part of a series examining the works of the Armenian-supported, perpetual
"visiting professor" Taner Akcam;
here is the lead page for this series.
The following examines the methodology of Taner
Akcam as he desperately attempts to discredit Turkish historians, in his relentless
efforts to affirm the Armenians' genocide. He goes so far as to accuse academicians with a
differing point of view as being criminals. Is he overstating his case? Or has he adopted
the smear tactics of his Armenian benefactors to an overbearing degree? These would be the
ones who feel no compunction in accusing others of crimes when there is no genuine
proof... particularly when the charge is "genocide."
In the Journal of Genocide Research (2005,
7, June, 255-277), Taner Akcam composed a ditty entitled, “Anatomy of a
Crime: the Turkish Historical Society’s Manipulation of Archival Documents,” where
he goes to lengths to demonstrate the THS’s dishonesty. The irony of the situation
is something to behold, given Mr. Akcam’s known disregard for the facts.
I’m not one to automatically defend the Turkish Historical Society (herein
referred to as the THS) myself; as far as I’m concerned, the “anti-genocide”
forces need to be squeaky-clean with their presentation, and I have seen inattention
to detail with some of the things I’ve read... which hasn’t been much, as I have
mainly concentrated on Western documentation to make my case. However, it is a
stretch to claim any slip-ups are intentional distortions. It seems to me most of
these “genocide scholars” from Turkey are relative newcomers... in other words,
they haven’t had the lifelong obsession of one such as Akcam’s mentor, Vahakn
Dadrian... and when mistakes are made, as unfortunate as it is for “professionals”
to make mistakes, there is no room for hysteria-speak, like determining such
mistakes to be a “crime.”
The only time to go into such territory is if the scholar in question has a history
of making willful distortions... like Dadrian and Akcam, purposely concentrating on
only one side of the story, and turning a blind eye to other realities. I myself
have gone through, and am continuing to go through, a learning curve... and there
are some facts I used to swear by, until I discovered things were not the way I
believed. At that point, one must “revise” one’s views, as better information
comes to light. And such revision is the business of history... presuming the writer
is motivated by truth and honor.
Off the bat, Akcam reports the THS book he has set upon to
discredit (entitled “The Armenians: Expulsion and Migration,” Ankara, 2004)
claims some 200,000 Armenians lost their lives, a number I don’t happen to agree with.
Akcam quotes a passage where the book explains:
"The Armenian Deportations must not be conceived as a decision which was enacted
against a community living in a vacuum within Ottoman society. On one hand, the Armenians
themselves are not entirely innocent in the matter. And even so, what sort of legal
measures would any other state adopt against a community that collaborates with the enemy
and carries out a planned revolt during a period in which a life-and-death struggle was
taking place in Gallipoli? In the end, it was the Armenians who lost. If they had won,
they would have established another independent state like Greece, Serbia or Bulgaria.
[But] this action on the part of the Armenians ultimately resulted in their expulsion from
That’s it — the big picture, in a nutshell... and everything written is backed up by
sources without conflicts-of-interest, and the Armenians themselves. What has been
described is irrefutable history. (Although I’d beg to differ with a few of the
statements. The life-and-death struggle was occurring in other regions besides Gallipoli,
and the Armenians were allowed to return, the resettlement having been a temporary
measure; of the [up to] 644,900 Armenians within Ottoman borders after war’s end,
according to the Patriarch, many left on their own accord... and many didn’t dare to
Because one like Akcam cannot deny this expressed truth, what he must do is nit-pick... to
needle... to throw smokescreen evidence or claims in an effort to cast doubt. Look at what
"Even if we accept this thesis that the state can deliberately
deport hundreds of thousands of its own citizens, knowing that many of them will perish,
it amounts to nothing less than the legitimation of state-sanctioned mass killing."
So simple... so neat, and tidy. So completely unmindful of the realities, such as:
1) It’s wartime. Super-powered enemies, having agreed to dismantle Ottoman Turkey via
secret treaties, are knocking at all gates.
2) The nation is in serious danger of extinction, particularly after the decimation of the
eastern armies at Sarikamish, not
helped by the absence of thousands of Ottoman-Armenian soldiers who had deserted to the
3) The nation is bankrupt. There is no manpower, and no resources to spare.
4) The Armenians are rebelling, posing a significant military threat. There are perhaps
50,000 behind-the-lines, posing as a fifth column.
5) Ottoman orders point to the protection of Armenian lives and property. Lack of
planning, chaos and corruption sometimes hindered the carrying out of these orders. Big
operations don’t always go smoothly, especially if they are undertaken at the last
6) Thousands of Turks were dying daily of starvation, according to Ambassador Morgenthau.
General Harbord believed 600,000 Turkish soldiers succumbed to typhus alone. If Armenians
had remained in their homes, no one can say they would have escaped death by famine and
disease, when droves of their countrymen were dying of the same.
7) In1915, the rail system was limited. What takes precedence in this desperate situation
is that the treacherous Armenian community needed to be moved away. The government bears
responsibility for not protecting these people better... just like they bear
responsibility for not protecting Turks/Muslims who were being massively murdered by the
8) Any other nation under the same circumstances and time period would not have behaved
differently. In fact, as Arthur Tremaine Chester logically pointed out in a parallel, imaginary case against Mexico with
rebellious “Negroes,” the United States government would probably not have even
bothered with a "deportation."
