Posts Tagged ‘Talaat Pasha’

 

 

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

 

Birth of Soghomon Tehlirian
(April 2, 1896)

soghomon_tehlirian

In her remarkable work on the trial of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann, political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote, referring to the assassination of Talaat Pasha and Ukrainian statesman Simon Petliura—responsible of Jewish pogroms in Ukraine–by Soghomon Tehlirian (1921) and Sholom Schwartzbard (1925), that “the point in favor of Schwartzbard and Tehlirian was that each was a member of an ethnic group that did not possess its own state and legal system, that there was no tribunal in the world to which either group could have brought its victims.”

Soghomon Tehlirian, the avenger of the Armenian Genocide, was born on April 2, 1896, in the village of Nerkin Pakarij, in the vilayet of Erzerum. He was the youngest of five brothers. His father left for Serbia, planning to bring his family after him, which moved to Erzinga in the meantime. Tehlirian, who had started his schooling at the village, continued his education at the Evangelical elementary school of Erzinga (1905-1906) and the Getronagan (Central) Lyceum of the city (1907-1912). He went to Serbia in 1913 and settled in the town of Valjevo, where his father was in the coffee business.

He got ready to move to Germany, where he would study engineering, but his plans totally changed after the beginning of World War I. In the fall of 1914 he went to Bulgaria and enrolled in the Armenian volunteer battalions that would fight in the Caucasus. He traveled to Tiflis in October 1914 and entered General Antranig’s battalion. He participated in the battle of Dilman and in May 1915 entered Van. The retreat of the Russian army forced him to go back to the Caucasus, where he worked in Echmiadzin and Yerevan collecting orphans and placing them in orphanages.

In June 1915, the Ottoman government ordered the deportation of all Armenians from Erzinga. From the 85 members of the Tehlirian extended family (Tehlirian’s immediate family had 17 members), besides his father, two brothers, and an uncle, only his niece was saved after a ransom was paid to Kurds.

After the Russian troops occupied Erzerum in March and Erzinga in July, Tehlirian, like many members of the already dissolved volunteer battalions, joined the Russian army. He reached Erzinga, only to find that his family had vanished. His obsession to punish the mastermind of the plan of annihilation, Talaat, was born here. He joined Mourad of Sepastia’s group, which was rescuing Armenians, especially children kidnapped by Kurdish tribes, and continued fighting in the front until April 1918, when he was wounded.

In December 1918 he went to Constantinople to look for Talaat, who had abandoned the city a month before. By orders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Central Committee, he killed spy Harutiun Mgrdichian, an Armenian traitor who had designed the lists of intellectuals arrested on April 24, 1915. Tehlirian went to Paris and in 1920 he was summoned to the United States, where Operation Nemesis—the plan to liquidate the Turkish leaders responsible for the genocide, decided by the A.R.F. in its ninth congress in Yerevan (November 1919)—had its headquarters. He received instructions and returned to Europe, first to Geneva, and then, in December 1920, to Berlin.

On March 15, 1921, after three months of surveillance with the logistical support of a small A.R.F. cell, Tehlirian killed Talaat in Hardenbergstrasse, a street in the district of Charlottenburg. The assassination took place in broad daylight and Tehlirian, who had been told by his handlers not to run from the crime scene, was immediately arrested by German police.

Tehlirian was tried for murder on June 2-3, 1921, but eventually acquitted. The trial examined his actions, but also his conviction that Talaat was the orchestrator of the genocide, despite the efforts of the tribunal to not politicize the issue, since the defense attorneys focused on the influence of the deportations and massacres on Tehlirian’s mental state. The proceedings of the trial were published in German in 1921, and later translated into several languages.

After the acquittal, Tehlirian traveled to the United States and then returned to the former Yugoslavia, where he married his sweetheart Anahid Tatikian (formerly from Erzinga), and settled in Valjevo, where he continued the coffee business. To avoid Turkish retaliation, he changed his name to Saro Melikian, and the surviving members of the family also changed their identity. (At his death, the New York Times would run his obituary as “Saro Melikian”). They later moved to Belgrad, where Tehlirian dictated his memoirs to Vahan Minakhorian, a genocide survivor.

After the Communist regime was established in Yugoslavia, Tehlirian and his wife moved to Casablanca (Morocco) from 1950-1955, and after a short sojourn in Paris, in 1957 they migrated to the United States. They settled in San Francisco, where Tehlirian worked at George Mardikian’s famed “Omar Khayyam” restaurant as an accountant.

The Armenian hero passed away on May 23, 1960, and was buried in the Ararat Cemetery, in Fresno, California. A monument was erected on his grave.

