New Exhibit ‘The First Deportation: The German Railroad, the American Hospital, and the Armenian Genocide’ Released by ANI, AGMA & Assembly

ARMENIANNATIONAL INSTITUTE

PRESSRELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 30, 2015
Contact: Press Office

Email:
ani@agmm.org 

Phone:
(202) 383-9009

 

NEW EXHIBIT ‘The First Deportation: The German
Railroad, the American Hospital, and the Armenian Genocide’ RELEASED BY ANI,
AGMA & Assembly

A Digital
Exhibit Based on United States National Archives Photographs

image


Washington, DC – A third digital exhibit on the
Armenian Genocide consisting of 128 images on 24 panels entitled “The
First Deportation: The German Railroad, the American Hospital, and the Armenian
Genocide
” was released today by the Armenian National Institute (ANI),
Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA) and Armenian Assembly of America
(Assembly). Available on the ANI, AGMA, and Assembly websites, the exhibit focuses
on two localities, Zeytun, an Armenian city in the Taurus Mountains, and Konya,
a Turkish city in the central Anatolian plain, both linked by the Armenian
Genocide.

The remote
and self-sustaining city of Zeytun was the first Armenian community in Ottoman
Turkey deported en masse in April 1915. To deprive the Zeytun Armenians of any
capacity to defy the deportation edicts, the Young Turk government divided its
population sending one part east toward the Syrian Desert and another part west
to the barren flats of the Konya Plain.

By this fate,
the Zeytun deportees were routed down from their mountain homes through the nearby
city of Marash and the Cilician Plain and back up through the high passes of
the Cilician Gates of the Taurus Range, the only accessible road from Cilicia
to Anatolia. This route also placed them along the Berlin-Bagdad rail line then
under construction through those very same passes.

By
intersecting that rail line, Zeytun Armenians soon found themselves among the
rest of the Armenian population of western Anatolia being deported east by
train to the main terminus at Konya and substations beyond, where they were offloaded
from cattle cars to walk down the mountain passes, while work crews led by
German and Swiss engineers were cutting open new roads and tunnels to complete
the construction of the rail system.

There also
happened to be an American hospital in Konya manned by three outstanding
figures who soon found themselves in the midst of hundreds of thousands of Armenian
deportees and as such became witnesses to the unfolding of the Armenian
Genocide. The station at Konya was supposed to serve only as a transit camp,
but with all of the Armenians of western and central Anatolia routed through
the city, the open spaces beyond the station transformed into a vast
concentration camp. Because Konya was never intended to exist as a destination
camp and was evacuated within a short time, it has been forgotten as a major
site in the trail of deportation and the central object of what transpired
there overlooked. It was evident to all observers in the city how rapidly the
Ottoman Turkish government reduced an industrious and prosperous people to
misery. In Konya it was already visible that all it took was a matter of days,
not even weeks.

The testimony
provided by Dr. Wilfred Post and Dr. William Dodd, and the efforts of Miss Emma
Cushman, all three American medical missionaries, provide compelling
information about the rapidly deteriorating conditions along the rail line and the
start of the process of extinguishing Armenian life across the region. Their
information is paralleled by the protests of German civilians in the same area
who sharply criticized the Ottoman authorities and raised questions with their
own government about the morality of German wartime policies.

More
compelling still were the photographs taken by Dr. Wilfred Post and the German
railroad engineers that documented the wartime reality on this particular swath
of Ottoman territory. While as wartime allies of the Turks, Germans enjoyed a certain
amount of liberty in their actions, Dr. Post took a serious risk in defying the
ban on photographing the Armenians.

Retrieved
from the United States National Archives, the entire set of photographs taken
by Dr. Wilfred Post are being issued for the first time in this exhibit. They
constitute the central evidence around which the entire exhibit is constructed.

Dr. Post
captioned the photographs, and succeeded in delivering them to the American
Embassy in Constantinople, the Ottoman capital, from where they were sent by
diplomatic pouch to Washington, DC. They might have been the very first images
of the Armenian Genocide to arrive into the hands of U.S. officials. In this
regard, the historic value of Dr. Post’s photographs are matched only by those
taken by U.S. consul Leslie Davis who documented the Armenian Genocide in the
region of Harput/Kharpert.

image

Because of
the numbers of Armenians being deported and the pace at which the western
Anatolian cities were emptied of their Armenian inhabitants, the Konya train
station became a choke point in the deportation process. Vast concentration camps
of homeless Armenian families soon formed along the tracks. The brutality of
the process, the complete lack of sanitation,
and the absence of sources of food very rapidly created an explosive situation
threatening the spread of epidemics. Thousands of Armenians never made it
beyond the stations of the Konya line and conditions in the refugee camps were
so foul and violent that a train conductor is quoted by Dr. Dodd describing the
Bozanti station as “hell on earth.”

