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Ill-treatment of British and Anzac POWs Turkey


Davidwhitman
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Dear David et al;

I think that we can kick these questions about a bit, remain fraternal, make some useful points relevant to WW I, and not attract the ire of the Moderators. (A couple of years ago we had an abrasive but occasionally informative thread on this topic, which, after about 112 posts, was not only halted by the Moderators, but entirely erased.) Perhaps we can then drop it for another year or two.

For a long time I avoided this topic, but as my father fought in the Turkish Army in 1915, as I am writing a book about his WW I service, including Turkey, and as I have worked on two new editions of a book on Gallipoli with the author of the first two editions (put aside for the moment due to external matters), I finally felt I had to at least study The Armenian Question a bit, with the help of two guides, one an European who has lived in Turkey for many years (and does not wish to be identified; this is not a topic where many tolerate a moderate or middle of the road position); and also a personal friend, a Armenian-Turkish-American, ethnically 100% Armenian, and a veteran of the Turkish Army. I am no expert on the topic, but I believe I have been guided to some (rare) moderate materials; I have also read extensively on the period on the war in general in sources in English, German, French, and a bit of extremely painful Turkish, written by participants of about 10 nationalities. (I rarely read secondary sources.)

I have copied David's most recent post and will comment where (hopefully) useful. My comments in bold-face.

Dear Bob

For those of us who have followed your postings in the past on the Armenian Genocide, it's quite a relief to know that you have finally recognised that the Armenians did in fact suffer genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during WW1. I have always stated in such discussions that I am fully aware that many hundreds of thousands of Armenian civilians, at the least, were killed over the period from 1894 thru 1923, usually in a wide variety of dreadful ways. Ever since someone (I think it was David) led me to the formal definition of "genocide", which is astonishingly broad, and does not require actual deaths to have been performed, I now happily agree that the Turks performed genocide on the Armenians. However, I have repeatedly pointed out that many hundreds of thousands of other civilians of many nationalities were also killed using the same primitive technologies, mostly by Armenians; the major groups being ethnic Turks, Kurds, and Tartars, but also large numbers of people of probably a dozen or more nationalities. Using the same definition, or even a somewhat higher standard, a number of these deadly events also must have been genocides. (Also, applying the same legal definition, many groups and nations are performing genocide at the present time, a partial list to be provided upon request.)

As this thread is on the treatment of British and Anzac POWs and not the Armenian Genocide, I am going to refrain from giving my opinion to your claims that the "Armenians are also guilty of genocide". I think that Bryn gave a convincing answer to that type of counter-argument in one of his posts. I will leave your allegations to the the scrutiny of the readers to make their own enquiry as to whether a subservient subject people (with no state), who were not allowed to bear arms and had no beauractratic structure (police, army etc) were able to organise a genocide. I have seen Armenian photos of armed Armenian bands of the period of the 1890's, when this mess (the most critical 29 year period) was at its onset, and they showed large numbers of fierce-looking men, in uniform black Caucasian-style (sort of "southern Cossack") martial garb, armed to the teeth, and draped with vast quantities of cartriges. Not at all like my dear Armenian rug dealer/expert friend Hagop. I also know of at least two periods (1914-15 and 1919) when the Armenians seemed to have about 2-3 organized infantry divisions. I have read a detailed description engagement, from a non-Turk, non-Armenian source, of a battle between an Armenian division and a Turkish army corps.

In answer to your enquiry into the statutes or international standards regarding POWs, you may want to look at "Convention (II) with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land. The Hague, 29 July 1899." available at http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/150?OpenDocument Chapter II deals with Prisoners of War.

What is not commonly noted by historians dealing with Anzac history is that following the end of the Great War, a report was commissioned by the attorney general of Great Britain on the "Breaches of the Laws and Customs of War" by Germany and Turkey. The report can be found in the British National Archives, Ref. CAB/24/85. From p. 164 onwards, the report includes a "Memorandum as to the Turkish and Turko-German offences against the Laws of War" in Turkey. It deals with the Treatment of the British (including Anzac) POWs. The report includes detailed information on the ill-treatment of the POWs in the various camps in Turkey and includes the names of the Turks/ Germans responsible for the ill-treatment , as well as the names of the British and Anzac POWs who were victims or witnesses. It makes compelling reading.

It is also not commonly known that shortly after the war, about 118 Turks were arrested and sent to Malta for their role in the Armenian massacres and the ill-treatment of allied POWs. Some of them were accused of being involved with both crimes. The complete list of the detained Turks can be found in the British National Archives doc. no. CAB/24/127.

It is very obvious that the ill-treatment of the allied POWs was well documented and an effort was made to convict the perpetrators immediately after the end of the war.

Therefore, we can conlude that the Turkish ambassador's claim that these are "new allegations" and are "ill-founded" runs contary to historic truth. It's surprising that not one Australian historian or Australian newspaper has criticised the ambassador's remarks as being offensive to the memory of those Anzacs who were mistreated or died in captivity.

I am the first to admit that the Turks have had a genius for dealing with this and related issues very badly. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the present Turkish administration, mildly Islamic, seems to be treating these sorts of questions much "better" (from the liberal, western-oriented point of view) than the previous governments, which were stridently secular, but also hyper-nationalistic (any conceivable Turkish government is going to be some flavor of nationalistic) and supposedly some elements of the elites behind those governments organized various provocations, like the recent murder of the Kurdish journalist. Monday, I believe, the Turkish government is going to present the Greek Patriarchate with the deed to a large former church property on the largest of the Prince's Islands near Istanbul.