In typical pro-genocide fashion, the propagandist
must focus on singular facets while ignoring all other realities. If Ottoman
imperfections and ineptitude existed, it is an irresponsibly simple matter to draw
conclusions such as "genocide." Meanwhile, never mind the fact that the
majority of Armenians survived, some of those who committed crimes against Armenians
were punished, hostile foreign agents were permitted to aid the suffering Armenians,
there were exemptions of some Armenian groups and localities, and the list goes on.
Akcam informs us the book is composed of three sections:  Review of Armenian
literature of the period  Population figures  Additional figures via
missionary and Armenian sources.
Akcam criticizes the THS for giving much credence to the Ottoman census of 1.3
million. "It has been argued that the Ottoman government,
for political reasons, intentionally undercounted the Armenians."
What is "argued" does not lead to what is a "fact." The Ottoman
Empire did not gear their national policies with the Armenians in mind. The idea of
taking a census was to count the numbers as accurately as possible. Indeed, the
previous censuses all show a natural progression leading to the later 1.3 million
Now there might have been an undercounting, but "intentional" can only be
the speculation of an agenda-ridden propagandist. Nevertheless, the book’s
conclusion for the "'acceptable' figure for [Ottoman Armenians before 1915]
found in all studies of a scientific bent... is not less than 1.5 million" is a
fair one. Even Akcam’s pro-genocide and fellow ex-communist buddy, Halil Berktay,
has accepted 1.5 million as the accurate pre-war count. (In an April 2005 Hurriyet "genocide" series that Akcam
was also part of.)
I haven’t read the book Akcam is criticizing and am forced to accept Akcam’s
dubious word, he accuses the authors of making use of existing arguments for why the
Armenians might have over-counted and undercounted. (Of course, the Armenian
argument for undercounting — attempting to reduce communal tax obligations —
doesn’t make sense, because the Armenian Patriarch’s figure of 2.1 million,
which even Arnold Toynbee allowed to be possibly exaggerated in his 1916
"Treatment of Armenians" work, is wildly above all reasonable
estimates; in addition, the Patriarchate is on record to have purposefully
exaggerated to have satisfied their cause of ingratiating themselves to the
Europeans as a populous and legitimate nation, and this raison d’etre logically
would have superseded all else.) If Akcam is correct, he would have a point; since
one can’t have it both ways. Yet, the contradictory assertion from the book
("[Armenian] community leaders always tended to present their population as
small[-er than it actually was], for the purpose of evading taxes") may not
necessarily be a contradiction. LOCAL community leaders might have done exactly as
such, but the numbers that the Patriarch picked out of the air for the cumulative
total is an entirely different configuration. In other words, the patriarchs had
their own way of figuring these numbers, like counting up to sixty Armenians per
household in 1880.
Where the book breaks new ground, according to Akcam,
is that it refers to foreign archival sources that have normally been dismissed as
unreliable wartime propagandists, in an effort to support the "Official Turkish
Thesis" (in Akcam’s words; less biased parties would refer to this
"thesis," as condensed above, as "Real History.")
I would imagine the authors did not make the claim that the majority of these
foreign sources could assert "Real History," since those like Morgenthau,
Lepsius, Bryce and the foreign consuls were largely prejudiced people with
conflicts-of-interest and an agenda to serve. Akcam points out the "authors further state that only a small amount of the foreign
archival material was used to support their thesis," even though they
could have used more. Here is an opportunity for Akcam to try and catch the authors
with their pants down, although it doesn’t sound like they’re claiming anything
that’s out of bounds with reason. If the authors wrote "the Armenians
never encountered anything along the lines of a planned action to wipe them
out," that is the truth; those who made such conclusions were religious and
racist bigots who merely offered their opinions — based on hearsay and prejudice
— and there is no factual evidence. Yet Akcam writes "such a conclusion is
remarkable," and it "demands to be examined more thoroughly." Akcam
is determined to scrape the bottom of the barrel with his effort to demonstrate a
"crime," in his attempt to detract and discredit.
"It is unlikely that a precise order to exterminate every
single Armenian came down from the ruling Turkish triumvirate of Tallat
[sic] Bey, Minister of the Interior, Enver Pasha, Minister of War, and
Djemal Pasha, Minister of the Navy. The responsibility of these men for
collective deportation is clear; but deportation — a time-honoured
strategy in nineteenth-century Turkey — while tantamount to death for
the old, the weak and the infirm, was not genocide."
Winter, "Armenian genocide club colleague," THE GREAT WAR, 1996, P. 148
Akcam charges that the context and meaning of
German-language documents were deliberately distorted, comparing this
"crime" with the alterations of the 1919 German Foreign Ministry and Lepsius, in an effort to exonerate the
perceived German complicity. At least Akcam is on record admitting how unreliable
Lepsius’ testimony and methods had been. (In a footnote, however, Akcam further
damages what little is left of his credibility by writing that the mad missionary
and biased head of the German-Armenian Society "would later publish numerous
other, fuller histories of the events which included ample documentation," and
that Lepsius’ "work remains a fundamental if incomplete source for
researchers of the period." Lepsius got a good share of his "ample
documentation" from Morgenthau,
and these concocted stories were rejected even by the British in the Malta Tribunal process. The rest was
hearsay and fabrications, since Lepsius never set foot on the territories he was
writing about, at least not during the 1915 years. Any researcher who attempts to
give credibility to such false information from a known liar might just as well hang
a "do not trust me" sign on his door.)
