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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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Statements by two Swiss Ladies, resident in Turkey. Communicated by the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief.

(a) Report by Fräulein M., dated 16th November, 1915.

I have just returned from a ride on horseback through the Baghtché-Osmania plain, where thousands of exiles are lying out in the fields and on the roads, without any shelter and completely at the mercy of all manner of brigands. Last night, about 12 o’clock, a little camp was suddenly attacked. There were between 50 and 60 persons in it. I found men and women badly wounded—bodies slashed open, broken skulls and terrible knife-wounds. Fortunately I was provided with clothes, so I could change their blood-soaked things and then bring them to the next inn, where they were nursed. Many of them were so much exhausted from the enormous loss of blood that they died, I fear, in the meantime. In another camp we found thirty or forty thousand Armenians. I was able to distribute bread among them! Desperate, and half-starved, they fell upon it; several times I was almost pulled off my horse. A number of corpses were lying about unburied, and it was only by bribing the gendarmes that we could induce them to allow their burial. Usually the Armenians were [87]not allowed to perform the last offices of love for their relatives. Dreadful epidemics of typhoid-fever broke out everywhere; there was a victim of it practically in every third tent. Nearly everything had to be transported on foot; men, women and children carried their few belongings on their backs. I often saw them break down under their burden, but the soldiers kept on driving them forward with the butt-ends of their rifles, even sometimes with their bayonets. I have dressed bleeding wounds on the bodies of women that had been caused by these bayonet thrusts. Many children had lost their parents and were now without any support. Three hours’ distance from Osmania two dying men were lying absolutely alone in the fields. They had been here for days without food or even a drop of water, after their companions had continued their march. They had grown as thin as skeletons, and only their heavy breathing showed that there was still life in them. Unburied women and children were lying in the ditches. The Turkish officials in Osmania were very obliging; I succeeded in obtaining many concessions from them, and many hardships were remedied. I obtained carriages to pick up the dying people and bring them in to town.

(b) Report by Fräulein O. on a visit to the exiles’ camp at Mamouret, 26th November, 1915.

We saw thousands of tiny low tents, made of thin material. An innumerable crowd of people, of all ages and every class of society! They were looking at us partly in surprise, partly with the indifference of desperation. A group of hungry, begging children and women were at our heels: “Hanoum, bread! Hanoum, I am hungry; we have had nothing to eat to-day or yesterday!”

You had only to look at the greedy, pale, suffering [88]faces to know that their words were true. About 1,800 loaves could be procured. Everybody fell greedily upon them; the priests who were charged with the distribution of the bread had almost to fight for their lives; but it was by no means sufficient, and no further bread was to be had. A crowd of hungry people stood imploringly before us. The gendarmerie had to keep them back by force. Suddenly the order for departure was given. If anybody was slow in striking their tent, it was torn down with the bayonet. Three carriages and a number of camels were held in readiness. A few wealthy people quickly hired the carriages, while others less well-to-do loaded a camel with their things. The wailing of the poor, the old and the sick filled the air: “We can’t go any further, let us die here.” But they had to go on. We were at least able to pay for a camel for some of them, and to give small change to others in order to buy bread at the next station; clothes, sewn at the Mission Station in Adana, were also distributed. Soon the immense procession was moving on. Some of the most miserable were left behind (others rested there already in the newly-dug graves). As many as 200—destitute, old or sick—are said to have waited there for help to come. The misery was increased a hundredfold by the severe rain and cold that had set in. Everywhere convoys left dying people in their track—little children and invalids perishing. Besides all this the epidemic was spreading more and more.

(c) Report by Fräulein M. on a visit to the exiles’ camp at Islohia, 1st December, 1915.