I think we all should support the initiative to hold an open, transparent investigation into these questions, which was agreed to, after some years of Turkey pushing the idea, recently, but since put on hold, after nationalists on both sides (but seemingly more strongly by the Armenian diaspora) strongly objected. I can vaguely remember from threads years ago that Byrn was upset about the supposed lack of access to the Turkish Archives. I have a friend (non-Turk) who has worked in them, but he has good Modern Turkish, and his father-in-law has Ottoman Turkish. The Armenian archives (interestingly, in Boston, not Armenia) are, I believe, totally closed to outsiders. I don't see how outsiders with a lack of skills in Ottoman Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish, Tatar, etc. and probably with limited access to the relevant archives (probably much more extensive than we might think; each Turkish company commander at Gallipoli was required to prepare 146 different reports on a regular basis; German staff officers, typically great lovers of paperwork, complained to Turkish "brass" that that was nuts; there might only be 3-4-5 literate people in the company, he tipically had to do it all himself. ) can make any real progress in this area. I have never read Turkish materials, and have no doubt that they are, at the least, mostly misleading, but I have looked at some Armenian sites and materials, and they are "something else". If one is simply looking in on Armenian sites or prepared materials you are deceiving yourself. (My Armenian friend Hagop has had Armenian "activists" enter his store a few blocks from my house and tell him as he was not following the party line that they were going to burn down his store. I have had other insights into the efforts to push that point of view that I will spare you.) If this question is worth looking into, it could only be successful (as far as inching closer to "the truth", whatever that might be) with an open investigation by experts of various "stripes". For example, the Turks went into their extensive archives a few years ago and emerged with a list (name by name, place and date; not "village xxx, 1000 dead, March 19xx") of about 520,000 ethnic Turks supposedly killed by ethnic Armenians in the 1894 to 1923 period. That is supposedly a name by name list, with date and location of killing, etc. This list could be corroborated to a large extent by experts with Ottoman Turkish and perhaps other skills. A random sample of say 3000 alleged murders could be selected from this list, and bi-national teams of experts could decend into the archives and attempt to replicate the alleged result of the soley Turkish effort, and one could quickly corroborate that the alleged Turkish result was a fabrication, or that it is largely well-founded, or perhaps arrive at some murkey mid-position. If questions are raised, a further smaller sample of records could be subjected to forensic testing of inks, paper, etc. to prove or disprove fabrication or other monkey business.

Regards

David

Regards,

Bob

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I just noticed VinceB's post. My hat is off to you, Vince. Lots of insight there. The Turkish political situation is very complex, in part counter-intuitive, and in part as murky as the Armenian Question.

I few years ago I was scrounging in the Istanbul book-publishing neighborhood (about 1 km west of Aya Sophia, about 300 meters west of the remarkable underground cistern, on the same street), and found almost nothing relevant to WW I. I did find a scholarly book in English discussing Turkish histerography, and it maintains that thru the ages the Turkish concept of "history" is different and much more limited than the central Western concept of the discipline.

I also went into one publisher/bookseller and asked if he has anything on WW I, and the proprietor said that he only dealt in (fundamentalist) religeous works, asked if I knew an author he mentioned, he was astonished when I said not, and he presented me with one of his works, a work that "proved" that Darwin was a fool and an agent of the Devil. Something right out of the US Bible Belt. Got the English edition, printed in say 10 languages.

Incidentally (and way OT), the Turkish economy seems to be the second fastest growing in the world, much faster than any one of the 27 EU countries.

Bob

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Dear Vince B

Thank you for your opinion on this thread and for keeping it confined to the topic.

Unfortunately, I must disagree with the view you expressed in your second paragraph based on my reading of the White Paper produced by the British government in November 1918 on "The Treatment of British POWs in Turkey", the report by the committee apointed by the attorney general of Great Britain on the "Breaches of the Laws and Customs of War" by Turkey, and the countless memoirs of ex-Prisoners Of War which have all corroborated the official reports. The White Paper summarizes the treatment as follows:

"At the same moment there have been prisoners treated with almost theatrical politeness and consideration, prisoners left to starve and die through neglect and incompetence, and prisoners driven like wild beasts."

The fate of the Kut prisoners was one of the darkest episodes in POW history and is the reason why the report states "driven like wild beasts". Their horrific experiences coupled with the high mortality rate, does not support your assertion that "The Turks treated the Allied POW's like they treated their own troops". Your statement is a generalisation which could have applied in some cases but I don't believe is supported by the official reports and the testimonies by the POWs. Bryn gave a list of memoirs written by POWs which I urge you to read if you have not done so yet.

Dear Bob

I have stated a number of times that the focus of this thread is on the British and Anzac POWs. There are many threads in this forum that have dealt primarily with the Armenian Genocide and some have been closed due to the repetition of arguments and the ensuing stalemate. The arguments you make in your last post are identical to your posts in those threads and I don't believe address the issue which is the focus of this thread.

