred people.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — And from your family?
WITNESS — My father, two brothers, and I.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Then you also arrived at Samsek?
WITNESS — Yes. There my father became ill. An order was issued forbidding sick people from being taken along. Rather, they were to be thrown in the river. They came and took my father from the tent. But later my brother brought him back. That very night he died.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — What happened to your two brothers?
WITNESS — They are alive.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is all this really true? You are not imagining it?
WITNESS — What I have said is the truth. In reality, it was much more horrible than it is possible for me to relate.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did you remain in Samsek?
WITNESS — I could not stay in Samsek. We had to go to Soorooch. They took us to a mountain and took whatever else that was left in our possession.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — At the time, who was thought to be the person responsible for this terror?
WITNESS — Talaat Pasha was the one who gave the orders and the soldiers forced us to kneel and cry out Long live the Pasha, because the Pasha had permitted us to live.
NIEMEYER — From the commotion it is evident that the witness statements sound incredible. But officially we have before us thousands of similar reports. However, so that no one will have the slightest doubt as to the veracity of the witness testimony, I would request that the two expert witnesses, Professor Dr. Lepsius and His Excellency Liman von Sanders be interrogated concerning the organization of the Turkish gendarmes and soldiers at that time.
VON GORDON — I knew of the massacres before this but not in such detail. In view of the striking testimony, I think we can dispense with calling any other witnesses to testify about the massacres. However, before we all listen to the two expert witnesses, I would request that a remarkable personality, Bishop Balakian, who has come from Manchester to Berlin, be allowed to testify later on. He not only saw and lived through the horrors of the massacres, but he can also tell us why the Armenians look upon Talaat Pasha as the person responsible for them. Whether he actually is guilty is another matter.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY — I also feel it would be appropriate to listen to the two expert witnesses on the general relationships that existed between the Turkish police and the guards.
PRESIDING JUSTICE (to the interpreter) — Would you tell the defendant that this witness testified in detail about the massacres.
DEFENDANT — I understood what she said.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — That is natural.
Expert Witness Professor Dr. Johannes Lepsius (author, 62 years old, Protestant) takes the oath.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — You know what this case is all about. I would appreciate it if you did not go too far back, but rather concentrated on the following: Were barbaric acts committed during the Armenian massacres of 1915 to the extent that we have been told? From research you have done and from the personal experiences you have had is the testimony of the witnesses and the defendant credible? What was the composition of the bodies of guards who were supposed to protect the Armenians during the deportation?
WITNESS — The plan for the deportation of the Armenians was decided upon by the Young Turk Committee. On this Committee were Talaat Pasha as the Minister of the Interior and Enver Pasha as the Minister of War. Talaat gave the orders and, with the help of the Young Turk Committee, implemented the plan. Already by April 1915 the deportation or general exile had been decided upon. It affected the entire Armenian population in Turkey with a few exceptions, about which I shall testify later. Just before the war, the Armenians in Turkey numbered 1,850,000. There is no such thing as an absolutely accurate demographic census in a country like Turkey; however, this figure corresponds to the statistics of the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople. The Armenian population lived in two geographic areas: European Turkey (Constantinople, Adrianople, Rodosto) and Asiatic Turkey (Anatolia, Cilicia, Northern Assyria, Mesopotamia). The majority of the Armenians lived in Eastern Anatolia on the Armenian plateau, in six vilayets, which once comprised their country, Armenia. These six vilayets are: Garin, Van, Paghesh, Diyarbekir, Sepasdia, and Kharpert [Erzerum, Van, Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Sivas, Kharput or Mamuret-ul-Aziz]. A large fragment of Armenians lived in Western Anatolia, opposite Constantinople on the southern edge of the Sea of Marmara, and in Southern Anatolia, in Cilicia, all along the Taurus Plateau up to the Gulf of Alexandretta, which is the northern border of Assyrian territories. A portion of these territories belong to the Armenians. It is their country, called Armenia.
By order of the highest officials of the Turkish government, the total Armenian population of the areas I have just described was deported to the northern and eastern edges of the Mesopotamian desert: Deir-ez-Zor, Zor, Rakka, Meskene, Ras-ul-Ain, and as far as Mosul. Approximately 1,400,000 Armenians were deported. What is the significance of this deportation?
In a document signed by Talaat Pasha we find the following statement: "The destination of the deportation is annihilation." These orders were carried out to the letter.
Pursuant to this order, of all the Armenians who were deported from Eastern Anatolia southward, only ten percent reached their destination; the remaining ninety percent were killed, except for women and girls who were sold by the gendarmes or were abducted by the Kurds or died of exhaustion and hunger.
Of those Armenians who were driven to the edge of the desert from Western Anatolia, Cilicia, and northern Assyria, a sizable number, reaching into the hundreds of thousands, was assembled into camps. These groups were systematically starved and periodically massacred.
When more groups of Armenians were brought to the stations and there was no room to keep them, they were taken in groups into the desert and slaughtered. The Turks indicated that they learned this system from the British, who proceeded in a similar way with the Boers of South Africa. They would segregate all the Boers in various locations and keep them apart from the rest of the population.
The official government explanation for the deportation was that these were precautionary measures. However, authoritative individuals blatantly declared that their purpose was to annihilate the whole Armenian population.
What I have just said is supported by the official documents of the German Foreign Office, as well as the documents of the German Embassy in Constantinople and documents of German Consuls. I have published all of this in a book.
You have heard two persons, Tehlirian and Mrs. Terzibashian, testify as to what they suffered and saw during the deportations. There are over a hundred published articles by Armenians who, like the defendant, were eyewitnesses to the massacres. They describe in graphic detail their individual experiences. Most of these articles are in German. Others were published in Great Britain and the United States. The accounts contained in these articles are not much different from what you have heard from Tehlirian and Mrs. Terzibashian. There is no question as to their authenticity. One would have to ask the following question: How is it possible to kill millions of people in such a short time?
This was possible in the most savage of conditions, as was brought out during the proceedings of the Military Tribunal set up in Constantinople to try Talaat and his comrades and associates. The Court consisted of a Division Commander, as its president, three generals, prominent during the war, and a captain. Of the five charges brought against the Young Turks, the first dealt with the Armenian massacres. On July 6, 1919, the Military Tribunal pronounced a guilty verdict, sentencing to death the leading perpetrators of the genocide — Talaat, Enver, Jemal and Dr. Nazim.
The responsibility of carrying out the orders for the massacres was left to the Valis [governors-general of the provinces], Mutasarrifs (governor of the provinces], and Kaymakams [governors of the districts]. Those officials who refused to carry out the orders were immediately relieved of their duties. For example, Jelal Pasha, who was the Governor of vilayet of Aleppo, refused to carry out the orders for deportation. He was relieved by direct orders of Talaat and sent westward to Konya. He behaved in the same manner there. He refused to obey the orders and in fact helped the Armenians, protecting those who remained and the deportees as well. He was again relieved of his duties, but this time he was not given another government position. He was one of the most widely known and fair Valis Turkey had. Another governor, Rashid Bey of the vilayet of Diyarbekir, executed two subprefects who refused to carry out the orders. These orders not only affected government officials, but Turkish citizens as well. The Commander of the Third Division issued an order that any Turk found assisting an Armenian would be shot in front of his house, and the house burned to the ground. Any government officials found helping Armenians would be relieved of their posts and tried before a military tribunal for their crimes.
About 1,400,000 people of the original 1,850,000 Armenians in Turkey took part in the forced march to the deserts of Deir-ez-Zor. This leaves 450,000 persons — of these, 200,000 were not affected by the deportation or the massacres, principally because they were from the larger cities of Constantinople, Smyrna, and Aleppo. A leading figure responsible for saving the Armenians of Aleppo was the German Consul Roessler, the very same person whom the Entente press castigated as the organizer of the massacres.
General Liman von Sanders, as he will testify, intervened on behalf of the Armenians and saved them in Smyrna. So did Marshal von der Goltz.
When Marshal von der Goltz arrived in Baghdad and found out that Armenians in Baghdad had been deported to Mosul and from there, together with the Armenians of Mosul, were to be marched to Euphrates, that is, to certain death, he asked the Vali of Mosul to forbid the deportation. Marshal von der Goltz submitted his resignation upon finding out that the Vali had received new orders to carry out the deportation. Enver Pasha had to write to the Marshal requesting him to continue in his duties, promising that the Armenians would not be touch. In the letter written by Enver, we find the following statement: "Your responsibilities do not include interfering in the internal affairs of Turkey!"
