Dr. Johannes Lepsius
Vicar Johannes Lepsius was the one
German who supported the Armenian cause with the utmost vehemence, since the
massacres during the time of Sultan Abdul Hamid at the end of the 19th
Lepsius wrote "Deutschland
und Armenien" (Germany and Armenia), which Franz Werfel used
extensively in writing his "Forty Days," along with the forged
"documents" of Aram Andonian. Jemal Pasha, one of the three Young
Turks who is vilified by Armenians and their supporters for being behind the
"Genocide" (and who was later assassinated by an Armenian, although
he "did everything humanly possible for the Armenians," as Eric
Feigl wrote in "A Myth of Terror") is said to fare surprisingly
well, in this work.
Immediately after his
report on the situation of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire was
published, Lepsius went into exile in Holland, in 1916. The semi-official
version is that he fled to the neutral Netherlands in order to escape pursuit
by the German police. So says an Armenian web site, which goes on to report
that "from his exile in Holland... he inspired many pro-Armenian
"It is probably due to the
high regard held for Johannes Lepsius personally that the authenticity of the
444 documents published in "Germany and Armenia" were doubted by no
one for a long time. It was only after the Second World War, when the files of
the German Foreign Office were made available to researchers of the world wars
that some of the (documents were discovered to have inconsistencies.)"
"A systematic comparison of
the documents published by Lepsius with the originals from the German Foreign
Office revealed that there were a great number of abridgements or even
"Until today, no one has
examined the background for these changes and manipulations. From a purely
formal point of view they must be attributed to Lepsius, for in the preface he
specifically accepted the full responsibility for the contents of his book.
And Lepsius often pointed out that he was completely independent from the
German Foreign Office and that he had had complete freedom in his selection of
the documents. But was that really in accordance with the facts?"
The Armenian web site then claims:
"It was not Lepsius who manipulated the documents, but the German Foreign
Office. Even more amazing: Lepsius noticed – almost – nothing. For the man
who constantly emphasised the academic nature of his historic research
disregarded the main rules of a source edition when the documents were
"The manipulations in the
documentation, 'Germany and Armenia,' throw a shadow on Johannes Lepsius,
but only a small shadow on a great man."
Sounds like the
Armenians are reaching for straws again... if the character of Lepsius becomes
questionable, then there goes yet another of their slim sources of
"genocidal evidence." Let's move on to a non-Armenian source, and
try to get to the bottom of the religious man's credibility...
necessary to put Dr Lepsius on the same level as the Protestant missionaries, and to
give the same value to his writings.
The British were the leaders among those who were
spreading the rumours of Armenian massacres throughout the world, and who were attempting
to shape public opinion in that direction during the First World War. The famous Masterman
bureau, which we mentioned in Chapter 2, had created a massacre story by publishing the
blue book, which we have referred to on various occasions, in order to win over American
public opinion and to turn the Islamic world against Turkey. Later, Toynbee made great
efforts to substantiate these items of information sent to him, but was not successful.
There is another person who dealt extensively with this subject, Dr Johannes Lepsius.
Today the Armenians attach even more importance to Lepsius’ work, as they are aware that
the blue book was published by the propaganda bureau.
We think it important to examine Lepsius’ background and his aims. For this reason we
shall refer to Frank G. Weber:
Lest other Armenians of the Ottoman Empire attempt to imitate the
insurrectionaries of Van, Enver decided to suppress all Armenian schools and newspapers.
Wangenheim regretted these orders as both morally and materially deleterious to Germany’s
cause. . . Nevertheless, the Ambassador instructed his consuls to collect any kind of
information that would show that the Germans had tried to alleviate the lot of the
Armenians. These notices were to be published in a white book in the hope of impressing
Entente and German public opinion. (German Archives Band 37, No. A.20525.)