Akcam also announces with relish that he engaged in battle within the pages of the
Armenian-Turkish newspaper AGOS, with one of the authors, Prof. Kemal Cicek. Akcam
characterizes Cicek’s Sept. 3, 2004 open letter as "personal attacks"
(examples from the footnote demonstrate Cicek had little respect for Akcam, calling
him an "alleged historian"; now that is absolutely true, since Akcam’s
academic degree was in sociology, not that we're without other examples of his being
a failure as a historian... since a true historian considers all sides to a story,
not just the ones he likes. Cicek also refers to Akcam as a "village
idiot," certainly not gallant, but given the disrespect even some Armenian
historians have for Akcam, such a depiction might not be completely off the mark)
while it would seem to me it was Akcam who "fired the first shot" with his
three-part criticism series. At least Akcam is not breaking stride here; when the
Armenians engaged in violence and murder, they would characterize the
counter-reaction as "massacres." Here an author is defending himself
against Akcam’s initial attack, and Akcam is giving the idea that the defender is
the cruel one. Poor, innnocent Taner Akcam.
The first example of distortion Akcam provides is a July 25,
1915 letter by the German Consul in Trebizond. Since Akcam’s "professional"
foreign language is German (he got his sociology degree in Germany), he puts his knowledge
to good use with his version of the translation. He shouldn’t have needed anybody to go
over his words, as he must with these reports that he presents in suspiciously immaculate
Soon after their deportation from Trebizond, rumors
began to emerge that the massacre of the Armenians had already begun... The experience
demonstrated that the anti-Turkish fantasies in Trebizond had borne the most incredible
fruit. The rumors were received by the Imperial [German] Consulate with great reservation.
They tended to concentrate around certain claims whose veracity I felt obligated to
investigate for the sake of the reputations of both Germany and Turkey..
The THS’ translation:
After their deportation from Trebizond, speculation began to circulate
that the massacre of the Armenians had already begun... Hostile fantasies (Dusman
fantazisi) emerged which lay the responsibility for the bloodshed in Trabzon upon the
Turks. The speculations were investigated by the German Consulate within a profound
silence. The task was taken on of confirming their veracity with a view toward the
advantages of German and Turkish prestige, and the consular functionaries labored
tirelessly over certain of these claims.
Sure, the translation of the latter version may not be as polished as Akcam’s... But if
one compares the above two versions sentence-by-sentence, whereas perhaps better words
might have been used in Akcam’s version (“rumors” instead of the less smooth “speculations”),
I don’t perceive any difference in the overall meanings.
A TRANSLATION TEST
I decided to try a
little test by giving the German text to one I know whose proficiency with the
language should be at least on a par with Akcam’s. I didn’t give a clue
regarding any background to the text; I just asked for a translation. You can try
this test as well; the text reads:
dem Abtransport der Armenier aus Trapezunt traten Geruche auf, dass ihre Hinmordung
bereits begonnen habe... Die Erfahrung had gelehrt, dass die den Turken feindliche
Phantasie in Trapezunt die unglaublischsten Bluten treibt. Die Geruchte wurden daher
seitens des Kaiserlichen Konsulats mit grosser Zuruchhalturn auf genommen. Sie
verdichteten sich indessen zu derart bestimmten Behauptungen, dass ich mich im
Interesse des deutchen und turkischen Ansehens fur verpflichtet hielt, die Angaben
auf ihre Wahrheit nachzuprufen.
Soon after the transportation (taking away) of the Armenians from Trapezunt,
rumors arose (emerged) that their murder (assassination) had already started.
Experience taught that hostile fantasies (of the Turks? about Turks? Confusing —
See below) in Trapezunt drove to the most unbelievable bloodshed. These rumors were
therefore received with great reservation by the imperial consulate. Meanwhile they
condensed to certain (specific) assertions, that I feel bound to test the truth of
the statements in the interest of German and Turkish standing (esteem, reputation).
The winner: Taner Akcam. Yes, the above “neutral” translation is closer to Akcam’s
Yet, there are a few phrases that equal the THS’ version, in particular "Hostile
There are nuances in language that may escape even those who are proficient in that
language. Such becomes abundantly clear with the notes my translator provided:
Die Erfahrung hat gelehrt, dass die den Turken feindliche
Phantasie in Trapezunt…..
Turks here is used in the dative case which would mean, correctly stated: den
Türken gegenüber… Translated this would mean hostile fantasies about Turks…
But the author may mean the genitive case – Turks’ hostile fantasies which drove
to that bloodshed
(He is definitely not proficient in written German.)
If genitive = the Turks’ hostile fantasies
If dative (as written plus the word gegenüber) = hostile fantasies about the Turks…
The author most probably means the genitive case, given his poor German. On the
other hand, since he is saying that the emperor received the rumors with
reservation, it could mean that these hostile fantasies were about the Turks, which
is why the emperor didn’t want to act upon these rumors, so as not to drive to
The most important sentence of this meaningless paragraph is grammatically
incorrect, which could mean – in either direction.
The word used “Hinmordung” does not exist. There is Hinrichtung (execution) or
Ermordung (murder in the sense of assassination). He probably means mass murder.