In Constantinople, our diplomats prevented the deportation of Armenian people of that city. Permit me to digress a little. We read quite often that one of the reasons for the Armenian massacres was that the merchant class of Armenians had fleeced the Turks and thus the enraged Turkish population had risen spontaneously against the Armenians. First of all, there is sufficient proof to indicate that neither the 1895-1896 massacres nor the recent ones stemmed from spontaneous popular agitations. In both instances, it was the orders of the Turkish government that were being carried out.
Furthermore, whether in 1895-1896 or in 1915, it was this very same class of Armenian merchants living in Constantinople, Smyrna, and Aleppo that escaped the massacres, partly because they were able to pay ransom. On the other hand, the entire rural Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia, which comprised 80 percent of the total Armenian population as well as the tradesmen, who were mostly Armenians, were sent to the desert and annihilated.
The remainder of the Armenians in Turkey — 250,000 persons from the eastern vilayets — were saved by the advancing Russian army and found refuge in the Caucasus.
At that time the Russians had advanced to the western shores of Lake Van. When they turned back, they took the Armenians to the Caucasus with them. However, it could hardly be said that they did so out of love for the Armenians because, when the Russians later recaptured these same territories, they would not allow the Armenians to return to their homes.
Yanushgevich, head of Nikolai Nikolayevich's staff and the commander of the Caucasian front made an announcement that communities of Kurds and Cossaks would be established in the territories captured by the Russian army and from which the Armenian population had been evacuated, in order to set up a wide military zone against the Turks. Milukov, head of the Russian cadets, made an emotional speech, strongly rebuking the Russians for pursuing the very same objective as the Turks had, namely an Armenia without Armenians.
In any case, the advancing Russians saved 350,000 Armenians but did not allow them to return to their homes. Even now they live in a very small territory in the Caucasus. For years, they lived on the verge of starvation and suffered enormously.
One is naturally forced to ask oneself, historically speaking, how these events came to take place. I shall try briefly to answer this question.
The Armenian Question is not a self-generating plant but has its roots rather in European politics. The Armenian people are the victims of the conflicting political interests of the Russians and the British. The rivalry of these two countries started in the East with the Crimean War and the Conference of Berlin of 1878.
In the political chess-game being played by London and Petersburg, the Armenians were the pawns who were sometimes moved forward and sometimes sacrificed. Humanitarian reasons or protection of the Christian Minority were only pretexts employed to achieve political gains.
When, in 1895, Abdul Hamid, under pressure from Russia, France and Great Britain, signed the document granting reforms to the Armenians and other Christian minorities and at the same time responded by carrying out certain Armenian massacres, Lord Salisbury declared as far as Great Britain was concerned, the Armenian Question no longer existed.
Prince Lobanov informed the Sultan that he had no reason to worry because Russia did not take these reforms seriously. The Sultan got the message. The 1894 massacre of Sasun, as a result of which a thousand Armenians were killed, prompted Great Britain, France, and Russia to call for a plan of reforms. In 1895-1896 Abdul Hamid moved his force into Sasun again and massacred 100,000 Armenians. The 1915-1918 massacre, which was preceded by the 1913 reforms, brought the number of Armenian victims to over a million.
The steps of the ladder— 1894, 1895, and 1915—1,000, 100,000, and 1,000,000 — are like the marks on a thermometer which the world should look at with shame. In the world history of massacres, it is unlikely that there is any parallel to this series of massacres. In the interim, in 1909, there was the Cilician massacre which claimed some 25,000 Armenian victims.
In spite of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin, which the six great European Powers signed, in spite of the 1878 Treaty of Cyprus, whereby Britain assumed responsibility for overseeing implementation of reforms for the Christians and the Armenians, in spite of the signature of the Sultan on the Anglo-Franco-Russian plans guaranteeing reforms for the Armenians, not one of these Great Powers raised a finger to save the Armenians or at least try to punish the murderers.
To this date, the Armenians have been nothing more than a means to an end for the political aspirations of Great Britain, Russia, and France.
And it is because of these games, especially those played by Great Britain and Russia, that first the Sultan and then the Young Turks looked upon the Armenians as the most dangerous political tool the European countries could use as an excuse to interfere in Turkeys internal affairs.
Germany, as the publication of our official government documents will verify, since the Treaty of Berlin has pursued a benevolent and prudent policy with reference to the Armenian Question. And, in return, we have been castigated all over the world as the nation which has instigated all the atrocities of the Sultan and the Young Turk government.
Abdul Hamid concluded that "the Europeans aroused the Bulgarians and we lost Bulgaria. Now they are trying to arouse the Armenians so that they can take Eastern Anatolia from us. Thus, bit by bit, they will dismember us." This has resulted in the Armenian massacres and Hamid's maddening desire to persecute the Armenians.
The question of the Armenian reforms remained in the political plans of the Great Powers. In 1913 there was again talk for reform. While the Russian and German diplomats were earnestly negotiating, the British pulled out. Eventually the discussions led to reforms which the Sublime Porte agreed to, and which satisfied the Armenians. Two European Inspectors General were assigned to supervise the implementation of these reforms. However, the matter never reached that stage. The war broke out and the two reformers were recalled.
I was in Constantinople in 1913 and I could see that the Young Turks were enraged that the European Powers again kept talking about reforms for the Armenians. They were all the more disturbed when, thanks to the agreement between Germany and Russia, this issue was settled to the satisfaction of the Armenians. The Young Turks said: If you Armenians do not denounce these reforms, something will happen that will make Abdul Hamid's actions look like child's play. The leaders of both groups had become friends and helped each other out during the elections. During the first few months of the war, relations between them seemed amicable until the evening of April 24, 1915 when, to the complete surprise of everyone in Constantinople, 235 Armenian intellectuals were arrested, jailed, and then sent to Asia Minor. During the next few days, a couple hundred more were added. Altogether 600 people were involved. Of this group only 15 survived. Practically all of the Armenian intellectual leaders in Constantinople were wiped out in this manner. A member of Parliament, Vartkes, a close personal friend of Talaat, had still remained exempt. He went to Talaat and asked him what was happening. Talaat's answer was: "While we were weak, your people pushed for reforms and were a thorn in our side; now we are going to take advantage of our favorable situation and disperse your people so that it will take you 50 years before you talk again about reforms." Vartkes answered, appropriately enough, "Then it follows that the work of Abdul Hamid is to be continued?" Talaat answered, "Yes."
Their deeds surpassed their boasts. The evidence brought out during the trials held by the Turkish Court-martial in Constantinople, and corresponding to the report published in the official Turkish journal Takvim-i-vekayi, shows that the deportation was decided upon by the Young Turk Committee and that Talaat was the most influential member of the Committee. In fact, he was its very soul. He ordered the annihilation and did nothing to prevent it.
It is also possible to submit official written proof based on German and Turkish documents.
My purpose in testifying thus today is to show you that the diplomatic games of the European Powers first led Abdul Hamid and later the Young Turks to become suspicious of the Armenians and, furthermore, led them to conclude that the only solution was the annihilation of the Armenians.
This uprooting and annihilation of the Armenians took a thousand and one forms. You have already heard a few examples from eyewitnesses.
WERTHAUER — You stated that the diplomatic games of the Russians and the British contributed to the annihilation of the Armenians. Why?
WITNESS — Because these diplomatic maneuvers created a fear among the Turks that the Great Powers were striving for an independent Armenia and that this would be a threat to the existence of Asiatic Turkey.
WERTHAUER — It used to be said previously that the reason for the massacres was the fact that the Armenians were Christians whereas the Turks were Mohammedans, and the hatred between these two peoples was centuries old.
WITNESS — The dream of a Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turanic state, in which there was to be no role for the Christians, originated with Enver Pasha and the Young Turks Committee.
WERTHAUER — If I understand you correctly, as in Pan-German or Pan-Russian, then similarly by the concept Pan-Turkic they meant the annihilation of all non-Turkish elements?
WITNESS — Yes.
NIEMEYER — Is not the case as follows? Nations once subjugated by the Turks rose up one by one and became liberated from Turkish hegemony, leaving the Armenians as the only Christian nation still under Turkish rule. And in order to prevent the Armenians from doing the same it was decided to annihilate them. Is this view accurate?
