Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War remains one of the bloodiest and most contentious episodes of the 20th century. Robert Fisk visits Yerevan, and unearths hitherto unpublished images of the first modern genocide
By Robert Fisk
"The photographs, never before published, capture the horrors of the first Holocaust of the 20th century. They show a frightened people on the move – men, women and children, some with animals, others on foot, walking over open ground outside the city of Erzerum in 1915, at the beginning of their death march. We know that none of the Armenians sent from Erzerum – in what is today north-eastern Turkey – survived. Most of the men were shot, the children – including, no doubt, the young boy or girl with a headscarf in the close-up photograph – died of starvation or disease. The young women were almost all raped, the older women beaten to death, the sick and babies left by the road to die.
The unique photographs are a stunning witness to one of the most terrible events of our times. Their poor quality – the failure of the camera to cope with the swirl and movement of the Armenian deportees in the close-up picture, the fingerprint on the top of the second – lend them an undeniable authenticity. They come from the archives of the German Deutsche Bank, which was in 1915 providing finance for the maintenance and extension of the Turkish railway system. One incredible photograph – so far published in only two specialist magazines, in Germany and in modern-day Armenia – actually shows dozens of doomed Armenians, including children, crammed into cattle trucks for their deportation. The Turks stuffed 90 Armenians into each of these wagons – the same average the Nazis achieved in their transports to the death camps of Eastern Europe during the Jewish Holocaust......."