Consisting of
121 images, 7 maps, and containing a rich variety of eyewitness testimony, the
exhibit reconstructs Armenian life in Zeytun, reproduces the two rare photographs
showing the arrest of the Zeytun men, outlines the deportation route to the
degree that contemporary photographs allow, depicts the city of Konya, showing
the contrast between the rugged mountains in which Zeytun Armenians were
accustomed to living and the flat, arid, and sparsely populated plain of Konya.

The exhibit
includes previously unpublished photographs of Zeytun, reproduces newly
released images from German sources, and, in addition to the United States
National Archives material, presents images from the Australian War Memorial; University
of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Gertrude Bell Archives; University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, Kelsey Museum; Mennonite Church USA Archives; the Armenian
Missionary Association of America and the Haigazian University Archives of
Beirut, Lebanon; Library of Congress; Republic of Armenia National Archives; as
well as online resources and private individuals.

ANI
especially recognizes the historian Aram Arkun whose close study of documentary
sources addressed the complex situation surrounding the denouement in Zeytun
and who served as project consultant for the exhibit. ANI also thanks Gunter
Hartnagel, a professional photographer, who provided valuable guidance on
German historical images, and whose researches in historical geography helped
understand the terrain that was covered by the Zeytun deportees and appreciate
the hardships endured by those who trudged through the mountains of Cilicia at
the point of a bayonet.

The location
of Konya on the train line also helped to document the post-war situation in
the city. Accompanying a U.S. aid
mission and relief workers, the American photographer George Robert Swain recorded
the efforts of Miss Cushman to create a safe haven for surviving Armenian
orphans. In so doing Swain added another layer of documentation about the fate
of the Armenian population and helped create, in sum with Dr. Post’s pictures,
one of the more comprehensive photographic records of a single location so
directly impacted by the Armenian Genocide.

The final demise
of the Armenians of Konya was sealed with the fate of Dr. Armenag Haigazian
who, as a highly-regarded educator, embodied the Armenian Protestant
community’s hope of recovery. He had survived the war years and the violence of
the Young Turk regime, but his restoration of the Apostolic Institute made him
the target of the Turkish Nationalist movement, which saw to the shuttering of
the school and the second exile and persecution of Dr. Haigazian. World War I
may have ended and the Young Turk government overthrown, but the Armenian
Genocide in Turkey continued, making the death of Dr. Haigazian a most poignant
tragedy, especially as he famously held a doctorate from Yale University.

This third
digital exhibit continues and builds upon the themes developed in the exhibits
released earlier, including the role and fate of Armenian clergy, churches and
schools, the role of American missionaries and relief workers, and the role of
Germans in Ottoman Turkey, while distinguishing between the attitudes of
civilian, military, and diplomatic representatives.

The exhibit
highlights the unsolvable dilemma faced by the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia
Sahag II Khabayan, who, unaware of the broader scheme about to be implemented
by the Young Turk regime, advised the Zeytun population to cooperate with the
authorities in the hope of avoiding a repetition of the Cilician massacres that
spread terror across the region a mere six years earlier. The acts and
observations of other clergymen, including Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople
Zaven Der Yeghiayan, his successor Archbishop Mesrob Naroyan, Archbishop
Stepannos Hovagimian of Ismit, Grigoris Balakian, and Reverend William Peet,
are also explained as part of the testimony on this specific aspect of the Armenian
Genocide.

