"Lord Bryce's name
will live in Armenian history as long as Armenia lasts."
Hacobian, "Armenia and the War," 1918, Ch. 10.
In this illuminating article by Thomas Fleming,
which may be examined in its entirety at the History News Network,
we get at excellent idea of how willingly Lord Bryce bent the truth in service
to His Majesty's Government. The article predictably refers only to the case
of the Germans, whom Bryce similarly maligned. The Turks are the invisible low
man on the totem pole, as usual.
It was the stewardship of Bryce, along with his chief
writer Arnold Toynbee, during their stint at Britain's propaganda division [Wellington House] that
forms the foundation of "Armenian Genocide" evidence today. Genocide
advocates like Dr. Rouben Adalian still gush:
"The most commonly used reference of documents on the Armenian
Genocide is the Bryce-Toynbee (Blue Book)."
Great Britain apologized to Germany in 1936 over the
lies contained in the Blue Books. When Turkey presented this situation to
Great Britain in April 2005, asking for the reconsideration of 1916's "Treatment
of Armenians in the
Ottoman Empire 1915-16," the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
through Sir Peter Westmacott (Ambassador to
Turkey) refused the request. According to a report by the Armenian
operation Groong.usc.edu/news, Sir Westmacott insisted in his official role
(via a letter dated July 8), that "none of the individual reports [of the
1916 document] has been refuted," and that (as the Groong report put it),
"the moral and intellectual probity of the authors, Lord Bryce and the
prominent historian Arnold J. Toynbee, may not be questioned."
This despite the fact that Toynbee distanced himself
from the work that he himself described as "war propaganda." This
British response is not the kind of example Churchill had in mind when he
spoke of Britain's finest hour.
Historian Who Sold Out
Thomas Fleming begins his article: "With historians heavily
involved in either defending or damning the war in Iraq, it might be good time to ponder
the case of Viscount James Bryce, the historian who sold out."
We're further informed that stories of German atrocities filled British and American
newspapers from the start of World War I. It was the German march through
Belgium that attracted the most attention.
"Eyewitnesses described infantrymen spearing Belgian babies on
their bayonets as they marched along, singing war songs. Accounts of Belgian boys with
amputated hands (supposedly to prevent them from using guns) abounded. Tales of women with
amputated breasts multiplied even faster."
Amputated breasts is a standard claim in Armenian horror stories, of
course. "Turkish gendarmes raped and sometimes disemboweled or cut the
breasts off women before finally killing them" is how TIME Magazine eagerly
played the role of Armenian propaganda accomplice in an Aug. 23, 1982 article entitled "A
Cry for Bloody Vengeance." The article relates how Armenian terrorists killed
nine and wounded 72 during an attack at the airport in Ankara; instead of allowing the
reader to grieve for these innocent victims, TIME shifted direction by taking the work of
Bryce and Toynbee (as well as — incredibly! — the forged telegrams of Aram Andonian), and irresponsibly perpetuated this
awful propaganda referring to the "extermination" of "more than a million
Armenians." Once again, this comes from TIME Magazine, the usually worthy
newsmagazine, over three-quarters of a century after "1915," which should have
afforded plenty of opportunity to separate fact from fiction.
"At the top of the atrocity hit parade were rape stories. One
eyewitness claimed the Germans dragged twenty young women out of their houses in a
captured Belgian town and stretched them on tables in the village square, where each was
violated by at least twelve 'Huns' while the rest of the division watched and cheered. At
British expense, a group of Belgians toured the United States telling these stories.
President Woodrow Wilson solemnly received them in the White House."
At British expense, Wellington House illegally (although with the
awareness of the U.S. government) operated a branch on American soil, run by the Canadian,
Sir Gilbert Parker. Reports were made to look as though sent by private citizens, not the
British government. Parker had a list of 170,000 to send propaganda reports to, a
"Who's Who" list of America's influential who sent out the material in turn.
This is one of the reasons why Peter Balakian loves to point out that The New York Times
printed 145 stories about the Armenians in 1915 alone. (An output not hurt by the fact
that the newspaper's publisher, Adolph Ochs, was a good personal friend of Ambassador
"The Germans angrily denied these stories. So did American
reporters with the German army."
The Ottoman Turks also denied these stories, but more defensively
than angrily; they were well accustomed to the raw deal they were receiving in the Western
press, for the longest time. The only American reporter who travelled into the Ottoman
interior, according to ""America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915," George
Schreiner, saw the truth and also opposed
the propaganda stories. His was a lone voice, and the censors saw to it that his truth
wouldn't get out. Even when he tried to get the truth out through the Ottomans' ally, the
Germans, he was refused... such was the strength of Armenian propaganda.