WITNESS — Yes, Count Metternich, who was the German Ambassador in Constantinople in 1918, wrote in a report dated July 30th as follows: The Armenian Question is finished. The gang of Young Turks is eagerly preparing itself for the moment when Greece will turn against Turkey so that the Greeks can be annihilated as well, just like the Armenians.
Witness His Excellency General Otto Liman von Sanders (66 years old, Protestant ) takes the oath.
WITNESS — In addition to Dr. Lepsius testimony, I too would like to offer a few comments from a military point of view.
In my opinion, we should divide into two categories the events which have taken place in Armenia, generally referred to as The Armenian Massacres. First, in my opinion, is the order of the Young Turks to deport the Armenians. We can hold the government fully responsible for the preparation of this deportation and partially responsible for all of the subsequent events. Second, we have the war and the fighting that took place in the Armenian territories. Initially, the Armenians defended themselves against the Turks, contrary to the Turkish orders to disarm, and, as has been proven beyond doubt, some joined the Russians and fought against Turkey. Naturally, it is understandable that the victors in such a war would be accused of massacring the vanquished.
I believe these two categories are distinguishable and have to be distinguished.
The government ordered the deportation of all Armenian inhabitants of the Armenian territories, or the Eastern Anatolian provinces, as a strategic military move.
I wish to stress the fact that all the captains and officers up to the rank of general in the Eastern Provinces were Turks. Some of you are aware of the fallacious rumors that have been circulated concerning the presence of German officers in these provinces. What I said is what these captains and civil officials have reported in Constantinople; the carrying out of the orders issued thereupon for deportation fell into the worst hands.
It is also essential to mention that, prior to the war, the Turkish police force was extremely efficient. It consisted of 85,000 troops and a specially selected brigade. Most of these people were drafted into the army and separated into various brigades and in their place an auxiliary police force was created. It certainly did not represent a select class. It consisted mostly of criminals or the perennially unemployed. Discipline among these people was understandably very lax. We should keep this in mind when we bear testimony relating to the atrocities committed against the Armenians. It was not the Turkish army or the Turkish police force that attacked the Armenians, but rather a temporary supplementary police force created because of the exigencies of the time. Furthermore, we should remember that the economic situation was so dismal that not only many Armenians, but thousands of Turkish soldiers as well died of the lack of food supplies, disease, and other consequences of poor organization in the Turkish government. In my division alone, after the battle of Galipoli, thousands died of malnutrition. I feel all of these points should be kept in mind.
We should also not overlook the fact that many Turks were fighting under the banner of a Holy War and thus felt that the more severely they acted with the Armenians, the Christians, the more benevolent their actions were. This is especially true of the subordinate officials. The Kurds, who have always been enemies of the Armenians, committed numerous atrocities against the Armenians as well.
As far as I know, the German government did whatever it could at the time, conditions permitting, to help the Armenians. However, we should also recognize that it was a difficult task for the German government. I know personally that our Ambassador, Count Metternich, continuously protested against the policies and measures taken against the Armenians.
I can say without hesitation, as Dr. Lepsius was good enough to stress, that there was not a single German officer involved in any of the actions taken against the Armenians, contrary to the many suspicions entertained with regard to us. The fact of the matter is that we intervened whenever and wherever we could.
I should mention that I personally never received any orders signed by Talaat. The orders I received were signed by Enver and they generally had little significance. These orders were generally incomprehensible or totally impracticable. For example, I once received an order to remove all Jews and Armenians from the German officers' staff. It goes without saying that the orders were never carried out, since we needed them as interpreters. Very often we received such nonsensical orders.
In February 1916, I had the opportunity to oppose the orders of the Governor of the vilayet of Adrianople to expel the Armenians and Jews from Adrianople. I got word about this from the Bavarian senior deputy, Witmar. I went there and looked into the matter. Our representative was, the Austrian Consul. My on-the-spot investigation verified the fact that the Governor had ordered the deportation. I went to Constantinople and, with the help of Consul Count Metternich and the Ambassador's Consul Palavichin, the orders were withdrawn.
On another occasion I went to Smyrna. The governor of the province had 600 Armenians taken out of bed and put in wagons to be deported. I went to see the governor and told him that if another hand was raised against the Armenians, I would order my soldiers to kill his police officers. Thereupon, the order was withdrawn. This is the truth. Dr. Lepsius mentions this incident in his book.
This is approximately what I know through personal experience. I would like to stress that I have never set foot in Armenia. I have never been close to Armenia and the Turkish government has never listened to my views nor have they asked for my views on any of the measures taken against the Armenians. On the contrary, everything was done clandestinely so that we would not have any knowledge of their internal political relationships.
Some of the most libelous reports of the world press have stated that German officers, and I think the same applies to all German officials, took part in the planned deportation of the Armenians. On the contrary, in accordance with our duty we intervened whenever we could to assist the Armenians. In my district, except for the examples cited above, the Armenians were few and scattered far and wide.
I cannot say what the role of Talaat was as concerns the issuing of orders. As far as I know the principal order pertaining to the deportation of the Armenians was given on May 20, 1915. In any event it was the result of a decision of the Young Turk committee and it had the unanimous approval of the ministers. The implementation of the orders was left to the Valis, the lower echelon officials, and especially the horrible police force.
In any event, I consider it my duty to state that, in the five years I was in Turkey, I never saw an order signed by Talaat against the Armenians and neither can I testify whether or not such an order was ever issued.
Witness Bishop Krikoris Balakian (Vicar from the Armenian Apostolic Prelacy in Manchester, England, who has come to Berlin for the trial) takes the oath.
The witness speaks halting German. No interpreter is needed.
WITNESS — I have no information either pertaining to the incident in question or concerning the defendant. I have never met him.
I was in Berlin when the war broke out and in September 1914 I left to return to Constantinople. Some six to seven months later, on April 21, 1915, I was arrested and deported along with another 280 Armenian intellectuals.
We were on a train for 36 hours until we arrived at the outskirts of Enguri. There, 90 from our group were deported to Ayas; the remaining 190 were taken in carts to Changere, a days trip from Enguri. From there in small groups of 5, 10, 15, 25, persons were taken back to Enguri and killed. Out of the 190 people, only 16 escaped death.
In Changere, there were forty Armenian families consisting of 250 persons who spoke Turkish only. They were businessmen quite naive when it came to politics. These 250 persons and the 16 intellectuals were to be exiled to Deir-ez-Zor, according to the telegraphic orders of the Minister of the Interior.
The Governor of Kastamouni, Reshad Pasha, refused to obey the orders of the Minister of the Interior. He was immediately replaced. His lieutenant was Ionus Bey, Secretary of the Ittihad Committee. He wanted to carry out the orders to deport us. We were able to buy him off by paying him 800 Turkish gold pieces. We were thus able to stay there until February 1916. A new director was sent to Kastamouni to replace Reshad Pasha. He was formerly the Vali of Enguri, where, as we heard at the time, he was responsible for the deaths of 82,000 Armenian men, women, and children. The new Vali followed Minister of Interior Talaat Pashas orders to the letter and had us exiled to Deir-ez-Zor, even though the Armenians were quite peaceful and could not speak their mother tongue; they just spoke Turkish.
We were informed that for political reasons the government wanted to get all the Armenians out of Asia Minor. First they took 48 men. The women were also to be driven along with them. They asked us if we wanted to have the women and children with us. I advised against it. We later learned that all the women and children were killed.
During the forced march to Deir-ez-Zor, we went through villages and cities where countless Armenians gave up their lives: Choroum, Boghazliyan, Kayseri, Tomarza, Hajin, Sis, Kars, Bozar, Osmaniye, Hassanbeyli, and Islahiye.
For example, 43,000 Armenian men, women, and children were massacred between Yozghat and Boghazliyan. We heard constant rumors that we were to be executed as well, even though the official word used was "displacement". In reality, displacement was a policy of extermination. Our group had money, altogether some 15,000-16,000 gold pieces and we believed that this money would be our salvation.
"Bakshish" [tip or bribe] is a very strong inducement in Asia Minor. We hoped that we could do with money what we could not do by any other means. We were not wrong. The reason I am still alive is because of bakshish.
It goes without saying that they did not take care of us. We were hungry and, whenever we came to a river, they would not allow us to quench our thirst. We stayed two days without any food whatsoever.
They would not allow us to buy any food. They would never allow us to sleep, and yet we were content. We thought that we would be very fortunate if they did not kill us.
