It’s the 24th of April today. The day we Armenians commemorate the 1.5 million who perished on this day in 1915. The atrocities committed against them by the Turks are so terrorizing and vicious and the survivors’ stories so sad and tragic. I know that my great grandfather (maternal) was taken from his home and killed by the Turks. There are those people and nations who deny that the genocide happened. But there are those who believe in our cause so much so that they have even written about it. D. M. Thomas, a British novelist and poet writes in his book ARARAT:
“He tells me his name is Finn; of Scandinavian origin. There is something Nordic about his form and features. He is on his way to deliver a speech at the United Nations. He asks me why I am on this voyage. I tell him about my American Armenian friend whom I have never met. His face becomes ashen. “I know Armenia well,” he says. “I was there during the First World War.”
“It’s a terribly tragic country.”
“Yes, and never more so than in 1915.”
“Were you involved in the holocaust?”
He sighed deeply. “I was.”
“Tell me about it- if it’s not too distressing for you.”
“It does distress me, but I’d like to tell you about it.” He moved carefully, tottering a little, to a chair next to me, and settled himself in it. His teeth were badly decayed, and his eyes had a yellow tinge.
“It’s difficult to know where to begin,” he said. “For there was no precise beginning. I was a young army officer, serving at first in the Bulanik district, about 50 miles north-west of Moush. There had been some incidents of torture of Armenians during June- teeth knocked out, nails pulled out, limbs twisted, noses beaten down, the rape of wives and daughters in the presence of their menfolk- that sort of thing.”
As Finn leaned forward I smelt his unpleasant breath. “It was of course necessary,” he said, “to deport the Armenians from Turkey. But I have often wondered if we could have done it in some other way. We rounded up all the male villagers from around Moush on 10 July: herded them into concentration camps and bayoneted them. The women and children we drove into large wooden sheds and set fire to them. Of the 60,000 Armenians who had been living in Moush, very few survived.
“No, my memory is not as good as it used to be. Earlier than that, we had moved against the inhabitants of Erzindjan. We told them they were being deported to Mesopotamia. Soon after we left the town, we separated the men from the others, and killed them. The women and children went on. Many were attacked in the stages of their journey, and their clothes taken from them. When they reached the Kemakh gorge, overlooking the Euphrates, we tied their hands behind their backs. I gave the orders to pitch them over into the gorge. Probably 25,000 Armenians of Erzindjan were slaughtered, about half of them at the Kemakh gorge.
“Next we turned to the Armenians of Baiburt. We rounded up about 17,000. We couldn’t prevent brigades from the hills swooping down, stealing their clothing and abducting the girls. The men had already been shot, just outside Baiburt. At the Kemakh gorge we disposed of the women and children in the usual way. Some of them managed to shoot them. The same thing happened to the villagers from the plain of Erzerum.
“Next, I was ordered to go to Trebizond. Being near the coast, we were able to throw many people into the sea, or send them out in old boats and sink them. But many more were got rid of by forced marches. For us soldiers, there was no respite. But I remember one day, I managed to go and bathe in the river Yel-Deyirmeni. It was rather shallow, and I saw a woman’s nude body in the river. Her long hair floated down the current, her bloated belly gleamed in the sun. I noticed that one of her breasts was cut off. I saw other bodies, and a human arm caught up in the roots of a tree. The river became choked with bodies, like logs drifting down.”
“In the province of Diarbekir we got rid of 570,000. An unbelievable figure, isn’t it? But I assure you it is true. I have seen my own soldiers put up their hands to avert the sight of the bloated naked corpses. In Deir-ez-Zor I was ordered to inflict cruel punishments: bastinado, hanging, the rape of little girls. I was ordered to fling hundreds of Armenians into a deep hole in the ground.”
“I have heard it said there were a million and a half killed.””
The story continues with more descriptions but… 😥