Several statues and busts of Tehlirian were erected in Armenia in the waning days of the Soviet regime (Mastara, 1990, and later Yerevan, 2003; Maralik, 2015). A bust of him was inaugurated in 2017 in an A.R.F. club of Beirut. In the same year, a square in Marseilles was named after him. Hrayr Toukhanian’s film, Assignment Berlin (1982), chronicled Talaat Pasha’s assassination, the same as the graphic novel Special Mission: Nemesis (2014). There are several novels and plays in Armenian dealing with Tehlirian’s exploits.

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

Birth of Henry Morgenthau, Sr.
(April 26, 1856)

 

Righteous men were a plenty during the years of the Armenian Genocide, and Henry Morgenthau, Sr., Ambassador of the United States to the Ottoman Empire, was the prominent American name among them.

 240px-Henry_Morgenthau__Jr.1947Morgenthau was born in Mannheim (Germany) on April 26, 1856. He was the ninth of eleven children to a Jewish family. His father, Lazarus Morgenthau, was a prosperous manufacturer and merchant, who bought tobacco from the United States and sold it back as cigars. However, the American Civil War hit him severely: German cigar exports ceased after a tariff on tobacco imports was set in 1862. Four years later, the family migrated to New York. Despite his father’s unsuccessful attempts to re-establish himself in business, Henry Morgenthau—who knew no English on his arrival at the age of ten—graduated from City College in 1874 and from Columbia Law School in 1876. Beginning a career as a successful lawyer, he would later make a substantial fortune in real estate investments. He married Josephine Sykes in 1882 and had four children. He served as a leader of the Reform Jewish community in New York.

In 1911 Morgenthau, then 55, left business to enter public service. He became an early supporter of President Woodrow Wilson’s election campaign in 1912. He had hoped for a cabinet post, but Wilson offered him the position of ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, with the assurance that it “was the point at which the interest of American Jews in the welfare of the Jews of Palestine is focused, and it is almost indispensable that I have a Jew in that post.” The encouragement of his friend, Rabbi Stephen Wise, led him to reconsider his decision and accept the offer, although Morgenthau was no Zionist himself.

The United States remained neutral after the beginning of World War I, and since the Allies had withdrawn their diplomatic missions following the outbreak of hostilities, both the American embassy and Morgenthau himself additionally represented their interests in Constantinople. American consuls in different parts of the Empire, from Trebizond to Aleppo, reported abundantly about the Armenian plight and documented the entire process of the Armenian Genocide. Morgenthau continuously kept the U.S. government informed of the ongoing annihilation and asked for its intervention. His telegram to the State Department, on July 16, 1915, described the massacres as a “campaign of race extermination.” He intervened upon the Young Turk leaders to stop the mass killings, although unsuccessfully. His friendship with Adolph Ochs, publisher of The New York Times, ensured a wide coverage of the Armenian atrocities throughout 1915.

Morgenthau reached out to his friend Cleveland H. Dodge, a prominent American businessman, who was instrumental in the foundation of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief in 1915 that would later become Near East Relief (nowadays the Near East Foundation). Finding “intolerable” his “further daily association with men . . . who were still reeking with the blood of nearly a million human beings,” as he wrote in his memoirs, he returned to the United States in February 1916 and campaigned to raise awareness and funds for the survivors, resigning from his position as ambassador two months later. In 1918 he published his memoirs, including his account of the genocide, as Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (published in Great Britain as The Secrets of the Bosphorus).

He attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, and worked with various war-related charitable bodies. He also headed the American fact-finding mission to Poland in 1919 and was the American representative at the Geneva Conference in 1933. He died on November 25, 1946, in New York City, at the age of 90, following a cerebral hemorrhage, and was buried in Hawthorne, New York. Morgenthau was the father of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, and the grandfather of Robert Morgenthau, long-time District Attorney in Manhattan, and historian Barbara Tuchman. He appeared in “Ravished Armenia,” the film based on the memoirs of survivor Aurora Mardiganian, commissioned by the Near East Relief. One of his dialogues with Talaat is portrayed in the forthcoming film The Promise.

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]


THE OTTOMAN REVOLUTION
(July 23, 1908)

 

1908 was a break it or make it year for the Ottoman Empire, which was on the brink of collapse. Its interrupted process of modernizations was to be resumed.

 

The process of internal reform initiated with the imperial edicts of 1839 and 1856 led to the promulgation of the Constitution of 1876, which ushered the First Constitutional Era. Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1908), who had sanctioned the Constitution, suspended it in 1878 and launched his thirty-year long tyrannical rule.

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The conservative politics of Abdul Hamid went against the current of social reform and more liberal environment. His tightened rule dismissed all claims by minorities. His repressive policies peaked with the massacre of Armenians in 1894-1896, which cost the life of some 300,000 people.