When we came to the bloodiest city, Yozghat, we saw a couple hundred skulls of women and young girls in a gorge located four hours distance from town. With us was a police captain, Shukri, who had led us (we were 48 men and 16 police officers on horseback). I asked him whether it was true that only men were being killed and that women and children were being spared.
If we only killed the men, he replied, and not the women and children, then, 50 years from now, we would have a couple million Armenians. So we also have to kilt the women and children; thus we will no longer have an external or an internal problem. (Please forgive me, I have not spoken any German for four or five years now. For this reason, I cannot speak it fluently. Since 1901, I have been an Armenian clergyman. I know the conditions of my people in Armenia and I am well acquainted with Turkish politics.) The captain went on to explain that all the Armenian women and children had been killed, except for the ones in the cities. That had been prohibited.
In 1895-1896, Sultan Abdul Hamid had ordered the Armenians in the cities to be killed. The European nations, the entire civilized world had become aware of this and began to object. The plan now was not to allow anyone to survive; thus, there would be no witnesses to appear in a courtroom. But, thank God, there are still a few survivors.
The captain explained to us calmly and in detail that 14,000 men had been taken from Yozghat and the surrounding villages and been killed, and their bodies had been put into wells. The surviving members of their families were told that the men were sent to Aleppo, Syria, that they were well and that the government had been asked to give orders for the members of their families to come and join them in Aleppo. These families would find living quarters ready for them there. Furthermore, the government had decreed that anything that was moveable could be taken in carts with them to Syria.
On the basis of this order, families started packing everything they had of value, including carpets, silverware, gold, jewelry, and all other moveable possessions. They loaded these into their carts and set out for Syria in a caravan. On the road from Yozghat to Boghazliyan the captain told me that, as a commander of the gendarmes, he personally gave the orders for 40,000 Armenians to be killed. He went on to say, Now the women were thinking that their husbands were alive and made preparations to join them. There were approximately 840 carts; of these, 380 were oxcarts and the rest horse drawn. Many women and children were forced to go on foot. There were some 6,400 women and children being deported to Aleppo.
I asked the captain why such things had been done. He explained that if the women and children were exterminated in the cities, then we would never be able to find out where they had hidden their gold and other valuable possessions. That is why we allowed them to pack all their valuables. Once they had reached a valley some four hours outside of town, the 25-30 Turkish women who were with the caravan began to search each Armenian woman and child and take their jewelry and money. Since there were 6,400 women and children, it took the Turkish women four days before they were through searching. Once the searching was over, it was announced that a new directive had been received from the government to the effect that the women would now be allowed to return to Yozghat, their home.
On the way back — an hours distance — there was a vast plain. The carts and coachmen had already been sent back. The women asked why. They were told that a new directive had come allowing them to return and that they did not need any carts, since it was only a four hour trip to Yozghat.
The captain told me this personally. He did not continue talking thus; as in this case, I always would ask him questions to get answers from him. I believed I might benefit from what I heard.
Now when the women wished to return to Yozghat, many gendarmes were sent to the provincial villages and the villagers were called upon to engage in the "holy war" (Jihad). Some 12,000 to 13,000 villagers came, armed with axes and other iron implements. They were allowed to kill them all and take with them only the prettiest girls.
VON GORDON (interrupting) — We have heard much testimony already, I would like you to get to the essential points.
WITNESS — Please ask me questions.
VON GORDON — When you were in Changere, did you go to the Vali with one of your professors and did you request him to do something on your behalf? Did he not show you a telegram that he had received from Talaat Pasha asking him a certain question?
WITNESS — Let me continue for a couple of minutes, then I shall answer your question. The indiscriminate killing of all the Armenians having taken place, I asked the captain if he had any regrets. I asked him whether or not he felt responsible to answer to God, to mankind, and to what we call civilization.
The captain replied that he felt no responsibility whatsoever. He was only obeying orders given to him from Constantinople. He indicated that he was only a captain and had been ordered to kill everyone because a "Holy War" had been declared.
The captain continued by saying that when a soldier kills someone in wartime, he is not responsible for his actions. He said that he acted accordingly. When the massacre was over with, he told me he said a prayer and absolved his soul.
I said fine, but the fighting in such a case is against the men and that a holy war is not to be declared against innocent women and children.
(In answer to von Gordon's question)
One day, when I was with Mr. Diran Kelekian, the editor of the Turkish newspaper Sabah and a professor at the Turkish University in Constantinople, he asked me, "Would you like to go with me and visit the Vice-governor, Assaf Bey?" I told him that it would be better if we kept under cover. He told me to have no fear as the Bey was a former student of his who respected him. He had discussed the Armenian Question with the Bey many times.
We then went to visit Assaf Bey, who was the former Vice-governor of Osmaniye in Cilicia. He welcomed us very politely. We asked him what we could do to get to Constantinople. He said, "My dear professor, whatever you want to do, do it. Do it quickly; otherwise it will be too late."
We naturally asked him why it would be too late. We told him we had not heard that the massacres had already begun in Asia Minor and we did not know what was happening two hours away. Assaf Bey replied by saying that he could not say anything to others, but he said, "You are my teacher (Mr. Kelekian) and you (turning to me) are a clergyman, you can keep the secret. I trust you!" He showed us a telegram which I read. I cannot recall the exact words, nor can I testify whether it was authentic or not. But I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of a telegram shown to me by the Vice-governor. The telegram read: "Telegram us directly and immediately the exact figures of how many Armenians have been killed and how many are still alive. Minister of Interior Talaat."
At first, I was unable to comprehend the meaning of the telegram as I could not imagine that a whole nation would be massacred. No such thing had happened before in history. Mr. Kelekian asked the Bey the meaning of the telegram. He replied, "You are supposed to be intelligent. You are an editor-in-chief. The telegram means: Why are you waiting? Kill them all."
Mr. Kelekian broke down and began to cry. He said, "I have young children who are not old enough to take care of themselves. There is nothing else for us to do except for you (referring to me) to come with me to church and give me my last rites."
Assaf Bey told us to do our best to be in Constantinople in two weeks time. He told us he would remain in his present position for another fifteen days and then he would resign. He said he was in Osmaniye in 1909 and had been accused of partaking in the 1909 massacres of the Armenians in Adana and managed to save his skin only after a lot of difficulty. He said he did not want to have anything further to do with any massacres. He said that one day all the top leaders would leave Turkey and people like him would be held responsible for these massacres and perhaps be hanged.
JUROR — What signature was on the telegram?
WITNESS — The telegram was signed "Talaat". I saw it with my own eyes.
VON GORDON — Who helped you escape? Was it the Russians, British, Turks, or French? Who?
WITNESS — That is a disastrous story and the events that I endured for five years would take me weeks or even months to relate to you.
VON GORDON — We would appreciate it if you would summarize those events for us.
WITNESS — I fled from Islahiye to Ayran-Bagche. When I arrived at the Amanos mountain chain, I came across a group of German architects and engineers who were working on a tunnel. They were very polite toward me especially when they discovered that I had done my studies in Germany and spoke German. They told me that I had to shave my beard, remove my frock and dress as a European. I stayed with them for four months. There were 8,000 Armenians working under the protection of these German engineers. But when the orders came to deport these Armenians as well, they were killed between Bagche and Marash. I fled again, this time to the Taurus mountains, where other German engineers were working on a tunnel, and I found refuge among them. The Chief Engineer, Leutenegger, was very good to me. However, as soon as the Turks discovered my identity, I fled to Adana. In Adana I found other Germans and again I remained with them for five months. I was in the main office under the protection of Chief Architect Winkler. I was given a German uniform and I passed as a German soldier.
I would like to express my deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks, here, to those German engineers who granted me aid and comfort in my time of need.
When the Entente soldiers took Damascus and were marching toward Aleppo, the Turks in Adana were telling the Armenians that they did not want to let us live so that we would not, along with the Entente powers, laugh at them and cause them harm. They wished to massacre a few thousand Armenians, who were still living in a Turkish warehouse in Adana, in the mountainous areas of Sis and Hajin.
Summoning all my energy I tried to save myself from these barbaric acts and get to Germany.
With my German uniform, I joined other German soldiers and officers and went with them by train to Constantinople. I stayed in hiding in Constantinople until the Armistice was signed in 1918. In November 1918 I left Turkey and came to Paris to try to relate to the world the atrocities that were committed against the Armenians.