The exhibit
also highlights the role of an exceptional Ottoman official, who, as governor
of Aleppo and of Konya, opposed the measures of the Young Turk radicals. Jelal Bey was the highest ranking
administrator in the Ottoman Empire who disapproved of the policies of the
triumvirate ruling from Constantinople. A number of lower ranking officials who
disagreed with the regime were killed by Young Turk party henchmen. Opposing the Young Turk regime required
courage, and Jelal placed his life in jeopardy.
He may have been spared only because of his stature and lifelong service
to the state.

image

The exhibit
also reveals the involvement of a German diplomat, who as an embassy councilor in
Constantinople played a role in maintaining German-Turkish relations, and as
such became among the recipients of the flow of information being reported
about the implementation of the Armenian Genocide. A lesser official at the
time, Konstantin von Neurath rose through the ranks eventually to serve as
Minister of Foreign Affairs in Nazi Germany and as governor of occupied
Czechoslovakia, where Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the
Holocaust, served as his deputy.

The exhibit
concludes with testimony from Dr. Charles Mahjoubian, a native of Konya who
resettled in Philadelphia and entered the profession of dentistry. As a
survivor, he committed himself to testifying to the events he witnessed in his
hometown. He pointed with pride to his birthplace as one of the earliest
centers of Christianity, dating to St.
Paul preaching in Iconium (ancient name of Konya), and as a center of Turkish
Islam where religious piety restrained the hand of the local population, in
sharp relief to the political fanaticism of the Young Turk regime and the
brutality of its associates. According to Mahjoubian, by a strict reading of
the banishment legislation, Jelal
Bey succeeded for a brief while in delaying the deportation of Catholic and
Protestant Armenians.

The First
Deportation: the German Railway, the American Hospital, and the Armenian
Genocide
” strengthens and clarifies the photographic documentation of the
Armenian Genocide in a manner consistent and supportive of third party records,
eyewitness accounts and survivor testimony. It expands the scope of the
evidence and attests to the horrors that unfolded in 1915.

“It did not
escape contemporaries that there were immediate lessons to be drawn from the
example of Zeytun,” observed Van Z. Krikorian, ANI chairman. “Other communities
grasped the methods by which the Young Turk regime pressurized local politics
and aggravated relations among religious and ethnic groups in order to create
conditions to justify the wholesale depopulation of Armenian towns and cities.
Reverend Ephraim Jernazian drew a direct connection between the failure of the
Zeytun Armenians to stand their ground and the heroic defense of their neighborhood
by Urfa Armenians. Hopeless as their actions might have been at the time, the
Armenians of Urfa made the point that they would not be submitting to tyranny
willingly, nor give up their lives easily to help fulfill the violent designs
of the Young Turks.”

“The clarity
of that lesson from the past resonates today with the necessary defense of
Nagorno Karabakh where Armenians yet again a century later face another enemy
whose objective remains their expulsion from their homeland. The commitment of
the Armenians of Artsakh to avoid the fate of the Western Armenian population was
inspired by the tragedies of the Armenian Genocide and the pledge of survivors
to avoid a repeat of such a calamity,” concluded Krikorian. “I want to thank Rouben Adalian for uncovering these valuable records
on the Armenian Genocide, and Joe Piatt and Aline Maksoudian for working with
Dr. Adalian in creating this impressive exhibit,” Krikorian added.

“Relief
workers, educators, missionaries, orphanage administrators, and other
volunteers from the United States played a massive role in relieving the plight
of the survivors,” stated ANI Director, Dr. Rouben
Adalian. “Many of the longtime American residents of Turkey
also witnessed and reported the deportations and massacres of 1915. Because of the remoteness of Konya from the
other major centers of the Armenian Genocide, Dr. Wilfred Post, Dr. William Dodd,
and Miss Emma Cushman may not have been extended the recognition they deserve.
The compelling evidence of this exhibit now ranks them among the heroic
Americans who helped save lives during the Armenian Genocide.”

As with the exhibits previously released jointly by ANI, AGMA, and
the Assembly, titled Witness to the Armenian Genocide: Photographs by the
Perpetrators’ German and Austro-Hungarian Allies
, and The First Refuge and the Last Defense: The Armenian Church,
Etchmiadzin
, and The Armenian Genocide
, “The
First Deportation: The German Railroad, the American Hospital, and the Armenian
Genocide
,” is also being issued in digital
format for worldwide distribution free of charge on the occasion of the
centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

Based in Washington, DC, the Armenian National Institute is a
501©3 tax exempt charity dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of
the Armenian Genocide.

###

NR# 2014-03

Photo
Caption 1: Teaching Staff of the Apostolic Institute in Konya.

Photo
Caption 2: Ottoman Minister of War Enver at rail station in Taurus Mountains.

Photo
Caption 3: American Hospital in Konya.

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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