presenting a typical article on how the bloody barbaric Turks burned their own
city, Current History
gallantly offered a little equal time with the article from a Turk. Even these
days, that kind of fairness is ultra-rare. This was in the publication's V.18,
May 1923, pp. 318-19 issue, "Smyrna During the Greek
Occupation," by Colonel Rachid Galib. Before we get to the article,
let's give a quick look at the more customary telling that preceded it.
Typically Biased "Eyewitness"
"New Light on the Destruction of Smyrna" (pp. 312-18) was written by Oran
Raber, an assistant professor of Botany from the University of Wisconsin. We are told that
it has "all the value of a document inasmuch as it is from the pen of an eyewitness
whose training as a scientist and whose disinterestedness as an American fit him to he an
accurate and impartial recorder." Of all the westerners, as if Americans did not rank
as among the most hostile against the Turks. Dr. Raber was "of New England
ancestry," to make matters worse... assuming Massachusetts is where he called home,
the most Armenian-friendly state in the union, at that time. Raber showed his stripes at
the outset of his article, proclaiming, "Greeks and Armenians beheld in terror the
approach of the conqueror. Would the Turk live up to his old reputation as butcher and
thief, or was this the beginning of a new era?" Pretty "impartial" and
"scientific," all right. At least the man was no George Horton, the U.S. consul
and hateful religious fanatic who had produced "The Blight of Asia"; Raber threw a few bones the way of the Turks,
recognizing them as human beings. Ataturk's intentions were good, he wrote, and even threw
a little light on the savagery of the Greeks. ("[T]he conscience of the Greek was not
entirely clear. These same refugees had in severa! cases burned some of the Turkish
dwellings before taking their places in the ranks of the retreating soldiers..." Note
he made it seem Greek crimes were only incidental, the exception rather than the rule.)
As the Turkish Army approached, we get the familiar story regarding the Armenian who threw
a bomb at the head of the troops. "No one was injured save the Armenian himself, who
was promptly shot down by one of the Turkish cavalry. From that instant death and
destruction were let loose. Shots filled the air..." Yet, in a Times of London
account ("Story of a British Eye-Witness") entitled "LAST DAYS OF SMYRNA.
How the Turks Rode In. Sept. 18" where we get a definite feeling that the eyewitness
was really there (the article actually relied upon two British eyewitnesses, who did not
always "eyewitness," either), Raber's account is challenged: the Turkish officer
gets "wounded" by the bomb, meaning the Armenian was not the only one injured.
"He made light of his injuries, and his troopers maintained perfect discipline. Some
shots were fired that night, but less than had been feared," totally contrary to the
melee our American "eyewitness" reported. (The Turkish officer's injury was
corroborated in Marjorie Housepian's propagandistic "Smyrna 1922": "Spunky
little Major Cherefeddin Bey described how he had been struck with a hand grenade as he
led his cavalry regiment down the quay on 9 September two years before, but the Armenian
culprit in his original story had now become 'a uniformed, armed Greek soldier who threw
the bomb'. Beyond this incident the Major had seen no disorder at Smyrna because, he said,
'nothing took place'.")
Raber describes the beginnings of the fire as thus; Armenians had
holed up in a church that "served as a place of refuge as well as an arsenal."
They refused to give up their arms, "and on this Wednesday morning a patrol of
Turkish infantry was sent to the church to demand the surrender of the arms and ammunition
which were concealed there. This patrol was insufficient. The Armenians made a sally from
the building and repulsed the Turks. The Turks then threw a bomb into the church which set
it on fire and exploded the stored munitions."
Naturally, Raber did not "eyewitness" this action. Neither did the British
eyewitness, who painted the Turkish commander as an honorable man. Kiazim Pasha informed
the Briton that the fire was, "as he believed, caused by a desperate band of
Armenians who, refusing to surrender, had set fire to the church in which they had taken
refuge. Later came loud explosions. 'Demolition bombs,' said he; but the fire spread and
by the afternoon of the 13th everyone was desperately but vainly fighting the
But our "impartial" and "scientific" American said this,
instead:"That little fire was to develop into a holocaust, and before forty-eight
hours the beautiful city of Smyrna was to be a mass of ashes and cinders... Instead of
attempting to extinguish the fire, the Turks, thoroughly enraged, aided and directed it by
Horrible. This prejudiced American had it in for the Turks from the outset. It sounds like
he made up the part about the Turks throwing the bomb (or quickly accepted the word of
another biased party who had made it up), and all other sensible foreign accounts have
reported how desperately the Turks had tried to extinguish the fire, instead of having .
