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Testimony about the Armenian Genocide, Armenian Holocaust, the Medz Yeghen Eyewitnesses to Turkish Atrocities and Genocide

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Testimony about the Armenian Genocide, Armenian Holocaust, the Medz Yeghen

by Eyewitnesses to Turkish Atrocities and Genocide

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3. MOUSH.

Statement by a German Eye-witness of Occurrences at Moush. Communicated by the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief.

Towards the end of October (1914), when the Turkish war began, the Turkish officials started to take everything they needed for the war from the Armenians. Their goods, their money, all was confiscated. Later on, every Turk was free to go to an Armenian shop and take out what he needed or thought he would like to have. Only a tenth perhaps was really for the war, the rest was pure robbery. It was necessary to have food, etc., carried to the front, on the Caucasian frontier. For this purpose the Government sent out about 300 old Armenian men, many cripples amongst them, and boys not more than twelve years old, to carry the goods—a three weeks’ journey from Moush to the Russian frontier. As every individual Armenian was robbed of everything he ever had, these poor people soon died of hunger and cold on the way. They had no clothes at all, for even these were stolen on the way. If out of these 300 Armenians thirty or forty returned, it was a marvel; the rest were either beaten to death or died from the causes stated above.

The winter was most severe in Moush; the gendarmes were sent to levy high taxes, and as the Armenians had [24]already given everything to the Turks, and were therefore powerless to pay these enormous taxes, they were beaten to death. The Armenians never defended themselves except when they saw the gendarmes ill-treating their wives and children, and the result in such cases was that the whole village was burnt down, merely because a few Armenians had tried to protect their families.

Toward the middle of April we heard rumours that there were great disturbances in Van. We have heard statements both from Turks and from Armenians, and as these reports agree in every respect, it is quite plain that there is some truth in them. They state that the Ottoman Government sent orders that all Armenians were to give up their arms, which the Armenians refused to do on the ground that they required their arms in case of necessity. This caused a regular massacre. All villages inhabited by Armenians were burnt down. The Turks boasted of having now got rid of all the Armenians. I heard it from the officers myself, how they revelled in the thought that the Armenians had been got rid of.

Thus the winter passed, with things happening every day more terrible than one can possibly describe. We then heard that massacres had started in Bitlis. In Moush everything was being prepared for one, when the Russians arrived at Liz, which is about 14 to 16 hours’ journey from Moush. This occupied the attention of the Turks, so that the massacre was put off for the time being. Hardly had the Russians left Liz, however, when all the districts inhabited by Armenians were pillaged and destroyed.

This was in the month of May. At the beginning of June, we heard that the whole Armenian population of Bitlis had been got rid of. It was at this time that [25]we received news that the American missionary, Dr. Knapp, had been wounded in an Armenian house and that the Turkish Government had sent him to Diyarbekir. The very first night in Diyarbekir he died, and the Government explained his death as a result of having overeaten, which of course nobody believed.

When there was no one left in Bitlis to massacre, their attention was diverted to Moush. Cruelties had already been committed, but so far not too publicly; now, however, they started to shoot people down without any cause, and beat them to death simply for the pleasure of doing so. In Moush itself, which is a big town, there are 25,000 Armenians; in the neighbourhood there are 300 villages, each containing about 500 houses. In all these not a single male Armenian is now to be seen, and hardly a woman either, except for a few here and there.

In the first week of July 20,000 soldiers arrived from Constantinople by way of Harpout with munitions and eleven guns, and laid siege to Moush. As a matter of fact, the town had already been beleaguered since the middle of June. At this stage the Mutessarif gave orders that we should leave the town and go to Harpout. We pleaded with him to let us stay, for we had in our charge all the orphans and patients; but he was angry, and threatened to remove us by force if we did not do as instructed. As we both fell sick, however, we were allowed to remain at Moush. I received permission, in the event of our leaving Moush, to take the Armenians of our orphanage with us; but when we asked for assurances of their safety, his only reply was: “You can take them with you, but being Armenians, their heads may and will be cut off on the way.”

On the 10th July Moush was bombarded for several hours, on the pretext that some Armenians had tried [26]to escape. I went to see the Mutessarif, and asked him to protect our buildings. His reply was: “It serves you right for staying, instead of leaving as instructed. The guns are here to make an end of Moush. Take refuge with the Turks.” This, of course, was impossible, as we could not leave our charges. Next day a new order was promulgated for the expulsion of the Armenians, and three days’ grace was given them to make ready. They were told to register themselves at the Government Building before they left. Their families could remain, but their property and their money were to be confiscated. The Armenians were unable to go, for they had no money to defray the journey, and they preferred to die in their houses rather than be separated from their families and endure a lingering death on the road.

