The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 maart 1917
Bron: National Library of Australia


"Armenia, Past and Present," by Mr. W.L. Williams, is an interesting account of a much persecuted people. In classical times Armenia was a mighty nation. To-day it exists only as a collection of hunted and haunted refugees. Throughout the centuries it has endured the iron heel of more vigorous neighbours, but its cruellest sufferings were reserved for recent years. In 1878 the Treaty of San Stefano convinced Abdul Hamid that the Western European Powers were determined to maintain the integrity of Turkey in Asia against Russia, and that he was free to do what he liked without let or hindrance. He was furious with the Armenians. The events of the war with Russia had brought these questions into prominence, and revealed the misery of their social and political conditions. Then began the series of massacres, organised deliberately and carried out by regular and irregular forces. For 40 years these periodical slaughterings of an unarmed, helpless, unoffending people continued. "No possible excuse was forthcoming. There was no local disturbance, much less any organised revolt." In a single generation half a million perished. It is difficult to explain the Turk's hatred for the Armenian. The Turk is said, in his dealings with other men, to be not naturally cruel, yet he has been guilty of unspeakable barbarities towards the Armenian. The fact that the latter is a Christian is not enough to account for this, nor even that the Armenian is an astute man of business, and can always got the better of a Turk in a deal. It seems almost as if there were some hereditary virus of antipathy in the blood.

Abdul Hamid was cynically frank in his attitude to the Armenians. "The only way of ending the Armenian question," he said, "is to put an end to the Armenians." But the leisurely and spasmodic methods of extermination adopted by Abdul Hamid are colourles compared with those of the Young Turks, inspired with German energy and efficiency. The Armenians had hoped much from the Young Turk movement which they had supported and helped to finance. Alas for their hopes. The massacre at Adana in 1909, connived at by the Young Turks, might have shown them what to expect. During the present war Asia Minor has become a shambles. The extent of the butchery is simply unparalleled in history. A conservative estimate puts the number victims at anything from 800,000 to 1,000,000. Men, women, and children have been "murdered, outraged, deported, in circumstances of unimaginable cruelty, to desert places, where they can only die from hunger and thirst. Thousands have sought in self-inflicted death escape from the horror and dishonour." Lord Bryce's denunciation of the Turks admittedly tells only part of the dreadful story, for the simple reason that when whole vilayets ar put to the sword there may not be even a single refugee who survives to bear testimony. Germany cannot escape her share of responsibility.

There is no direct evidence of German complicity in the massacres, but she could have stopped them if she had wished by bringing pressure to bear on her ally. Instead of this we have Count Reventlow proclaiming to the world that the treatment of the Armenians is the sole concern of the Turkish Government, with which no one has any right to interfere. Mr. Williams finds a motive for the German acquiescence in "the most stupendous crime in history." It suits German schemes for the colonisation of Asia Minor by Germans, of which a beginning was made long before the war. Armenia, cleared of Armenians, would offer a fine field for the prolific German colonist, who in a generation would be in a position to exploit the country to the profit of German industry. Apart from the economic benefit of such exploitation, it would have political importance; a strong German settlement in Armenia would control many an immemorial trade route in Asia, while its influence would extend to the Caucasus, Persia, Syria, and Mesopotamia, perhaps even to the north-west frontier of India. It would be a perpetual menace to the interests of Britain and of Russia, and so, quite apart from the question of humanity, these two Powers have every reason for restoring Armenla, freed alike from the possibility of Turkish oppression and German penetration. (P.S. King and Son.)