Regards

David

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One interesting matter (strictly focusing on Turkish POWs) is the treatment of the Brit general captured at Kut; German officers stationed in Constantinople repeatedly noticed him being wined and dined (possibly not being wined) about Constantinople, in the finest restaurants; they were annoyed, and made a formal protest to the Turkish authorities about the propriety of an captured enemy officer being squired about like a film star. I understand that his freedoms and luxuries were curtailed somewhat after the protest. Of course he was being shown about as a war trophy, but he didn't seem to mind the attention. I think the question of his status vs. the situation of his command is an issue of contention, one I know little of.

My wife was reading something about a middle-class family in Constantinople in 1915; the father was drafted for service at Gallipoli, given a horribly ill-fitting pair of boots, and was marched off for Gallipoli and literally marched to death in his ill-fitted boots. I don't know the details, but I think that many of the Kut POWs were also marched off to their death. Certainly no defense in a legal sense, but my sense (as VinceB's seems to be) is that a lot of the atrocious treatment of POWs was probably mostly a deadly mix of unconcern and disorganization. A major factor leading to the fatal marching off of the Armenians toward Syria in 1915, into the hands of the Kurds, was Enver Pasha marching an entire army to their death, mostly be freezing, against the advice of German staff officers, in the north-east corner of Turkey during the winter of 1914/15, leaving the area defenseless, and allowing the local Armenians to rise against the other nationalities in the area, and either forcing the Turks to march the Armenian population of the area off to the south, or giving the Turks the opportunity to do so, depending on the different prejudices of the observer.

Bob

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Bob, I note that you've written:

"I can vaguely remember from threads years ago that Byrn was upset about the supposed lack of access to the Turkish Archives."

First of all I assume that 'Byrn' is actually me, and would respond with: Not at all; that's not what I was saying.

That's a complete misreading of what I was saying. I don't give a toss about access to the Turkish Archives (for reasons that I won't go into here). That's just the 'spin' others put on what I was saying. What I was saying is that there are no detailed service records for individuals serving in the Ottoman Army of WW1. Plenty of people got 'upset' about that, but I stick by it. It was stated by Allied sources after the war, and I still have not seen a single service record to refute that. I continue to wait in breathless anticipation for a single record to come to light on an individual soldier of - for example - the 77th (Arab) Regiment that fought at Gallipoli. It will never happen. THAT's what I was saying. The howling mob that descended claiming I'd be proven wrong when the Archives were opened assumed I was complaining that there was no access to the records. And yet, despite access to the records....

I repeat that I was not doing anything of the sort - I couldn't care less about access to the Turkish Archives because I remain confident that even if access were granted for a hundred years nothing of the sort of WW1 individual personnel record that I would consider 'well-kept' would ever appear from them. Now I do qualify this by saying 'personnel record' that I would consider 'well-kept.' In other words, someone finding a list of names is not going to satisfy those requirements, and I unapologetically use the Australian Imperial Force's and New Zealand Expeditionary Force's individual service files as my benchmark for what I consider 'well-kept' records. If they're not at that level of detail, then as far as I'm concerned they're not 'well kept' records. I repeat also, that nobody has managed to produce even one from the Turkish Archives, and before anyone jumps on the 'how do you know...' '... language problems ...' '... translation ..' bandwagons, could I advise them just to stow it. I've heard it all before and yet - no evidence is no evidence, no matter what tired old justifications might be trotted out.

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David, thanks for your kind words.

Your comment regarding the Kut march is well made and I agree with everything you say. My comment regarding the treatment of soldiers and POW's as being equal was more by reference to the fact that the Ottoman Government was incapable of undertaking the most basic care of their soldiers. It was bureaucratic indifference and incompetence that saw many soldiers starving and in rags. When the Turks captured an Allied soldier, the person was promptly ratted for everything, including clothes, especially their clothes. 

Bryn has also mentioned incompetence and poor record keeping regarding personnel. 

There is a difference between sticklers for records yet incompetent while others may be slow but excellent record managers. Having seen caches of original Turkish records captured from the retreating Turkish armies in north Palestine in 1918, they indicate that their military was every bit as petty on the things that don't count as any military anywhere in the world. I have seen petty cash reconciliation forms which had to be filled out in quadruplicate, orders, memos and all the other paraphernalia associated with a regiment. That is keeping the administration of a Regiment in order, well at least superficially anyway. The reality was totally different and that was seen in secret summaries sent to Sanders on the state of the forces. Basically the soldiers were starving and deserting in great numbers. Even the storm troops, considered to be the elite units, and thus the most loyal, were set to guard against deserters also deserted. So the forms and paraphernalia of the Regiment gave the impression of good record keeping but the reality was totally different - a regiment abandoned by bureaucratic indifference and incompetence. The men did the only sane thing they could do in the circumstances - they surrendered.

There in lies the hidden message behind my comment. 

Vince

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Dear Bob

I have stated a number of times that the focus of this thread is on the British and Anzac POWs. There are many threads in this forum that have dealt primarily with the Armenian Genocide and some have been closed due to the repetition of arguments and the ensuing stalemate. The arguments you make in your last post are identical to your posts in those threads and I don't believe address the issue which is the focus of this thread.

Regards

David

Dear David;

As I have been sharply rapped across the knuckles for referring to the Armenian Question, I feel compelled to briefly comment on why I did, and then drop the topic entirely on this thread.

First of all, when I saw this thread, I did go to the link to the Ambassador's comments. The topic of the Armenian Question (AQ) is the core of the subtext to his comments, and by extension is part of the subtext of this entire thread. However, it is reasonable to attempt to stay away from that part of the context, and focus on the narrower question of the treatment of the POWs in Turkish custody. However, the AQ hangs over this thread, in particular due to the manner in which you segued (sp?) into this topic,by using the Ambassador's comments as the camel's nose.

