Why Talaat's Assassin Was Acquitted -nyt192107

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CURRENT HISTORY (Published by New York Times Company, Times Square, New York)


By George R. Montgomery (Director, Armenia-America Society)

Official Turkish documents produced in Berlin at the trial of the young Armenian, Teilirian, proved beyond question that Talaat Pasha and other officials had ordered the wholesale extermination of the Armenians, including even little orphans children -- Facsimiles of the order

AN Armenian named Teilirian was tried at Berlin of June 2-3 for the murder of Talaat Pasha, who was chief of the Young Turk Party, and who was, during the latter part of the war, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. The murder of Talaat of March 15, 1921, drew general attention to the fact that the German Government was allowing Talaat to use Berlin as a center of Turkish Nationalist intrigue. It was expected that the known sympathy of the German Government for the Young Turks would result in the prompt conviction and execution of the Armenian. To the surprise of the world, he was acquitted.

Teilirian and the Armenian Nation, it appeared, had found a champion in the person of Professor Lepsius, who was not only bold in bringing out unpleasant truths irrefutable. The trial of the Armenian developed into the trial of the murdered Talaat Pasha as the greatest of the war criminals. It developed into a case against the German military authorities, who had at least allowed the massacres to continue without protect. Even General Liman von Sanders, who had had charge of the German military forces in Turkey, was called as a witness. His testimony opened the eyes of the German people, as nothing else had yet done, to the fact of the terrible massacres and to the callousness of the German military authorities to the horrors that were going on under their eyes. Professor Lepsius produced German official reports to show that the total number of Armenians who perished as a result of the so-called deportations was over a million.

Although the technical defense of Teilirian was temporary insanity brought on by a vision of his murdered mother, the real defense was the terrible record of Talaat Pasha; so that in the eyes of Germany the acquittal of the Armenia of the charge of murder became the condemnation to death of the Turk. That such a trial and such a result occurred in Germany with Germans as jurors is particularly significant.

With respect to the present situation in the Near East, the most important phase of this dramatic trial was the ability of Professor Lepsius to produce Turkish official documents which proved the heads of the Turkish Government at Constantinople -- and particularly Talaat himself -- to be directly responsible for converting the deportation into shambles. Heretofore there have been defenders of the Ottomans who held that the massacres were not a plan of the Government, but were due to the brutality of those who carried out the deportation instructions. At the trial of Teilirian there were placed in evidence facsimiles and translations of signed orders from Talaat -- letters and cipher telegrams which proved that the instructions to massacre originated in Constantinople. As Aleppo was the headquarters of the "Deportations Committee," the capture of Aleppo by the British made possible the securing of these official documents from the archives. This evidence directly linking the murdered Talaat with the inhuman deeds that were covered by the general term "deportation" was irrefutable and overwhelming. The documents established once and for all the fact that the purpose of the Turkish authorities was not deportation by annihilation.

The object of the present article is to present translations -- with facsimiles -- of some of the Turkish official documents that created such a sensation when read into the evidence during the trial at Berlin. The first document, although not singed by Talaat, is from the committee of Young Turks of which he was the head, and, inasmuch as its contents are referred to in dispatches signed by him, was valid as evidence. It was written in the Spring of 1915, before the massacres had begun, and shows the extermination of the Armenians to have been the determined policy of the Government. Jemal, to whom the document is addressed, was the third in the triumvirate of Young Turks -- Tallat, Enver and Jemal. At that time he was Governor of Adana and soon afterward became Governor of Aleppo:

March 25 1915. To Jemal Bey, Delegate at Adana:

It is the duty of all of us to effect on the broadest lines the realization of the noble project of wiping out of existence the well-known elements who have for centuries been constituting a barrier to the empire's progress in civilization. For this reason we must take upon ourselves the whole responsibility, saying, "come what may," and appreciating how great is the sacrifice which has enabled the Government to enter the World War, we must work so that the means adopted may lead to the desired end.

As announced in our dispatch dates Feb. 18, the Jemiet [Young Turk Committee] has decided to uproot and annihilate the various forces which have for centuries been an obstacle in its way, and to this end it is obliged to resort to very bloody methods. Be assured that we ourselves were horrified at the contemplation of these methods, but the Jemiet sees no other way of insuring the stability of its work.

Ali Riza [the committee delegate at Aleppo] criticized us and called upon us to be merciful; such simplicity is nothing short of stupidity. For those who will not co-operate with us we will find a place that will wring their delicate heartstrings.

I again recall to your memory the question of the property left. It is very important. Do not let its distribution escape your vigilance; always examine the accounts and the use made of the proceeds.

