3375) Photograph links Germans to 1915 Armenia Genocide

Newly discovered picture shows Kaiser's officers at scene of Turkish atrocity

Robert Fisk
21 October 2012

The photograph – never published before – was apparently taken in the summer of 1915. Human skulls are scattered over the earth. They are all that remain of a handful of Armenians slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War. Behind the skulls, posing for the camera, are three Turkish officers in tall, soft hats and a man, on the far right, who is dressed in Kurdish clothes. But the two other men are Germans, both dressed in the military flat caps, belts and tunics of the Kaiserreichsheer, the Imperial German Army. It is an atrocity snapshot – just like those pictures the Nazis took of their soldiers posing before Jewish Holocaust victims a quarter of a century later.

Did the Germans participate in the mass killing of Christian Armenians in 1915? This is not the first photograph of its kind; yet hitherto the Germans have been largely absolved of crimes against humanity during the first holocaust of the 20th century. German diplomats in Turkish provinces during the First World War recorded the forced deportations and mass killing of a million and a half Armenian civilians with both horror and denunciation of the Ottoman Turks, calling the Turkish militia-killers "scum". German parliamentarians condemned the slaughter in the Reichstag.

Indeed, a German army medical officer, Armin Wegner, risked his life to take harrowing photographs of dying and dead Armenians during the genocide. In 1933, Wegner pleaded with Hitler on behalf of German Jews, asking what would become of Germany if he continued his persecution. He was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo and is today recognised at the Yad Vashem Jewish Holocaust memorial in Israel; some of his ashes are buried at the Armenian Genocide Museum in the capital, Yerevan.

It is this same Armenian institution and its energetic director, Hayk Demoyan, which discovered this latest photograph. It was found with other pictures of Turks standing beside skulls, the photographs attached to a long-lost survivor's testimony. All appear to have been taken at a location identified as "Yerznka" – the town of Erzinjan, many of whose inhabitants were murdered on the road to Erzerum. Erzinjan was briefly captured by Russian General Nikolai Yudenich from the Turkish 3rd Army in June of 1916, and Armenians fighting on the Russian side were able to gather much photographic and documentary evidence of the genocide against their people the previous year. Russian newspapers – also archived at the Yerevan museum – printed graphic photographs of the killing fields. Then the Russians were forced to withdraw.

Wegner took many photographs at the end of the deportation trail in what is now northern Syria, where tens of thousands of Armenians died of cholera and dysentery in primitive concentration camps. However, the museum in Yerevan has recently uncovered more photos taken in Rakka and Ras al-Ayn, apparently in secret by Armenian survivors. One picture – captioned in Armenian, "A caravan of Armenian refugees at Ras al-Ayn" – shows tents and refugees. The photograph seems to have been shot from a balcony overlooking the camp.

Another, captioned in German "Armenian camp in Rakka", may have been taken by one of Wegner's military colleagues, showing a number of men and women among drab-looking tents. Alas, almost all those Armenians who survived the 1915 death marches to Ras al-Ayn and Rakka were executed the following year when the Turkish-Ottoman genocide caught up with them.

Some German consuls spoke out against Turkey. The Armenian-American historian Peter Balakian has described how a German Protestant petition to Berlin protested that "since the end of May, the deportation of the entire Armenian population from all the Anatolian Vilayets [governorates] and Cilicia in the Arabian steppes south of the Baghdad-Berlin railway had been ordered". As the Deutsche Bank was funding the railway, its officials were appalled to see its rolling stock packed with Armenian male deportees and transported to places of execution. Furthermore, Professor Balakian and other historians have traced how some of the German witnesses to the Armenian holocaust played a role in the Nazi regime.

Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath, for example, was attached to the Turkish 4th Army in 1915 with instructions to monitor "operations" against the Armenians; he later became Hitler's foreign minister and "Protector of Bohemia and Moravia" during Reinhard Heydrich's terror in Czechoslovakia. Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg was consul at Erzerum from 1915-16 and later Hitler's ambassador to Moscow.

Rudolf Hoess was a German army captain in Turkey in 1916; from 1940-43, he was commandant of the Auschwitz extermination camp and then deputy inspector of concentration camps at SS headquarters. He was convicted and hanged by the Poles at Auschwitz in 1947.

We may never know, however, the identity of the two officers standing so nonchalantly beside the skulls of Erzinjan.


53 Pages


From: Ülkü Bassoy
Date: Jun 11, 2006 5:38 AM
Subject: your nonsensical "nonsense"
To: letter@independent.co.uk

Mr Fisk,

This is neither a hate nor a love message.
I better leave the "hate " of you to those of Malkovich natured Europeans and Americans, and "love", to your bigoted Armenian admirers and Dashnak terrorists who might have surfaced as potential benefactors to your self, and to other genocide traders including the turn-coat( as we call them)Turkish ones you mentioned in your letter(regretfully you forgot to mention the most prominent one amongst them - the German Orient Institute backed sociologist Taner Akcam, the self-assigned historian as the other ones at the Michigan University Fatma Müge Göcek and Elif Safak), a paradigm of disproportionate commotion i.e fisking, to the Turkish Ambassador in London.