"aided and directed it by petrol." (It must also be borne in mind that,
according to the Austrian fire chief, "many Armenian young men disguised... as
Turkish irregular soldiers... were caught setting fires.") Moreover, the report of
the Austrian fire chief completely contradicts Raber's assertion that the
"holocaust" was the result of just one little fire that spread out of control.
No, there were many fires. [See the links at the bottom of this page.] But then Raber
hands us his coup de grace: "From what I saw and from evidence collected from
both Turks and Greeks, there is only one conclusion: The burning of Smyrna was the work of
Why are we not surprised? Raber then tries to drive his biased opinion home by asking why
the Turkish quarter was left intact. A missionary (MacLachlan) who nearly got beaten to
death by the Turks had the honor to provide the logical answer: the Christians were hoping
to bring about western intervention. (That trick, after all, had worked for these
terrorists for the past century.) Raber refrained from analyzing the greater mystery,
which Mark Prentiss summed up in his report to Admiral Bristol: "It is noteworthy that these fires broke out in buildings which it was greatly
to the advantage of Turks to preserve, and to the advantage of enemies to destroy."
The bigoted American went to town toward the end of the article, recounting:
"Children are howling and crying everywhere. Their mothers and fathers sit with sad
eyes and watch the city slowly crumble into ashes." The parents of two brothers are
on a Greek island, "safe from the Turk for the time." (Brother!) And just in
case you didn't get his "Greek=good, Turk=bad" message, his ending line made
matters crystal-clear: "Nine days before I found [Smyrna] a beautiful Greek city with
happy homes and prosperous people. Today, I leave it a Turkish city, dead and in
Is he trying to say that before the Greeks invaded in 1919, the centuries-long Turkish
city of "Smyrna" [1918: 114,000
Turks, 55,000 Greeks] was dead and in ruins?
William Gladstone wouldn't have been able to put this usual notion of "uncivilized
barbarians who, wherever they went, left nothing but smoking ruins behind them and stamped
out every vestige of civilization" (as Edward Said aptly described the bigoted West's
perception of the Turks in his "Orientalism") more beautifully.
(Actually, let's be fair and give better credit to the hateful Gladsone; from his 1876
booklet, "The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East": "The
Turkish race was... from the first black day they entered Europe, the one great anti-human
specimen of humanity... as far as their dominion reached, civilisation vanished from
SMYRNA DURING THE GREEK OCCUPATION
By COLONEL RACHID GALIB.
In conjunction with the foregoing account by Dr. Oran Raber, the following
article by Colonel Galib is of interest for the evidence it adduces to show that the
Greeks were guilty of atrocities at Smyrna and in other parts of Asia Minor and also
for the suggestion that the Greeks and Armenians were responsible for the burning of
Smyrna. Colonel Galib was an officer on the General Staff of the Turkish Army of the
West during the Balkan War of 1912, and is now a resident of Vienna.
Who are the barbarians in the East— the Turks or the Greeks? To answer this
question let us examine the behavior of the Greeks and the Greek Army during their
invasion of Asia Minor and their subsequent retreat. The Greeks landed under the
protection of the guns of allied warships at Smvrna three years ago. The town was
entirely stripped of troops and offered no delense whatsoever. Yet no sooner did the
invaders put foot ashore than they flung themselves like wild beasts upon the
defenseless Turkish population. committing the foulest deeds. Wherever the Greeks
came across Turkish inhabitants they shot them down in batches in the most savage
manner. Homes were broken into and robbed; women and even girls of ten were
So atrocious were the crimes committed by the Greeks who had been entrusted with the
mission of civilizing Asia Minor that the Allies were forced to send a
commission of inquiry to Smyrna to investigate on the spot the doings of their
Hellenic protégés. The result of the investigation is known to the whole world.
The commission, composed of Admirals and Generals representing the United States,
Great Britain, France and !taly, conducted a most painstaking inquiry, and presented
a report based on unimpeachable evidence to show the full extent of the atrocities
committed against the deferseless Turks. Yet, in spite of all that. the protectors
of the Greeks decided that it would not be prudent to give publicity to the crimes
of their spoiled child. The report was pigeon holed and the culprits left
unpunished, for what did it matter if some tens of tbousands of Turks had been
Having taken possession of Smyrna, as if the regular army was not sufficient to
continue the work of destruction, the Greeks organized armed bands of irregulars for
the express purpose of spreading devastation in Anatolia. During the three years of
their occupation these hordes [had] sac[k]ed, burned and destroyed everything they
could. Then came the day when the Turkish Army drove these Huns from Anatolia, but
not before they did further damage. The regular Greek Army during its retreat burned
more than 280,000 houses, after having caused Turkey, according to the Commission of
Inquiry, a loss of’ 1.500.000.000 Turkish pounds. (The Turkish pound is normally
As evidence of the devastation wrought by the Greeks, the following
report printed in The London Times of Sept. 27 speaks for itself:
Strong criticism of the behavior of the Greek troops and of the
[British] Government’s policy in the Near East was expressed yesterday by Lord St.