Now I don’t know how "on the button" my translator is, as much as I’m
aware of my translator’s expertise. The point is, someone could set upon providing
as accurate a translation as possible, and still go off track. It's obvious from
this example that the THS translation provides basically the same meaning. Why is
Akcam attempting to present the idea that the THS has willfully distorted this
In order to detract from the big picture, a
propagandist like Akcam must look at a little wrinkle in the picture and say, Look!
Look! The whole picture is no good.
Akcam does provide a few examples where the meanings were poorly presented, and if
he provides an honest accounting, then he’s not without a point. The THS people
should have been extremely scrupulous with their work, as they should be aware there
are barracudas like Akcam ever waiting and ready to strike at the most mild signs of
Yet even in some of these examples, Akcam reaches wildly. For example, he complains
that what should have been "a proof that a planned disposal of any possible
corpses had not yet happened" wound up being, "this is probable
proof that there was no plan to dispose of the corpses."
Akcam’s explanation: "It is obvious to the reader that
Bergfeld’s statement 'a plan for the disposition of the bodies had not yet been
made' implies that sometime in the future a plan could be implemented. However, the
authors translate the sentence as if Bergfeld had said that there was probable proof
of no plan for disposing of bodies."
Akcam is trying too hard to find "criminals" here. He might be correct
that the literal translation had room for improvement. Yet, I don’t see this as
evidence as intentional distortion. Yes, what Bergfeld is saying is that he expected
a planned disposal of corpses, but it didn't happen, so there was no proof. If there
was no proof, then his expectation was wrong, and maybe there was no plan to dispose
of the corpses after all. In this event, "this is probable proof that there
was no plan to dispose of the corpses." THS’ version does not sound off
the mark at all; the magic word is "probable."
"In his response to my comments, Professor Cicek both
defends these translation errors and indirectly admits that the translation may have
been incorrect. On one hand, he claims there were no distortions in it whatsoever,
saying that 'the German Consular report was included almost in its entirety by us in
[our] work.' On the other hand, he acknowledges, at one point, 'even if we were to
suppose that Akcam's translation is more accurate...' hinting at the possibility
that his own translation is wrong."
How does Akcam make the jump that the THS translation is "incorrect" or
"wrong," when Cicek is saying what they wound up with might have been less
accurate? In other words, if "rumors" is a better word than
"speculations," that doesn’t mean "speculations" doesn’t
give the similar meaning. Seems like it doesn’t matter whether Cicek stepped on
the grass or chopped down the tree. Akcam is going to brand him a
"criminal," no matter what.
"It appears that for Professor Cicek, the distortion of a
translation is unimportant, the meaning remains unchanged regardless of the quality
of the translation, and in any case it doesn’t really matter upon which
translation one bases one's claims, the document still won’t show that there was a
planned massacre. To Professor Cicek, my criticism of the adulterated translation is
only a minor irritant. The real issue, in his words, is this: ‘It befits [only]
Akcam to accept on the basis of these lines that a planned massacre was carried out’."
If a translation is not literally squeaky clean but still gives the
same overall impression, that is not perfectly professional. But it’s still a far cry
from being a willful "distortion." I am not sure Cicek would have concluded,
"the meaning remains unchanged regardless of the quality of the
translation," the words Akcam is trying to put in his mouth. Cicek is only
referring to this particular translation, and judging by the passages Akcam has presented,
there is not a critical difference in the overall meaning. Prof. Cicek is 100% correct in
treating Akcam’s attack as a "nuisance suit," for Akcam is not a real scholar.
Akcam has the intended goal to affirm his bread-and-butter genocide no matter what. So the
charge is true: "It befits [only] Akcam to accept on the basis of these lines that
a planned massacre was carried out."
As Akcam claims the "conscious alteration of a document for the
purpose of making it support one’s argument may be considered a crime against
scholarship," let's bear in mind that he has gained a reputation as a history scholar who can read the Ottoman Archives in Ottoman
Turkish. Yet, Dr. Meltem Deniz took it upon herself, with the
aid of an Ottoman-Turkish dictionary, to check up on how scrupulously Akcam went about
such translations. She wrote:
"Taner Akcam... apparently does not even know
Ottoman Turkish or is not hesitant to step on ethics accepted in academia. I was always
wondering where and when he found the time to learn and read the archives, taking his past
Dr. Deniz provided examples of where Akcam went
"wrong" (in "Taner Akcam's Ethics as a Scholar," soon
available). The reader can judge whether the conclusion may be fairly reached that Akcam
is "not only uneducated but also untruthful."
To give the reader an idea of how
much more difficult an undertaking it is to translate Ottoman Turkish, Dr. Deniz
First, I tried to list all the
possibilities why Akcam would misinterpret…While doing that, I realized how “sensitive”
it is to read the archives. For example;
This is “hậl”
in Ottoman Turkish…which means condition, situation…
This is “hậl”
as well, in Ottoman Turkish…but this one means “uncle”... mother’s brother….(watch
the little dot on L shape letter which is the only difference and excuse my
drawings..) but for some reason it also means the nevus on your body….
Briefly, reading the “Ottoman Archives in Ottoman Turkish” requires extensive
and special training. An archive expert is some one who knows the Arabic Alphabet,
Arabic, Persian and Turkish grammar.