It had rained three days and three nights; even in our houses we were acutely sensible of the cold and damp. As soon as possible, I set out on my way. About [89]200 families had been left behind at Mamouret. They were unable to proceed through exhaustion or illness. In this rain the soldiers, too, felt no inclination to rouse them up and drive them on, so they were lying about in what might have been a lake. There was not a single dry thread left in their ragged bedding. Many women had their feet frost-bitten; they were quite black and in a state for amputation. The wailing and groaning was horrible. Everywhere there were dying people in their last agonies or dead bodies lying in front of the tents. It was only by “bakshish” that the soldiers could be persuaded to bury them. It seemed a comfort to them when we came with dry clothes; they could change their things and get some bread and small change. Then I drove in a carriage along the whole route to Islohia. Though I had seen much distress before, the objects and the scenes I saw here defy description. A frailly-built woman was sitting by the roadside with her bedding on her back, and a young baby strapped on at the top of it; in her arms she had a two-year-old child—its eyes were dim and it was at its last gasp. The woman had broken down in her distress and was weeping in a heartbreaking way. I took her with me to the next camp, where the child died; then I took care of her and sent her on her way. She was so grateful. The whole carriage was packed with bread. I kept on distributing all the time. We had three or four opportunities of buying fresh supplies. These thousands of loaves were a great help to us. I was also able to hire some hundreds of animals to help the poor people forward. The camp at Islohia itself is the saddest thing I have ever seen. Right at the entrance a heap of dead bodies lay unburied. I counted 35, and in another place 22, in the immediate neighbourhood of the tents of those who were down with virulent dysentery. The filth in [90]and around these tents was something indescribable. On one single day the burial committee buried as many as 580 people. Men were fighting for bread like hungry wolves. One saw hideous scenes. With what timidity and apathy these poor people often stared at me, as though they wondered where this assistance came from! For some weeks now many camps have been provided daily with bread. Of course, everything has to be done as unobtrusively as possible. We are so thankful to God that we may at least do something.

(d) Letter from Fräulein M. to Mr. N., dated 13th December, 1915, on the way to Aleppo.

I should have written long before this, but during these last weeks I have been more on the road than at home, and the work in the camps was often so urgent that I could not find time for anything else. I suppose you have had, in the meantime, the receipt for the 200 liras you sent me. Many thanks for the quick response. I only wish you could see these poor people yourself; you would get an impression of the absolutely dreadful need and distress that these camps conceal. It is simply indescribable; one has to have seen it oneself. So far I have had no difficulty whatever; on the contrary, the officials here are most obliging, and grateful for everything we are doing for the poor people. You will find some reports enclosed which Miss O. copied for you as well; they will give you an idea of what we are doing here. Up to the present we have worked in four camps, twelve hours distant. We were often able to distribute about 10 to 20 liras’ worth of bread a day; besides this, we gave flour, clothes and nirra to many sick people, to help them on the long journey. Sometimes it happened that in some places we did not have nearly enough [91]bread—in such cases we provided the people with money to buy bread at the next bakery along the route.

Now we are on our way to Aleppo, and Miss O. will stay there some weeks, D.V., to prepare everything for another journey to Der-el-Zor. I intend to come back soon, since there is still much work to do on the Mamouret-Islohia route, and it seems to me that we ought not to give up the work among the distressed so long as any of them are left in this place, for if we did they would absolutely die of starvation. Judging by our recent experience, we shall need about 300 to 400 liras a month. Dr. L. told me to send you word about this, because I should get the money from you. It would be better not to stop the work for lack of money, because the poor people would suffer by it. If, however, you think that less money ought to be spent, or that the whole work should be given up, please send me a telegram in time, so that we may stop doing it. If not, will you please be so kind as to send me the amount. To-day I have asked you by wire to send me 400 liras—200 for Mamouret and 200 for Islohia-Hassan-Beyli.

I hope you are well. We got a message that Dr. L. is down with typhoid. I hope that God will soon give him new strength. Fräulein O. and I both send you our best wishes. [93]

1 “We have just picked up fifteen babies. Three are already dead. They were terribly thin and ailing when we found them. Ah! If we could only write all that we see.”—Extract from a letter dated Marash, 4th June, 1915, published in “Sonnenaufgang,” September, 1915. 

2 The italics are the Editor’s. 

3 The italics are the Editor’s. 

4 This was a Friday. 

5 The italics are the Editor’s. 

6 The italics are the Editor’s. 

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