 

The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), an underground organization founded in 1889, functioned as an umbrella party for the movement of the Young Turks, which sought to end with the rule of Abdul Hamid and to prevent the collapse of the empire. To this goal, they looked forward to an alliance with the revolutionary forces that functioned within the ethnic minorities, including the Armenians, in two opposition congresses convened in 1902 and 1907. The Hunchakian party rejected to cooperate on the grounds that the CUP tried to impose its Ottomanist plan and leave aside any particular concern or demand from the minorities. On the other hand, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation accepted the offer, considering a priority the overthrow of Abdul Hamid’s regime. Different methods of civil disobedience were anticipated, with an armed rebellion anticipated for October 1908.

 

The CUP had moved its headquarters to Salonica (Thessalonika in Macedonia, now part of Greece) in 1906. Military officers gained to the cause of the Young Turks accelerated the revolt after a meeting of King Edward VII of England and Czar Nicholas II of Russia in the Baltic port of Reval (now Tallinn, the capital of Estonia) in June 1908. During the meeting, new reforms were drafted for the region of Macedonia, which in the end would be detached from the Ottoman Empire after the Balkan War of 1912.

The fear that the meeting was a prologue to the separation of Macedonia led to the mutiny against the sultan, which was initiated by major Ahmed Niyazi on July 3 with a demand to restore the constitution. The movement spread rapidly throughout Macedonia. The attempt by Abdul Hamid to suppress the uprising failed, with the garrisons of Constantinople and Asia Minor being also favorable to the rebels. The sultan capitulated and on the night of July 23-24 the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution of 1876 was announced. Abdul Hamid II became a nominal ruler and the power went to the revolutionaries. Decrees establishing freedom of speech and press, and a general amnesty were soon issued.

General elections were held in November and December 1908, and the CUP won a majority in the Parliament. The election was marred with fraud and threats in places where Armenian candidates were on the ballot. As a result, only 12 Armenian deputies were elected out of a total of 230.  The Senate reconvened on December 17, 1908, and the Chamber of Deputies held its first session on January 30, 1909.

Armenian hopes that the motto of “equality, fraternity, freedom, justice” carried by the revolution would turn into real change were soon dashed.

 

In April 1909 Abdul Hamid attempted to seize his power back with promises to restore the sharia-based system and eliminate secular policies. He attracted the support of masses of theological students and clerics, as well as army units, which revolted on April 13, 1909. The Liberation Army coming from Macedonia and commanded by Mahmud Shevket Pasha restored the status quo and quashed the counterrevolutionary movement on April 24, 1909. However, in the meantime, the double massacre of Adana and surroundings, with its catastrophic sequel, was carried both by representatives of the “ancien regime” and the local Young Turks on April 13-15 and April 25-27, 1909, with an outcome of up to 30,000 Armenians, as well as Assyrians and Greeks massacred. The failure of the Ottoman government to prosecute and thoroughly punish the culprits of the massacre created profound disillusionment among Armenians. By 1910-1911 the revolutionary movement, caught in the conflict within the CUP among conservatives and liberals, was finished. The Libya war of 1911 and the Balkan War of 1912 essentially threw the empire out of Africa and Europe, and led to the coup d’état of January 1913 and the establishment of the government headed by the triumvirate of Talaat, Enver, and Jemal. World War I and the Armenian Genocide were not very far ahead.

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee [ANEC])


Assassination of Djemal Pasha
(July 21, 1922)

JamalPasha

Djemal Pasha

The Nemesis Operation, approved by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in its 9th World Assembly, held in Yerevan in September-October 1919, had a long list of Turkish leaders responsible for the Armenian Genocide among its targets.

One of them was Ahmed Jemal, minister of Marine of the Ottoman Empire and member of the leading triumvirate of the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihad), together with Talaat, minister of Interior, and Enver, minister of War. Jemal had taken the command of the IV Ottoman Army, based in Syria, and had overseen the execution of the second phase of the genocide, when the survivors of the caravans of deportees were dispatched and killed in the  camps along the Euphrates River. He had also been in charge of the assimilation of Armenian orphans.

Some targets of the operation, such as Talaat and former grand vizier Said Halim, Behaeddin Shakir (leader of the Special Organization) and Jemal Azmi (the “monster of Trebizond”), had been liquidated in Berlin and Rome, under the supervision of the special body created by the A.R.F. (Enver would be killed by a Bolshevik Armenian in August 1922, in Central Asia.) Jemal Pasha was also in Berlin, but had been able to avoid the Armenian avengers.

On July 26, 1922, The New York Times published a dispatch of the Associated Press, with byline Tiflis:

“Djemal Pasha, former Minister of Marine in the Turkish Unionist Government, Chief of Staff of the Afghan Army, has been assassinated here. Two Armenians are charged with the crime.