I must also note that I did not raise the AQ topic. Aside from the AQ being lurking under the surface, due to how the topic was raised, Michaeldr first explicitly mentioned the AQ in post # 5, and you yourself brought it up in post # 11, while my first post in this thread was post # 12.

I will confess to dwelling at greater length on the AQ than yourself or Michaeldr did. One cause is my cronic and acute verbosity. However, additionally, by the time that I read the Ambassador's comments, read the posts of the thread, including the posts by Michaeldr and yourself that explicitly mentioned the AQ, I had formed the faulty memory that you had explicitly mentioned the AQ in your first post by the time that I started writing my post. This misperception was assisted by my recollection that I estimate that about 20 of your some 50-odd posts on the Forum have been on the AQ, while I estimate that I have also written about 20 posts on the AQ, but spread over my 3200 odd posts. I seem to read most if not all of your posts, as we have similar interests; Turkey in WW I, and especially your interest in the Eastern Front, which I applaud, and follow your posts closely. (I was just about to PM you on your East Front interests.)

A final thought, and my AQ lips are sealed, at least on this thread.While 99.9% of the WW I topics we avidly study and discuss are by now merely items of historical interest, studied mostly by WW I nuts, the AQ remains an important factor in current affairs, especially in the Middle East. Turkey, the 15th largest economy in the world, and a regional super-power, having been straight-armed and in their view "dissed" by western Europe for decades, is now turning to a new path, one potentially damaging to the west, and Israel. This is no reason to shovel atrocities under the carpet, but a good reason to make an effort to treat them fairly on this question, which I for one do not feel is being done. My Armenian friend Hagop is worried sick that Armenia is exhibiting an unwise hubris, at a time that one-third of its population has left for abroad. Azerbajanistan (sp?), flush with oil money, has just increased its military budget 90% in one year. I will drop that thought (and the AQ generally) now.

Regards,

Bob

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The British Government report on 'Breaches of the Laws and Customs of War; referred to by David above can be downloaded for free from the UK National Archives website. It looks as if three reports were produced. To download a report, select it and add it to your Shopping Basket as if you were going to pay for it. When you've added all the ones that you want, check out; you won't be asked to pay anything.

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So Bob, correct me if I am wrong, but you are arguing that justice and honesty of research should be set aside for the threat of military and and economic brutality emanating from a re-emergent Turkey? On that same basis are you also suggesting that scholars writing on this era should only source their information from the fantasies produced by the Turkish General Staff in preference to hard data? All this to appease some petty tyrant who cooked up a conspiracy theory to answer the critics regarding a genocide.

If my memory serves me well, and no doubt you will correct me, but the last time appeasement was tried occurred in 1938 with some fellow saying that appeasement brought "Peace in our time." It was ironic because within months the world was plunged into the most destructive war the planet ever saw. In that same vein, I recollect that there was no appeasement for the East German regime and it collapsed bringing with it compensation to victims of its horrors and an apology. 

Vince

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Vince;

I am very reluctant to respond, but I wish to give you the curtesy of a response. (But I am also burdened by my vow to drop discussion of the AQ.) I was very impressed with your obvious knowledge of this general topic, but I take exception to almost every line of this last post of yours. But I am hesitant to respond in detail. Perhaps David, as the one who launched this thread, should chime in, but I think that almost every inch of this present discussion is "off base". But I will post a few sketchy responses to your direct questions.

So Bob, correct me if I am wrong, but you are arguing that justice and honesty of research should be set aside for the threat of military and and economic brutality emanating from a re-emergent Turkey? Yes, you are totally and utterly wrong. On that same basis are you also suggesting that scholars writing on this era should only source their information from the fantasies produced by the Turkish General Staff in preference to hard data? I can only state my own research efforts. I have studied this topic and era for 10 years, and have probably read 100-200 sources, almost entirely primary sources, in four languages, mostly written by participants of perhaps a dozen nationalities. I have one book written by the Turkish General Staff, it is quite a mess, and I put one or two hours into it before putting it aside. I was invited by the Turkish colonel commanding the military library attached to the Askeri Mueze in Istanbul to apply to the Turkish General Staff (in Ankara, not at the General Staff skyscraper next door to the museum) for permission to use Turkish Army facilities and materials, I have not bothered to pursue that route. I generally do not use secondary sources, and "official histories" with extreme caution; I would expect any official Turkish materials to be quite flawed. All this to appease some petty tyrant who cooked up a conspiracy theory to answer the critics regarding a genocide. Petty tyrant? Any candidates? There are only four democracies in the 30 odd Middle East states, as far as I know, all deeply flawed, Turkey and Israel probably less so, Lebanon and Iran probably more so.

If my memory serves me well, and no doubt you will correct me, but the last time appeasement was tried occurred in 1938 with some fellow saying that appeasement brought "Peace in our time." It was ironic because within months the world was plunged into the most destructive war the planet ever saw. In that same vein, I recollect that there was no appeasement for the East German regime and it collapsed bringing with it compensation to victims of its horrors and an apology. 

Please see "apple"'s post below, re: Godwin's Law. I don't think that draging Hitler into a discussion of either 1915 or 2010 Turkey is particularily useful.

