A Historical Case of
page in particular has had a history of trying to solve the many Tehlirian
riddles. The problem is, the only sources to consult on Armenian
personalities (because the comparatively indifferent "Turkish"
research has been so lax) have been pro-Armenian ones, not the kind of
material that a genuine truth-seeker knows can be accepted at face value.
As a result, I'm "revising" my views as better information comes
to light. Just a few months ago, I got to the bottom of whether the
Andonian documents were introduced at this trial. (They weren't.)
on the assassin in The Armenian Review (Nov. 1960) answered a lot
of questions, if one reads between the propagandistic lines.
I am not
going to rewrite this page at this time, so as you encounter these
questions below, please bear in mind what appears to be the best facts, as
(b. 1897) had three older brothers, and that's it; no reference is made to
other siblings. (In the trial testimony, we are told three sisters...
"one sister, twenty-six or twenty-seven; another, sixteen and a half;
and the youngest fifteen"... met their ends during the march. We can
only conclude Tehlirian made them up.) From the A.R. article, it
appears only one of these brothers and his mother did not survive the
relocation process, from his immediate family. (Indeed, in the trial,
Tehlirian only swears to seeing the body of one brother — "The
defendant stated today that, except for his brother’s body, he did not
see the corpses of any of his relatives," as Werthauer, one of his lawyers
put it. Tehlirian, as he keeps doing throughout, then revises: "I saw
my mother fall, my dead brother, and other corpses." Is that because
perhaps only one brother and his mother did not survive, if the The Armenian Review report is to be believed?) The
wealthy father and uncles were in Serbia a while before, expanding their
business, two other brothers had joined them, and one of these brothers (Misak,
or Missak) had also traitorously joined the Russians. Werthauer (who
actually argues the killing of Talat Pasha was... self-defense),
said it flat out: "His whole family was exterminated." (The
family was Protestant, eligible for an exemption; this rule wasn't always
followed, but who knows what really happened.)
became a Dashnak and joined the Volunteer Regiment under the Russians in
1914, when he was "scarcely seventeen." He served under the
entering Van (probably
in April 1915) and later Bitlis
and "Moush," helping to spread Armenian terror and destruction
upon the non
Ottoman-civilian population. The Armenian "hero" must have had
the blood of many, many innocent people on his hands..
throughout this time, he was serving with the Russians, well past the June
1915 "deportation" of his family, until the Russians quit. At
this point, he joined several guerilla bands. and "fought his
way" into Erzurum, where he had been raised; this is when he decided
to avenge his mother's death. (Unlike how he perjured himself by stating
"two weeks before the incident," after dreaming of his phantom
mom urging him to kill. He is actually confronted with the discrepancy and
blames his head injury.)
how it sounded from the courtroom testimony, he was nowhere near the scene
when his mother died. Tehlirian made it appear like he was a poor,
innocent Armenian taking part in the caravan: "I was told it was the
Turkish gendarmes who opened fire on us." An
Armenian report below says that "he witnessed and survived
"deportations and massacres.")
12-07: Talat Pasha's "Secret and
Urgent" internal June 26, 1915 telegram, likely in response to this
very relocation and attack, and addressed to the Governorate of Elazig,
read: "According to the information communicated by the Governorate
of Erzurum, the Armenian convoys that set off from Erzurum have been
waylaid and massacred by the bandits of Dersim, and it had not been
possible to save the Armenians from the hands of those bandits. Since such
murderous acts committed by the people of Dersim will never be permitted
again, request the measures for the protection of the convoys be rapidly
completed." (Turkish-Armenian Conflict Documents, 2007, p.
117.) How ironic is that, dear
reader? The man Tehlirian believed exterminated his people was trying his
best to save Armenians.
4) Quoted in this
New York Times report (replete with so many other
lies), Tehlirian states "After I had seen
my brother's skull split, I was hit on the head and lay unconscious
probably one or two days." This has been the
explanation for the killer's epilepsy, that the Turks knocked him out (but
failed to finish him off). At the time of this relocation, Tehlirian was
far away, likely busy slaughtering Turks.
"officially" beat the rap with "Article 51"
(although it seemed he was going to get off no matter what), which
basically meant he was a little crazy and not to be held accountable.
(Something like "temporary insanity.") Nobody can argue he was
deranged, but the assassination of Talat was far from a rash action. He
had the free will to commit cold, calculated murder. How do we know, aside
from other facts, one being that this was a Dashnak-planned
"Nemesis" operation? Tehlirian was a "pro" by then,
having already assassinated
someone else (an Armenian)!
So here is
the irony: Tehlirian and others in his family betrayed his Ottoman nation,
to the extent of serving in the forces of the enemy, as soon as the war
began in 1914. After much deliberation
in a highly dangerous situation, the Ottomans decided to move the
treacherous Armenians out by May 1915. Some got killed in the chaos and
corruption of war, including, it seems, members of the assassin's own
family. Tehlirian was thus not done dirt, leading him to kill Talat Pasha.
Tehlirian HIMSELF HAD DONE THE DIRT, and what happened to his family was
one outcome of this dirt done by him and others like him. Yet, in typical Armenian
style, Tehlirian was unable to affix any responsibility upon his own
traitorous, criminal actions.
A total liar
and a ruthless killer, Tehlirian embodied the best of his terroristic
ADDENDUM, 12-07: For more details, see Tehlirian
Tidbits at the bottom
of "Samantha Power's Hell Problem."
Soghoman Tehlirian is the Armenian gunman who
assassinated Talat Pasha (on March 15, 1921), was tried in a German court
(June 2-3, 1921) and walked away a free man. I had always been fascinated by
this story. After all, here was a fellow obviously guilty of murder...
and he was tried in a nation that was the Ottoman Empire's "pal,"
the nation that cajoled the on-its-knees nation into the war that would prove
to be its death blow. (Not that the old alliance should have gotten in the way
of truth and justice, but surely Germany shouldn't have been as susceptible to
Armenian propaganda as other Western Christian nations...); no matter how
"just" Tehlirian's cause was, the fact remains: he murdered another
Now, even if this other
human had been Adolf Hitler (assuming he had survived the war and was living
somewhere in South America, say) and his murderer was caught and tried...
sure, he would have probably gotten off with a slap of the wrist (after all...
it's HITLER!)... but I'd guess there would have been some kind of a token
"punishment." (After all... it's MURDER!)
Many years ago, I had asked a Turk why
Tehlirian got off, and he replied the jurors were paid off. As if this were an
"Al Capone" trial..! I guess anything is possible, but I didn't
accept this silly explanation one bit.
By chance, I was listening
to an Armenian radio program and I heard of a private screening of a 1981
feature film called ASSIGNMENT BERLIN. It was presented by a university's
Armenian club, and I knew I had to check this film out. (Not only was I
interested in learning why the killer had gotten off, I was very curious to
hear what genocidal "proof" was presented... still keeping an open
mind about the issue.) When I arrived, I noticed many of the gathered
Armenians were eating foods eaten by Turks, some of them were speaking
Turkish... all these wonderful and ironic signs for the cause of unifying, for
an evening whose purpose was for dividing.
Mekka (Eddie Mejikian)
Naturally, the film
was financed by wealthy Armenians (with a budget of nearly one million
dollars, according to a press report), based on the names in the credits...
and it was too bad for this now totally obscure movie that a Harvey Weinstein
of Miramax didn't champion its cause. (Even when Mr. Weinstein backs a film
like ARARAT, it doesn't mean the film
will be all that successful, of course.) Soghoman Tehlirian was
played by "The Big Ragu" of television's Laverne and Shirley,
When I learned the main evidence was
the Talat Pasha telegrams, I must say, I bristled with disgust. So obviously
proven to be forgeries... how can any honorable film use such fake evidence to
prove its case?
Well! I was delighted to run into an
Armenian-translated transcript in an Armenian web site. Now I have a much
better take of the reasons why the killer was acquitted. And now I see, the
movie was based on fact, as far as one of the main reasons.... the forged
telegrams served their purpose. (How ironic the D.A. had this to say: "As
District Attorney, I know, for example, that exactly the same sort of
documents appeared during our [the Germans'] period of revolutionary
upheavals, bearing the signatures of prominent persons. After the war, as they
later insisted, it was shown that the signatures had been forged.")
(However, the telegrams may never have been presented. In
which case, my bristling with disgust would not have been unjustified. As I
learned more from newspaper reports, I got more into this question at the bottom of this page. ADDENDUM: The issue
has been resolved; see below. The Andonian papers were not
This is pretty fascinating stuff, as
many of the arguments being made today were also being made then.
(Particularly the arguments for the Turkish viewpoint.) This trial is like a
little microcosm of the things being said today.
The difference is, the Germans
overwhelmingly approached the subject matter with the prevailing prejudices of
the "Christian" West. Just like it's so automatically believable
that the Terrible Turk must have been guilty among Western perspectives today,
it was no less so during the time of this trial... probably even more.
The accused was kind of like "Son
of Sam"... voices in his head ultimately made him kill. (The voice of his
mother, in particular, saying he would no longer be her son if he didn't
Another factor that essentially
nullified the Turkish perspective was the brilliance of the defense lawyers.
Johnny Cochran would have been envious... this collection of lawyers
(identified as "Berlin's best" in a New York Times account) put his
own "Dream Team" from the O.J. Simpson trial to shame. Not only do
they make great arguments, but there are four of them to only one of the
District Attorney. Once the D.A. would make an argument, three or four of the
opposing lawyers would each get equal time. What kind of a cockeyed system is
Heath W. Lowry, in his "19th and 20th Century Armenian Terrorism 'Threads of
Continuity,' " reports: Tehlirian, the assassin of Talat Pasha,
was arrested in Berlin and charged with murder. Within days of his arrest a
"Soghomon Tehlirian Defense Fund" was established in Berlin, which
rapidly grew as Armenians worldwide, and in particular the United States, sent
their contributions to Berlin. Aided by the legal advice thus purchased,
Tehlirian was acquitted after a cursory two-day trial. For the next forty
years, until his death in San Francisco (1960) Tehlirian was accorded the
status of an 'Armenian National Hero'. Indeed, the 1968 book by James Nazer
entitled: "The First Genocide of the Twentieth Century" places this
'title' beneath his photograph. The author likewise granted the epitaph of
'Armenian National Hero' to Shiragian and Yerganian, two of Tehlirian's fellow
'Nemisis' members. (Together, they gunned down two former Young Turk
officials, Bahaeddin Sakir Bey and Cemal Azmi Bey, on April 17, 1922; four
months earlier, Arshavir Shirakian whacked former Ottoman Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Said Halim Pasa, in Rome.)