“Djemal Pasha was accompanied by two aides, who were also shot dead. He was traveling to Kabul from Berlin, where he had made important purchases from [sic] the Afghan Army.”

The Central Committee of the A.R.F. in Georgia still operated, although clandestinely, after Georgia had become a Soviet republic in March 1921. It organized the killing, according to Simon Vratzian:

“At the initiative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Central Committee of Georgia, on July 21, 1922, in Tiflis and in broad daylight, the last surviving member [of the Ittihad triumvirate] and friend and accomplice of the Bolsheviks, Jemal Pasha, was assassinated. The incident had a shocking effect on everyone. The Cheka made innumerable arrests but did not dare to violent measures for fear of retaliations. Dro got permission from Moscow and quickly left for Tiflis, where all the distinguished Dashnaktsakans had been arrested. Dro’s prestige in the eyes of both the Dashnaktsakan comrades and the Bolsheviks was so great that it was possible for him to get the members of the Central Committee and other prisoners out of jail with conditions acceptable to both parties.”

Little is known about the details of the operation. The name of Stepan Dzaghigian (who would later die in Siberia, exiled during the Stalinist purges) has been mentioned as one of the executors, helped by Petros Ter Poghosian and Ardashes Gevorgian. A fourth name, Zareh Melik-Shahnazarian, has also been mentioned as their collaborator in the last years, with the archives still waiting to yield their secrets.

 

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY

(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee[ANEC])

March 15, 1921: Assassination of Talaat Pasha

On March 16, 1921, one of the headlines of The New York Times read: “Talaat Pasha Slain in Berlin Suburb.” After giving the details of the killing the day before, the report noted: “Talaat, whose name was on the second Entente list of Turkish war criminals, left Constantinople two years ago and had been living as a fugitive ever since under assumed names, first in Switzerland and later in Germany. He evidently feared the fate which has now overtaken him, for he had frequently changed his address in Berlin and at the time of his death was living at a pension in the West End.” The correspondent for the American newspaper added that the killer had been identified as an Armenian student (“Solomon Tellirian,” according to the Associated Press) and that “it is assumed that the deed was an act of revenge for the massacres of his compatriots.”
Jagadamard

On the front page of the daily paper, Jagadamard, the headline in Armenian below the banner reads, "An Armenian student kills Talaat Pasha."

In July 1919, the Turkish martial court of Constantinople had condemned to death in absentia, among others, the “Three Pashas,” the members of the Young Turk triumvirate that had led the Ottoman Empire during the war: Talaat (Minister of Interior and Great Vizir in 1917-1918), Enver (Minister of War), and Djemal (Minister of Navy). The three had already fled Turkey, and the sentences were never carried out either by Turkey or by the allies.

The 9th General Assembly of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation convened in Yerevan, the capital of the Republic of Armenia, between September and October 1919, and adopted a resolution to punish those responsible for the genocide. A list of 200 names was prepared. The secret operation received the code name “Nemesis” (the name of the Greek god of vengeance). It was led by Shahan Natalie (Hagop Der-Hagopian, 1884-1983) and Armen Garo (Bastermadjian, 1873-1923), the latter being the Armenian ambassador to the United States.
SoghomonTehlerian

The number one target of the operation was Talaat, who the U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau had called the “Big Boss” of Turkey and already considered responsible of the extermination in his memoirs.

Soghomon Tehlirian (1897-1960), a 23-year-old student who had survived the Armenian Genocide in Erzinga, was selected to execute the mission. Some of the personnel in the Armenian diplomatic mission in Berlin gave logistic support, and other A.R.F. members worked from outside. Once Talaat’s whereabouts were established, Tehlirian arrived in the German capital in December 1920. For the next three months, he carried a surveillance task with his associates. He rented an apartment near the Turkish leader’s house in order to study his everyday movements. Talaat was killed by Tehlirian with a single shot on March 15, 1921, as he came out of his house in the Charlottenburg district. The assassination took place in broad daylight and led to Tehlirian’s immediate arrest by German police.

The young avenger was tried for murder on June 2-3, 1921. The three German defense attorneys focused on the influence of the genocide on Tehlirian’s mental state. When asked by the judge if he felt any sort of guilt, Tehlirian remarked, “I do not consider myself guilty because my conscience is clear … I have killed a man. But I am not a murderer.” It took the jury slightly over an hour to render a verdict of “not guilty.”

Operation Nemesis, which continued until 1922, went totally unnoticed at the time. The partial story of Talaat’s liquidation was told by Tehlirian in his memoirs, published in 1953. The main details of the operation were not uncovered until the 1980s.

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