[A] Up to this point in his essay, Akcam has not demonstrated any alterations that change
the overall meaning of the documents, [B] If the German and English words are not as on
the ball as they should have been, that could mean the translator wasn’t adept enough
and a "conscious alteration" is in the eyes of the beholder, and [C] Anyone who
willfully presents one side of an issue while closing his eyes to the rest cannot be
termed qualified to judge on "scholarship."
So I find it quite ironic that this putative scholar would write the following words:
"It is... even obligatory, to consult other sources dealing
with the events described in the document in question if one wishes to better understand
Akcam next complains that another document (American Consul Heizer’s) was used to
evaluate the Bergfeld one. Cicek makes the "admission" (note how a word like
"revelation" is put aside in favor of words we might better apply to a
"criminal") that the Bergfeld report is not the original but a version
"adulterated by Lepsius." Heizer referred to "Turks" when Lepsius
chose the more incriminating word "workers." (Hired hands "who were
ordered" — in words Lepsius added, not found in Heizer’s report — to get on
with the dirty genocide business, instead of people who just happened to be there.)
Akcam faults Cicek for adjusting translations based on more reliable accounts, and for
accusing Akcam of remaining bound to a conflicted source such as Lepsius. ("Authors
who cite those things written by Lepsius at face value, who do not see the passages he has
crossed out, this is ... truly... ‘disgraceful’.")
So here Akcam picks at straws again, asking many questions, some not without
justification, such as why the Lepsius alterations were not revealed. But, again, the big
picture is as Cicek charged. An agenda-ridden propagandist like Akcam has no compunction
against referring to sources bereft of credibility, such as Lepsius. "Disgraceful"
is an appropriate word to describe such “scholarly” tactics.
In his next example of criminality, Akcam refers to
the report by Dadrian favorite, the Turk-ever- hating Max Erwin von
Scheubner-Richter. Again, I’m at a disadvantage for not having the original work
to see how the THS handled matters. But it is the prerogative of an author to
sometimes paraphrase a source; if every word is literally transcribed, the resulting
work could reach encyclopedic proportions.
With this in mind, Akcam accuses the THS authors of further criminality:
Scheubner-Richter: "At the beginning of June, the first group of Armenian
notables were given a period of 14 days to leave Erzurum." Cicek and his
colleagues are accused of rendering this statement "in a general sense":
"In June, the Armenians were expelled after a period of 14 days."
Unless that rendering was meant to be a direct translation, there is nothing wrong
with such paraphrasing.
Scheubner-Richter: “Most of them was given a period of 14 days to prepare for the
journey.” THS (and Akcam identifies this as a paraphrasing, so we can assume these
are not meant to be direct translations):
"On the other hand, it appears in this report that a 14-day period for the
migration was accorded in almost every location."
Akcam complains: "In short, Scheubner-Richter’s report
on 'most of' the Armenians in the city of Erzurum has been stretched to cover the
entire Armenian population in almost every location [in Anatolia]."
The term "it appears" allows saving grace to make such speculation. It
would be unrealistic to assume the Ottoman officials in Istanbul would calculate
different time periods for different locations. If they (assuming it was the main
leaders, and not the local officials) came up with two weeks for Erzurum, it would
be natural to speculate such would be the time period for most of the other
locations. So, yes; judging from this report, and for possible lack of other
information, it is a reasonable conclusion to assume that it would appear 14 days
was the allotment for almost every location.
Perhaps 14 days was an exception, as Scheubner-Richter indicates that the Erzurum
Armenians got better treatment "as a consequence of the Vali’s concession
and [Scheubner-Richter’s] efforts," and Akcam tells us "It is well known that in the rural areas of Erzurum, outside the
city limits — to say nothing of the rest of Anatolia — the Armenians were
deported within hours, not days, of notification." In the footnotes, his
"evidence" boils down (aside from a report by another German officer,
Dadrian-favorite Stange) to a work from fellow genocide club member Hilmar Kaiser. I am sure there were
Armenians who were treated heavy-handedly, and a 14 day-notice does sound a little
too leisurely as the norm. To get to the bottom of the average length of time the
Armenians were alloted requires examination by an objective party. Perhaps the THS
authors knew better, or perhaps this is an example of their shoddy scholarship.
The THS authors do appear to be aware of Scheubner-Richter’s report where
Armenians were forced to leave in a short time because of Scheubner-Richter and the
Vali being temporarily absent. In the book, there is this passage: "But this
special permission was at one point revoked by the army command. These persons were
forced to leave Erzurum within a very brief period."
So that is odd, for the THS authors to have recognized this 14 day allotment as a
“special permission”; I wish I had the original book to see in which context
they pointed to the 14 days appearing to be the norm.
(By the way, the American consul Oscar
Heizer, in a Sept. 25, 1915 telegram to Morgenthau, gave an extra day to this
period: "[The Erzurum governor] had given [the Armenians] 15 days to
dispose of their goods and make arrangements to leave.")
was the average length of time that was given as resettlement notice?
I’ve been keeping a radar out since the writing of this essay, and here are
examples from a few sources who were wildly pro-Armenian:
1) Missionary Mary Louise
Graffam: "...[O]n the following Monday (this was Friday) the
[Sivas] deportations would begin." (Miss Graffam's Own Story.)