One of the more
influential arguments that must have swayed patriotic German jurors is one I
would have never thought about (Presented by Defense Lawyer Werthauer):
"...To the Turks the
implications were clear. They thought,
'It is impossible for these events to take place without the consent of the
Germans. After all, we are their allies and they are so much stronger than
us.,’ Therefore, in the East and all over the world, we Germans have been
held responsible with the Turks for the crimes committed against the
Armenians. There is a wealth of literature in the United States, Great
Britain, and France whose purpose is to show that the Germans were really the
Talaats in Turkey. If a German court were to find Soghomon Tehlirian not
guilty, this would put an end to the misconception that the world has of
British POW Armstrong
("Turkey in Travail")
German nurses were caring.
(Interestingly, the D.A. speculates... in an
excluded portion that doesn't seem to be below... that even if the jury finds
the defendant guilty, the state would step in and grant him a pardon. Probably
the reason had to do with the fear expressed above... in which case the
outcome of the cursory two-day trial might have come as close to being
pre-determined as a trial can get.)
(As an addendum, the part of
the transcript attesting to the above comes from Defense Attorney Adolf von
Gordon: "Gentlemen, the District Attorney mentioned that if you
declare the defendant Tehlirian guilty of premeditated murder and thus lay the
foundation for the implementation of the death penalty, it would not be a
serious matter since the President of our Republic will undoubtedly grant him
a pardon." Von Gordon pooh-poohs the thought by declaring nobody can
predict what the President will do, but it would have been useful to read why
the D.A. concluded this trial was already a done deal. I suppose the Armenian
site which posted the transcript censored this portion.)
I'm sure there was this wealth of evidence, as during the war
years the Germans were demonized as well as the Turks. (A synonym for German
was "Hun," by the British. The Germans gave themselves this
"Hun" nickname first, however.) I'm sure much of this information
had been falsified, just as the information against the Turks had been. (In
fact, one main reason why Bryce's "Blue Book" was discredited after
the war was because of the false charges made against the Germans.) However,
it's interesting that Armenians today still cling to the falsehoods of the
past that incriminate the Turks, and yet Armenians have pretty much forgiven
the Germans. (To the point of fighting side-by-side with them in World War II.) I guess the
Armenians are expert in distinguishing one lie from another.
The following goes on and on, and I've
edited out some of its parts. Detailing the hideous cruelties
purportedly performed by Turks is not the purpose of this web site, and the
eyewitness testimonies of the accused and a friend's wife in particular have
been deleted (for the love of God! How could they have survived beside such
amoral monsters who have engaged in the most unspeakable acts...), as has the
testimony of Dr. Johannes Lepsius,
the very biased president of the German-Armenian society. (if you have a taste
for reading such unimaginable atrocities, just run a search... practically any
Armenian web site will be glad to deliver.) I have begun with the testimony of
defense witness General Otto Liman von Sanders, who at least tries to maintain
some objectivity... despite his obvious prejudices. (You know.... there seems
to be not one witness for the prosecution! If the transcript is presumed
accurate, what kind of a lopsided trial was this?)
Bronsart v. Schellendorf, who was the
highest-ranking German military officer in the Eastern Front during
World War I (i.e., the commander-in-chief of Turkish Land Forces), and
also a very good friend of Talat Pasha, was not allowed to testify in court in Berlin,
upon the assassination of Talat Pasha by S. Tehlirian. The
court acquitted Tehlirian upon the grounds of “profound provocation to
the Armenians by the Turks” in a very quick trial. Angry at not being
able to testify and tell the truth in court, General Schellendorf wrote an article, which was published in Deutsche Allegemeine
Zeitung on July 24, 1921 and stated that he had been a witness to the
fact that the Turks did not commit any pre-planned massacre; on the
contrary, many Turks were killed as the result of the Armenian terror
that reigned in that period. In his article, he maintained that the
relocation law was passed in order to safeguard the Ottoman Army.
Daily Hürriyet dated
April 24, 2001, reporting the article by General von Schellendorf
published in Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung on July 24, 1921, titled
"The German Officers Were not Called to Testify”; from Prof.
Arslan Terzioğlu's "THE ASSASSINATION OF DR. BAHADDIN SAKIR IN
In the Tehlirian case, only the people with poor knowledge about the
event were listened to as witnesses. The ones who saw the truth were not
invited to the trial. Why were German officers on duty in the region,
not accepted as witnesses? I want to convey my knowledge about the event
via this article since I was not listened to as a witness . We should
take a look at the history in order to understand the accusation of
chief vizier Talat who had been killed. The Armenian cruelty could be
traced back to very old times. These events had started since Armenians
and Kurds had started to live in a limited land among the borders of
Iran, Russia and Turkey.
Cruelty on Moslem Folk
Disputes increased as Armenians
rebelled during the great war in the Eastern provinces of Turkey. There
were no special reason for the rebellion since the Armenians had both
chairs in the new parliament and voting rights. They also had the equal
social and political rights as the other folks. There was evidence, such
as provoking brochurs, which had proved that the rebellion were
organized by external agents. Russia was financing the rebellion. Since
all the Moslem men were in the Turkish Army, Armenians had the
opportunity to massacre the defenseless folk. Armenians did not only
weaken the Turkish Army in the East fighting against Russians, but also
they massacred the Moslem folk in the region. As a person who had
witnesses the cruelty, I could easily say that the cruelties were much
more merciless than the (so-called Armenian genocide). Since the
rebellion was spreading through the other regions of the Empire, the
gendarme was put in charge. The Minister of Internal Affairs Talat had
to order the transfer of Armenians. The instance was critical because
the connection between the Army in the east was about to break and the
Moslem folk were trying to escape from Armenian cruelty. The council of
Ministers, in a very difficult decision, declared the Armenians as
dangerous people and ordered to take them away from the frontiers. They
would be transferred to the fruitful Northern Mesopotamia which was a
land away from the war. Talat was foreseeing the future, as he thought
that Armenians would live a better life in that region away from the
provocation of Russians and the competition of Kurds.
In the wide spread Turkish Empire,
there were regions which were independent from the central authority.
Some orders coming form Istanbul had been implemented differently by the
local governors. A few uneducated officials could not properly transfer
the Armenians and the Moslem folk. Talat wanted help from the army at
that point, but unfortunately lots of Moslems and Armenians could not
endure the severe conditions of the voyage.
Kurds Utilized the Opportunity
The transfer was a necessity. Talat was
not a murderer but a statesman. The intentional cruelty towards
Armenians was performed by the Kurds who were their enemies. Armenians
had to pass through the Kurdish regions during the voyage since there
was no other way.
The complete (and differently
translated) article: A German Officer's Eyewitness Testimony
I'm not exactly sure how accurate this
transcript is; it was translated by an Armenian. I notice the word
"genocide" was used as a translation, even though this word did not
exist at the time. Another thing that made me wonder is that the forger of the
telegrams, Aram Andonian, was one
of the witnesses (at least it sounds that way), but his testimony was nowhere
(Defense Attorney Von Gordon:
"The witness Andonian can testify to the authenticity of these
telegrams." The attorney is referring to the telegrams Andonian himself
forged. Ain't that a "putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop"
kind of kick in the head.)
"I understand the
acute concerns of the Armenian community in the wake of the genocide of
hundreds of thousands of Armenians 86 years ago... But terrorism by members of
one nationality or ethnic group against members of another cannot prevail in a
District Attorney Steve Cooley, regarding Harry
Sassounian's murder conviction, in an effort to retry the case to ensure the
assassin never got out of prison. Sassounian killed Turkish Consul General Kemal Arikan, in 1982. (The
Associated Press, September 29, 2001)
Times articles covering the trial and its aftermath are below.
for the parts in gray, here is most of the transcript of the trial, taken
word-for-word from the Armenian web site. Since they didn't bother to make
scanning-corrections, you'll have to bear with the imperfections. In other words,
Holdwater chooses to pull an "Ambassador Morgenthau" here... we'll regard
the Armenian web site as my "Armenian secretary," who bears the
responsibility for the work. ("Of
course this relieves me of all responsibility for any error.") This is followed by a "Fore Word,"
which describes what happened to this Armenian hero later in life... along with other
The Trial of Soghomon Tehlirian
He executed Talat Pasha in Berlin and was found
not guilty of murder. Here are the entire trial proceedings... Most of it has not been
edited after scanning, but I am putting it online already.
Witness His Excellency General Otto Liinatt von Sanders (66 years
old, protestant) takes the oath.
at Gallipoli, he
had much respect for Ataturk
— In addition to Dr. Lepsius’ testimony, Itoo would like to offer a few comments from
a military point of view.
in my opinion, we should divide into two categories the events which have taken place in
Armenia, generally referred to as “The Armenian
Massacres.” First, in my opinion, is the order of the Young Turks to deport the
Armenians. We can hold the government fully responsible for
the preparation of this deportation and partially responsible for all of the ~~bsequent
events. Second, we have the war and the fighting that took place in the Armenian
territories. Initially, the Armenians defended themselves against the Turks, contrary to
the Turkish orders to disarm,
and, as has been proven beyond doubt, some joined the Russians and fought against Turkey.
Naturally, it is understandable that the victors in
such a war would be accused of massacring the vanquished. I believe these two categories
are distinguishable and have to be
distinguished. The government ordered the deportation of all Armenian inhabitants of the
Armenian territories, or the Eastern Anatolian provinces, as a strategic military move.
I wish to stress the fact that all the captains and officers up to the rank
of general in the Eastern Provinces were Turks. Some of you are aware
of the fallacious rumors that have been circulated concerning the
presence of German officers in these provinces. What I said is what these
captains and civil officials have reported in Constantinople; the carrying
out of the orders issued thereupon for deportation fell into the worst
It is also essential to mention that, prior to the war, the Turkish police
force was extremely efficient. It consisted of 85,000 troops and a special-
ly selected brigade. Most of these people were drafted into the army and
separated into various brigades and in their place an auxiliary police
force was created. It certainly did not represent a select class. It consisted
mostly of criminals or the perennially unemployed. Discipline among
these people was understandably very lax. We should keep this in mind
when we bear testimony relating to the atrocities committed against the
It was not the Turkish army or the Turkish police force that attacked
the Armenians, but rather a temporary supplementary police force
created because of the exigencies of the time. Furthermore, we should
remember that the economic situation was so dismal that not only many
Armenians, but thousands of Turkish soldiers as well died of the lack of
food supplies, disease, and other consequences of poor organization in
the Turkish government. In my division alone, after the battle of
Galipoli, thousands died of malnutrition. I feel all of these points shawd
be kept in mind.
We should also not overlook the fact that many Turks were fighti118
under the banner of a “Holy War” and thus felt that the more severely’
they acted with the Armenians, the Christians, the more benevolent their
actions were. This is especially true of the subordinate officials. me.
Kurds, who have always been enemies of the Armenians, committed
numerous atrocities against the Armenians as well.
