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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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15. Exiles from the Euphrates: Report from Fräulein O.

On the 20th of April, 1916, I arrived at Meskene, and found there 3,500 deported Armenians, and more than 100 orphans. A part of the people have settled here as bakers and butchers, etc., even though Meskene is but a halting place. All the rest are begging. In every tent there are sick and dying. Anyone who cannot manage to get a piece of bread by begging, eats grass raw and without salt. Many hundreds of the sick are left without any tent and covering, in the open, under the glowing sun. I saw desperate ones throw themselves in grave-trenches and beg the grave-diggers to bury them. The Government does not give the hungry any bread, and no tent to those who remain outside. As I was in Meskene, there came a caravan of sick women and children from Bab. They are in an indescribable condition. They were thrown down from the wagons like dogs. They cried for water; they were given each a piece of dry bread, and were left there. No one gave them any water, though they remained a whole day under the hot sun. We had to work the whole night to ameliorate their condition a little. Among the orphans there was a small boy of four years old. It was early in the morning, and I asked him if he had eaten anything. He looked much amazed, and said: “I have always gazed at the stars, and my dear God has satisfied me.” On my questioning him where his father and mother were, he said simply that they were dead in the desert.

In Meskene I gathered one hundred children under a tent. I had their hair cut and their rags washed. They [120]received daily some bread and some soup. As I had to go further, I sought someone to care for the orphans. I found a young widow from Hadjin, who asked me if she might take the children under her care. She belonged to a good family and had received a good education. She gave herself with an intense love to the children-work. Ten days after my departure they had sent the woman with the one hundred children South. I found her a few weeks later in Sepka, clothed in rags. She had lost her wits, and wandered about the place asking, “Where are my children? What have you done with my children?” When she had reached Abu Hara she had spent all her money and was destitute. The children were scattered—a prey to hunger. In Der-el-Zor I found two of them, the only survivors; they said that all the rest had perished.

In Meskene I saw more than 600 deported who had lived in Muara till now, and who had spent a pitiful sojourn of nine months there. They were now once more persecuted and sent to different places. Slowly and wearily they came on with their possessions on their backs. As nourishment they cook grass, press the water out, and make balls which they dry in the sun.

On the first of May, I came to Debsy, where I found the above mentioned six hundred deported, all in despair. They had not even been allowed to rest once or even to gather grass, but had been cruelly driven on. On the way I found people dying everywhere, exhausted from hunger and thirst. They had remained behind the caravan and must perish so painfully. Every few minutes came a stench of corpses. The gendarmes beat these stragglers, saying that they pretend to be tired. In Debsy there are 3,000 deported. In Abu Hara 6,000. In both places the death rate is one per cent. daily. [121]

In Hama I found 7,000 deported, 3,000 of them hungry and practically naked. Here there is no grass, the locusts have consumed everything. I saw the people were gathering locusts and eating them raw or cooked. Others were looking for the roots of grasses. They catch street dogs, and like savages pounce upon dead animals, whose flesh they eat eagerly without cooking. They showed me how they bury the dead, shallow near the tents.

In Rakka alone there are 15,000 deported in tents. The camp is situated on both banks of the Euphrates, but these people are not allowed to enter the city. Rich people are paying from T£30–40 to get permission from those in authority to live for a length of time in the city. Everywhere the same lamentable pictures repeat themselves.

In Sepka there are 1,500 persons who have bought the privilege of establishing themselves there. The rest, 6,000, remain in camps on the banks of the Euphrates. There is great misery here. Some in despair throw themselves into the river. In each deportation from one place to another, at least five or six perish through the brutal illtreatment of the accompanying gendarmerie. They expect to extract money from the poor, and exact vengeance with heavy blows when they receive nothing. Many are transported on boats in the Euphrates.

In Tibne I found 5,000—everywhere we met caravans of deportees. In every Arabian village there are some families, in every Arabian house young women and girls. Here the Government is giving 150 gr. of bread to every poor person daily. Children and grown-ups search among the garbage heaps for food, and whatever [122]is eatable (chewable) is eaten. At the butchers’ people wait eagerly for scraps.

Of every fifty persons who start from Rakka or Sepka on boats, twenty arrive, often even less. At the time of my arrival, the Government had gathered 200 orphans in a house in Der-el-Zor. At my departure (six weeks later) there were 800. They get daily a little bread and some soup. In the meantime 12,000 deported came to Der-el-Zor. Every day we see caravans going in the direction of Mosul. Nevertheless, at my departure, there were at Der-el-Zor and in its neighbourhood over 30,000 Armenians. Those who have means are getting permission to delay. The rest must proceed further. The deported are especially badly treated in the region of Der-el-Zor. The people are driven back and forward with whip blows, and cannot even take their most urgent necessities. On my return I met new caravans everywhere. The people have the appearance of lost men. We often see a whole row of ghastly forms rising suddenly out of a grave and asking for bread and water. They have all dug their graves and lie waiting for death. People of better standing, who cannot make up their minds to beg for a piece of bread, lie, when exhausted, on their beds, till death comes to release them. No one looks after them. In Sepka a preacher from Aintab told me that parents have often killed their children. At the Government investigation it was shown that some people had eaten their children. It has happened that dying people have been fought over in order to secure their flesh for food.

Another report from the region of Meadine and Ana, south of Der-el-Zor, where there are thousands of deported, will be sent by the next mail. Our messenger returned to Aleppo on the 20th June. On the 26th he was again on a journey to the South. [123]


1 Moslem immigrants from Europe. 

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