03 June 2006

734) German Head of the General Staff, Felix Guse's Article

The good relations of the Ottoman Empire with Germany improved even more when the Union and Progress Party came to power. In this mood the Ottoman Empire entered WWI at the side of Germany. In this period German officers took office at several positions of the Ottoman Army and were influential in decision-making.

Therefore the political and military developments that Turkey was going through at that time, especially negative developments during the years of war, like the relocation decision have to be viewed from this perspective. Parallel to Turkish archive material, German reports and memoirs of German officers, who were serving within the Ottoman Army have to be evaluated equally.

According to Joseph Pomiankowski, during the war more than 40 German officers served within the Ottoman Army. One of them was Felix Guse, who was Chief of the General Staff of the 3rd army. Staying for more than 3 years in such an important post made it possible for Felix Guse to study the country and its people closely, and to deepen his information on events and developments. Besides Guse’s memoirs, which have been translated to Turkish, there is an article written by him entitled “1915 Armenian Rebellions and its Results”. In this article Guse stresses that false evaluations on the Armenian issue are widespread. He refers to his own experiences and he underlines them with quotations from significant sources. By doing this, he presents a realistic approach to the Armenian issue.

Actually Guse’s effort is concentrated on acquitting accuses, that tried to make Germany and the Germans responsible for fights and slaughters and other unlucky developments within the Empire. Still I consider his article as quite objective and realistic, as it can be seen in the summary of the article below:

As being in office at the Caucasian front for more that 3 years I could see that, against opposite claims, there was no region in the East, which was overwhelmingly populated by Armenians. Armenians were living in a heterogeneous environment, together with Kurds, Turks and other people, not only in the East but also in the whole of Anatolia. Armenians were more active than Turks in social and economical life and were getting along very well, until the British and the Russians indoctrinated them the idea of nation-state. The Tashnaks did not want separatism from the Ottoman Empire while the Hunchaks started turmoils in the population, which led to the massacres that the Armenians committed towards the Turks at the end of the 19th century.

I witnessed in 1914 in Sivas that the requests of the Armenian Community were fulfilled immediately, whereas the Armenians were simply opposing everything. The Armenian leader Pasdermadjian admitted in his book that the Armenians were secretly arming themselves. At the Tashnak Congress in Erzurum in 1914 Turks offered the Armenians autonomy when they joined the Turkish side and stopped supporting the Russians. The solution that the Turkish government found against the Armenian rebellions was the population-relocation, which intended to resettle the Armenians of Anatolia to Mesopotamia away from the war zones. Of course there were some difficulties during the relocation. But the fact that land and places to live were given to the relocated population, shows the goodwill of the Turks. This goodwill might have been at a minimum in the European sense, still for Eastern standards Turks did the best to comfort the Armenians. During the relocation there were losses, but so-called reports of some Armenians were nothing but propaganda. In these reports exaggeration and repetition of some events can bee observed. The negative events during the relocation were also considered as such by Turkish officials and high punishments were given to persons, who committed these crimes. German Consulate reports show that many governors openly helped Armenians. There is no proof that Turks intended to annihilate the Armenians. Another significant point is the issue of the number of Armenians. The given numbers of Armenians, living in Anatolia are exaggerated. Lepsius says that there were 40.000 Armenians in Erzincan, which is not true, as 20.000 Armenians were living in Erzincan. The claim of genocide is completely incorrect, because at the end of the war there was a big number of Armenians living in Turkey.[1]

[1] Felix Guse, Der Armenieraufstand 1915 und seine Folgen, in: Wissen und Wehr 6, No.10, Berlin, 1925, p.609– 621

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Selami KILIÇ*
* Ataturk University -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 4, December 2001 - January-February 2002


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