As far as I know, the German government did whatever it could at the
time, conditions permitting, to help the Armenians. However, we should
also recognize that it was a difficult task for the German government. x
know personally that our Ambassador, Count Metternich, continuously
protested against the policies and measures taken against the Armenians..
I can say without hesitation, as Dr. Lepsius was good enough to stress,
that there was not a single German officer involved in any of the actions
taken against the Armenians, contrary to the many suspicions entertain-
ed with regard to us. The fact of the matter is that we intervened
whenever and wherever we could.
I should mention that I personally never received any orders signed by
Talaat. The orders I received were signed by Enver and they generally
had little significance. These orders were generally incomprehensible or
totally impracticable. For example, I once received an order to remove,
all Jews and Armenians from the German officers’ staff. It goes without
saying that the orders were never carried out, since we needed them as interpreters. Very
often we received such nonsensical orders.
In February 1916, I had the opportunity to oppose the orders of tlw
Governor of the vilayet of Adrianople to expel the Armenians and Jews
from Adrianople. I got word about this from the Bavarian senior deputy,
Witmar. I went there and looked into the matter. Our representative was,
the Austrian Consul. My on-the-spot investigation verified the fact that
the Governor had ordered the deportation. I went to Constantinople
and, with the help of Consul Count Metternich and the Ambassador’s
Consul Palavichin, the orders were withdrawn.
On another occasion I went to Smyrna. The governor of the province
had 600 Armenians taken out of bed and put in wagons to be deported. I
went to see the governor and told him that if another hand was raised
against the Armenians, I would order my soldiers to kill his police officers. Thereupon,
the order was withdrawn. This is the truth. Dr. Lepsius mentions this incident in his
This is approximately what I know through personal experience. I
would like to stress that I have never set foot in Armenia. I have ne~’d.
been close to Armenia and the Turkish government has never listened tO 2
my views nor have they asked for my views on any of the measures takCO4
against the Armenians. On the contrary, everything was done
clandestinely so that we would not have any knowledge of their internal
Some of the most libelous reports of the world press have stated that
German officers, and I think the same applies to all German officials,
took part in the planned deportation of the Armenians. On the contrary,
in accordance with our duty we intervened whenever we could to assist
the Armenians. In my district, except for the examples cited above, the
Armenians were few and scattered far and wide.
I cannot say what the role of Talaat was as concerns the issuing of
orders. As far as I know the principal order pertairnng to the deportation
of the Armenians was given on May 20, 1915. In any event it was the
result of a decision of the Young Turk committee and it had the
unanimous approval of the ministers. The implementation of the orders
was left to the Valis, the lower echelon officials, and especially the horrible police
In any event, I consider it my duty to state that, in the five years I was
in Turkey, I never saw an order signed by Talaat against the Armenians
and neither can I testify whether or not such an order was ever issued.
Witness Bishop Krikorts Balakisn (Vicar from the Annenian.
Apostolic Prelacy in Manchester, England, who has come to
Berlin for the trial) tskes the oath. The witness speaks halting German. No interpreter is
VON GORDON — At least I would like to mention the contents of these
telegrams. The telegrams prove that Talaat personally gave the orders to
massacre alt the Armenians including women and children. Originally
the order was given to spare only those children who were too young to
remember what had happened to their parents. However, in March 1916
this order was rescinded as it was felt that these children could, in the
future, turn out to be a dangerous element in the community.
The witness Andonian can testify to the authenticity of these
telegrams. He obtained them directly from the office of the Vice-
governor of Aleppo after the British occupation. Then he placed them at
the disposal of the Armenian Delegation.
I personally feel it is important, essential in fact, that the Jurors accept
the defendant’s belief that Talaat was the responsible party and the
author of the Armenian Genocide. If the Jurors are willing to accept this,
then I am willing to waive the reading of these telegrams.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY — I feel that the motion should be denied. Even
though great latitude was granted to discuss this subject, nevertheless, it
is not the purpose of this body, nor is it within its competence, to come to
a historic decision pertaining to the guilt or innocence of Talaat and the
extent of his involvement in the massacre of the Armenians. The essential
point is that the defendant believed that Talaat was the responsible party
and thus the motive becomes fully clear.
I just checked, and the
Armenian site did include this portion after all. Here it is, continuing from the
D.A.'s last round from above:
VON GORDON — In view of the position taken by the District
Attorney and the effect it has bad on the jurors, I would like to cancel my motion
to have these telegrams read into the record.
PRESIDING JUSTICE — I believe that takes care of this point.
The Andonian documents
were NOT introduced at this trial.
That means ASSIGNMENT
BERLIN presented its case falsely. The New York
Times' July, 1921 George
R. Montgomery article (below), with a series of Talat
"telegrams," was presented falsely. And the Armenian site where this
transcript was taken presented its case falsely.
This is a long page, and I've
been trying to get to the bottom of "Andonian... or not Andonian" for a
couple of years. If there are sections here that I've missed editing, and I still
come across as wondering, kindly ignore my uncertain position from the past.
DISTRICT Arr0RNEY — Members of the jury, it is not the legal
implications of this criminal case which give it special significance and ex-
plain the intense interest being shown in it, not only in our country, but
in other countries as well. To account for such attention we have to look
at the other aspects of this case. In view of its psychological causes, the
incident takes us back to events that took place during the World War.
This case has, as its root, the bloody and savage events that took place in
Asia Minor and it is as if we again have to hear the thunder of the World
War. Furthermore, it is the personality of the victim of the act that gives
the latter an added significance. From a nameless and unknown mass of
people, a hand rose up and struck down a human being who held the
reins of his country in band while it was involved in a world struggle. He
was the faithful ally of the German people and together rode the waves
However, gentlemen of the jury, these recollections and impressions
cannot obligate the accusor and the judge to dismiss the incident and let
the perpetrator of the incident go free. We must view the matter solely
from the point of view of penal justice, as the law demands.
From a legal point of view, the case is quite simple. On March 15,
1921, the defendant shot and killed Talaat Pasha on Charlottenburg-
strasse. The aim was well taken. Death was instantaneous and there is no
doubt that the defendant wanted to kill. He committed the act intentionally. Did the
defendant not testify that he still felt gratified in having
successfully committed that act? The commission of a homicide is
punishable under German law. The perpetrator has to be punished where
a human being’s life has been taken. In the eyes of the law, it makes no
difference whether the victim was a German citizen or not. According to
Article 3 of the Penal Code, the law applies throughout Germany for any
crimes committed within its borders.
Gentlemen of the jury, the defendant made several remarks that were
peculiar from a number of points of view when he was apprehended right
after the commission of the act and found himself surrounded by an
angry mob. He said, “This is no loss to Germany. lam an Armenian. He
is a Turk.” What he meant by that was that they were foreigners and,
therefore, that the act was of no concern to Germany. This exclamation
has no significance at alt in terms of penal justice. Whether or not the
victim and/or the perpetrator of the crime were citizens of Germany has
no bearing. According to our laws, the defendant has to be punished if,
of course, there are no circumstances which would make this an excusable homicide. I shall
get to this later.
First and foremost we should clarify the point as to whether or not this
was a premeditated crime. The law distinguishes between a premeditated
and non-premeditated crime. The punishment for the former is very
severe — the death penalty. For the latter, that is a killing committed at
the time of emotional distress, the penalty is less severe.
Likewise, I can accept a familiar fact: where the perpetration of the
crime is done with definite deliberation and premeditation, when the act
is committed under calm and clear circumstances, with consciousness of
the rational implications and motives of the act, of the means and consequences of
committing the crime, as well as of the moral absolutes to
avert the act. In other words, the first type of killing is one in which the
defendant can take into consideration all these factors. Furthermore, he
is able to assess the pros and cons of the act and then reach a decision on
the basis of these purely rational considerations.
I ask you, “Did the defendant commit this act following such deliberation?” Naturally
I also have to ask a second question: “What factors led
the defendant to commit this act?”
There is no question in my mind that what we are dealing with here is a
political assassination. The defendant’s motives were political hatred and
A graphic picture of events that took place in far-off places unfolded
before you. Without a doubt, horrid events took place; dreadful events
befell the Armenian people. Undoubtedly, horrible things happened to
the defendant and his family. Also there is no doubt that a brutal fate afflicted his very
essence; all of his relatives were subjected to death and he
was forced to be an eyewitness to all of this. The defendant, because of
what he had seen and suffered, became vengeful. When he became
vengeful is something I will get into a little later.
It is also quite clear that the defendant held Talaat Pasha to be the
responsible party for the acts. The defendant looked upon Talaat as the
person who struck down his compatriots, his parents and relatives, and,
indeed, himself. Furthermore, the defendant looked upon Talaat not
merely as the Minister of Interior who, because of his position, would
presumably be held politically liable for the acts committed during his
tenure in office, but also as personally and morally the author of the
above mentioned offenses.
Gentlemen of the jury, the determination of these motives is sufficient
to judge Tehlirian’s act from the penal-legal point of view.
But the examination of the witnesses went into the question of whether
Talaat was really the personal and moral author of these crimes. Even
though, in my opinion, it makes no difference whatsoever, from a legal
point of view, whether or not Talaat was the author or whether the
defendant’s notion that Talaat was the author corresponds to the truth,
nevertheless, since the witnesses did expound on this point, I feet
obligated to comment.
Gentlemen of the jury, it is patently clear and witnesses have so indicated, that the
Armenians and their friends are convinced of Talaat’s
responsibility for the crimes committed against them.
However, gentlemen, this is not an impartial view. It would have been
easy for us to bring a whole series of witnesses to give an altogether different picture
of what took place. I have personally spoken with many
Germans who were in Turkey and were close to scenes of the incidents in
question, and they have an altogether different grasp of what happened
than what you have heard here. They stated that there is no basis even for
saying that the government of Constantinople had decided to annihilate
the Armenians; rather it was the considerations of governmental and
military security — perhaps misunderstood — which motivated Talaat to
issue the order for deportation, the result of which, to be sure, had fatal
PRESIDING JUSTICE (interrupting) — I would appreciate it if you
would not dwell at length on this matter which was not the topic of
discussion during cross-examination of the witnesses. Moreover, mentioning incidents which
others have discussed has nothing at all to do
with the case before us.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY (continuing) — Nevertheless, I can make use of
the testimony to the extent that there was a difference between the
statements and the point of view of the two expert witnesses. I find that
the testimony of Dr. Lepsius, though detailed and interesting, is never-
theless deficient in that it ascribes, in my opinion, a systematic and planned nature to
the crimes committed against the Armenians. It is not hard
to see that he came to this conclusion, not on account of what he saw and
experienced in Turkey, but in light of evidence that has more recently
been uncovered. For that reason I think I am correct in giving more
weight to the testimony of General Liman von Sanders, who was in
Turkey, held an important position and was close to the scene of the
events that took place. General von Sanders testified explicitly as to the
difference between the understanding behind the order given in Constantinople to deport
the Armenians and the manner in which the deportation was carried out. The government in
Constantinople had received
word that the Armenians were thinking of betraying the government and
plotting with the Allied Powers. It was decided that, as soon as the opportunity was ripe,
they would attack the Turks from behind and create
an independent Armenia. Thus, for defensive and military reasons, the
government in Constantinople considered it necessary to deport the
Armenians. As to the character of these deportations, we should take in-
to consideration, gentlemen of the jury, that Asia Minor is not exactly a
place in which conditions characteristic of civilized peoples prevail. I feel
I should be careful in howl put this, i.e., those conditions which we were
used to before the war. The tradition in Asia Minor has always been one
of savagery and bloodshed, and our expert witnesses testified that, in
1915 a “Holy War” had already been declared. When people belonging
to different nationalities and of different faiths saw that all the Armenians were being
deported to one place by the Turks, they looked upon
this naturally as an invitation to battle and attacked them. And this is
how the beastly instincts of men came forth, causing tooting, killing, etc.