VON GORDON — His Excellency General Liman von Sanders left some doubt in our minds. He testified that Talaat Pasha was not the person responsible for these acts, rather the responsibility fell on those groups of irregulars who were in charge of carrying out the deportation. This point of view, as I understand it, is contrary to the views of the Armenians and Dr. Lepsius. I would like to ask the witness the following question: Is there any question in the mind of the Armenians that Talaat was personally responsible for the massacres?
WITNESS — Not only is there no doubt of that in the minds of the Armenians, but it is also the truth. I am a member of the Synod of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople. As such, I had the opportunity, over a long period of time, to get to know the workings of the Turkish government. Of course, I knew Talaat personally. He had overwhelming influence. He did everything with the knowledge of the government. Whenever we, as representatives of the Armenian Patriarchate, had to request something from him, Talaat would tell us: "You do not have to go to the other ministers, you may come directly to me. You do not have to put anything in writing. You just come and tell me about it and I shall take care of it." He acted as if all of the responsibility fell on him alone and he did not have to give an accounting to anyone.
NIEMEYER — Are you aware that Talaat said, "I have done more in one day than Abdul Hamid did in 30 years to resolve the Armenian Question." I understand this statement is well known among the Armenians.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Are you familiar with this quotation?
WITNESS — I did not understand the question.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — (repeats it)
WITNESS — What Talaat did had never happened, not only in the past 30 years but in the past 500. In 1915, I was in Changere and, in the month of September, the whole of Anatolia was emptied of Armenians who were then massacred. A Turkish colonel came from Erzerum, the Turkish-Russian front, and stopped in Changere on his way to Constantinople. He told me: "We did what our Sultan was unable to do. We completely wiped out a historic nation in two months!"
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Did this notion pretty much prevail among the Turks and the Armenians as well?
WITNESS — Yes.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Is it then true that at the hands of Talaat the Armenians suffered greater losses in fifteen months than in all previous years combined?
WITNESS — Yes. But I personally never heard Talaat make the statement that was mentioned a few moments ago.
VON GORDON (to His Excellency Liman von Sanders) — Your Excellency, you implied in your remarks that the responsibility far the massacres should be with the lower echelon officials.
WITNESS — I said the lower echelon officials were responsible for the extreme horrors of the massacres, not for the deportation orders.
VON GORDON — In refutation of this point, I would like to present five telegrams from the Vice-governor of Aleppo, Syria.
(von Gordon wishes to put said telegrams on the court table)
VON GORDON — I would like to read two of these telegrams as proof of this point. Professor Lepsius has examined these telegrams.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — You would be anticipating the evidence if you were now to read these telegrams.
VON GORDON — At least I would like to mention the contents of these telegrams. The telegrams prove that Talaat personally gave the orders to massacre alt the Armenians including women and children. Originally the order was given to spare only those children who were too young to remember what had happened to their parents. However, in March 1916 this order was rescinded as it was felt that these children could, in the future, turn out to be a dangerous element in the community.
The witness Andonian can testify to the authenticity of these telegrams. He obtained them directly from the office of the Vice-governor of Aleppo after the British occupation. Then he placed them at the disposal of the Armenian Delegation.
I personally feel it is important, essential in fact, that the Jurors accept the defendants belief that Talaat was the responsible party and the author of the Armenian Genocide. If the Jurors are willing to accept this, then I am willing to waive the reading of these telegrams.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY — I feel that the motion should be denied. Even though great latitude was granted to discuss this subject, nevertheless, it is not the purpose of this body, nor is it within its competence, to come to a historic decision pertaining to the guilt or innocence of Talaat and the extent of his involvement in the massacre of the Armenians. The essential point is that the defendant believed that Talaat was the responsible party and thus the motive becomes fully clear.
NIEMEYER — It should also be added that Talaat had the highest position in the Turkish government. He was a representative of the government, the Grand Vizir. He was responsible for all of the acts taken by the government. Any other point of view is out of the question.
VON GORDON — In view of the position taken by the District Attorney and the effect it has had on the jurors, I would like to cancel my motion to have these telegrams read into the record.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — I believe that takes care of this point.
JUROR EWALD — I would like to ask a question of witness Balakian. You said you went to see the Vali. Was he a governor or a mayor? Did you see the signature of Talaat on the telegram?
WITNESS — Yes, I saw it with my own eyes.
VON GORDON — The Vali has the position of Chief Authority; he is the top official in the provincial government. He is the Governor-general.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — I would like to ask again if there are any other witnesses to be interrogated?
WERTHAUER — I would like to hear the expert witnesses today.
DR. STÖRMER — I would be very grateful if I could testify today. I assure you I will be brief.
NIEMEYER — I would like to request that we hear all the medical testimony today.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — I would like to ask the defendant if he wishes us to examine any other witnesses.
DEFENDANT — I would like author Aram Andonian to testify.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — The jurors believe that at the time of the incident you were convinced that Talaat Pasha was the author of the massacres.
(Hereupon, the defendant announces that he agrees that the interrogation of other witnesses can be dispensed with.)
Expert Witness Dr. Robert Störmer (Privy medical counselor to the Court, 51 years old, Protestant, Berlin) takes the oath.
(A special appeal is made to the expert witnesses, reminding them of the oath.)
WITNESS — Gentlemen, at the request of the District Attorneys office and with the help of the interpreter present today in Court, I was able to talk to the defendant about his life as welt as give him an extensive physical examination. I analyzed alt of the pertinent factors required to come to a final conclusion, which I am ready to communicate to you.
I concluded that the defendant is an epileptic and that this has had a decided effect on the act he has committed.
I would like to summarize for you what I have learned from the defendant about his life. He was born in Erzinga, the son of a merchant. There is nothing in his childhood of any interest from a medical point of view. He had never been seriously ill until 1915, when he witnessed the massacres. He told me, in a very emotional state, the circumstances under which his parents, brothers and sisters became victims. Shuddering with horror, he recalled the moment when a Turk struck his brother on the head with such force that it was split in two.
The defendant also received injuries to his head, left arm and knee. The shocking effect of all these killings, plus his wounds and sufferings, caused him to suffer fainting spells. He remained for three days under corpses; he lost consciousness, coming to only because of the horrible stench arising from the corpses — a stench which has remained ingrained in his mind forever. He tells me that any time he reads anything horrifying or whenever he recalls the massacres, the stench from the corpses penetrates his olfactories and he cannot seem to overcome it.
Subsequent to the massacres, he spent some time wandering until he found refuge among some mountainous Kurds. He insists he had his first epileptic fit in 1916 but that he cannot be any more specific about it. In 1917 he returned to Erzinga and found the city deserted and his home in ruins. He then suffered his second epileptic seizure. I asked him to describe this seizure to me in detail. He suddenly felt weak and lost consciousness. He lay on the ground helpless and, when he regained his consciousness and strength, he felt thirsty and wanted to sleep. He then told me that he dug for the money left in the house until he found the gold pieces his parents had hidden. He used this money to travel to Europe, but before that, in 1918, he went to Tiflis and was hospitalized, suffering from intestinal disorders which were probably due to typhoid fever. I cannot state with any certainty that is was typhoid as the defendant was unable to describe his illness to me in detail so that I could come to a definite conclusion. He then went to Europe and in December 1920 moved from Paris to Geneva and from there to Berlin. First he lived at 51 Augsburgerstrasse with Mrs. Stellbaum and then, in early 1921, he moved to 37 Hardenbergstrasse. I visited his apartment to determine for myself whether or not he could check on the movements of Talaat. The apartment was on the ground floor and, from there, one could keep an eye on the balcony of the apartment in which Talaat resided.
I asked the defendant detailed questions pertaining to his seizures and the frequency of the attacks. He told me that he had seizures very irregularly. For months he would not have any and then he would feel very weak and dizzy. In Paris, over a period of ten months, he had four attacks but each time, realizing his physical condition, he would come to his senses so that he did not get hit by a car or meet with any other accident. Subsequent to feeling weak, he always had the same sensation and smelled the stench of corpses. Others have told him that his whole body trembled during these seizures. First he senses the stench; then his body starts trembling and he loses consciousness. The third phase occurs upon awakening: he feels pain in his legs and arms. He feels exhausted. In this condition he feels very thirsty and then he falls into a deep sleep.
In Paris he had four such seizures. In Geneva, none. In Berlin, many, one of which occurred on Erusalemerstrasse. This attack took place near a subway station; a bank employee took him to his house and left him on the doorstep. The defendant then climbed the stairs alone and got to his room. His landlady, Mrs. Stellbaum, thought he was drunk and noticed a wound on his cheek, but then it became clear that he had not been drinking as there was no smell of alcohol. He immediately went to bed and felt like throwing up.