2) Leon Surmelian:
"...[E]very Armenian in the province of Trebizond [is] to be ready to
leave in one week, June 24 to July 1." (I Ask You Ladies and
3) Soghoman Tehlirian, trial transcript:
"In the early part of June, an order was issued for the people to get
ready to leave the city [Erzurum]... Three days later... the people were taken
out of the city." (The assassin was fighting with the Russians at the
time, far away from Erzurum, so his word is especially dubious. Particularly
since this was the city of Erzurum that we know from above got 14-15 days.
This is the kind of "testimony" Akcam relies upon.) Another
Armenian at the trial states the well-to-do of "Garin" were given
eight days notice. That means if the "deportation" was carried out
through separate groups, the time from the original notice until the time for
the later groups would have been longer.
4) The Musa Dagh Armenians got eight days' notice. Christopher J. Walker, ARMENIA:
The Survival of a Nation, 1990, p. 223
5) From the diary of Hrant Sarian:
Armenians of Adapazar got eight days' notice.
6) Movses Balabanian, Musa Dagh fighter and later Armenian Legion member;
private testimony: "eight days, sell and buy whatever you can; we're
going to exile you."
No doubt there are enough propaganda accounts that say there was a late-hour,
Gestapo-style knock on the door, telling the residents to leave NOW. But these
are the accounts that claim everything and anything, and only scholars on the
level of Akcam should be welcome to accept them at face value. Given the
examples I’ve provided of half a week to one week, from highly
propagandistic sources, it is difficult to conclude that a few “hours”
notice was the norm, as Akcam claims.
JAN. 2006 ADDENDUM: Harput
and its twin city, Mezreh/Mamouret-ul-Aziz, got five days notice. But
these five days turned into a longer stretch... a process likely repeated
the original deadline of five days, there were numerous delays in the
execution of the expulsion order. The authorities needed time to come up with
some ox-carts and donkeys, though most of the people had to leave on foot
carrying their baggage on their back and their small children in their arms.
Another reason for delay, Riggs wrote, "was that apparently the
government was making an effort to keep some sort of a record of the people
deported. This, with the notoriously inefficient Turkish officials with their
red tape and their bribery, took more time than had been allowed. To consider
the claims to exemption and -- if such a phrase could be used -- to
systematize the deportation and the exemptions, took time." The Turks
also wanted to give the population the chance to buy the household goods and
stock in trade of the deportees at ridiculously cheap prices. "For this
purpose it was desirable to keep the Armenians in the constant expectation of
being sent away within a day or two, so that haste might drive them to sell
their goodsat any prices they could at the moment command."
Quoted from missionary
Henry Riggs' "Days of Tragedy in Armenia," pp. 118-19.
Guenter Lewy, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide,
pp. 168-69. Prof. Lewy further tells us it was the locals who made these
decisions. As a dramatic example, to illustrate the powerlessness of the
central government, all relocations were to stop in August 1915. Locals
had different ideas, and despite repeated orders to cease and desist,
relocations continued until the following year.
course, was the territory of U.S. Consul Leslie Davis. To put matters
into perspective, a report about another "deported" people:
Mohammedan muhajirs-exiles passed through Mamouret-ul-Aziz after advance of
the Russians in the winter of 1915-1916. These muhajirs, who were homeless,
were most wretched appearing people and although the Government sometimes gave
them scant rations, they suffered from both hunger and exposure.(Source: “The
Slaughterhouse Province," Leslie E. Davis, p..118)
Let’s digress for a moment, and explore the rule for presenting passages
ethically. Earlier, I mentioned that Morgenthau had written in his "Story"
book that thousands of Turks were dying daily of starvation. Since Morgenthau gave a
rare display of "sympathy" for the Turks here, am I obligated to mention
the racist ambassador’s hateful stance on the Turks as well? No; I’m only
wishing to make a point of how the entire population was subjected to starvation, so
I am allowed to take out this singular passage without needing to reveal the Turks
were subhuman creatures, as Morgenthau attempted to demonstrate.
But if Morgenthau had his ghostwriter tell us thousands of Turks were dying daily
only to make a later conclusion that the reverse was true, then it would be
unethical for me to use the part I liked, and make no mention of the real point that
So if the THS authors tried to give the impression that the 14 day period was the
norm when the source they were using later wrote the contrary, that would have been
wrong. That’s what Akcam is telling us they did; maybe he’s right, but since the
THS authors did go on to reveal that this 14 day period was a "special
permission," I can’t be sure. Maybe they started out by writing that it
"appeared" the 14 day period was the norm, building up to the later
revelation that such couldn’t have been, and Akcam neglected to tell us the later
part. Only a reading of the book will get to the bottom of this alleged
Even if the THS fouled up here, Akcam is really applying tiny-threaded needlework to
the sweater he is knitting. For example, Akcam translates the German in the above
passage to read, "They had to leave Erzurum within an extremely short period of
time..." Akcam is outraged that the authors "delete(d)" the
"adverb intensifier 'extremely'," "in order to
make the document fit their thesis." In other words, does "within a
very brief period" give a very different connotation?
(Incidentally, how many of us native English speakers can identify what an
"intensifier" is? Taner Akcam's mastery of the English language is truly something.)