While admiring your outspoken posture against the Bush and Blair hypocrisy( yet one must be fair to them; they are not really exceptions: Hypocrisy is inherent trait of the powerful US, Europe and the EU) you rightly underline and disseminate, your unseemly uttering to the Turkish Ambassador in London vocalize the fanatical "genocide-obsessed" aggressive Armenian Diaspora who assassinated 35 Turkish diplomats in 1970s.

Weren't the " dark last words" of Joy McClean's daughter in the same vein i.e.hypocrisy and hate?

I appreciated your Independent article of 30 March, 2006, "Lessons from the Ghosts of Gallipoli" mentioning Ataturk's epitaph on the marble plaque at Gallipoli. I wished however not to have read your closing remark which you probably conceived them as attributes to your punditry , intelligence and wisdom. Even a modest student of Turkish history would fail in committing such a mistake i.e mentioning the names of Ataturk and Usame bin Ladin side by side, in the context you structured .

It is untenable. In fact it is like wondering what Hitler would think of Ottoman or Turkish tradition of assigning some Jews, Armenians , Rums and other members of "millet" subjects to the highest levels of the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary!

Let me, in the meanwhile, cite another inscription on the monumental pedestal, sponsored mainly by the Apostolic Church in Vienna:"If our children forget this much evil , let the whole world condemn the Armenian people". Can you understand that much hatred? Don't they, don't you think of posterity, Turks and Armenians?

Mr Fisk, misconceiving is inevitable if one unquestionably believe in what he has learnt from certain sources of information. That is your case. You have learnt only of Armenian sources and ignored all the others! Thus your mind is not free for healthy thinking or reasoning although you may be convinced that you are. Then you start Fisking, degenerate the meaningful "nonsense" into nonsensical.

The Shoah is an established fact. Jews did not betray the German State, their Land and People. They fought with them in the 1st world war to defend their country-Germany. They did not kill one single non-Jewish German. Shoah is also accepted by the German State and the German people.

It is substantiated by the Nurnberg Trials of 1945-1946. The Armenian genocide allegations are a product of the traditional policies of the West (US included)the 17th century- dividing, disintegrating and devouring the remaining Ottoman lands i.e. today s Turkiye(you call it rightly Turkey for swallowing) like today's undeniable two concrete examples: fragmented and colonized Afghanistan and Irak.

You are " mostly (if not totally), as Turkish Ambassador wrote, under mistaken conception because;

-the number Armenian subjects in the Ottoman lands is a subject of controversy. Marcel Leart's book (Krikor Zohrab), considered the most complete statistical document, gave the number around 900.000. Ottoman archives less; some others went up to almost three million! They increased the numbers as in an auction -wise manner! A great disrespect to the lost souls. You did the same as putting the Armenian victims at 1,5 million. It seems that the more the figures are increased the more the people of your kind are satisfied. An awful way of pleasing oneself!

More than 500.000 man, women,young and old, children, were killed, burnt, raped, eviscerated, strangled, eyes-carved, even unborn were bayoneted etc.,perished. Yet Ottoman Muslim citizens do not count! Anyway after weren't all these non- Christians and thus had no human value!( Isn't still so? Afghanistan, Irak, Rwanda).

It seems that you have poorly learned about the Armenian atrocities against in 1915 when the Tsarist Russian troops invaded the Eastern part of the Ottoman lands in support of the Armenian Dasnak and Hunchak terrorists who did not even spare the lives of their own Armenian people who refused to collaborate with them? They undertook these treacherous actions by forming the Voluntary Armenian Units which produced nothing but disaster, in spite of the serious warnings of the then Ottoman Government. They were deceived by the British, French, Russian and American promises for an independent or autonomous Armenia on the Ottoman lands. They naively and fatally believed these double-faced perfidious powers who had been competing with each other for regional and the world - as is the case today-hegemony. Besides,Your analogy of the German Ambassador with that of the Turkish Ambassador is irrelevant and tasteless!

You have not mentioned of Lepsius? It is important! You should have mentioned his name as he ,the Founder of the German Orient and the President of the Armenian-German Society, was also the forger of the German archives concerning the Armenian issue! Ask those Akcam, Berktay, Müge, Safak and others. They will possibly tell you! If not tell me, I'll write the details to you..

You have met a few -Armenian- survivors! Ohh! have you really? But you have not met any one Ottoman Muslim survivors? Have you? Just like Lepsius who wrote all his reports and books without setting his foot on the Anatolian land! If not why haven t you tried to meet at least one of them? How can one respect your journalism, your authorship? Armen Wegner, an anti-Hitler yet Stalinist! Somehow he forgot to shoot a single picture of suffering Ottoman Muslim! He lied because he himself confessed that his photos was not taken in the period of relocation of Armenians.

Andonian documents, the well known Talat Pasha Telegramme was false, the famous skull heap picture was false.. And they and you are speaking of genocide!