The expert witness testified further that during the deportation the
soldiers who were guarding the caravans were no longer members of the
regular select military, but rather “gendarmes,” actually vagabonds
who, on their own initiative, committed the killings known to us all.
I feel it essential to make this digression to show that the testimony
presented here does not identify Talaat as personally and morally responsible for the
killings. The various documents that they wished to call to
our attention do not convince me otherwise. As District Attorney, I
know, for example, that exactly the same sort of documents appeared
during our period of revolutionary upheavals, bearing the signatures of
prominent persons. After the war, as they later insisted, it was shown
that the signatures had been forged. Finally, the verdict of the tribunal in
Constantinople against Talaat, mentioned in this court, cannot convince
me of his culpability. I do not know if the tribunal had all of the evidence
before it. It is possible; however, we must not forget that whenever a
government falls, the members of the succeeding government look upon
the members of the former government as criminals. I hardly need remind you of the
alacrity and upheaval with which a new government
came into power in Turkey, that the government of the Young Turks was
friendly to the Central Powers, while the new government, on the con-
trary, was forced to side with the Allied Powers. Therefore, as I indicated earlier, we
are unable to tell whether or not the tribunal of Constantinople acted justly in
condemning Talaat. I repeat, the testimony of
the witnesses did not, in the least, implicate Talaat morally for the killings of the
To turn to the homicide. As I indicated, the motive of the defendant
was to get revenge through killing Talaat, who he was convinced was the
instigator and perpetrator of the massacres of the Armenians.
Gentlemen, this motive of revenge is not an ignoble one by any means;
on the contrary, it is an easy one to comprehend as long as human beings
are able to love and hate.
Later on, when I ask whether the defendant acted with premeditation,
it will be easy to see how motives of revenge made his premeditated kill-
ing. When you consider carefully how the defendant, after seeing his
parents’ house in Erzinga in ruins, scoured Europe until he came to
Berlin and found Talaat, it will not be difficult to conclude that he was
possessed by a fanatical, revengeful idea that drew him like a magnet to
the home and doorway of the victim.
Thus, in my opinion, the statement he made when he was first interrogated is absolutely
truthful. I have no doubt whatsoever that it cor-
responds to the truth. At the time the defendant said, “As soon as I saw
my parents’ home in ruins, I wanted to avenge their deaths. In order to
do that, I went and bought a pistol
Gentlemen, I do not want to dwell on this point any further. There
may be doubts about this. In point of fact, the defendant himself
retracted his statements to that effect, saying they had been made when
he was weak of mind and under the immediate influence of shock caused
by killing. But I would like to emphasize a statement which the defendant
made to the police inspector and repeated in this courtroom. According
to his statement, the first time he thought of killing Talaat was fourteen
days before the actual killing. Therefore, we can see how the defendant
followed through his intention to the end, with a certain plan and
weighing all the factors. We see how he left his previous lodging; how he
justified that on health grounds; how he followed him and found out at
what time Talaat normally left his house; how, on March 15th, he put his
pistol in his pocket, followed Talaat and then passed in front of him to
make sure it was Talaat Pasha; how he let the victim pass him so he
would be behind him again and how he fired upon him from behind. The
aim was well taken; death was instantaneous.
For further proof that this was a premeditated crime, let us look to
another statement he made to the police. In answer to the question Why
did you not fire when you were facing him?,” he said, “1 might not have
succeeded. He would have tried to defend himself; he might have moved.
and I could not be sure that my shot would kill.”
Gentlemen of the jury, we also see from the evidence that this crime
was committed intentionally and very calmly. You recall how he threw
his pistol away and tried to escape. When he was caught and beaten, he
said, “The person I killed is not German. I am not German. You Ger-
mans have no reason to be saddened on account of this incident. It does
not concern you at all.”
Soghomon Tehlirian Monument
at Ararat Cemetery in Fresno,
California. Those Californian
Armenians sure are loaded.
all these circumstances into consideration, we can only con-
clude that the killing was carried out in a perfectly coldblooded manner;
it was well thought-out and deliberated upon in advance.
Now let us took at the defendant’s temperament. Was the defendant
hat-tempered or easily provoked? The evidence is to the contrary. He
was a gloomy and calm man, wrapped up in himself. He was not one to
dance with joy or have fits of passion. On the contrary, he was one who
kept his thoughts to himself to a point where he would calmly analyze
them and take action.
Thus, in my opinion, it is possible to consider it a totally objectively proven fact that
the basic signs of a truly premeditated killing did exist.
However, all this would not be sufficient to subject the defendant to
punitive measures. We should also determine whether or not there are
any extenuating circumstances which, as I said at the outset, would allow
the defendant to go unpunished. Here is where Article 51 of the German
Penal Code applies; it says that a homicide should go unpunished when
the defendant committed the act unknowingly or when he commits the
act under the influence of mental anguish that he no longer has control
over his free will. Therefore, when the case concerns the act of an in-
dividual subject to severe emotional turmoil, the law does not recognize
the killing to be punishable; rather, it treats it as an unfortunate accident
— just as if, for example, someone were to be killed by the kick of a
horse. Under these circumstances, according to the law, there is not a
culpable party and, as such, there are no punitive measures to be taken.
Hence, what we have to figure out is whether or not there were any such
circumstances in the case of the defendant.
Gentlemen, it goes without saying that if all the expert witnesses were
to give the same opinion, then the Court would naturally be obligated to
make a decision in accordance with their conclusion. Unfortunately,
however, in this case, we do not have a unanimity of opinion on the part
of the expert witnesses. Consequently, the Court itself is required to
decide whether or not the dispositions of Article 51 are applicable.
You heard three of the expert witnesses testify that those dispositions
do not apply to this case. It is true that the defendant is an epileptic, sub-
ject to convulsive attacks. However, that circumstance in itself is still not
sufficient, because the defendant was deprived of his free will only during these
convulsive attacks, while he was a normal individual at other
times. For this reason, every time it is said the defendant is an epileptic,
the Court and the expert witnesses ask the following question: “Did he
have a convulsive attack at the time he committed the crime or immediately prior?” If
not, then be acted as a normal person.
The first three expert witnesses were of this opinion while the latter
two explained that at the time of the commission of the cnme the defendant was not
accountable for his actions.
It is then up to the Court itself to decide. Therefore, it is essential to
examine the personality of the defendant as revealed by his behavior dur-
ing the trial. I am convinced that his behavior in Court demonstrated to
us that we are dealing with a highly intelligent person. His answers were
decisive and always to the point. We should have seen some peculiar
behavior, but this was totally absent. The defendant has lived a life like
anyone else his age. His economic situation was such that he was not absolutely obligated
to seek employment. He visited his relatives and
friends and took dancing lessons. His landladies describe him as a calm
and modest person. Thus, from all the evidence, we can see that, except
for the times when he was suffering from epileptic attacks, he was a mentally competent
person. Consequently, I feel we must concur with the
three expert witnesses who denied the applicability of Article 51 to this
Gentlemen, presumably you are aware that a new penal code will be
forthcoming in the near future as a result of judicial reforms; its rough
draft has already been prepared. That penal code prescribes the death
penalty for premeditated murder, but it recognizes extenuating cir-
cumstances which make it possible to change the death penalty to
another and milder penalty. However, the laws, as they stand today, do
not recognize extenuating circumstances. Though I know that will sound
quite severe to some of you, yet I am obliged to request that you find the
defendant guilty of having comitted premeditated murder.
We should not consider only the defendant, but also the victim. We
should remember that a man’s life was taken in his prime. His death is
mourned by his widow and relatives. He was looked upon as a great
patriot and an honorable man at least by his compatriots and co-
Finally, gentlemen, those circumstances favorable to the defendant
will be taken into full consideration by the appropriate body if and when
a decision is made as to whether he should be forgiven for his act.
In conclusion, I propose that you give an affirmative answer to the
questions put to ~Od by this court, and find the defendant guilty of having killed Talaat
Pasha with premeditation.
I have killed a man. But I am not a murderer.
— Soghomon Tehlirian
…He remained calm, and thoughts of vengeance did not occur to him.
He carried on as before until five to six weeks later, when he saw a
dream, materially almost like a vision. His mother’s corpse arose before
him. He told her, “I saw Talaat.” His mother answered, “You saw
Talaat and you did not avenge your mother’s, father’s, brothers’, and
sisters’ murders? You are no longer my son.”
This is the moment when the defendant thought, “I have to do
something. I want to be my mother’s son again. She cannot turn me
away when I go to be with her in heaven. I want her to clasp me to her
bosom like before.” As the doctors explained, the dream ended when he
It is quite evident that such visions play an altogether different role in
the lives of spirited Easterners than they do in the lives of us Westerners,
who look upon such things from a philosophical and medical point of
view. I remind you of the passage from the Holy Bible which reads:
“And the angel appeared to him in his dream.” A similar apparition or
corporeal vision is what had the decisive effect on Tehlirian.
Defense Attorney Johannes Werthauer (privy legal counselor,
The whole world is watching us, and the decision that you wilt render
will be such that perhaps thousands of years from now it will still be
regarded as a wise and just decision.
Therefore, even the function of the defense counsel has to give way
before the responsibility to humanity, which is not to confuse you so that
you can render a just decision.
If you wish to make an objective judgment on the disposition of the
defendant’s Will and his inner feelings at the time of the act, then you
should consider the fact that he belongs to a Southern race. The
Southern races, as is evident, are more easily excitable than the unemotional ones
of the North. Besides that, you should also take into consideration what the
District Attorney has already mentioned, that
Armenia has a bloody history.