The last found a powerful voice in Dr. Johannes Lepsius. The son of a
famous archaeologist and himself a noted traveller and writer on the Near East, Lepsius
was delegated by various Protestant Evangelical societies to enter Armenia and verify the
atrocity stories at first hand. Wangenheim did not want the professor to come. He was as
certain that the Turks would charge the Germans some sort of retribution for causing them
this embarrassment as that not a single Armenian life would be spared because of Lepsius’
endeavours. But Lepsius convinced the Wilhelmstrasse that his intention was not to put
pressure on the Turks but instead to argue the patriarchal entourage into greater loyalty
toward the Ottoman regime. Alleging this as his reason, he got as far as Constantinople,
where the Armenian Patriarch acclaimed him but Talat refused him permission to travel into
the interior. He had badgered Wangenheim unmercifully with letters, and the Ambassador
described his reaction to Lepsius’ proposals as something between amusement and
contempt. Yet Lepsius emphasized an argument to which the Ambassador was always open: the
liquidation of the Armenians would seriously and perhaps irreparably diminish the
prospects of Germany’s ascendancy in Turkey after the war.
Lepsius had not set foot in Anatolia, had not talked to one
single Armenian there. All the information he gathered consisted of what he learned
from the Patriarchate and to some extent the reports which the American Ambassador
Morgenthau showed him.
returned to Germany, he devoted himself to keeping the German public unsparingly
informed about the Armenian massacres. Though the German newspapers were not as
chary of this news as might have seemed desirable in the interests of the Turkish
alliance, the professor still preferred to make his disclosures in the journals of
Basel and Zurich. What he wrote was not always up to date or unbiased. Much of it
came from Armenian informants in the Turkish capital, and a large source, reworked
with many variations, was given him by Ambassador Morgenthau at the time of his
visit to Constantinople in July 1915. Morgenthau showed him a collection of American
consular reports detailing the atrocities and suggested that the Armenians be
removed from the Ottoman Empire and resettled in the American West. Lepsius took up
that idea enthusiastically….
Lepsius pointed out to the Chancellor that
if Germany made herself popular in Turkish Armenia, the Russian Armenians would be
more likely to put themselves under German protection after the war.
Lepsius had not set foot in Anatolia, had not talked to one single Armenian there.
All the information he gathered consisted of what he learned from the Patriarchate
and to some extent the reports which the American Ambassador Morgenthau showed him.
We shall see in section 5 that these reports were all based on hearsay.
It is necessary to put Dr Lepsius on the same level as the Protestant missionaries,
and to give the same value to his writings.
The preceding excerpt is from "The
Armenian File — The Myth of Innocence Exposed" by Kamuran Gürün
Morgenthau was also the main source for the German Lepsius. Who was
Dr. Johannes Lepsius? Having decided on a strategy to further German influence among the
Armenians of the Caucasus, the Germans searched for ways and means, during the war, of
being popular in some Armenian circles. They were planning a "White Book" to
impress, not only the Armenians, but also the Germans and Allied public opinion. No one
could be a better instrument than Lepsius, who, in the words of Frank G. Weber, was not
objective,* his sources of information being the Armenians in Istanbul and Ambassador
Morgenthau. Having dined with Lepsius (3 August 1915), having had several other talks and
having received the authorization of Washington, D.C. to pass material to him, Morgenthau
was certainly a key source for the Lepsius work.
*Frank G. Weber, Eagles on the Crescent, pp. 150-152, 187; from The
'Armenian Question' Conflict, Trauma &
Objectivity, by Türkkaya Ataov
Morgenthau was a key source for the Lepsius work.
Given the fact that Lepsius spent only a month in the Ottoman capital during the
war, and that the number of German missionaries in the interior of Anatolia was
relatively small, it is not surprising that much of his material on the deportations
should have been derived from American Protestant missionary sources. The fact that
Morgenthau's "discretion" consisted of giving Lepsius open access to his
Embassy's files and copies of their contents, suggests that he may well have been
stretching the intent of Lansing's instructions to their limit. (The Story
Behind Ambassador Morgenthau's Story,
Heath Lowry; the rest describes the role played by Morgenthau in Wellington
House's 1916 Blue Book, by Bryce and Toynbee.)
A “vest-pocket Torquemada”
That is how the journalist Hans Barth dubbed Lepsius, adding that the efforts of those
like him amounted to a "crusade." Either in the article, “Die Turkenhetze,” Die
Zukunft 5, no. 16 (Jan. 16, 1897), or in the expanded version that became the book
entitled Turke, Wehre Dich! ("Turk, Defend Yourself!"; Leipzig, 1898), or