Amid all these fishy- Fisky- frisky shenanigan contenders of Armenian genocide, why should the fanatic Armenians and their supporters care attaining the truth through discussing with the Turkish scientists and politicians on both side's archival documents! Hence they torpedoed the VAT and TARC meetings initiated between the good-willed Armenian and Turkish historians and diplomats in Vienna and Washington? Why? Your reply to this is the most nonsensical: " Because Armenians established the facts of genocide and that is enough! Because an unprecedented international crime was committed, the mere( Oh God' the 'mere ') questioning of which would be an insult to the millions of victims who perished"! So the counter voices should be reduced to silence ! We say " Yok yav!"in Turkish. Such baseless arguments and bull-stories are unacceptable.

Majority of Turks, I believe would be ready to accept the heaviest incrimination provided that they are nothing but cock-and-bull stories.

In short Mr Fisk you are toadying and voicing Mr Kotcharian's and Sassounian's obsessed views.

Ulku Bassoy


Nick Nack said...

This is a typical combination of Fisk half-truth and innuendo. Whatever one's opinion of the events involving Armenians in Anatolia during World War One might be, it is clear that they had no relevance for events occurring in Europe during the Nazi period as any true expert of Nazi history and Nazi ideology will be able to tell you; we know precisely how Nazi ideology evolved and we know exactly what the events that led to the holocaust were; they do not, at any point, involve the Turks or the Ottoman Empire and the CUP. So why even mention them? Fisk says "Von Neurath, for example was attached to the Turkish 4th Army in 1915 with instructions to monitor "operations" against the Armenians; he later became Hitler's foreign minister and "Protector of Bohemia and Moravia" during Reinhard Heydrich's terror in Czechoslovakia." There are several remarks one can make about this claim apart from the fact that it is irrelevant. Firstly, Von Neurath was an aristocrat who made no known contribution to Nazi ideology. Secondly Von Neurath was only briefly Riechsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia and was removed because he was considered too soft in his treatment of the Czechs; he was never there when Heydrich conducted his terror in Prague. Thirdly, Heydrich, Von Neurath’s replacement, known as the “Butcher of Prague”, was a key Nazi ideologue and was instrumental in the development of Nazi extermination policy of the Jews once the policy of deportation was abandoned and had no known connections with the Ottoman war effort in the Great War. These are simple facts that Mr Fisk, an investigative journalist of some reputation, should know but clearly does not care to check. References to other Nazi officials are similarly irrelevant since there are no records that suggest Nazi programmes conducted against Jews had their origins, even in part, in Anatolia. The origins of Nazi ideology are home grown. How Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg’s tenure as consul in Erzerum and as Ambassador to Moscow are relevant it is hard to tell; maybe he give Stalin some ideas on how to exterminate his opponents…as a proposition this is no less likely that Fisk’s innuendo. As far as anyone is aware, Hoess never mentioned the Ottomans in his interrogations and statements; one would have thought that it would have come up somewhere.
Fisk’s own conclusion to the article is” We may never know, however, the identity of the two officers standing so nonchalantly beside the skulls of Erzinjan.” I could add my own observation; we don’t know the names or the ethnicity of the skulls either. If the evidence of an Armenian Genocide is so strong then why is it necessary to take up more than half of an article on the subject with a mixture of innuendo, half-truths, irrelevancies and lies?

Sukru Server Aya said...

This scenario script by Robert Fisk is another example of his bias and lack of any evidence whatsoever to sustain this "palaver interpretation" even beyond logic and possibilities.

I wish I answered this reckless slander point by point. You cannot make an argument based on words such as "apparently". I need definite date, source and evidence of authenticity. Relocation process was between June - November 1915, and Armenians who died during trip were buried by the accompanying gendarmes. You cannot have any person's body who died (or killed?) in 1915 decomposed so fast to have his skull appear. You definitely need more than one year to decay and fall off.

Why does the writer underline the word "Christian Armenians"? Would it have made much difference if they were "not Christians"? At the present I am on a vacation and I would need at least two weeks to prove all other flaws, distortions and inversions of Mr. Fisk...

Ulku Bassoy said...

Robert Fisk -sort of petrified head, says in his recent pathetic feature/article (21 October 2012) in The Independent;
"Indeed ('really' I'd ask!), a German army medical officer, Armin Wegner, risked his life (Ohhh! I'd sigh) to take harrowing('of Hell?' I'd ask) photographs of dying and dead Armenians during the genocide (Wegner'd ask, as would the beautiful Blonde from Berlin!:

What is it? -Genodice?).

Piles of lie! "Photographs of dying and dead Armenians during the genocide! ":
A false scent, noxious matter, as was the case with "Vereshchagin's Apotheosis of War" slander.

Armen Wegner, the German medical officer and the faithful photographer, of whom I mentioned in my letter "your nonsensical 'nonsense' (see below) in response to Fisk's "You're talking nonsense, Mr. Ambassador" in June 2006, was an anti-Hitler, yet Stalinist!

"Somehow he forgot to shoot a single picture of suffering Ottoman Muslim! He lied, because he himself confessed that his photos were not taken in the period of relocation of Armenians''.

Ulku Bassoy

PS Rest of the comments have been added within the post
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