I felt it essential to detail his seizure because I base my conclusions on these details. I have diagnosed him as an epileptic. Even without that, his body is weak. His physical examination showed that he had liquid in his lungs and, even though our conversation was carried out in calm surroundings, one could observe a strong shaking and trembling of his body. Our conversation was very calm. There was no excitement either on his part or on mine. Including the interpreter, there were three of us in a small room and no one bothered us in any way.
His reflexes were normal except for those of his eyes focusing membrane. His urine analysis showed a significant excess of albumin.
All these findings have no effect on free will. But they do allow us to conclude that the defendant is a sick man physically. The interpreter did such an excellent job that I feel, even though we could not communicate directly, that I could understand his emotional state. Whenever the defendant spoke of the massacres, I had the impression that what he said came straight from the heart. I can unequivocally state that the defendant has suffered an extreme emotional shock and that whenever he became morose, as described by his two landladies, he turned the lights off, preferring darkness to light, and played his mandolin. All these reflect a turbulent emotional state.
It is necessary to take all these factors into consideration to reach a fair verdict with regard to the defendant. This does not constitute merely the memory of a horrible massacre and the death of his family; rather, the defendants behavior reflects justifiable compassion. His childhood, his faith in humanity, and his confidence in justice have been totally destroyed. It is my firm conviction that the defendant suffers from epilepsy and that this has complete domination over his feelings.
However, this epilepsy, which stems from emotional factors, is also characterized by a persistence rare in such cases. Steadfastness, balance of perception, the decision-making process, and the bringing of an idea to fruition are all tied in with this epilepsy.
People suffering from this same sickness, with very few exceptions, see to it that they carry out whatever they have set their minds to. This explains why once his mind was made up, the defendant pursued his enemy with few digressions and decided to implement his plan of action in the best possible way.
One episode can have a decided effect on ones thinking. The defendant has stated that his mother would appear over and over again in his dreams. On one occasion his mother took on a physical appearance before him and told him: What, you still want to call yourself my son? Talaat Pasha is in Berlin and you are doing nothing to kill him and avenge my death.
I certainly had to ask myself if this was not a delusion of the senses. But after a detailed cross-examination, I was able to verify that what the defendant experienced was not a delusion of the senses, but a living mental picture. He does actually see his mother in her physical form. He not only sees her in his dreams but even white he is awake. This happens quite often with people who are suffering from epilepsy.
So we see that this sickness has had an undeniable effect on the defendant. Nevertheless, if one were to say that he could not exercise his free will, then it goes without saying that there should be a direct correlation between his behavior and his sickness. I did not find this to be true.
But I accept as fact that his sickness has altered his entire personality and has brought forth a stubborn, persistent, irrepressible desire to see to the realization of his plans. However, at the time of the killing, he was exercising his free will since he was not subject to any fits at alt then.
I do not deny that on the day of the killing he was quite enraged and felt dejected; he had drunk brandy to induce courage. When be had finished the surveillance from his room, he grabbed his revolver and rushed out to the street. He described to me in detail that he was convinced the man was Talaat Pasha and that he shot him from the back because, otherwise, he would have drawn attention to the gun and botched the assassination. The defendant used extreme care to aim the revolver at the area between the hat and the top of the overcoat. This was the realization of a long-premeditated plan. Thus, considering the fact that the killing, which took place in the daytime, had no close relationship to an epileptic seizure and even though the horrible events he experienced in Armenia had an effect on his behavior, nevertheless, I can only come to the conclusion that he still had his free will.
PRESIDING JUSTICE (to the defendant) — Did those scenes appear to you in bodily form?
DEFENDANT — Yes, it seems to me that I saw the corpses in actual body form.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Do you still insist that you did not commit the killing deliberately at the time?
DEFENDANT — When I saw Talaat Pasha leave the house, I remembered what my mother had told me.
VON GORDON — Does the defendant deny that he committed the crime with deliberation?
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Yes. (To the interpreter) Would you please tell the defendant that Dr. Störmer feels that he was responsible for his acts.
(This is translated for the defendant)
VON GORDON — Did the defendant admit that he had had that much brandy?
WITNESS — No. It was his landlady, Mrs. Dittmann, who said so.
JUROR — Perhaps, due to his intoxicated condition, there was an interruption in his thinking; he may have relived the horrible experience he endured and thus suffered an epileptic attack.
WITNESS — Yes, I thought of that too. Certainly, when the occasion to commit the homicide presented itself, he was understandably under the influence of a deep inspiration. Nevertheless, in a psychiatric sense, the inspiration was not of a delusional nature.
WERTHAUER — Supposing he had suffered an epileptic seizure that very morning, would you still be of the same opinion?
WITNESS — I tried in every possible way to discover from the defendant if he had had such an attack. I asked him if he had had a sleepless night. He told me that he had perspired all night.
WERTHAUER — That is not at all what I was driving at. If it were possible to establish that the defendant had suffered an epileptic attack that night, in that case, would you still be of the opinion that the defendant would have been responsible for his actions?
WITNESS — If he had suffered an epileptic attack, certainly that would have had an effect on his free will; nevertheless, he would still have had a controlled free will.
JUROR — Is it not possible that the defendant might have suffered an epileptic attack and not been aware of it?
WITNESS — Yes, that is quite possible. We see the same thing happening in our insane asylums.
JUSTICE LOCKE — Would the defendant have free will in the interval between the attacks or would it be a question of the degree of control?
WITNESS — Yes, he would have free will but to a lesser extent. Many years ago I was asked the same question in a case similar to this. I gave the following example: I compared the defendant to a volcano. An epileptic attack with all its concomitants — shaking, total loss of consciousness, weeping, rolling on the floor — resembles the eruption of a volcano, while that phase of epilepsy in which only the painful, difficult aspect manifests itself — the dogged pursuit of an idea — can be compared to the interval between volcanic eruptions. I cannot find a better example than this.
JUSTICE LOCKE — In between epileptic attacks would the patient be mentally distressed?
WITNESS — Very rarely. Only in the most advanced stages of epilepsy will there be mental disturbance.
JUSTICE LOCKE — Hut did you not testify that the defendant had suffered emotional shock and that this too had affected his behavior?
PRESIDING JUSTICE — The expert witness did say that but, nevertheless, he does not conclude that it explains the incident of March 15, 1921.
WERTHAUER — For us the critical point is the psychological consequence of the epileptic state.
NIEMEYER — The expert witness was unable to tell us what the defendants psychological state was at the moment of the murder.
Expert Witness Professor Dr. Liepmann (privy medical counselor to the Court from the University of Berlin, 58 years old) takes the oath.
WITNESS — I base my diagnosis on today's testimony as well as on three detailed physical examinations of the defendant, which were carried out last week while be was in prison.
I would like to preface my testimony by stating that I found the defendant to be a man of rare sincerity. He did not resort to any histrionics. On the contrary, he was very reserved. There is a certain resignation about him, such that, no matter what happens, he no longer has any interest in living. He made sure that I understood this. This information was not voluntarily given to me, rather I had to pry it out of him.
It is perfectly clear that we are not dealing here with the act of an insane person. It is also clear that the act was not committed while the defendant was in a confused state of mind, such as during an epileptic attack. Generally speaking, I do not think the concept of epilepsy is the magic word giving us the key to the subconscious mind of the defendant.
On the contrary, we have to delve into an area we are not too well acquainted with — the pathology of the person s mind. Having undertaken this, I must state that I take a different view than that of my esteemed colleague, Dr. Störmer.
As I see it, the problem is twofold: the occurrence of severe psychological shocks and their after effects, particularly in the case of persons so disposed, as well as the doctrine of compulsive precept. If an individual in excellent health has endured a severe shock, no matter how fierce the mania, it passes in due course of time. Sometimes it can take a week; in other cases, months. Nevertheless, given time, it subsides. But there are individuals with more sensitive personalities, who are entirely diverted from their normal course by the severe shock. The effect of such shock does not diminish in intensity; rather, fatefully, it is intensified in the psyche.
The recollection of this profound psychological experience is called a compulsive precept. It becomes buried in such personalities and it gradually enslaves the person. It dominates the personality of these individuals. It is always present; it always comes out, forcing the person to submit to its authority. I will now try to prove to you, in detail, that Tehlirian was under the influence of such a compulsive precept and that he was unable to free himself from the memory of the severe shock he had endured.
