#24: The Armenian deportations (1915)

In the spring of 1915, we realized with sinking hearts that there was a great movement against the Armenian people. We had nothing to do directly with plans or prospects throughout the wide Empire as a whole, but we witnessed clearly what took place within our horizon. Our fine American ambassador, Dr. Morgenthau, stated that Talaat Bey, Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha were the men chiefly responsible for the movement as a whole. The plan was to eliminate the Armenian question by eliminating the Armenians, but this was not intended by the Turkish people at first. The Armenians in general may have had their faults in Turkish eyes. For one thing, these survivors of the centuries were one of the Christian peoples of the world and not Moslem; again, though the Armenians clearly joined in the political effort under the new Constitution, in 1908, the toleration that would make them an acceptable element among the citizens of the Empire was too much for Turkish human nature to achieve at once and in a hurry; further, the Armenians were able business men, made money faster than others, and their accumulation of property was a temptation; also, among the women folks of the Near East, Armenian women and girls were accounted fair and attractive for the home or the harem. The agony of that reign of terror surpasses description or comprehension, especially for us, as our American and College attitude had been one of full friendship for our Turkish neighbors, and loyalty to the Turkish government under the clear advice of our American officials and in accordance with our own convictions. The College did not shelter revolution or revolutionists.


If ever a group of individuals struggled to protect life, the Americans in Marsovan struggled to defend their Armenian associates, students, and friends, in the summer of 1915. But we had no adequate or real resources, and our efforts were largely fruitless. Turkey had denounced the Capitulations by unilateral action, and resented foreign diplomacy. August 9th a strong telegram from Ambassador Morgenthau reached me following other messages of a similar nature, promising that our premises would not be interfered with. On the morning of August 10th, as I was holding morning prayers with such students as remained for a summer session because they could not get to their homes, the white face of Dr. Marden appeared at the door and he whispered, "They've come". I happened to be just reading from Ezekiel 34. Please read verses 5 to 16. Officials forced an entrance at our gates and on different patrols, drew up sixty-one ox-carts in a ring in the open campus, and demanded the surrender of all Armenians. For two hours we parleyed, but the armed guards were increased to about thirty men, and a search was made by the breaking down of doors, and the forcing of entrance everywhere. Finally, our Armenian friends, feeling that further opposition was worse than useless, voluntarily appeared and gave themselves up. An ox-cart was assigned to each family. A meager stock of food, bedding, and personal effects was piled upon it. The wife and mother sat with her children on the load. The husband and father walked beside the cart. As the procession was forming in the street, a pilgrim group gathered around me and I offered prayer. Soon after noon the procession, with seventy-two persons from the College and Hospital moved away.

NEXT: The Armenians "depart" (1915)