Vince

Bob

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As a non participant in the debate, but an appalled onlooker, I too was minded of Godwin's Law

"For example, there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress. This principle itself is frequently referred to as Godwin's law."

Godwin was obviously a thoughtful man.

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Hello

I am going to take a punt here, and suggest that this Ambassador's comment has foundations in Turkey's continuing efforts to join the EU. This subject (Turkey in the EU) has been in the press from time to time over the last few years, and as I understand it, a lot of the European countries continue to hold some of Turkey's past indiscretions over their heads, as they continue to deny or elude this exact sort of question. And the Armenian genocide is another "sticking point" for the Turks application to the EU.

My answer to David's original question as whether the Turks mistreated the Allied prisoners of war is, for me, emphatically "yes". The death march for the soldiers from Kut as mentioned in post #28 if the prime example.

Behaviour on the battlefield and in the front lines (giving aid & water to wounded - arranged cease fires - etc) is much different that the treatment, behaviour and mentalities behind the lines.

To answer David's second question - is the Ambassador in denial or trying to hide the truth? Well, we will never know. Often these speeches and statements are choreographed and staged. Perhaps he is just ignorant of the truth. Having been to Turkey a few times and broaching the subject of the Great War (delicately) - the modern day Turks do not talk about the Great War and consider it a dark chapter in their past. So I would imagine that their history lessons in school are not very detailed....

Good question and topic - always going to stir up a hornet nest!

Jason

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Jason;

Brief reply; sitting in doctor's office, part of my anatomy exposed. (The wonder of smart phones!)

The EU has been straight-arming Turkey for say 45 years, and continually moving the goal posts; now most Turks do not want to join it, although the gov is still trying. Turkish economy 2nd fastest growing economy in the world, I think, tops all 27 EU states. Now EU insectors demand that Turks stop eating tripe sandwiches. (Cheeky, as Turkey is not a member.)

One of a 100 ways that the "West" dissed the Turks. This is one of many things. pushing Turkey closer to Iran. OK with me.

Bob

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Thank you Vince B for your # 34 post.

Real politik should not be used by so-called historians today to distort historic truth. Those who are engaged in the revision of WW1 Turkish historiography are generally driven by vested interests in Turkey as Bob, stated, it's the second fastest growing economy in the world, a large buyer of U.S. arms, a transit nation for Central Asian oil etc etc. I believe that if Turkey came clean with it's past and improves it's human rights record like most European countries have done so, it will have a better chance of joining the E.U. From what I understand from Bob, is that Turkey instead of going through with the proper channels of reform is threatening the west by moving towards Iran - if you don't let us join. Does the E.U. want such a nation to join her?

Thank you Jason for your thoughts on the topic of this thread. It seems like we do have a consensus by the participants on this thread that the POWs were ill-treated.

Regards

David

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

It is indeed ill founded to accept the conclusion that Anzac POWs were treated harshly during WW1 , from looking at the posts here and content.

For example, John Still was not an ANZAC and so should not be included in consensus regarding anzak soldier..

I have examined and evaluated the books mentioned above and found that those prisoners who have published "books" were mostly acting on orientalist dogmas and of course trying to justify the reasons of falling priosoner, considering that the POWS are almost not mentioned in normal course of life and infactlooked down, somehow.

I have compared various notes and testimonies and records and cross checked various statements and found that there were indeed some insignificant number of ill-treatment cases, which were reported to then authorities, and red cross. On the other hand, majority of Kut prisoners from mesopotamia front did indeed die on the way to various camps due to illnesses and lack of transport, food that were essentially the main problem of the whole country. There were great cultural differences as to clothing, food and social habits. Those differences did cause some POWs to show them as deliberate ill treatment. Some of the " memoirs" are surely, greatly fictitious such as "The road to en-dor". In any case, there is not one single comparative study in english analysing the POW memoirs of ANZAC, except for the works by jennifer lawless and she suggests otherwise to the subject matter assertion .

A book was published at the end of 2009 by Turkish ATASE on POWS. The book contains names, regiments, place fallen prisoner etc and testimonies , letters etc. It has been translated into contemporary Turkish and English and published along with original copies, so it may be interesting to those interested in the subject.

My conclusion; there was not widespread, deliberate, planned and systematic ill treatment of POWs in ww1. There were some cases that are recorded but by no means, it cannot be logical to assume that there was systematic, deliberate ill treatment. Otherwise is not proven and it would ne naive to draw judgements from a few books only, The interesting point in all of the books mentioned and in other memoirs etc. is that they all say POWs engaged in painting, language, theatre, skiing, hand crafts etc. activities in the POW camps, which were not surrounded by barbed wire, as is the case in the POW camps of Allies.

The ambassador is right to say that events that took 95 years ago cannot be soundly evaluated in the absence of concrete and more than a few books.

regards,

ote name='Davidwhitman' timestamp='1289973827' post='1503557']

Thank you Andy and Jim for your replies

O.K, we have a consensus so far that the assertion that "the Anzac POWs were harshly treated in Turkey during WW1" is NOT ill-founded as the Turkish ambassador claims. Therefore, we can say that the ambassador's position on this is one of denial.

Andy: Hypothetically speaking, if once all the Australian POWs who were detained in Japan during WW2 pass away, and the current Japanese government denies that the prisoners were ill-treated during captivity, would you excuse the Japanese government's position simply because they are looking after the graves of our fallen soldiers on their soil?