Reference to this document is contained in the following order, signed by Talaat and sent to the same Jamal. This order shows that women and children were to be included in the holocaust:

Sept. 3, 1915 To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We recommend that you submit the women and children also to the orders which have been previously prescribed as to be allied to the males of the intended persons, and to designate for these functions employs of confidence.

The Minister of the Interior,

Apparently the instructions regarding the women and children called for some reiteration, for on Sept. 16 the following cipher telegram, which showed the instructions as going back to the decision of the Jeimet, or Young Turk Committee, was sent: [TRANSLATION] Sept. 16 To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

It has been previously communicated to you that the Government, by order of the Jehmed [the Young Turk Committee] has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey. Those who oppose this order and decision cannot remain on the official staff of the empire. An end must be put to their existence, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to conscientious scruples.

The Minister of the Interior,

Mr. Morgenthau, the American Ambassador at Constantinople, began to exert himself in behalf of the Armenians, and the result was an official order suggesting caution: Nov. 18, 1915. To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

From interventions which have recently been made by the American Ambassador at Constantinople on behalf of his Government, it appears that the American Consul are obtaining information by secret means. In spite of our assurance that the [Armenian] deportations will be accomplished in safety and comfort, they remain unconvinced. Be careful that events attracting attention shall not take place in connection with those [Armenians] who are near the cities and other canters. From the point of view of the present policy. It is most important that foreigners who are in those parts shall be persuaded that the expulsion of the Armenians is in truth only deportation. For this reason it is important that, to save appearances, a show of gentle dealing shall be made for a time, and the usual measures be taken in suitable places. It is recommended as very important that the people who have given such information shall be arrested and handed over to the military authorities for trial by court-martial.

The Minister of the Interior,

Reference to the effort of the American Consul at Aleppo, Mr. Jackson, to send information to Mr. Morgenthau is contained in the following cipher dispatch: Dec. 11, 1915. To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We learn that some correspondents of Armenian journals are obtaining photographs and letters which represent tragic events, and are giving them to the American Consul at Aleppo. Have dangerous persons of this kind arrested and suppressed.

The Minister of the Interior,

The need for caution is further indicated in the following telegram: Dec. 29, 1915. To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We learn that foreign officers are encountering along the roads the corpses of the intended persons and are photographing them. I recommend you the importance of having these corpses buried at once and of not allowing them to be left near the roads.

The Minister of the Interior,

The heartlessness of the Turks in regard to the doomed children made a deep impression on the Berlin jury. The following are some of the documents presented on this point: Nov. 5, 1915 To the Government of Aleppo:

We are informed that the little ones belonging to the indicated persons [Armenians] from Sivas Mamuret-ul-Aziz, Diarbekir and Erzeroum are adopted by certain Moslem families and received as servants when they are left alone through the death of their parents. We inform you that you are to collect all such children in your province and send them to the places of deportation, and also to give the necessary orders regarding this to the people.

The Minister of the Interior,

Jan. 15, 1916. To the Government of Aleppo:

We hear that certain orphanages which have been opened received also the children of the Armenians. Whether this is done through ignorance of our real purpose, or through contempt of it, the Government will regard the feeding of such children or any attempt to prolong their lives as an act entirely opposed to its purpose, since it considers the survival of these children as detrimental. I recommend that such children shall not be received into the orphanages, and no attempts are to be made to establish special orphanages for them.

The Minister of the Interior,

The production of the following cipher telegram (No. 830) was particularly telling in its effect on the jury:

From the Ministry of the Interior to the Government of Aleppo:

Collect and keep only those orphans who cannot remember the terrors to which their parents have been subjected. Send the rest away with the caravans.

The Minister of the Interior,

That the Moslem population was not to be held accountable for its share in the massacres was ordered in a telegram dated Oct. 8, 1915:

The reason why the Sanjak of Zor Was chosen as a place of deportation is explained in a secret order dated Sept. 2, 1915, No. 1,843. As all the crimes to be committed by the population along the way against the Armenians will serve to effect the ultimate purpose of the Government, there is no need for legal proceedings with regard to these. The necessary instructions have also been sent to the Governments of Zor and Ourfa.

The Minister of the Interior,

All the evidence tends to show, with cumulative effect, that it was the pity awakened in the hearts of some of the local Turkish officials by the miseries of the Armenians which produced a certain mitigation of the heartless orders that emanated from Constantinople. A small remnant of the race survived. Talaat and his group in the Government were obliged continually to spur some of their tools on to greater severity.

pic. 273 (Photo Paul Tompson), TALAAT PAHSA, Turkish official who ordered the massacre of Armenians, and who was assassinated by an American youth at Berlin
pic. 274 SOLOMON TEILIRIAN, Young Armenian who killed Talaat Pasha and was acquitted

A hard copy of this article or hundreds of others from the time of the Armenian Genocide can be found in The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922