Erwin von Scheubner-Richter
Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, born
1884, had a Doctorate in Engineering; he was vice-consul in Erzurum during 1915. Eight
years later, he would be shot dead, during Hitler's premature misstep in challenging
Max Erwin von Scheubner Richter wrote, "The Armenians of
Turkey for all practical purposes have been exterminated." Given that one
million Armenians survived from a pre-war population of some 1.5 million, we can
determine exactly how much credibility Nazi-to-be von
It is said von Scheubner-Richter was introduced to Hitler by
Alfred Rosenberg in 1920, after which Richter joined the Nazi party. During this brief
relationship, some pro-Armenian scholars (and other apologists, like Mike Joseph) would have us believe
Richter whispered genocidal thoughts in the future Fuehrer's ear, implanting the
notion of the Holocaust.
Such are the simplistic conclusions offered by the genocide
scholars. You have a little fact here... you have a little fact there. A-ha. A handy
Hitler needed no incentive to dream up his mad visions. If
previous historical models of extermination are sought, there was a long list to
inspire Hitler, if indeed he needed such inspiration... one being his own colonialist
nation's attempt to eradicate the Hereros of Southwest Africa in the 1900s, where some
70% were cleaned out. Moreover, there were many during the 1915 period who believed
the "genocide" was directed by Germany itself (A little fact here... Herero
extermination a few years before 1915. A little fact there... Germany basically
in charge of the Ottoman military during 1915. A-ha. Instant connection, one that
"genocide scholars" should love. However, historical facts indicate this was the episode serving as Hitler's
true inspiration.) So if the Armenians' genocide actually inspired Hitler, perhaps the
Ottoman Turks didn't deserve the credit.
For example, Armenians love Dr. Clarence Ussher, a missionary
doctor who was a "witness to genocide"; Atom Egoyan's film ARARAT was
based upon parts of the American physician's racist book. Here is what Ussher ushered in:
the deportations were planned by the Prussian Government cannot be doubted by anyone
who has had first-hand knowledge concerning them. If Germany was to rule Turkey in the
end, she would avoid trouble with the progressive and nationalistic Armenians by
scattering them among the Turks…any territory occupied by her must be rid of its
original inhabitants, or they must be so scattered as to form no longer a homogenous
population." He added: "Germany was also largely responsible for the
massacres and atrocities that accompanied the deportations."
is why Germany is currently running like a chicken without its head, trying to get
Turkey to recognize the Armenian myth. The Germans have tried this kind of stunt
before, in an effort to get the world to believe the Germans should be off the 1915
hook; that was when they allowed the murderer of Talat Pasha to walk away, a free man.
Akcam gives another example of a Scheubner-Richter
passage, with incriminating words like "policy of extermination," that
were left out by the THS authors.
Akcam is not entirely without a point, as petty and overblown as he is with most of
his charges. These accounts by diplomatic consuls, wholly affected by their
Christian sensibilities, their age-old contempt and bigotry for the
"inferior" and terrible Turks, and rarely if ever witnessing these events
firsthand (like the other consuls, the Germans accepted what the Armenians and
missionaries reported), serve as treacherous waters. I don't see why the THS folks
went near these mine fields to support their case, but since they decided to make an
analysis, they had to more fully consider the endless negative accounts as well. It’s
not like they have avoided the "bad" things, it’s just that they don’t
appear to have considered the "bad" things more comprehensively. So they
left themselves open to the genocide vampires.
In other words, it would have been better to acknowledge Scheubner-Richter’s
conclusions like "policy of extermination." Maybe the THS authors took it
for granted that such conclusions were not worthy of consideration, since it only
amounted to the personal opinion of one biased man, based not on evidence but on
Yet Akcam has nerve making awful statements such as "Thus
Cicek and his accomplices [as in 'accomplice to a crime']
have behaved in the same manner as Lepsius and German Foreign Ministry officials...
in an attempt to 'doctor' them in accordance with their own designs."
Again, it’s not like the THS has turned a blind eye to the incriminating passages,
and most of the distortions/mistranslations have been bloated by the likes of Taner
Akcam. The real parallel to Lepsius, those who deliberately alter the facts or don't
consider the harmful ones, are the genocide club members.
The THS authors cite the German Consul Rössler as a source to back up their
numerical calculations: "he wrote ‘that nearly 500,000 Armenians were
exempted from deportation, and 500,000 [others] were brought to Mesopotamia and
Here is the part of Rössler’s writings the authors took that from: "The
number of those in all of Asia Minor [who have been exempted] from the deportation
is 1/2 million at the very most... no more than 1/2 million have arrived in Syria
It’s an exact match.
Akcam tries to "criminalize" the authors by offering some of the other
statements Rössler has made... such as Rössler’s opinion that there were 2.5
million pre-war Armenians, that the convoys have been at least 75% decimated, the
women and girls carried off to Muslim harems, and other biased balderdash.
Referring to the rules of passage-presentation, the authors did not have to stop and
point out Rössler’s naivete and bigotry. They were perfectly entitled to single
out the specific information Rössler provided.
Akcam's next example is more on the mark; US Consul Nathan’s "thousands"
of Armenians arriving in Mersin had been changed to "hundreds of
thousands." I don’t believe this was deliberate (Akcam is quick to nastily
charge this was an alteration made to "bolster their case");
such an error is inconsistent with the rest of the book. It is an example of
sloppiness, and it's an unfortunate one.