Regards

David

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Dear Dogan

I find it very hard to believe that you have read such a wide cross section of memoirs and books written by Anzac and Allied POWs and have concluded that they were not treated harshly during Turkish captivity.

Secondly, the ambassador does not assert that the events "cannot be soundly evaluated in the absence of concrete and more than a few books", these are your words. The ambassador states that they are "ill-founded arguments".

Let's get one thing straight. The Anzacs were part of the Anglo-French offensive and during captivity were never segregated as distinct from British POWs. The only distinction the Turk's made was to do with religion- protestant, Catholic etc. John Still's detailed account describes the suffering of the allied POWs collectively, which includes the Anzacs. His testimony can't be dismissed simply because he wasn't an Anzac. In actual fact, the majority of books written by the allied POWs regarding their Turkish experiences were by the Anzacs, such as Thomas White, Leslie Luscombe, Tony Halpin, Stoker, Handsley, George Kerr, Lushington, Charles Woolley, etc etc. All of these testimonies are corroborated by their British counterparts such as Still, Bishop, Keeling, etc etc. Dr James Brown who wrote "Turkish Days and Ways" for example was an Australian doctor in the British Army who was captured on the Egyption front. The repatatriation statements by the POWs held in the Australian War Memorial also corroborate the reports of mistreatment.

Apart from these first-hand accounts, we have official reports such as the White Paper produced by the British government in November 1918 on "The Treatment of British POWs in Turkey" and the report by the committee apointed by the attorney general of Great Britain on the "Breaches of the Laws and Customs of War" by Turkey, both of which provide a strong evidence of mistreatment of British and Anzac POWs. Gibbo in post # 33 provides a link to download the report. I suggest you download it and read it.

Jennifer Lawless has attempted to produce a more romanticised narrative of the experiences of Anzac POWs in an article she wrote on the issue a few years back called "The Forgotten Anzacs:Captives of the Turks". In my opinion, it's a strong attempt to whitewash the Turkish treatment of Anzac POWs to bring the narrative into line with the current strong political relationship between Turkey and Australia. Her work carries a strong "perceived bias" since her husband is Turkish and she has received an "Endeavour Research Fellowship for Turkey" in 2006 which is from a bilateral initiative between the Australian and Turkish governments, to encourage research and educational links between the two countries. I doubt she will be inclined to go against the current trend of narratives which is based on the myth of the Turk as an "honourable" and "chivalrous" enemy.

There were instances of Turkish kindness and compassion towards POWs during WW1, just like there were in Japan during WW2 by some Japanese. However, the weight of evidence points to a high mortality rate of Allied POWs in captivity in Turkey during WW1, and many instances of intentional mistreatment which is well documented.

Regards

David

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David,

I am not going to say anything about your "ill founded belief" that I must not have read enough to make a comment here. I suggest you do your homework and check accross various headings in this web site to see what I have talked about, prior to your joining the forums.

As to POW under Ottoman Empire in general;

I have read and cross checked a variety of writings and other records in regards to POW of Ottomans. I agree that there were some individual cases of mistreatment but, there were more misconseptions and misunderstandings and naivety as to culture of captor than deliberate, systematic bad treatment. I know that no human will be so horrible to not allow prisoners to drink water from rivers as claimed in the below mentioned report ( not sensible in any case because ottoman soldier suffered just as much from lack of water) .

There are a few books and memoirs published and available publicly, then and now, by british and anzac.

Unfortunately , they have been in circulation for about 100 years now and not much, may even be nothing, has been said by Turkish historian for one reason or another. My conclusion after having read all is that there are some " who walked around without batons at hand in a village with no dogs ".

I am not going to argue with subjective opinion on the basis of not so concrete evidence, after 100 years!!!. I do not feel the need to repeat what I have written prior to this post, in reply to you particularly.

The last document I have examined is "Committe of Inquiry Breaches of the laws of war Interim reports" by British.

 

This Committee was appointed by the British Attorney-General with the authority of the War Cabinet on November 1st, 1918.

I will give one example of an ill founded claim that I felt was simply " throw the mud and it will leave a mark for sure"" and that is the case of mazlum bey. the report states "

He appears to have been convicted for some of these offences, but not for sodomy; but the punishment inflicted upon him must have been slight as it was only after vigorous protest by the officers that the Turkish authorities refrained from restoring him to Afion as second in

command. Under his successor conditions in the camp were improved. While there can be little doubt that Muzloum Bey was

guilty of sodomy with some of the prisoners, the Sub-Committee considers that it would be inexpedient in the interest of his

victims to bring him to trial on this charge, as their evidence would be necessary to support the charge and the taint might

cling to them during their lives. There is ample evidence on which this tyrant can be brought..... (page 195).

Now , by not disclosing the names of so called victims, I consider that the whole report overrules itself. The rest may be just as well fake. The discrimination against homosexuals in british armuy is evident . I must also point out to a comment made in one of those books that the writer felt there was something going on between a group of british Officers who slept side by side in the same room in Armenian Church in Afion! So, I suggest there must have been some consensual sex. And mazlum beys may have been one of those but when the soldier was confronted by the British officer, there we have the story we have now'!

There are references to some documents, evidently plundered from the Ottoman Archives at the time of armistace, in the same report. They may very well be faked...

In conclusion; notwithstanding the fact that the victors write the history, I suggest that History cannot be written on fictitious documents and false reports and proof.