It is well known that wherever the Turks have set foot, they have carried a bloody
flag with them. In 1683 the Turks even reached the gates of
Vienna. If they had come to Germany, there would not be much left in
this country either. There is a history of bloodshed among these Southern peoples,
not only in the case of the Turks but also in that of the
Then, we also have to consider
the concept of self-defense. Those in-
dividuals, Enver and Talaat, lived in Germany under assumed names. It
was stated in this court that they were the “guests” of Germany. I shall
categorically reject that statement. I do not believe that the German
government would allow such criminals who have fled from and abandoned their country
to be “guests,” to hide here under assumed names.
Is it not true that one of those individuals just recently fled from Ger-
many too? According to the papers, Enver has again gone to Russia to
forge new projects with the Bolsheviks, one of whose aims is to wage war
against the Armenians and annihilate them. If Talaat, as he of course
wished, had followed Enver, most probably new atrocities would be
committed against the Armenians within a few weeks.
If an individual, as a liberator of his people, kills a man who engages
in dangerous and criminal activity against that people, certainly this is
how he would reflect on it: “This man is an enemy to the Armenian people. If he
leaves Germany and, like Enver, joins the Bolsheviks, our
women and children shall be massacred again.” In this sense, we find
that the concept of imperative self-defense is relevant to the defendant’s
act. Though unacceptable in terms of our jurisprudence, nevertheless the
concept of imperative self-defense exists here in the broad sense of the
word. In any event, the defendant certainly felt fear upon confronting
It was mentioned that this was a killing of an “ally” of Germany. That
is not correct. Talaat and his Committee were the allies of our previous
Prussian-German military government. The Young Turks have never
been the allies of the German people. However, because it was stated in
this courtroom that Talaat was the ally of Germany, I cannot let the opportunity
pass and, indeed, feel it is my personal obligation to stress that
those Young Turks were never the allies of the German people.
It is true they overthrew the old Turkish government and were in con-
trol of the government for some ten years, at the cost of untold human
lives. It is also true that the previous German government had allied itself
with them. But the German government had also allied itself with Lenin
and Trotsky and had helped them cross over from Germany to Russia to
start a revolution. That same government had asked Haze if he knew of a
few revolutionaries or anarchists in our country whom it would be possible to
instigate to bring about a revolution. But to say that Tataat was an
ally of the German people is totally unacceptable to me under any circumstances.
It is possible that Talaat, as an individual, was a decent fellow. But he
was a member of a militarist cabinet. A militarist is a person who is opposed to
justice. The militarist is not an individual who is a member of
the military by calling. It is possible to be an officer or a soldier, wear a
uniform, use weapons and, at the same time, not be a militarist. The officer or
soldier himself can uphold the principles of right and justice and
perform his duties as a member of the military at the same time. On the
other hand, there are countless militarists who have never put on a
uniform. They sit at a desk, write articles, and fiercely defend the flag of
brute force. The militarist is a man who believes in brute force, not a
man who believes in justice. The latter places justice above everything
else in the world. If he is a believer, right after God comes justice and
next in line for him is man. If he is not a religious person, then man, as a
saint, takes first priority in his eyes.
The militarist thinks differently. He is a man who believes in force and
justice has meaning for him only to the extent that it is possible to “accommodate”
it, as expressed in the common phrase, “to military exigendes.
You will find militarists all over the world. They are not unique to any
one nation or country. They form a caste, a united and homogenous
class, consisting of those who believe in the right of force, as opposed to
the ranks who believe in justice.
At the present, we ourselves are also suffering frightfully from the
militarists who are bound to a decided influence across the Rhine. Who
knows how much we will endure at the hands of these people who believe
in the use of force? We too have had our share of militarists. We sent certain
persons to Turkey to give the Turks military training, which we had
no business doing. We saw militarists in Russia and now it is the
Bolsheviks, the real militarists, who are running the government.
We find militarists everywhere. They look like human beings. They
have brains, but the part of their brain that represents justice is missing.
Just as there are well-trained animals that wilt never be able to have
human feelings, so too there are militarists who stand ready to oppose all
nations. They believe in war and force. It is these believers in brute force,
and not the Turkish people, who annihilated the Armenians.
The order to deport a whole nation is the most monstrous act the
militarist mind could conceive. If, as was emphasized in this courtroom,
the Committee of Young Turks believed that the regular gendarmes were
at the front fighting and that only the irregulars were left as gendarmes,
then it had no right whatsoever to give the order for the mass deportation. And if,
nevertheless, the Committee gave the order and entrusted
the task of deportation to such persons, then it is responsible for the con-
I would put the matter the other way around. Certainly the gendarmes
were guilty of the crimes they committed on the roads, but they were not
as guilty as the man sitting in Constantinople who charged such untrustworthy
persons with the responsibility of carrying out the deportation.
I believe in the idea that the private individual never has the choice of
deciding whether he wants to go to war or not. Once war has been
declared, that individual is obliged to go to war whether he likes it or not.
When the fortunes of war turn against his people and he is taken
prisoner, the enemy must bear in mind that it is not the prisoner who
brought about the war; rather he has acted as the representative of his
people according to his obligation. Every prisoner is a saint because he is
a representative of his people who has been forced to go to war in defense
of his home and his fatherland and now, because of the misfortunes of
war, has been taken prisoner.
He who swears at a prisoner or raises a hand against him, in my opinion, no longer
has a place in the society of decent human beings. In each
prisoner I respect the representative of his people, who has been fighting
for his fatherland and has had the misfortune of becoming a prisoner.
The government of Constantinople should have borne this in mind.
Even if the Armenians had allied themselves with another country and
even if a misguided leader of the Armenians had joined the Russians and
thus committed treason, nevertheless the Young Turks knew that there
were thousands of innocent women and children who knew nothing of
such occurrences. Furthermore, the first condition of the order for the
mass deportation should have been rigorous arrangement for the care of
women, children, and those men who had nothing to do with their
‘According to Soviet Armenian sources, the
terrorist (Soghoman Tehlirian) was an Armenian soldier in the Red Army.'
Soghomon Tehlirian, VerhishuPflfler jRemembraflCes], Cairo, 1956. ‘Armenian
Review, 3(1982) and 4(1982).
gobbledygooky, the above is from an Armenian source ... Armenian sites
simply must learn to proofread the matter they scan!... What is
fascinating is that Tehlirian was apparently NOT a Turkish citizen who got
caught up in the tragic events of the relocation policy, as everything else on
this page initially made me believe. NO, it appears he was actively involved
against the Ottoman Empire as a Russian soldier! (Even though the "Red
Army" bit is incorrect... the "redness" came after the Russian
revolution, spelling the end of the war between the Russians and the Turks.)
Since some of his family members were killed in the Ottoman Empire according
to what made his mind snap, that means he must have been not a
Russian-Armenian, but an Ottoman-Armenian... betraying his country, joining
the army of his country's worst enemy. Isn't that something. (Unless:
Tehlirian fought in the Soviet Union in the years after his 1921 assassination
act. But that would imply he would be stuck in the Soviet Union; Tehlirian
lived out his life in the United States.)
above. All this speculation! This particular Armenian source must have been
mistaken, unless Tehlirian was with the Soviets in the brief period between
the Soviet takeover of his country in late 1920 and the March 1921
assassination, which would have been highly unlikely, since he was doing
ground work in Germany before his murder mission. Tehlirian probably never
served in the RED army, but definitely (and traitorously) in the TSARIST army,
as a "volunteer," against his own Ottoman nation.]
Defense Attorney Kurt Niemeyer (privy legal counselor and pro-
fessor at JOel University Law School).
The Armenians are a particularly religious people. Their rites, their
firm reliance on religion, even to their daily customs are to a certain ex-
tent similar to the Islamic washing and daily prayers. The Armenians live
entirely by religious directives, and I cannot refrain from saying that
there are some nasty anecdotes about the Armenians which are circulated
around like cheap money and have given the Armenians a bad reputation. For example,
“One Greek can sell three Jews. One Armenian can
sell three Greeks” and other similar comments exist.
There is a Persian anecdote (the Persians know the Armenians the
best) which says, “Get your bread from a Kurd but sleep in an Armenian
home.” What this means is that the Persian, being a Muslim, cannot
take bread from a Christian Armenian so he takes it from his co-
religionist, the Kurd. But he will not accept the hospitality of his co-
religionists because the Armenian will not steal. Security of ownership
and scrupulous respect for the possessions of others are nowhere else as
evident as among the Armenians.
(THE D.A. OBJECTS TO CERTAIN POINTS…)
He did not like it when I labeled the deceased the faithful ally of the
German people. I have to repeat that the Turkish people fought side-by-
side with the German people and that they unquestionably can be
classified as an ally of the Germans. I do not think it is honorable to deny
the past after a certain point, whatever one’s political leanings. I have to
object in the strongest terms to the defense attorney’s classifying the two
representatives of this Turkish policy, Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha, as
criminals who abandoned their fatherland.
Defense Attorney Werthauer
According to Article 190 of the Penal Code, when information
disseminated about an individual concerns his punishable act, the truth
of the statements or rumors is considered verified if the culprit has been
officially condemned for the action. And, on the contrary, the truth is
not considered verified if the targeted individual had been set free before
the rumors about him began to circulate.
On June 10, 1335 (according to the Turkish calendar), a Court-
Martial, made up of the most distinguished judges, condemned Talaat
Pasha and Enver Pasha, along with Jemal and Nazim, as the authors of
an ignoble crime; namely, the extermination of the Armenians and the
punishing of the innocent. This verdict is legal. And it is incorrect and
contrary to German jurisprudence to say that I am guilty of slander identifying
these persons as criminals. In fact, they have been legally condemned for having
committed the basest of crimes.
Thus, to make such reproachful remarks to me indicates a lack of
knowledge of our German jurisprudence.
These criminals have abandoned their country. They have lived here
under assumed names. I do not know whether they enjoyed the protection of one or
another mititarist government. I cannot say anything at all
on the matter because, contrary to what the District Attorney said, I do
not want to inject politics into this case.
Subsequently, the District Attorney stated that the Turkish people
stood beside the German people as loyal allies. This is true and no one
has stated anything to the contrary. The Turks are also brave soldiers.
The Turkish people, however, are not to be blamed for the war any more
than the German people are to be blamed for it.
According to the treaties between the Germans and the Turks, the
peoples of these countries had no say whatsoever in the declaration of
war, which was fought without regard to the people’s wilt. The people
only had a duty to perform.
Individuals like Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha, and others are the issue
here not because of the declaration of war, but because they implemented a
deportation, which resulted in the commission of crimes
against the Armenians, the likes of which cannot be found in human
Gentlemen of the jury, I have already told you that, as a result of the
ignominious massacres, your decision may be remembered thousands of
years from now.