Bryce Steps in
in 1915, the British government asked Viscount Bryce to head a royal commission to
investigate the atrocity reports. Bryce was one of the best known historians of the
era; he had written widely praised books on the American government and on Irish
history, sympathetically portraying the Gaels hard lot under British rule. In 1907,
he had collaborated with an Anglo-Irish diplomat, Roger Casement, to expose
horrendous exploitation of Indian peoples on the Amazon by a British rubber company.
From 1907-1913, he had served as British ambassador in Washington, where he became a
popular, even beloved figure. It would have been hard to find a more admired
This is precisely why whenever Bryce lent his
voice to Armenian atrocity reports, the reports were immediately accepted. All Bryce
had to do was declare "800,000 Armenians Counted Destroyed... 10,000 Drowned at
Once" in order for American newspapers to hurry such claims into print, without
asking any questions, such as how 10,000 could be drowned at once. (Note the Oct. 7,
1915 New York Times account seen below.)
"Bryce and his six
fellow commissioners, an amalgam of distinguished lawyers, historians and jurists,
'analyzed' 1,200 depositions of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen atrocious
German behavior. Almost all the testimony came from Belgians who had fled to England
as refugees; some were statements from Belgian and British soldiers, collected in
France. The commissioners never interrogated one of these eyewitnesses; that task
was left to 'gentlemen of legal knowledge and experience' — lawyers. Since
the asserted crimes took place in
what continued to be a war zone, there was no on site investigation of any
"Not a single witness was identified by name; the commissioners said this was
justified in the case of Belgians by the fear that there might be German reprisals
against family members. But British soldier witnesses remained equally anonymous,
for no apparent reason. Nevertheless in his introduction, Bryce said he and his
fellow commissioners had tested the evidence 'severely.'"
Such was exactly the case with the Blue Book on
the Armenians. The sources were unnamed; one explanation provided was that since the
so-called witnesses were still in Ottoman Turkey, their safety was feared for.
In an attempt to legitimize the Blue Book, Ara
Sarafian tracked down the names of some of these so-called witnesses, in the book's
Armenian-financed reprinting. (I stress "so-called" because the
missionaries who were mostly behind these reports never eye-witnessed a single
massacre. They only saw suffering and dead, which was the lot of all the Ottomans in
the bankrupt and devastated empire, where thousands of Turks were dying daily of
starvation, according to Ambassador Morgenthau himself.) So even if Sarafian
managed to match some accounts with actual parties... which would have been a real
task, given that Toynbee himself was
having trouble finding the identities of the "witnesses" at the time
the events were transpiring ... if these so-called witnesses didn't actually see the
atrocities firsthand, what we wind up with is useless hearsay. (Some Christian foreigners swore they saw
atrocities with their own eyes, however.)
only necessary to turn to James Bryce, the historian, to convict Lord Bryce, the
"The Bryce Report was released on May 13, 1915.
British propaganda headquarters in Wellington House, near Buckingham Palace, made sure it
went to virtually every newspaper in America. The impact was stupendous, as the headline
and subheads in the New York Times make clear."
"GERMAN ATROCITIES ARE PROVED, FINDS BRYCE COMMITTEE"
"Not Only Individual Crimes, but Premeditated Slaughter in Belgium"
"YOUNG AND OLD MUTILATED"
"Women Attacked, Children Brutally Slain, Arson and Pillage Systematic"
"COUNTENANCED BY OFFICERS"
"Wanton Firing on Red Cross and White Flag: Prisoners and Wounded Shot"
"CIVILIANS USED AS SHIELDS"
The above certainly has a familiar ring to those involved with the study of the
Parker; novelist, politician & propagandist
Fleming writes that Wellington House operatives in America (which
would likely be Sir Parker's turf) provided a report to London on May 27, 1915:
"Even in papers hostile to the Allies, there is not the
slightest attempt to impugn the correctness of the facts alleged. Lord Bryce's prestige in
America put skepticism out of the question." Fleming adds that Masterman, the
head of Wellington House, told Bryce: "Your report has swept
Few bothered or dared to criticize the invincible Lord Bryce. One
was Sir Roger Casement. In a "furious" essay entitled,
"The Far Extended Baleful Power of the Lie," Casement wrote that "It is only necessary to turn to James Bryce, the historian, to
convict Lord Bryce, the partisan." Fleming tells us Casement's words were
ignored, since the author was regarded as a biased advocate of Irish independence.
Another skeptic was Clarence Darrow, the "famously iconoclastic
American lawyer, who specialized in winning acquittals for seemingly guilty clients."