Therefore, instead of delving on ill founded claims, it is best to move on and establish better relationships between generations to come.

A POW is a man downed ; there are stories about ill treatmenmt by both sides but I do not feel the necessity to delve into that subject, not at all...

On 10/01/2011 at 14:53, Davidwhitman said:

Dear Dogan

I find it very hard to believe that you have read such a wide cross section of memoirs and books written by Anzac and Allied POWs and have concluded that they were not treated harshly during Turkish captivity.

Secondly, the ambassador does not assert that the events "cannot be soundly evaluated in the absence of concrete and more than a few books", these are your words. The ambassador states that they are "ill-founded arguments".

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David,

I am not going to say anything about your "ill founded belief" that I must not have read enough to make a comment here. I suggest you do your homework and check accross various headings in this web site to see what I have talked about, prior to your joining the forums.

You have misunderstood David. He expressed surprise that some one so widely read could make the comments you made

My conclusion after having read all is that there are some " who walked around without batons at hand in a village with no dogs ".

I'm sorry, but that that saying makes no sense at all in English

The last document I have examined is "Committe of Inquiry Breaches of the laws of war Interim reports" by British.

This Committee was appointed by the British Attorney-General with the authority of the War Cabinet on November 1st, 1918.

I will give one example of an ill founded claim that I felt was simply " throw the mud and it will leave a mark for sure"" and that is the case of mazlum bey. the report states "

He appears to have been convicted for some of these offences, but not for sodomy; but the punishment inflicted upon him must have been slight as it was only after vigorous protest by the officers that the Turkish authorities refrained from restoring him to Afion as second in

command. Under his successor conditions in the camp were improved.

The context of this part of the report is difficult to understand. This Mazlum Bey was convicted by the Ottoman army, but was only removed from his position after complaint by the officers (presumably Allied ones). Is that correct?

While there can be little doubt that Muzloum Bey was

guilty of sodomy with some of the prisoners, the Sub-Committee considers that it would be inexpedient in the interest of his

victims to bring him to trial on this charge, as their evidence would be necessary to support the charge and the taint might

cling to them during their lives. There is ample evidence on which this tyrant can be brought..... (page 195).

Now , by not disclosing the names of so called victims, I consider that the whole report overrules itself. The rest may be just as well fake.

Fair enough, although I disagree with you

The discrimination against homosexuals in british armuy is evident ( see:http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=59579) .

That thread makes no direct mention of discrimination against homosexuals in the British Army. Indeed, it makes multiple references to Lawrence of Arabia who, in his autobiography, vividly describes being repeatedly gang raped by his Turkish captors. While homosexuality was a criminal offence during that period, I would imagine that during a war when "every swinging dick" was needed in the field, prosecution of that law would not be too common

I must also point out to a comment made in one of those books that the writer felt there was something going on between a group of british Officers who slept side by side in the same room in Armenian Church in Afion!So what? So, I suggest there must have been some consensual sexWho's jumping to conclusions now?. And mazlum beys may have been one of those but when the soldier was confronted by the British officer, there we have the story we have now'!What story? The one you've just made up? You don't see anything inappropriate with a gaolor, in a positon of authority, having sex with the people under his care. At the very least, your suggestion is immensely kinky.

A POW is a man downed ; there are stories about ill treatmenmt by both sides but I do not feel the necessity to delve into that subject, not at all...

Then why are you?

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Apple,

I do not intend to enter into polemics with you or anyone else. However, I feel compelled to at least have the courtesy to reply to your comment.

I shall reply one by one:

You have misunderstood David. He expressed surprise that some one so widely read could make the comments you made

No I do not agree. I have by now understood that it is quiete common among so called historians and researchers to be cynical. In any case, may be you do not need to mediate, it would be wiser to let him answer for himself.

My conclusion after having read all is that there are some " who walked around without batons at hand in a village with no dogs ".

I'm sorry, but that that saying makes no sense at all in English

:) Quiete so! Although the wording is English, it does not make sense. Then let me explain; I mean that there have been numerous books and reports etc. published in English speaking world in this particular subject of POW within last 95 years or so. Freely and callously they have written. There was no need to support the claims for there were no Turkish historian writing otherwise, at least in English.

The context of this part of the report is difficult to understand. This Mazlum Bey was convicted by the Ottoman army, but was only removed from his position after complaint by the officers (presumably Allied ones). Is that correct?

There were complaints against him. Details of complaint I do not have but it may very well be amongst documents plundered. Apparently, mazlum bey was punished for some offences and he was again arrested and sent to Malta by allies at the later stage. So it would be best to seek answers from British archives. However, Jennifer Lawless wrote that there are Doctor reports in archives which suggest that sodomy had not taken place in relation to the 2 soldiers.

Now , by not disclosing the names of so called victims, I consider that the whole report overrules itself. The rest may be just as well fake.

Fair enough, although I disagree with you

As far as I am concerned, the case is dismissed. The report , a mighty report by Empire organs at that, cannot stand on false, unproven and most likely farbricated evidence.

Lawrence gang raped :)))) Now really, you can't believe that :) The guy is top intelligence guy ! have you not read anything about psychological war?

So what? So it is OK with me. I am not the one jumping into conclusion. The writer did. The innuendo suggested there was consensual sex in Afion Armenian CHURCH! Afion is where Mazlum bey worked. Afion is where claims about forced sodomy with 2 soldiers were made!

