This photo pictures an episode of the forcible deportation of Erzurum Armenians to Mesopotamia. The picture was taken by Austrian biologist Viktor Pichman (1881-1956) near the village of Sushekhir. From 1914 until the end of World War I, by the orders of the German government, Viktor Pichman participated in the formation of mountain rifle military units in Erzurum. He also mapped the course of military operations in the Middle East for the German headquarters.
Traveling in Western Armenia during his professional activity, he had the opportunity to photograph scenes of deportation of Armenians. It is noteworthy that in the photos of Pichman, there are only women and children among the deportees. Most of the Armenian men by this point had already been killed.
The deportation of the Armenian population of the Erzurum province began in July 1915. Historical materials and survivors’ accounts report the cruel fate of the Armenians of Erzurum. About 40 thousand Armenians were deported from the city and surrounding villages. They would be marched along the route Derdzhan – Yerznka – Sebastia – Deir ez-Zor desert. Only a few Armenians managed to survive.
The caravans of the deported Armenians have been exterminated since the beginning of the deportation. Men were shot or hacked, women were raped. Many have died on the way from thirst, hunger, and various diseases. Children were being abducted or abandoned along the route.
“Armenian women, children and elderly were hacked with swords, burned, drowned in a river, shot in groups, and thrown off of cliffs into the deep abyss. People tormented by hunger and frozen were cruelly tortured and doomed to death.
Thousands of Armenians died on the route of deportation and in immigrant camps from illnesses. The inhabitants of the Erzurum and Basen plains, forcibly deported women, children, and elderly, were forced to leave their villages for Mesopotamia.”
From the report of the German vice-consul of Erzurum Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, July 2, 1915
Photo source: Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria. From the catalog “100 photo stories about the Armenian Genocide”