(Darrow was the social reforming attorney behind the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial; he was
portrayed, in a fictionalized version, by Spencer Tracy in INHERIT THE WIND.) In 1915
Darrow travelled to France and "searched in vain for a
single eyewitness who could confirm even one of the Bryce stories. Increasingly dubious,
Darrow announced he would pay $1,000, a very large sum in 1915 — more than $17,000
in 21st Century money — to anyone who could produce a Belgian or French boy whose
hands had been amputated by a German soldier. There were no takers."
Sounds very much like when Capt. Norman wrote in 1895 that the English have "heard stories ad nauseam of
massacres, of pillages, of the ravishing of women, but none of these stories have been
corroborated by a single European eye-witness."
Same with the 1915 events; Melton Prior, as C. F. Dixon-Johnson wrote, "showed a pleasing exception
to the general attitude adopted by the foreign journalists":
The renowned war correspondent confided In me that he
was in an awkward predicament. The public at home had heard of nameless atrocities, and
was anxious to receive pictorial representations of these. The difficulty was how to
supply them with what they wanted, as the dead Armenians had been buried and no women or
children suffered hurt, and no Armenian church had been desecrated. As an old admirer of
the Turks, and as an honest man, he declined to invent what he had not witnessed. But
others were not equally scrupulous. I subsequently saw an Italian illustrated paper
containing harrowing pictures of women and children being massacred in a church.
A passage from Fleming's essay I wish the British Foreign Office
from 2005 would have paid heed to:
"After the war, historians who sought to examine the
documentation for Bryce's stories were told that the files had mysteriously disappeared.
This blatant evasion prompted most historians to dismiss 99 percent of Bryce's atrocities
as fabrications. One called the report 'in itself one of the worst atrocities of the
Remember, the British Foreign Office tsk-tsked Turkish
parliamentarians' claims that the Bryce reports had been refuted. The Brits actually
insisted, with a straight face, that "the moral and intellectual probity of the
authors, Lord Bryce and the prominent historian Arnold J. Toynbee, may not be
Fleming elaborates, somewhat in defense of Bryce:
"More recent scholarship has scaled down the percentage of the
Bryce Report's fabrications; several thousand Belgian civilians, including some women and
children, were apparently shot by the Germans in the summer of 1914 and Bryce more or less
accurately summarized some of the worst excesses, such as the executions in the town of
Dinant. But even these latter day scholars admit Bryce's report was seriously
'contaminated' by the rapes, amputations and speared babies. They blamed this lapse on
hysteria and war rage. This amounts to giving Bryce a free pass."
"Correspondence between the members of the Bryce committee
survived the destruction of the documents; it reveals severe doubts about the tales of
mutilation and rape. One of the committee's secretaries admitted that he had been given
numerous English addresses of Belgian women supposedly made pregnant by German rapes but
could not locate a single case. Even the story of a member of Parliament sheltering two
pregnant women turned out to be fraudulent. Bryce apparently brushed aside this negative
"Bryce was aware of many
biblical connections and religious legends and traditions... Bryce believed that the
Turkish government ‘deserves to die’."
Akaby Nassibian, "Britain
and the Armenian Question, 1915-1923," 1984, pp. 37-38
Now we're getting to the point:
in the 1890s; he developed a
deep sympathy for the Armenians
after an 1876 trip to the region.
"Lord Bryce the
scholar should have known — and almost certainly did know — that tales of
spearing babies and cutting off the breasts of murdered women were standard
'hate-this-enemy' fables hundreds of years old, So were mass rapes in fields and
public squares. He should have rejected such fabrications out of hand. Instead, he
lumped them all into a general condemnation of the German army and people."
"Why didn't Bryce dismiss the fabrications and concentrate on the German
executions of civilians? Because that opened a very sticky subject. A high
percentage of the Belgian Army were 'home guards' who wore no uniforms except for an
insignia pinned to their shirts or hats. The Germans, desperately trying to win in
the West before the invading Russian Army smashed through their lightly held lines
in the East, were infuriated by these seemingly civilian combatants, and showed them
no mercy. They were entitled to do so by the rules of war in 1914. Some German field
commanders obviously lost their heads and retaliated excessively against whole
towns, such as Dinant. But a defense of sorts could be mounted, even for these men.
The ensuing debate would have produced yawns in newspaper readers. They wanted what
Bryce gave them — blood and lust and horror."
There are several excellent points made here.