How often you are forced to pass judgement on a husband who, upon
returning home, finds his wife committing adultery and kills her! Who
would even imagine condemning such a man?
But the defendant’s case does not regard marital infidelity. His sisters
were raped, his brothers and family were killed, his whole family was exterminated.
The defendant raised the banner against the one criminal
guilty of all those vile crimes, a man who was caught in the act and con-
demned. The defendant saw the murderer, lost control of his rational
mind, took aim, pulled the trigger, and another human life, unfortunately, was
Defense Attorney Werthauer
During the war, German military and other establishments, both in
this country and beyond its borders, passed over in silence and then tried
to cover up the atrocities committed against the Armenians. This was
done in such a manner as to imply that our German government actually
condoned these atrocities.
Certainly, up to a point, individual Germans tried to put an end to the
atrocities, but to the Turks the implications were clear. They thought,
“It is impossible for these events to take place without the consent of the
Germans. After all, we are their allies and they are so much stronger than
Therefore, in the East and all over the world, we Germans have been
held responsible with the Turks for the crimes committed against the
Armenians. There is a wealth of literature in the United States, Great
Britain, and France whose purpose is to show that the Germans were
really the Talaats in Turkey.
If a German court were to find Soghomon Tehlirian not guilty, this
would put an end to the misconception that the world has of us. The
world would welcome such a decision as one serving the highest prin-
ciples of justice.
JUSTICE, Instructions to the Jury:
You have to ask yourself whether or not the defendant wanted to kill
Talaat Pasha. Did the defendant know that he was killing a human be-
ing? The fact that he committed the act is unimportant. If you find that
the defendant wanted to kill and that he knew what he was doing, then
you have to find him guilty, that is, of course, if you do not consider Ar-
ticle 51 to be decisive.
(Article 51 states that there is
no punishable crime if
the author of an act, at the time of commission of the act, was in an unconscious
state, or if his mental capacity was temporarily impaired, depriving him of free
will. Free will exists when an individual is capable of logically using his mental
faculties to regulate his actions, his instincts, his abilities, his inner drives.
If such a capability is impaired or is absent, then there is a
lack of free will. The law thus requires that you confirm the existence of a
condition in which the formation of free will has not only been made difficult but,
in fact, has been rendered impossible.)
The members of the jury then retire to deliberate.
After an hour’s deliberation, the members of the jury return and the
foreman of the jury declares:
I avow with honor and clear conscience to the verdict of the jury:
“Is the defendant, Soghomon Tehlirian, guilty of having intentionally
killed a man, Talaat Pasha, on March 15, 1921, in Charlottenburg?”
Signed: Otto Reinecke, Foreman of the jury.
(There is a great deal of commotion and applause in the courtroom)
PRESIDING JUSTICE — I now sign the verdict and I ask the clerk to do
the same and read the verdict out loud.
(The secretary reads the verdict and it is translated for the defendant)
PRESIDING JUSTICE — Therefore, the following sentence is issued:
“The defendant is acquitted at the expense of the state treasury.
(Renewed commotion and applause) In accordance with the decision of
the jury, the defendant is not guilty of the punishable act with which he
has been charged.”
Then the following decision is announced:
“The order of imprisonment as regards the defendant is hereby annulled.”
(The defendant is congratulated by his defense attorneys, his com-
patriots, and the pub/k in attendance.)
Nemesis was the terror branch formed
by the Dashnaks to assassinate Ottoman and Azeri officials for perceived ills.
It's interesting how Armenian sites point to the stories of these
avengers" with pride, bringing to light (in this case) the many lies
Tehlirian provided in his testimony. Of course "Article 51" had no
bearing on what had occurred, as the District Attorney put across in vain.
Tehlirian was very much in command of his faculties, and was fully supported
in the murderous act he performed. An Armenian site called Hye Etch, in
information provided by the "Armenian Youth Federation, Greece,"
relates (and note how the Armenians in the United States played a crucial
The verdict to punish the executors of the Armenian Genocide
was handed down by the Ninth World Congress of the ARF which took place in the
autumn of 1919. The subsequent planning to implement that decision was most
probably carried out during, or on the occasion of, the Bucharest Conference.
There is also a possibility that it was one of the first tasks of the
"Diasporan Responsible Body". The series of assassinations,
described as the "Special Operation" by the Tenth World Congress,
was carried out under the overall leadership of the Responsible Body, assisted
by the Central Committees of America —especially financially— and
Constantinople —mostly providing manpower— as well as individual ARF
members in the various cities of Europe.
The series began, quite justly, with the assassination of Talaat
Pasha, the Ottoman Empire's former Minister of the Interior and the man
most responsible for the Genocide. Six others, Jivanshir, Sayid Halim
Pasha, Behaedin Shakir, Jemal Azmi, Jemal Pasha and Enver Pasha,
were also felled one after the other in the years 1921-1922.
In 1920, Soghomon Tehlirian went from Constantinople
to the United States, where he was briefed by the Central Committee and
received the blessings of Armen Karo. He returned to Europe, arriving
in Berlin on December 3 to search for the murderer Talaat. Shahan Natali,
Hrach Papazian, Libarid Nazariants, Vahan Zakarian, Hazor and several
others were already in Berlin to organize and conduct the necessary undercover
work. Tehlirian joined them. The collective effort finally bore fruit;
Talaat's residence was discovered and placed under surveillance. On March 15,
1921, in front of number 17 Hardenberg Strasse, Talaat, shot in the head with
one round from Tehlirian's pistol, fell dead on the sidewalk. One can easily
obtain the details of Tehlirian's subsequent arrest and noisy trial — the
testimony by the great armeno[ph]ile Dr. Johannes Lepsius on the
Genocide, the successful efforts of the German defense lawyers, the not guilty
verdict of the German Court and Tehlirian's release of the start of June 1921.
This essay at least
avoids the usual lie that Enver Pasha was included in the list of Nemesis
victims, but can't resist adding the hearsay that the bullet felling Enver in
probable battle came from an Armenian. ("Enver was
to escape the ARF avengers, for he was killed in August 1922 in Soviet
Turkestan by an Armenian soldier in the Red Army.") The question begging to be asked: if "justice" was
meted out by these fanatical Armenians (even when the British had failed to
prove the guilt of the accused at Malta, particularly with a Nemesis victim,
Said Halim Pasha), should not the matter have been put to rest? Makes one
think "Article 51" should have applied not to Soghoman Tehlirian,
but to the whole of extremist Armenians poisoned by the mad, Dashnak
DISTRICT ATTORNEY — The
defendant testified that the massacres
took place just outside the city limits of Erzinga. I am informed that,
after the caravan had gone quite a distance from Erzinga, armed Kurdish
bandits attacked the caravan in a pass and even many Turkish gendarmes
were killed trying to protect the caravan. Would the defendant please
answer whether or not they were attacked by Kurdish bandits?
DEFENDANT (Tehlirian) — I was told that it
was the Turkish gendarmes who
opened fire on us.
HOLDWATER (ASST. D.A.) — You were
THE ENGLISH translation of the original trial
proceedings in The Case of Soghomon Tehlirian is being published for its
historic as welt as current relevance: it introduces the first ease during
which the details and horrors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 were introduced as evidence
to justify political violence in the face of neglect by
This is the first in a series of publications incorporating the proceedings of recent
trials of Armenian political prisoners around the world
who have, as Tehtirian did in 1921, forced the Armenian Cause onto the
streets and courts of world capitals.
Soghomon Tehlirian, a survivor of the Turkish genocide of Armenians
in 1915-1917, assassinated Talaat Pasha in Berlin on March 15, 1921. Talaat, Minister of
Interior and mastermind of the Genocide, had fled Turkey to seek refuge in Germany where
he continued to labor for his Pan-
The assassination was the result of a decision by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation to
seek justice for the 1.5 million Armenian victims of
the first genocide of the twentieth century. This was done only after it be-
came evident that no acknowledgement of the genocide was to be made
nor legal action taken against the Turkish state or against individuals
personally responsible for the crime. Several other assassinations of top
Turkish officials responsible for the planning and execution of the genocide followed.
Tehlirian’s trial on June 2-3, 1921 documents the facts and reasons for
his action. Over six decades later, those same facts — compounded by
Turkish denials — have motivated a new generation of survivors to use a
variety of means in seeking justice and retribution for the Armenian people.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation
On March 15, 1921, Talaat Pasha,
President of the Committee of Union and Progress (the par-
ty of the Young Turk movement) and the Grand Vizir of
Turkey, died of a bullet wound, in Berlin.
In 1943 Talaat's remains were exhumed in Berlin and sent
by Hitler to Istanbul for permanent buriaL
Today, Talaat Pasha rests in a mausoleum constructed on
Liberty Hill in IstanbuL
Today, in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, one of the principal avenues bears Ta1aat's name.
IT WAS April 1960 when Zaven called to Inform me that Soghomon Tehlirian had been taken
ill and was
recuperating at the University of California Hospital in San Francisco.
That evening we went to visit Soghomon. We found him seated on the
edge of his bed talking to his wife, wearing striped pajamas rather than
one of the usual colorless hospital overalls. He seemed to be in good
spirits and was embarrassed that we were seeing him ungroomed and at a
time when he was in frail condition.
Here was this usually dapper, impeccably dressed, proud individual
unshaven, uncombed, seated barefoot in his crumpled pajamas.
To cover his embarrassment and in order to prevent us from making
innocuous queries as to his condition, he questioned us as to our schooling, research,
work and in a rather offhanded manner dismissed his
hospitalization as an over-reaction on the part of his family and an unnecessary
precaution on the part of his physician.
It was not long before he directed his attention to me and in a sardonic
manner asked, “When are you going to translate my autobiography?”
That took me back two years, when in one of my weekly visits to the office of George
Mardikian Enterprises, Inc. where Soghomon worked, he
autographed for me his recently published book and, handing the book
to me, he asked whether I would translate it for him from Armenian to
I had at the time expressed my fear that, because my command of
Eastern Armenian was inadequate, I could not translate the book competently.
He had continued that he did not expect a literal translation, but rather
one that would be sufficient for his purposes — namely, for William
Saroyan to read the translation and extract from it those sections which
might serve as the basis for a novel on “the incident in Berlin.”
This subject was discussed numerous times in the ensuing two years,
however, I did not feel I could change my stated position. I was not the
right person for the job.
Now we were in the hospital and the subject was again at the forefront
of Soghomon’ s thoughts. He continued, “The reason I want you to
translate it is because my trial is included in it and only an attorney can
appreciate the nuances of the trial.”