First, I would like to point out that the terrible events which led to the loss of Tehlirian's family also forced him to digress from his normal pattern of life. This was a serious psychological wound which prevented the defendant from ever regaining his psychological equilibrium.
Let us not forget that the defendant was seventeen years old when be lost his equilibrium. In the succeeding six years, from 1915 to 1921, he wandered restlessly from place to place. He found sanctuary first with the Kurds. Then he stayed for an extended period of time in Tiflis without any steady or definite work. He had taken initial steps to continue his education but, even according to him, he was never able to concentrate and steadfastly pursue his schooling. He then returned to his birthplace, went back to Tiflis, from there to Constantinople. Salonika, Paris, Berlin . . . without finding any peace of mind, without finding an aim in life. Thus, we can believe him when he says that he could never concentrate on any one thing and that his memory began to weaken.
We can easily accept the fact that he was suffering from a psychological disorder which affected both his senses and his mind. However, first and foremost, he was seized by this compulsive precept. I believe him when he says that in public or whenever he was with friends he would temporarily forget those horrible experiences but that, whenever he was alone, they would come alive again and make him very depressed. Furthermore, I believe him when he says that those recollections took physical form; he could see them and smell the stench of the corpses.
However, I do not feet it is essential for us to determine to what degree these visions took physical form. Studies made during the last few decades have shown that the visions or sensory delusions of those who suffer from serious psychological disorders do not necessarily seem entirely physical. What is more essential is to determine the effect these visions have on the psyche.
What are the effects of these psychic shocks on the defendant? As to the seizures then, I cannot, strictly speaking, accept them as epileptic in nature. They are epileptic only in a broad sense. If they were epileptic, the defendant should have exhibited, among other symptoms, biting of the tongue and lips. These did not occur in the defendants case. He has not had a lack of urinary control either. In most cases, he has not bled after falling, as quite often happens with epileptics.
In my opinion, the attacks were not epileptic in nature but rather mental breakdowns. These seizures were not caused by physical impulses in the brain but rather by severe psychic shocks. The two instances show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are dealing here with mental breakdowns. I shall elaborate on them a little later.
I differ from my esteemed colleague, Dr. Störmer, in that I do not see two forces operating on the defendant side by side: physical epilepsy as well as psychological disorder. In my opinion, these attacks are the expression of severe psychic shock. These are nervous breakdowns and their significance is that they reflect a severe injury to the psyche. Therefore, once the entire recollection of the calamity was upon him and once it criss-crossed any other thought or feeling and appeared in physical form — seeing his mother — we have the singular creation of compulsive precept.
No matter what we asked Tehlirian — Did he consider himself competent to commit the killing? Did he consider himself competent to play the role of judge? — his answers were always the same, i.e., that his mother had obligated him to perform the act of killing and hence there was no further question as far as he was concerned. I asked him whether or not being a Christian presented an obstacle to him. He told me he was well aware that Christianity prohibits killing but after seeing a vision of his mother he knew that he was on the right track. His vision of his mother was an all-powerful force, thus making any further argument pointless.
After having said all this, I must say that in the case of the defendant, a psychotic has committed an act under psychological pressure. There were motives of suffering which put pressure on the defendant and limited his free will. I emphasize my use of the word pressure and not force.
I am, personally at least, ready to state that only the psychological freedom of his will was substantially confined. There is no question that Tehlirian is a mentally disturbed person at the mercy of the compulsive precept.
Unfortunately, the new penal law concerning partial responsibility is not yet in use. I conclude that the defendant is completely incapable of accepting responsibility and it also does not seem that he was under the influence of an inevitable force. Therefore, in my opinion, he is not subject to Article 51 (which requires that he be responsible for his acts) but is very close to it because he would have had to exercise a moral effort to resist and not succumb to the pressures bearing upon him.
One wonders if the defendant committed the crime with premeditation. I will avoid making judgment on a legal issue. But I feel obligated to picture the circumstances under which, I think, the defendant found himself. I must state that for all patients who suffer from a compulsive precept its emergence is linked with extremely severe emotional agitation. I must also admit the following: when the defendant used to recall the massacres and Talaat, he would become very emotional and, at such times, it would not be possible for him to reflect on the consequences and his motives in a detached manner.
The reason for my concluding that the defendant is suffering from agitated emotional epilepsy which, strictly speaking, is not epilepsy but rather involves mental breakdowns, is that the defendants first attack came as a result of a severe psychic shock brought on by the visit to his home, the view of the ruins — in short, a very deep emotional experience. Thereafter, as he relates, each subsequent attack would begin with the scene of the massacres and the stench of the corpses. In each case we have the manifest remembrance of a traumatic experience. Primarily on the basis of this, I come to the conclusion that the defendant was suffering from emotional epilepsy — that is to say, mental or nervous breakdowns.
The hallucination of smelling the stench of the corpses, which really occurs in patients suffering from actual epilepsy, does not have a local, provocative, and demonstrative significance in this particular case.
Expert Witness Dr. Richard Cassirer (neurologist and professor at Berlin University, 43 years old) takes the oath.
WITNESS — I shall give my opinion based on two examinations of the defendant, which I performed in February, before the incident, as well as on the impressions I have received during this trial. I have not seen the defendant since the second time I examined him.
The defendant first came to my clinic on February 5th and the second time on February 18th. Through an interpreter he described his illness to me.
He was born of healthy parents. There is no family history of epilepsy. He did not relate to me particularly significant things concerning the drastic emotional upheavals he had endured. He told me that he had his first attack in 1917 and the second a year later. Subsequent ones occurred every three to four months and then the attacks began to take place more frequently; that was the reason why he had come to see me.
He told me he would feel uncomfortable at the beginning of the attack, tremble, smell the revolting stench of corpses, and then lose consciousness. The defendant told me from the beginning that he did not bite his tongue, he did not have uncontrolled urination and, as others have told him, he would foam at the mouth.
My examination did not indicate any disorder of the nervous system. I had his blood and urine analyzed, but the results were negative. On the basis of the foregoing, I concluded that the defendant was suffering from epilepsy and based my diagnosis on the fact that the attacks were becoming more frequent and the defendant sensed a pungent odor, which often precedes an epileptic seizure. If I am not mistaken, I then prescribed him medication which I knew would affect the normal functioning of his brain. Having taken this medication, the defendant felt exhausted and that is partially the reason why he discontinued his studies.
Nevertheless, as a result of the testimony that I have heard in court today, I cannot maintain my diagnosis of epilepsy. At the present time I am more inclined to the view that the defendant is not suffering from epilepsy, but rather he is experiencing emotional upheavals which are closely related to his psyche.
As a result of the experiences gathered from the World War, we are in a better position today to recognize the nature of these convulsions. We, thus, have been able to realize how severe emotional shocks, occurring all at once, can give rise to convulsions in the case of persons so disposed, which we diagnose as convulsions due to mental breakdown or emotional epilepsy.
Based on this same evidence, I conclude, as has Professor Liepmann, that the defendant is suffering from emotional epilepsy. The primary basis for this diagnosis is that the defendant's total psychological being has been subjected to drastic change. This psychosis is evident not only in the manifestation of convulsions, which for the most part are combined with provocations, but in other symptoms as well. Psychic astasia has given rise to irregular mental phenomena — for example, the appearance of his mother in his dreams. Of course, we do not have an actual trance but rather a conscious dream directive which is not present when he is fully awake. In conjunction with this, we also have dispositional aberrations: for example, as many have testified, the defendant invariably suffered from depression. The defendant made a very significant statement when he said, When I feel bad my mother appears to me. What this means is that whenever the defendant was tired, exhausted, or being consumed by grief and memories, he would have the delusion. This circumstance of seeing his mother is strictly a psychotic one.
For this reason, I conclude that the defendant has become quite psychotic. And this illness stems from the influence of the most severe psychological shocks imaginable. Furthermore, this psychosis has manifested itself as a persistent occurrence of mental breakdown in the form of emotional epileptic seizures which in themselves are signs of very marked damage to ones psychological equilibrium.
In this sense, the defendants emotional experience has triggered the behavior leading to the act. In the case of the individual so disposed, when faced with his parents murderer, the notion of taking revenge ripened in the defendant.