As stated above, three days’ grace was given to the Armenians, but two hours had scarcely elapsed when the soldiers began breaking into the houses, arresting the inmates and throwing them into prison. The guns began to fire, and thus the people were effectually prevented from registering themselves at the Government Building. We all had to take refuge in the cellar for fear of our orphanage catching fire. It was heartrending to hear the cries of the people and children who were being burnt to death in their houses. The soldiers took great delight in hearing them, and when people who were out in the street during the bombardment fell dead, the soldiers merely laughed at them.

The survivors were sent to Ourfa (there were none left but sick women and children); I went to the Mutessarif and begged him to have mercy on the children at least, but in vain. He replied that the Armenian children must perish with their nation. All our people were taken from our hospital and orphanage; they left us three female servants. Under these atrocious circumstances [27]Moush was burnt to the ground. Every officer boasted of the number he had personally massacred as his share in ridding Turkey of the Armenian race.

We left for Harpout. Harpout has become the cemetery of the Armenians; from all directions they have been brought to Harpout to be buried. There they lie, and the dogs and the vultures devour their bodies. Now and then some man throws some earth over the bodies. In Harpout and Mezré the people have had to endure terrible tortures. They have had their eye-brows plucked out, their breasts cut off, their nails torn off; their torturers hew off their feet or else hammer nails into them just as they do in shoeing horses. This is all done at night time, and in order that the people may not hear their screams and know of their agony, soldiers are stationed round the prisons, beating drums and blowing whistles. It is needless to relate that many died of these tortures. When they die, the soldiers cry: “Now let your Christ help you.”

One old priest was tortured so cruelly to extract a confession that, believing that the torture would cease and that he would be left alone if he did it, he cried out in his desperation: “We are revolutionists.” He expected his tortures to cease, but on the contrary the soldiers cried: “What further do we seek? We have it here from his own lips.” And instead of picking their victims as they did before, the officials had all the Armenians tortured without sparing a soul.

Early in July 2,000 Armenian soldiers were ordered to leave for Aleppo to build roads. The people of Harpout were terrified on hearing this, and a panic started in the town. The Vali sent for the German missionary, Mr. Ehemann, and begged him to quiet the people, repeating over and over again that no harm whatever would [28]befall these soldiers. Mr. Ehemann took the Vali’s word and quieted the people. But they had scarcely left when we heard that they had all been murdered and thrown into a cave. Just a few managed to escape, and we got the reports from them. It was useless to protest to the Vali. The American Consul at Harpout protested several times, but the Vali makes no account of him, and treats him in a most shameful manner. A few days later another 2,000 Armenian soldiers were despatched via Diyarbekir, and, in order to hinder them the more surely from escaping, they were left to starve on the way, so that they had no strength left in them to flee. The Kurds were given notice that the Armenians were on the way, and the Kurdish women came with their butcher’s knives to help the men. In Mezré a public brothel was erected for the Turks, and all the beautiful Armenian girls and women were placed there. At night the Turks were allowed free entrance. The permission for the Protestant and Catholic Armenians to be exempted from deportation only arrived after their deportation had taken place. The Government wanted to force the few remaining Armenians to accept the Mohammedan faith. A few did so in order to save their wives and children from the terrible sufferings already witnessed in the case of others. The people begged us to leave for Constantinople and obtain some security for them. On our way to Constantinople we only encountered old women. No young women or girls were to be seen.

Already by November1 we had known that there would be a massacre. The Mutessarif of Moush, who was a very intimate friend of Enver Pasha, declared quite openly that they would massacre the Armenians at the [29]first opportune moment and exterminate the whole race. Before the Russians arrived they intended first to butcher the Armenians, and then fight the Russians afterwards. Towards the beginning of April, in the presence of a Major Lange and several other high officials, including the American and German Consuls, Ekran Bey quite openly declared the Government’s intention of exterminating the Armenian race. All these details plainly show that the massacre was deliberately planned.

In a few villages destitute women come begging, naked and sick, for alms and protection. We are not allowed to give them anything, we are not allowed to take them in, in fact we are forbidden to do anything for them, and they die outside. If only permission could be obtained from the authorities to help them! If we cannot endure the sight of these poor people’s sufferings, what must it be like for the sufferers themselves?

It is a story written in blood. Two old missionaries and a younger lady (an American) were sent away from Mardin. They were treated just like prisoners, dogged continually by the gendarmes, and were brought in this fashion to Sivas. For missionaries of that age a journey of this kind in the present circumstances was obviously a terrible hardship. [30]

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