In the next example, the THS authors apparently exhibited lack of attention to
detail by confusing the name of one consul (Nathan) for another official (Greg
Young). Mr. Young has apparently taken the rare trouble of checking out conditions
for himself, and relates the awful miseries. Akcam accuses the THS authors of one
mistranslation, and of selectively using the good parts, to the exclusion of the
Akcam cites a few more examples, including a troubling one by Consul Bergfeld where
he claimed responsibility for gaining exemptions for certain classes of Armenians.
Three days later, most of these exemptions were revoked, Bergfeld wrote, "apparently
under instructions from Constantinople." Akcam charges, "Cicek and his colleagues have withheld embarrassing sections of the
very document on which their case rests." I have a feeling the reason
has more to do with a lack of attention for detail, which is not very commendable
Akcam concludes by accusing the THS authors of "systematically
'doctoring' the data." There appear to be a few that are serious, but
many of the examples Akcam provides are overblown. The ex-convict "visiting
professor" comes across as so upstanding, I fear he has actually come to
believe that his own standards are nothing short of impeccable ("Suspicion within the academic community as to whether or not sources
have been honestly and accurately presented is something that can poison the entire
scientific milieu" and "[the THS authors]
have violated the ‘sense of trust’ that is the necessary basis for relations
Walter Rössler was another German consul (Aleppo) who,
like his fellow consuls from Europe and America, rarely took personal note of the
goings-on, instead relying upon the word of those whose Christian sensibilities hit
far greater home than the alien Turks. Armenian sites claim that Rössler was prevented
from testifying at the Tehlirian trial. The
court, however, allowed only witnesses for the defense (save for Talat Pasha's wife,
whose testimony did not get into any history, like the others)... one reason why von Schellendorf protested in outrage
for the suppression of the truth. Why would Rössler have been "prevented"?
Probably there was only so much room for defense witnesses in the fixed, cursory two
day trial, and Rossler's services just weren't needed. (ADDENDUM:
a closer look.) There
is so much dishonesty with pro-Armenian claims.
A scientist is one who dispassionately examines all aspects in
search of the truth; it is Akcam’s agenda and livelihood to focus on only one, at the
exclusion of all others. He has nerve to include himself in the “scientific milieu.”
He has done a dandy job here in an attempt to discredit the THS authors, many of whom are
newly getting into this genocide game and I get the impression may be somewhat green. It
is difficult to be a match for the established and powerful genocide forces, who have
capitalized on an avalanche of selective research over the past generations. I believe it
wasn’t prudent of the THS authors to consider seriously the propagandistic reports, as
they were bound to leave themselves open to those as Akcam, who has the entire weight of
the genocide industry’s boundless research and resources behind him. There are
comparatively more objective foreign accounts to rely on than the bigots forming the
Regardless, such are the underhanded ways of a propagandist like Taner Akcam. Nit-picking
on the little details, overlooking the big picture. Perhaps one day I will attain a copy
of this work he has lambasted; no doubt there are many examples of irrefutable facts Akcam
has not dared to go near. It looks like he zeroed in on his opponents’ weaknesses and
went for the kill, overlooking the big truths that shoot many holes in his genocide
theories. He would be guilty of the kind of selectivity that he has based his aggressive
accusations upon. Akcam demonstrates his bias constantly in his work.
I wanted to mention a footnote  where: Prof Cicek took issue: "[T]hose who
read Akcam’s critique might well suppose that those Armenians who are Russian subjects
were to establish one state, while those belonging to the Ottoman realm were to
established [sic] another state... Akcam’s critique make no sense, because the Armenians
[of both Russians and Ottomans] acted together for the purpose of establishing an
independent Armenian state." Akcam wrote: "According
to his logic, it is not worthwhile to mention that Armenian citizens of Russia were not
fighting against the Ottoman Empire because there is no difference between one group of
Armenian and another. This shows his ideological and partisan approach to the problem."
No, it shows a very realistic and historic approach to the situation. Akcam realizes he
can pull the wool over the eyes of the genocide-brainwashed readers of the journal in
which his attack appeared, but the reality is, the Armenians acted as one. It didn’t
matter what their point of origin was. This is why the Russian and French officers in
charge of commanding the Armenian divisions faced an utter lack of control. This special
brand of Armenian loyalty has been examined here,
with a look at the editor of AGOS, who has allowed a real partisan, Taner Akcam, to poison
the minds of the editor’s Armenian kin in Turkey.
In conclusion, certainly there may be weeds in the forest that deserve plucking, as Akcam
masterfully attempted with his sleazy aim to discredit the THS authors, preaching to a
genocide choir that already thinks little of the "Turkish side," thanks to the
industry’s relentless anti-Turkish propaganda. (Let’s remind ourselves of that
hysterical title: "Anatomy of a Crime." It seems to me one has to be
criminally minded to begin with to make such an unjustified charge.)
In other words, Akcam must concentrate on whatever small slip-ups might have been made, to
make his propagandistic case... ignoring the substance of the matter. It is this
substance, the foundation of the forest, that still stands: the Armenians attacked, they
were resettled, and they suffered. If they didn’t betray their country, nothing would
have happened to them. If you decide to go to war, unpleasant consequences can result. It
is not honorable to make false charges, using slipshod "evidence," attempting to
brand those who counter-react in their own defense as "criminals."
Terrorism to Armenian Propagandist: The Taner Akcam