German Scientist Joseph Markwart Saved Armenian Relics from a Turk

German Scientist Joseph MarkwartIn mid-1919, a person of eastern appearance paid a visit to German professor Joseph Markwart. He was middle-aged and dark-skinned. After the initial greetings, the visitor followed the professor’s suggestion and settled on the sofa. Markwart laid out his Armenian study works on the table, as usual: many familiar and unfamiliar Armenians were visiting him back in those days.

The professor began to tell the visitor with great enthusiasm what he had already written and what he was writing at the moment. Suddenly, he noticed that the German-speaking “Armenian” was absolutely indifferent to his stories. Therefore, Markwart thought that this person came to him for an important cause.

The visitor said that he would like to sell several manuscripts and that the library management had sent him to Professor Markwart to rate them. In confirmation of his words, the visitor gave to the professor a note from the library. Markwart asked the visitor to show the books.

The visitor put four or five books on the table, among which were two parchment manuscripts decorated with wonderful miniatures.

“Why do you sell them, isn’t it a pity? They are left from your ancestors as shrines. Who knows for how many centuries they have been passed on from generation to generation. I advise you not to sell them. Instead, take them home and bequeath it to your sons. The grandfather’s property should not leave your lineage.”

“Professor, I am not Armenian, I am a Turkish officer.”

“Then where did you get these manuscripts?”

“You know, Professor, when we, together with a German company, attacked a town in the vicinity of Van and expelled the Russians and Armenians from there, the soldiers entered the local church and plundered it. What couldn’t be taken away was destroyed.

I saw a lot of books scattered on the floor. I took about ten pieces, some of them were so decorated. These I brought to Berlin, I want to sell them to make some purchases for my family.”

“So you are a thief?” the professor interrupted him in rage, “You plundered Armenian monuments, and now, you want to sell their property and create for yourself a decent and happy life on the misfortune of Armenians? Get out of my house, robber! Get out now!”

The officer extended his hand to pick up the manuscripts, but the professor ordered the housekeeper to call the police. The Turk, seeing that the situation was aggravating, stood up and ran out of Markwart’s apartment, leaving the manuscripts there.

The manuscripts remained with Markwart for some time. Three weeks later, the professor sent them to the library of the Mekhitarist Order in Vienna.

  1. Melik-Ohandzhanyan, “Pages from my memoirs”, April 1965

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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.

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