In order not to prolong the agony, I replied, “I am willing to translate
the section that relates to the trial, but someone else has to translate the
Soghomon got down from the bed, sat in an armchair, and to my
astonishment said, “Then why don’t you translate the transcript of my
“What transcript?” I replied. “Are you telling me that in 1921 in Germany they took
a verbatim transcript of a trial?”
“Of course,” he continued. “How else do you think I recall all the
details of the trial?” He turned his gaze to his wife and then looking at
me continued, “We have a copy of the transcript at home. Anahid will
give it to you. Why don’t you read it, and in a day or two you can come
back and we will discuss it.”
We had barely visited him for ten minutes, but he seemed very tired.
As we left, his wife was imploring him to return to bed.
Zaven and I returned to Berkeley. I spent an uneasy night. Over the
years, in all those hours I had spent with Soghomon, he never told me of
the existence of the “transcript.” Or had he and I never realty listened to
one another? What was so important about it?
I recalled that only nine months before, when my father was visiting us
from Ethiopia, I took him to San Francisco to pay a courtesy call to Mr.
George Mardikian. While my father was talking to Mr. Mardikian I was
in the adjoining room talking to Soghomon. Almost an hour had gone by
before my father came looking for me. I introduced him to Soghomon as
Soghomon Melikian (a pseudonym he used to evade the Turks). I had
never used his pseudonym before and I wanted to correct myself, but
they were having such a good time together that I refrained. Soghomon
kept telling my father how he was keeping an eye on me and that the
Armenian people needed more attorneys to pursue the Armenian Case.
My father reiterated that he was glad one of his sons had chosen a career
that could be of service to “our people.”
My father was a stickler for punctuality. I had to remind him that we
were late for our next meeting. We left Soghomon’s office and as we
descended in the elevator, I told him, “You of course know that you
were talking to Soghomon Tehlirian.” He immediately pushed the
emergency button and stopped the elevator between floors. I could not
believe my eyes. My father was not one who did anything in haste. “Take
the elevator up,” he told me in no uncertain terms.
We reentered Soghomon’s office. My father went up to him and said,
“1 apologize for not recognizing you. May 1. .“ and he kissed
Soghomon on both cheeks. My father was not one to show such outward
emotions, I was told to reschedule our appointment. My father and
Soghomon spent an hour talking.
That night in Berkeley, I thought of how the name of Soghomon
Tehlirian had evoked such strange behavior in my father. I also recalled
how often friends of Soghomon had warned me not to talk to him about
the “incident.” Respecting his wishes I had never asked him for details.
In fact in my conversations with Soghomon everything that related to his
past was centered on his stories of life in Yugoslavia, Algeria, and
France, events that took place subsequent to the “incident.”
I woke up early the next morning and waited until a respectable hour
before calling Mrs. Tehlirian to ask her when I could pick up the
The doorbell rang. It was Zaven. He told me that Soghomon had pass-
ed away in his sleep.
Not knowing what else to do, I sent a cable to my father in Ethiopia in-
forming him of the passing away of Soghomon. A week later, I received
a letter from him telling me how all Armenians in Addis Ababa closed
their shops and attended religious services in memory of Sogbomon
Tehlirian. Armenian communities around the world had done the very
From one of Soghomon’s colleagues I eventually obtained the
transcript of the trial and translated it, as I had promised him I would
The “Trial of Soghomon Tehlirian” is taken from the pages of
history. It is not a legend. The events which led to the trial are
documented in Tehhirian’s biography.
RECENT ARMENIAN history provides many
examples of trials of political prisoners. During most of the last century
Armenia was occupied by foreign powers: Ottoman Turkey and tsarist
RusSia MmefliaflS sought liberation from oppression and exploitation
thtough successive waves of struggles. It was only natural that many of
the struggling Sons and daughters would end up in the prisons of the oc-
cupiers; a few were fortunate to be charged formally and tned in courts
of law. Whether under Ottoman or tsarist Russian saw, many such trials
became forums, sometimes the only legal ones allowed, to air Armenian
political grievances and articulate claims. As such, political trials capture
the essence of the conflict between governments and their subjects; the
legalized form of repress~Ofl — the legitimation of inequality and the
criminalizatiofl of the search for 3ustice — through the use of courts
helps raise fundamental issues regarding power and its legitimacy.
The trials of captured fedayees during the armed struggle at the turn of
the century against Ottoman Turkish misrule, the trial of leaders of the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation leaders in the 1910’s in Russia aTO
the most prominent such events preceding the Genocide. The Genocide
of Western Armenians under Turkish administration in 1915-1917 forced
the creation of a Diaspora; it also changed the character of the Armenian
struggle against the Turkish state, whether the one that planned and executed the Genocide
or its successors since the founding of the Republic
of Turkey that have condoned and covered it up. The sovietization of the
short-lived Armenian Republic in Eastern Armenia in 1920 produced a
new situation there too; the hegemony of power by a single party and the
subjection of Mmcniafl interests to larger Soviet ones has also produced
a ne’~ type of resistance in Soviet Armenia. Both developments have
claimed new victims; the imprisonment and legal proceedings against
some of these constitute a ~~ntiflUiflg chapter in the long history of
The strategy of governments to isolate individuals by charging them
with crimes and making examples of them has only helped crystallize
issues and galvanize support for the oppressed and the weak; it has also
created extremely charged and dramatic situations where the weight of
governments against an individual could have only created heroes.
None of the Armenian political trials can claim to have produced the
dramatic impact which was caused by the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian in
Berlin in 1921 following his assassination of Talaat Pasha; and no one
has been more of a hero than Soghomofl Tehlirian for having committed
that crime, particularly when his trial ended with a not guilty verdict,
thus fulfilling, if only partially, the need for justice felt by survivors of
the Genocide and their offspring.
Soghomon Tehlirian was born in
Pakarij, near Erzinga in Western
Armenia. His family and most other Armenians he knew were among the
victims of the deportations and massacres which he witnessed and survived accidentally.
Ta]aat Pasha was the Minister of Interior, later Grand
Vizir of the Ottoman Empire, and one of the triumvirate in the Ittihadist
(Committee of Union and Progress) government that assumed dictatorial
powers in the Ottoman Empire immediately preceeding and during the
First World War. Talaat Pasha was the main architect of the policy of
extermination of Armenians. Upon the defeat of the Ottoman Empire
and the escape of the Ittihadist leaders, a new Turkish government found
him and the other leaders guilty of the charge of massacres against Armenians during
court-martial proceedings in Istanbul. Talaat and the
leading figures were already in Europe; no government in Europe was
willing to bring them to justice. ‘Whether seen as the implementation of
the death penalty imposed in absentia by the Turkish government against
Talaat or an execution by one in the name of a murdered nation the act
of Tehlirian on March 15, 1921 in Berlin and his subsequent trial on June
23, 1921 were seen as acts of justice.
Minister Said Halim
Pasha. What is the proof
that he supervised the
"massacres"? The British
could find no proof,
when they carted the
official away to Malta...
such a deceptive article.
And get a load of this
sentence: his assassin
"implemented the death
penalty." As if vigilante
murder could be a
The assassination of
Talaat was the first in a series of such acts of justice against the organizers of the
Genocide. It was preceeded only by the execution of Khan Khoyski, prime minister and
minister of foreign affairs of Merbaijan; the act was committed by Aram Yerganian and
Misak Garabedian in the spring of 1920 in Tiflis. Khan Khoyski was, along with his
minister of interior Jivanshir, responsible for the massacres of Armenians in Baku. On
July 19, 1921 Misak Torlakian brought to justice Jivanshir in Constantinople. In December
of the same year a youthful Arshavir Shirakian implemented the death penalty upon Said
Halim Pasha, the prime minister under whose supervision the deportations and massacres had
been implemented. Arshavir Shirakian then joined Aram Yerganian in Berlin and on April 17,
1922 executed Behaeddin Shakir and Jemal Azmi, the two leaders of the “Special
Organization” that was in charge of the execution of the Genocide. Three months later,
Stepan Dzaghigian assassinated Jemal Pasha, the second member of the Ittihadist
triumvirate. Jemal was in Tiflis then and cooperating with the Bolsheviks. Dzaghigian was
supported in this most daring act in front of the Cheka building by Bedros Der Boghcsian
and Ardashes Kevorkian. Soon after, a young Armenian executed the third member of the
Lttihadist dictatorship, Enver Pasha, who was then in Russia pursuing his Pan-Turafliafl
dreams under new colors.
Soghomon Tehlirian and Misak Torlakian were apprehended and tried
publicly in Berlin and Rome, respectively. (Holdwater:
I'm resisting the urge to correct the many distortions of this piece, but two quick
points: Enver Pasha did not die by the hand of an Armenian assassin. And unless Torlakian
was behind another assassination, he was tried not in Rome, but in 1921 Istanbul by the
British, for the murder of the Azeri official.) Both were acquitted. The
proceedings of the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian reveal the trauma of genocide, as lived by
individuals and families, in fact by a whole nation.
For reasons still unclear, testimony presented was limited to supporting
the defense argument that Tehlirian acted alone to bring to justice, compelled by the
haunting memories of the destruction of his family and
mass murders. It is highly improbable that the execution in series of
those primarily responsible for the genocide and the superb organization
required to track down protected fugitives and to punish them could
have been incidental.
The series of acts were, in fact, the Armenian Nuremberg. In his
memoirs, Tebllrian relates his brief stay in Boston, preceeding the act
that made him the most respected Armenian hero of modem times for
survivors of the Genocide:
Here in America too our people were following with intense interest
events in Armenia. Armenians were most tortured by the fact that the
Turkish butchers had escaped punishment. At the start of the war A1lied
leaders had made solemn promises that members of the Ottoman government were going to be
held personally responsible for the massacres. The war ended, the Allies were victorious;
yet those responsible for the
Armenian Holocaust remained unpunished and were even protected.
(Holdwater adds: Uhhhh... ever hear of
the Malta Tribunal?)
Within the American Armenian community the idea that Armenians
must bring those leaders to justice by their own means had matured. ... It
is necessary to add that this attitude was common to Armenians
everywhere: Armenians were disturbed by the position of the Allies. A
whole nation had been butchered with such cruel methods and, despite formal statements,
the Allies had done nothing.... Naturally, the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation could not remain indifferent and was thinking of
bringing those leaders to justice. The Ninth World Congress of the ARF in
the spring of 1919 had discussed the matter. And here in America I realized, that what had
become an obsession for me had been transformed into
an actual project and under the leadership of Armen Garo much
preliminary work had already been accomplished)
Indeed, the Ninth Congress had also complied a list of the 101 most
important criminals and passed it on to the Miles, with the expectation
that an international court of justice would bring them to justice.3 The
‘According to Soviet Armenian sources, the terrorist was an Armenian soldier in the Red
2soghomon Tehlirian, VerhishuPflfler jRemembraflCes], Cairo, 1956.