You don't see anything inappropriate with a gaolor, in a positon of authority, having sex with the people under his care. At the very least, your suggestion is immensely kinky.

See above.

Regards

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I agree that there were some individual cases of mistreatment but, there were more misconseptions and misunderstandings and naivety as to culture of captor than deliberate, systematic bad treatment. I know that no human will be so horrible to not allow prisoners to drink water from rivers as claimed in the below mentioned report ( not sensible in any case because ottoman soldier suffered just as much from lack of water) .

Hi Dogan.

Your statement above is interesting.

Are you suggesting (or stating) that the treatment of allied (not just ANZAC) POW by the Turkish soldiers and army was normal and/or proper in Turkish eyes? And only seen as mistreatment by the allies because we didn't and/or don't understand your culture?

I will honestly say that there are other's on this forum that have read more than I, and know mare than I. However my reading of The ******** War and the description of the death march of the British soldiers from Kut was appalling. However, you are telling me that this is acceptable and ok in the Turkish eyes & mentality because that is your culture?

If there is no food or water; clothing; shelter; hospital care; medicine; sanitation; etc. to give to the POW by their guards, then that is the fault of the officers in charge. It the officers pass blame, then that is the fault of the army. If the army passes blame, then that is the fault of the government. And that, is a systematic failure. If none of the guards, or officer, or army, or government do anything about it - then that is deliberate.

They might have been allowed to drink water - but what about being clubbed, flogged, or having their clothes & boots stolen off them? Is that not horrible?

Dare I ask what the culture of a captor is that treats their POW's this way? Or is that a bit much.... I could go on, however I will leave it there. In light of the evidence, although it seems you want to disprove most of it, the above is a very brave statement to make.

Thanks.

Jason

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Dear Dogan

I never stated that you have not "read enough to make a comment here", what I did state was that "I find it very hard to believe that you have read such a wide cross section of memoirs and books written by Anzac and Allied POWs and have concluded that they were not treated harshly during Turkish captivity".

I value your comments and take them into consideration. However, I am very critical of your analysis and conclusion.

The following is a bibliography of books written by Allied/Anzac POWs held by the Ottoman Turks during WW1. They are first-hand accounts.

Are you able to tell me which one of these books supports your thesis that the Allied/Anzac POWs were not treated harshly by the Turks?

One of the listed books is by Anzac POW, Dr James Brown, called "Turkish Days And Ways". He states the following: "the Turk was by no means always the "gentleman" many persons designated him. The Commandant at Madrissah [Mazlum Bey] could certainly not come under that category. He prohibited communication between prisoner officers and the rank and file, and after the cessation of communication, the men were more harshly treated by him. On one occasion several British sergeants were flogged. The bastinado, a rawhide whip, was-frequently applied to the soles of the feet. "The experience of an Australian private,"relates Dr. Brown, "was one of the worst instances of cruelty that came under our notice."

The experiences of the Kut POWs is among the cruelest cases of POW treatment in recorded history. Please do not deny, trivialise and rationalise this event. It dishonours the memory of the victims.

Dogan, my purpose for bringing this issue onto this forum is not to create discord between peoples and I agree that future generations should work towards better relations and ultimately a just and peaceful world. However, it should not be at the expense of truth. Facing ones history truthfully is not a shameful act, but an honourable one.

On a different note, since you are located in Turkey. Would you be able to tell us the location of the ancient Armenian monastery in Ankara which was used as an internment camp for allied/Anzac POWs during WW1? The monastery was quite large in structure and was centuries old possessing a large library. I have contacted local historians in Ankara and they are unaware of its existence. It looks like the monastery has somehow dissapeared without a trace.

Regards

David

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  • 2 weeks later...

David,

Mate I get the feeling that this topic will veere into the futile argument of "Armenian" matter, which you seem to have succeded in diverting in other topics herein this Great War Site, looking at the details of comments you have made previously..

As such, I should like to stick to the subject and suggest that you read about POW matters.

I am afraid I will not be able to continue this thread under the circumstances.

Just to satisfy your curiosity though; you could easily find out where exactly was the Armenian Church in Ankara by contacting the Armenian patriarch in Istanbul. Once I spoke to s person from the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul in regards to many churches and chapels along Aegean and mediterranean coast and I was told that a temple without a congregation is immediately abandoned and that they do not really care!

regards

Dogan, my purpose for bringing this issue onto this forum is not to create discord between peoples and I agree that future generations should work towards better relations and ultimately a just and peaceful world. However, it should not be at the expense of truth. Facing ones history truthfully is not a shameful act, but an honourable one.

On a different note, since you are located in Turkey. Would you be able to tell us the location of the ancient Armenian monastery in Ankara which was used as an internment camp for allied/Anzac POWs during WW1? The monastery was quite large in structure and was centuries old possessing a large library. I have contacted local historians in Ankara and they are unaware of its existence. It looks like the monastery has somehow dissapeared without a trace.

Regards

David

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Recently, I came upon this article from a NZ newspaper, published in October 1936. The article describes an unpublished manuscript by a New Zealand POW in Turkey 1915 -1918, and the summaries and quotes certainly confirm that he and his fellow prisoners were very harshly treated by the Turks. Do read it.

I wonder who wrote the manuscript, if it was ever published, or if it has been preserved. Has anyone heard of it?

Joanna

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