It is because of this heavy damage to the psyche that the defendant did not take into consideration a whole series of inhibitions which would have restricted any normal person from committing the act. I conclude, as well, that there are certain normal motives which in the defendant gave rise to the idea of committing such an act. But besides these normal motives, there are also various sick motives which made the killing possible; that act would not have taken place if he had had his normal inhibitions. I am also certain that there is no question but that the defendant was in a confused state of mind.
I am convinced that certain basic, extreme factors played an important role in the defendants execution of the act. Even though I do not want to insist that the defendant, at the time of the killing, was in a state where responsibility for his actions was totally absent (as is required by Article 51), I feel the defendant was very close to being in such a state. We psychiatrists are unable to draw the boundary line categorically and precisely.
WERTHAUER — Do you have any basic doubts that the defendant committed these acts by his own free and conscious will?
WITNESS — I have no doubt whatsoever that his free will was not totally absent.
WERTHAUER — You have no doubt whatsoever that his free will was not absent?
WITNESS — I insist that his free will was not totally absent.
WERTHAUER — I would like to ask the following: Is there any doubt, from a medical point of view, that his free will was absent?
WITNESS — No.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — In other words, you have no doubt that his free will existed. Is it possible to determine what the defendants psychological condition was at the time of the killing?
WITNESS — It is not possible to determine that. We can only surmise.
Expert Witness Professor Dr. Edmund Forster (psychiatrist, professor at Berlin University, and chief physician of the Neurological Clinic at Berlin University, 42, years old, Protestant), representing Dr. Bonhöffer, takes the oath.
WITNESS — In essence, I concur in the opinion of Dr. Liepmann and Professor Dr. Cassirer, both authorities in their field. However, it seems to me that there are still a number of points which require clarification.
Having heard all of the sufferings of the defendant, one has the feeling that it is perfectly comprehensible that he had to kill Talaat, whom he considered to be a murderer. This brings us to the first question. Would a normal person have done the same? This is not necessarily true. It is one thing for a normal person, under the same circumstances, to think I am going to kill Talaat. Yet, it is altogether something else for one to perpetrate the act. Other Armenians, who suffered the same hardships and perhaps had the same thought of revenge, did not in fact commit the crime. The crime, by itself, certainly does not prove that the perpetrator of the crime was ill. The second question is the following: Does it necessarily follow that anyone who has suffered the same horrors becomes sick in the mind as a result? This is not so either. On this point I might be able to give a precise opinion, since I worked in a danger zone throughout the war. Experience has shown that the human being can withstand unimaginable horrors without becoming psychologically disturbed. Even though, to a layman, this might sound incredulous, objective statistics have shown that there has been no increase in the number of psychologically disturbed people as a result of the war, whereas only those who were disposed to mental illness have demonstrated increased frequency of symptoms as a result of the war.
I am in agreement with the previous expert witness that, in the case of the defendant, we are unquestionably faced with a psychologically disturbed person. Consequently, it is quite possible for him to react in an extreme way to horrible events. Again, I am in agreement with Professor Liepmann and Professor Cassirer that what we have here is not real epilepsy, but rather emotional epilepsy.
From my two detailed examinations of the defendant and the testimony of the witnesses, I concluded that the convulsions demonstrate only emotional epilepsy. The defendant had never had such convulsions prior to the shattering emotional experiences he endured. The defendant recalls his frightful experiences. He talks, in no uncertain terms, of seeing the corpses and sensing their stench. He then has the convulsions, but he does not shriek or have spasms, which are symptoms characteristic of normal epilepsy. He shakes, moans and groans, and then falls down. This is the order of these attacks. He relives those terrible days so vividly that he loses consciousness. He recalls whatever events he has experienced so vividly that he feels the emotions he would feel if the events were actually taking place. This order is the same as that which occurs in the case of a starving person. First, he salivates when he thinks about a piece of meat freshly fried. In this case, the same effect occurs in the imagination as would occur if he were really to eat that piece of meat.
However, not everyone who has suffered such frightful events has such attacks. Only persons predisposed to psychological illness are subject to them. Furthermore, only those who are mentally sick undergo a change in their basic personality on account of such recollections and similar compulsive precepts. I am further inclined to concur with Professor Liepmann that, as a result of these deeply embedded ideas, a change has taken place in the personality of the defendant, and such change has occurred in the manner described by the ingenious German psychiatrist, Karl Wernicke.
The defendant can no longer claim his "rights". His kinsmen are dead. He told me that his life no longer has any meaning for him. I objected by saying, "Is it not true that you could get married and pursue a profession?" "Why should I get married?" he replied. He does not want to obtain justice by himself. He does not want to take revenge. But the compulsion of his sick mind asserts itself over and over again, as do his mothers demands. He repeatedly wavers because the act of killing is quite distasteful to his nature. He repeats insistently, "I am not a murderer, my mother told me to do it and I had to do it." His whole personality has changed. I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that we are dealing here with a sick personality, who has been drastically affected by emotional shocks and committed the punishable crime as a result of their influence on him.
So the question is this: Do the provisions of Article 51 apply to this case? That there are unusual motives is undeniable. In the case of psychological illnesses brought about by compulsive ideas, it is not possible to give a simple "yes" or "no" answer to the question, "Is he or is he not psychologically ill?"
Every fanatic, every individual, who follows the directive of a dominant idea is something of a psychologically sick person in the clutches of a compulsive idea. Contrary to the strict definition of the word "sick", what we have here is a matter of degree.
To give a simple "yes" or "no" answer to the question, "Was the malady of the defendant severe enough for the provisions to fit it?," is very difficult. Undoubtedly it is a matter of opinion where the line is to be drawn. I am generally inclined to restrict the parameters of Article 51, because the law definitively requires that there be a total absence of free will. With the incident in question, we are faced with so many difficult indications pertaining to the excessive effect of a compulsive idea on the defendant that we can at least say that the provisions of Article 51 come very close to fitting the present case. I am even inclined to say that free will was totally absent. The question whether or not we have "fundamental doubt" is not very appropriate. I have no fundamental doubt as to the illness of the defendant; I only have doubt as to how my medical judgments can be translated into a legal opinion. But, after all, that is not my task; it is more the task of the jury to interpret my medical testimony in determining the legal implications of the question.
VON GORDON — Do you think it is perhaps possible that, after this outburst, the defendants epilepsy, his emotional epilepsy, will disappear and he will no longer suffer from emotional epileptic convulsions?
WITNESS — I do not think so. At least, it is not possible to predict that. But experiments have shown that similar compulsive ideas eventually diminish in intensity as the individual goes into another environment which has no relationship to the causes of these compulsive precepts. However, the minute he meets an old acquaintance and reflects on past incidents, he would have a relapse.
Expert Witness Dr. Bruno Haake (neurologist) takes the oath.
WITNESS — In view of the detailed medical testimony already presented to you, I can be quite brief. On February 4th of this year I first saw the defendant in my clinic, with his interpreter, whom I recognized in court as Mr. Apelian. I was under the impression then that the defendant was suffering from epilepsy and I made a note to that effect in my notebook. But today I am of the opinion that the defendant is suffering from emotional epilepsy as a result of a psychological shock. I would like to add that, from my point of view, an emotional epileptic, such as the defendant, is unable freely to control his will under the constraint of such mental images. I would therefore like to take this point a little further than the previous expert witnesses and give an affirmative answer to the question, Was there a total tack of free will?
(No more questions were put to the expert medical witnesses. It was decided not to cross-examine the French interpreter, expert witness Professor Pfefer.)
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Perhaps it can be generally stated that there shall be no more new evidence presented and no further cross examination of any witnesses.
WERTHAUER — The second penal senate of our Supreme Court has held that when a general stipulation is made, in effect, all motions or rejection of motions previously presented are no longer in effect. For this reason, I shall not make such a general stipulation; rather, I shall stipulate on each motion as it arises.
VON GORDON — I too agree with that.
DEFENDANT — I am in agreement.
(The trial is recessed until nine o'clock Thursday morning)
- Trial of Talaat Pasha in Russian, with original foreword by Armin T. Wegner
- Trial of Talaat Pasha in Armenian, published by Mekhitarian Printing House, Vienna 1921
- Source: "The case of Soghomon Tehlirian" by A.R.F. Varantian Gomideh. Translated from German by *Vartkes Yeghiyan
- Scanned by: Raffi Kojian ( Cilicia.com )
- OCR: Raffi Kojian ( Cilicia.com )
- Proofreading: Karen Vrtanesyan (http://www.ArmenianHouse.org)
- Special thanks to Mr. Arman Galstyan for historical consultations