Davids. when presiding at the haIf.yearIy meeting of the Ottoman Railway from Smyrna to
Aidin, held at Winchester House [London].
Lord St. Davids said that from the very beginning the board thought, and said, that the
attempt to hand over Srnyrna to the Greeks was a perfectly absurd action, even from the
point of view of the Greeks themselves. The Greeks in their retreat burned every Turkish
village they saw, robbed individual Turks, and, when these resisted, killed them. They did
all this nowhere near the front, without any military necessity, and out of cheer malice.
The company's reports were that it was done systematically by regular troops under orders.
It was done by men who knew they could not hold the country, and meant to make it
worthless for any one else.
Referring to the destruction of the railway by the Greeks, Lord St. Davids said: “We are
under distinct obligation to Mustapha Kemal for having sent up troops to rescue the staff.
We think our Government has been a great deal too thoughtful about the susceptibilities of
King Constantine, one of the worst enemies this country had during the war, the meanest
and most treacherous of all our foes, and has not taken enough trouble, or used enough
force, to make him and his Government pay what they owe us.”
Here is the evidence of Arnold J. Toynbee,
Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Literature and History in the University of
London. as printed in The London Daily Mail of Sept. 21:
I was an eyewitness last year of Greek atrocities against the
Turks. The district where they occurred was a fertile and formerly prosperous
peninsula on the southern coast of the Sea of Marmora. Incidentally, it was a part
of the neutral zone set up by the Treaty of Sèvres, but the Allies had not only
allowed but invited a Greek Army to occupy it. The extermination was carried out
partly by bands of local Greek irregulars with the countenance and collusion of the
Greek military authorities, partly by the Greek regular troops themselves. I was
coasting round In an Ottoman Red Crescent steamer which was evacunting the
The London Daily Mail of Sept. 12 reproduced a dispatch from The Chicago Tribune
correspondent at Smyrna in which the following statement appeared:
The Greek Army has burned all the villages and towns on its march
and converted Asia Minor into a ruin. * * * The Greeks have massacred the
defenseless Turks en masse everywhere.
M. Franklin-Bouillon, who was sent by the Allies on a mission to Mustapha Kemal at
Smyrna, when interviewed by a number of foreign journalists on Sept. 3, rnade this
I have seen terrible and frightful things at Magnissa, a town near
Smyrna. This town, hitherto so prosperous, had before the Greek invasion 50,000
inhabitants and 11,000 houses, of which 10,000 have been burned by the Greeks. The
Greek commander himself directed this horrible operation from the balcony of the
building where he hod his headquarters. As he gave his incendiary troops orders, he
calmly smoked a cigarette. I ask the American journalists to use every effort to let
the civilized Anglo-Saxon world know of these atrocities committed by the Greeks. We
do not want Thrace also to become under Greek domination a ruined and ravaged
desert. In Anatolia the Greeks have desroyed, devastated and externiinated
everything and everybody.
During this interview one of the correspondents reminded M. Franklin-Bouillon of the
massacres and atrocitics committed by the Greeks when they landed at Smyrna. and he
replied that all those crimes which had been hidden until now should also be made
Still another witness is to be found in the person
of the British Consul General at Smyrna (Mr. H. Lamb), who reported to his
Government that he had reason to believe that Greeks in concert with Armenians had
burned Smyrna. This was confirmed by the correspondent of the Petit Parisien at
Smyrna in a dispatch on Sept. 20.
The number of children. cvomen, young men and old. among the Turkish noncombatant
population. who fell under the knives of the Greeks, according to the (Ill’ferent
official inquiries, ht~s reached a total of 213,136. .
Papoulos, the Greek Commander-in-Chief, in a speech in the Ava Fotini Church at
Smyrna last year, made the impudent declaration that if some day the Greeks had to
abandon the territories they had occupied. the destruction they had wrought would
make it impossible for the Turks to draw any profit from Asia Minor for the next 250
years. And the Greeks have done precisely what Papoulos promised. Such, then, is the
achievement of the Greeks in civilizing Anatolia, yesterday so prosperous,
today a blood-smeared ruin.
(With thanks to reader M. Mersinoglu.)
TAT's first Izmir page may be accessed here.
Who Set the Fire in Izmir ("Smyrna")?
Mark Prentiss' Jan. 1924 Atlantic
Monthly article, demostrating how prejudiced Americans accepted Turkish atrocity stories
at face value: "Actualities at Smyrna."