In 1915-1917, famous German writer Armin Theophil Wegner served in the Ottoman Empire (in northern Mesopotamia) in the detachment of Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz as a correspondent for the German media and medical officer. A witness to the Armenian Genocide, he personally saw the caravans of deported Armenians and took about 200 photos.
After demobilization from the army, Wegner returned to Berlin. In the spring of 1919 in the Urania Theater in Berlin, he was to give a lecture on the topic “Deportation of the Armenian people to the desert of Mesopotamia” and demonstrate the photos he had taken in the Ottoman Empire.
The Turkish Embassy in Germany, having learned about the organized lecture, instructed the young Turks to prevent the lecture from being held. The Turks and their German friends managed to get 100 tickets.
Armin Wegner’s speech took place in a fully filled hall. At the beginning of the lecture, Wegner assured his listeners that he would tell everything that he had seen with his own eyes and would confirm his words with photos that he himself had made.
After this preface, Wegner showed a map of the Ottoman Empire, which marked the areas from which Armenians were driven out or abducted from, deportation roads, as well as the deserts of Mesopotamia where the last survivors perished.
Suddenly, a terrible noise arose in the theater hall. The Turks and their supporters cursed Wegner and tried to discredit him, calling him a liar paid by the Armenians, the enemy of the German-Turkish friendship, and a traitor.
Armenians and others present, trying to resist them, defended the talented humanist writer. But the Turks and their friends were not going to calm down.
The most active among them was a young Turk sitting near Professor Joseph Markwart. He was cursing Wegner and the Armenian “traitors”, assuring those present that the photos showed the bodies of the Turks killed by Armenians.
Suddenly rang out the resounding voice of world-renowned Professor Josef Markwart and the deafening sound of a slap. The professor himself was the author of the slap which was received by the aggressive young Turk, who happened to be the son of the Turkish ambassador.
This slap was a signal that caused a real scuffle in the hall. The police intervened, and the violators were taken out of the hall. The lecture continued. The next day, the media published many articles about this incident.
“If the Turks terrorize Armenians even in Berlin, it is clear in what horrific conditions Armenians had lived in Turkey,” wrote the newspapers.
- Melik-Ogandzhanyan, “Pages from my memoirs”, 1965
Joseph Markwart (December 9, 1864 – February 4, 1930) was a German Orientalist and Armenologist. He repeatedly spoke in defense of the Armenian people, accusing the Young Turk leaders of organizing mass slaughter of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. Markwart noted that even after the declaration of the new constitution in 1908, the slogan of the Ottoman policy remained the same: “There will be no Armenians, and there will be no Armenian question.”
The massacres of the Armenians in Adana (1909) showed that the Young Turks who had acquired a reputation of liberals in Europe were no less cruel than Abdul Hamid II. Markwart considered the Armenian Genocide as a part of a general program to exterminate the Christian population of Turkey.
He sharply criticized the German government which supported and encouraged the criminal actions of the Young Turks. After WWI, he demanded the conviction of the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide, as well as their extradition to the Republic of Armenia or the Entente for an international tribunal.
In a sign of respect and goodwill towards the Armenian people, Professor Markwart translated his name and surname into the Armenian Hovsep Bdeshkhian (Հովսեփ Բդեշխյան), which he sometimes used in his signature.
Armin Theophil Wegner (October 16, 1886 – May 17, 1978) was a German writer and human rights activist, photographer, witness, and researcher of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey. In 1967, he received the Yad Vashem Righteous Among the Nations title. During WWI, he served as a physician, for which he would be awarded the Iron Cross. Receiving the military rank of second lieutenant, Wegner was sent to the German sanitary corps in Turkey, which was part of the unit guarding the Baghdad railway.
Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz, Pasha Goltz (August 12, 1843 – April 19, 1916) was a Prussian Field Marshal. Since 1883, after the rapprochement of Kaiser Germany with the Ottoman Empire, Goltz has been in the service of the Ottoman sultans. He headed Ottoman military schools.
From November 1914 to April 1915, he was adjutant to Sultan Mehmed V. In fact, he commanded the military operations of the Turkish army. From April 14, 1915, he was the commander of the 1st Turkish army stationed in the area of Constantinople.
From October 1915, von der Goltz was the commander of the 6th Turkish army. Around the same time, he took the command of the German and Turkish troops in Mesopotamia. He smashed the English General Charles Townshend at Ctesiphon on December 23, 1915. After this, Townshend was forced to retreat with his troops to Kut, where he would capitulate in April 1916, a few days after Goltz’s death.