Fleming reminds us the "rules of war" were different in 1914 than they are
today. By that token, the resettlement of a segment of society, as with the movement
of the Japanese-American community during WWII, is abhorred today. (No doubt it was
abhorred then as well, but not abhorred with the degree of latter 20th century and
21st century morality.) But even in the 21st century, if a nation is on its knees
and besieged on all fronts by world superpowers threatening the nation's extinction,
if a segment of the population (unlike the innocent Japanese-Americans of 1942)
arose to massacre fellow citizens and to hit the nation's army from the back, the
morality would not question the transportation of the population to a less risky
part of the country, until the danger passed. This is exactly what happened with the
Ottoman Empire's decision to remove
Secondly: as popular as "blood and lust and horror" was with newspaper readers, nothing could beat the inhuman tales with the tailor-made villain of
the Terrible Turk. Since the Crusades, the Turk was the Frankenstein of the West.
How exciting it was for Christian readers to fuel their hatred against the
dehumanized Turkish savage who seemed to have a genetic predisposition to kill poor,
innocent Christian martyrs, as the Armenians were presented.
Armenian horrors' boom all over the western world"
There was already an established tradition with
this irresistible villain and victim combination, as Richard Davey reported in 1895, citing
pre-Wellington House phony Blue Book accounts:
If anyone wishes to form an idea of how
Armenian atrocities are manufactured and exaggerated, let him read the Blue-books on
'affairs at Aleppo,' 1879. The London papers, inspired by the 'patriots,' announced,
with a great flourish of trumpets, that 500 Armenians had been tortured and
massacred in the neighbourhood of that city; and there was, so to speak, a great
Armenian horrors' boom all over the western world and America too. Well, after all
this sensationalism, the number of slain was eventually reduced by our own and the
American consuls to eight.
Fleming winds down for the conclusion of his excellent article:
"The Bryce Report
unquestionably helped England win the war. It convinced millions of Americans and
other neutrals — it was translated into 27 languages — that the Germans were
beasts in human form. No one except a few outsiders such as Casement ever reproached
Lord Bryce for these vicious lies. He went to his grave loaded with royal and
Lord Bryce has been an object for hero-worship
by Armenians; one named Hagopian said something to the effect that Bryce's name will
be remembered as long as an Armenian lives, at the time of Bryce's 1922 death.
Boghos Nubar bestowed upon Bryce the honor
of the ‘prominent doyen’ of the ‘Friends of Armenia.’
"From a perspective of a hundred years, we ought to take
a harsher view. The Bryce Report has obvious connections to the British decision to
maintain the blockade of Germany for seven months after the armistice in 1918,
causing the starvation deaths of an estimated 600,000 elderly and very young
was far and away the greatest atrocity of World war I and it made every German man
and woman hunger for revenge. By creating blind hatred of Germany, Bryce sowed the
dragons teeth of World War II."
The British naval blockade also contributed to
the great famine in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. 2.5 million Turks/Muslims
died in that struggle, a good share succumbing to famine and disease.
Hun on the loose
It is a testament to the open hearts of Turks
that the blind hatred Bryce helped created against Turks, a hatred that is still
continuing today with the usage of Bryce and Toynbee's dirty work, that Turks did
not hunger for revenge. The reason why the Turks kept quiet about the Armenian
affairs (until forced to speak, particularly during the wave of Armenian terrorism
of the 1970s-80s) was to keep a lid on the potential hatred... taking the high road
of brotherhood and love. Unfortunately, noble aims and silence aren't usually a
match for the forces of obsessed hatred, hostility and violence.
Why did Thomas Fleming only concentrate on the
Germans, and didn't make a single reference to the Turks?
Justin McCarthy, in his report on British propaganda,
likely pins down the reason:
|"No one cared. They were just Turks."
"...[N]ot long after the war the Wellington House campaign
against the Germans was studied, described, and often censured by scholars. In fact Bryce
and Toynbee together had written a very similar but shorter book about so-called German
Atrocities in Belgium. That book contained the same sort of thing seen in the Armenian
Blue Book: "X, Y, and Z" and unknown and fraudulent sources. After the war, the
Belgians investigated and found that the book was almost completely lies. The Belgians had
wanted it to be true, but they reported their findings accurately. Yet no one has looked
into the propaganda directed against the Turks. After all these years, no one has decried
this propaganda. If one reads the basic books on the British Propaganda Ministry, and
there are quite a few books on the subject, they never discuss the campaign against the
Turks, only the Germans. I believe the reason that no one has researched the topic and
uncovered the lies told of the Turks is that no one cared. They were just Turks."
And it is this very racism that keeps perpetuating the hateful
propaganda to this very day. The Armenians have their work cut out for them. They knew in
the mid-to-late 1800s they could make up anything and the Western world would blindly
accept whatever the Armenians said. The Armenians made good use of this advantage during
the WWI years, as well. Who would have imagined that nearly a century later, this
prejudice would be so powerful that acceptance of the Armenians' mythical genocide would
be the prevailing view today.
With thanks to reader M. Mersinoglu for discovering the Fleming article.