‘Armenian Review, 3(1982) and 4(1982).
ARE or Dashnaktsutiun, a party that had a legacy of struggling against
the Ottoman and Russian despotisms, had adopted assassinations as part
of its tactics since its founding in 1892. It had been argued that in
despotic societies particularly cruel and lawless officials can add substantially to the
misery of the people; and since the system protected, in fact
produced, such individuals, popular justice must be implemented to protect the larger
public from state terror.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the ARE took the initiative to
organize the “special task” or the Nemesis project. Tehlirian and the
others were given guidance, assistance, and continued financial and
logistical support by a tightly knit network of researchers and tacticians.
The group, which included Hrach Papazian and Shahan Natali, designed
strategy, located the criminals, selected the targets ensuring that the most
important leaders be punished first, and secured funds and weapons.
The project came to a halt with the punishment of the top leaders
among the lttiliadists.
The proceedings of the Tehlirian trial were first published in German
in 1921 (Berlin) under the title of Der Process Tataat Pascha [The Trial
of Talaat Pasha], with an introduction of the German health official, Armin T. Wegner, who had witnessed and
photographed the Genocide.
Soon after, the volume was translated to Armenian and published by the
Mekhitarist Congregation of Vienna (Vienna, 1921). A Spanish translation by Bedros Agopyan
appeared in Buenos Aires in 1973 under the title
Un Proceso Historico [A Historic Trial]. In 1980 a French translation,
with appendices, appeared in Paris under the title of Jucticier de
Genocide Atrndnien [The Vindication of the Armenian Genocide]. A second Armenian
translation was published in Beirut, Lebanon in 1981,
edited by Haroutiun Kurkjian; released under the title of Tehlirian: Artarahaduytse
[Vindication], this second translation is the most comprehensive collection of documents
on the case yet. This volume is the
first English translation of the proceedings of the trial.
The New York Times
(Thanks to the Armenian web sites for
SAYS MOTHER'S GHOST ORDERED HIM TO KILL
Armenian on Trial in Berlin for Murder of Talaat Pasha Reveals Vision.
TELLS OF TURKS' BUTCHERY
Case Regarded as One Against German Rule in Near East -- Liman von Sanders Attends.
JUNE 3, 1921
Copyright, 1921, by The New York Times Company.
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.
BERLIN, June 2, -- "I am not guilty because my conscience is clean. A fortnight
before this deed the scenes of the massacre of Erzerum reappeared to me. I saw my
mother, brother and ravished sisters lying as corpses. Suddenly the dead body of my
mother stood up, placed itself before me and said: You know that Talaat Pasha is
here. You are utterly indifferent. You are therefore not my son. I then become
suddenly awake and reached a decision to kill Talaat."
That was the dramatic defense today of Salomon Teilirian 24 an undersized, swarthy
pale faced Armenian at his trial for the shooting and killing of the Young Turk
leader. Talaat Pasha in March of last year in thronged Hardenberg Street, the
fashionable West End section. There Talaat a refugee and condemned to death a
Turkish was criminal, lived incognito as plain Herr Ali Saly Bey.
Berlin's most picturesque and most sensational criminal trial in years is in reality
the case of the massacred Armenian people versus the Turkish and German war leaders
who perpetrated, ordered and condoned the many massacres.
Berlin's entire Armenian colony turned out for the occasion today. There were many
in the courtroom an those unable to gain admission besieged the street entrance.
Berlin's most famous criminal lawyers are defending the young Armenian murder and
with them is associated one of the foremost, German international law authorities,
Privy Councilor Niemeyer, of Kiel. The damning German angle to the Turkish war
atrocities in Armenia was patient to all present, but counsel for the defense
announced they would do everything possible to protect "Germany's legitimate
interests." The defense of Teilirian is that he acted in a brainstorm.
Witnesses summoned included General Liman von Sanders German Commander in Chief in
the late Turkish Empire.
Talaat's attractive young Turkish widow, fashionably attired in modern black silk
mourning, was also present. A half dozen professional German alienates completed the
As Teilirian was narrating, through an Armenian interpreter, the Turkish atrocities
in Armenia, his Oriental temperament got the better of him and he shrieked,
"Rather will I die than again live through the black days when my mother and
sisters were outraged and murdered and my father and brother were butchered. I won't
discuss it further."
Finally persuaded by the presiding German Judge, the accused told the following
In 1915 the Armenian populace
of Erzerum was suddenly alarmed by the news that the Turkish Government planned
violent measures. Shortly afterward the populace was herded together and driven off
in columns under the conduct of Turkish soldiers. After being robbed of their money
and belongings the massacre, in which my family were victims, took place. After I
had seen my brother's skull split. It was hit on the head and lay unconscious
probably one or two days.
"In a neighboring village an aged Kurdish woman gave me some food and old
Kurdish cloths in exchange for my blood-covered Armenian garments, but she feared to
conceal me any longer. After two months of wandering I reached Russian territory in
the Caucasus. I wandered about in Russia and Persia until I heard of my home town
being freed again, I returned there and found only two Armenian families still
"My paternal house was deserted and devastated. I knew my father had buried
some gold in the ground so I searched and found 4,800 Turkish pounds. Then I went to
Tiflis and remained there two years until the beginning of 1919. I went then to
Constantinople, then to Saloniki and to Serbia, back to Saloniki and then to Paris,
where the Persian Consul gave me a pass to Geneva where the German consulate gave me
a visa to Berlin.
"I accidentally recognized Talaat on the street, found out where he lived,
rented a room in a house opposite and then observed him." Then followed his
dramatic story of his murdered mother's ghost inspiring the shooting.
The pain taking German Justice must now decide whether the brainstorm was bona
fide?? or whether Teiliran made his long journey from Armenian to Berlin with intent
to kill Talaat.
adds: If the above is what Tehlirian testified, giving the impression that he was
acting entirely on his lonesome, and spotting Talat by coincidence... when it is
well documented that he was operating under the auspices of the Armenian terror
network 'Nemesis,' then we have just learned what a
liar he was.)
ARMENIAN ACQUITTED FOR KILLING TALAAT
Defense Introduces Accounts of Grand Vizier's Brutality in Conducting Massacres.
JUNE 4, 1921
BERLIN, June 3 (Associated Press). -- Salomon Teilirian, the Armenian student who in
March last shot and killed Talaat Pasha, former Grand Vizier and Minister of Finance
of Turkey, was acquitted in the Assize Court here today.
Teilirian n his defense asserted that his mother, who was murdered in 1915 during
the massacres in Armenia, had appeared before him in a vision and exhorted him to
kill Talaat in revenge for the massacre of 10,000 Armenians. Talaat was killed in
Charlottenburg, a suburb of Berlin. The Armenian accosted him in the street and shot
him dead, also wounding Talaat's wife.
"Their destination is the void." Professor Lepsius, an Armenian leader,
told the court today were Talaat Pasha's instructions when ordering the deportation
of Armenians into the Mesopotamian desert. Professor Lepsius, in his testimony for
the defense, unfolded a gruesome tale of how tens of thousands of the succumbed to
starvation and exhaustion. The Turkish gendarmes, Professor Lepsius asserted,
frequently tied ten of twenty Armenians together and threw them into the water.
Another witness testified that he had seen a telegram from Talaat to a high Turkish
official, which said: "Wire me how many are dead and how many still are
alive." Five messages signed with Talaat's name were introduced in evidence,
one of which contained orders to "remove the children from orphanages in order
eliminate future danger from antagonistic elements."
Holdwater: I wish they had identified this witness by
name... my guess is that it was Bishop Krikoris Balakian, the cousin of Peter
Balakian's grandfather. Probably Aram Andonian's fake telegrams were
introduced as evidence. The Armenian film, ASSIGNMENT BERLIN, might have been
correct in this point, after all... as incorrect as it was in not stating a
disclaimer that these telegrams were proven to be forgeries (even Aram Andonian
admitted in a letter to another Armenian that his work was meant as propaganda). Of
course, for the movie to have been honest on this point would have defeated the
"cause." (That is, "Con Job.")
(ADDENDUM: according to a more
definitive version of the trial transcript, the Talat telegrams were not introduced
[see "Mid-2005" box, above]. Not the first time the
NYTimes got their "genocide" reportage wrong.)
What's below must be an editorial
(from The Times), along with a revealing tidbit from the first news
story regarding the assassination:
Simply Had to Let Him Go.
JUNE 6, 1921
By acquitting the young Armenian who shot dead
Talaat Pasha of the street in a Berlin suburb where that too eminent Turk was
quietly living, the court before which the case was tried practically has given, not
only to this young man, but to the many others like him and with like grievances, a
license to kill at discretion any Turkish officials whom they can find in Germany.
That was going rather far. Of course, death was
about the least of the punishments for his innumerable and most atrocious crimes
that was deserved by Talaat Pasha. The world's atmosphere is the more safely and
pleasantly breathed now that he is gone, and there will be as little sympathy with
his fate as regret his loss. The fact remains, however, that he was assassinated,
not put to death with the judicial formality that is the right of even such as ha,
and to hold, as the German jurors did, that his taking off was "morally
right" both reveals a queer view of moral rightness and opens the way to other
assassinations less easily excusable than his or not accusable at all.
And yet -- and yet -- what other verdict was
possible? An acquittal on the ground of insanity, the usual device of jurors who do
not want to punish a killing of which they approve, would have been more than
ordinarily absurd in the case of a man as obviously sane as this Armenian is, and to
have hanged him, of even to have sent him to prison, would have been intolerably to
overlook his provocation. The dilemma cannot be escaped -- all assassins should be
punished: this assassin should not be punished. And there you are! The solution lies
further back and long, when German officers in Turkey permitted the massacres of
Armenians, though they had the power to prevent them.
In the March 16, 1921 story
first relating Talat Pasha's assassination, The Times provides a tidbit I wasn't
He was walking in a street in a western suburb
with his wife when a young man who had been following overtook them and, tapping
Talaat on the shoulder, pretended to claim acquaintance with him. Then, drawing a
revolver, the man shot Talaat through the head and with a second shot wounded the
wife. Talaat fell to the pavement, killed instantly.
The report isn't totally true,
as Tehlirian testified in his trial that he passed Talat Pasha (without any of that
tapping on the shoulder business) and shot the Turk in the back of the head, in a
cowardly fashion. So I can't vouch for the accuracy of the rest of it... but if
Tehlirian also miserably took a shot at Talat's innocent wife, the great Armenian
hero will have lost just a tad more of my respect.
(The transcript of the trial
states Tehlirian was asked whether he saw anyone accompanying Talat, and whether the
assassin had seen Talat's wife. Tehlirian replied "no" to both questions.
Yet he willingly perjured himself, throughout. Apparently, the widow was also
questioned, but the Armenian site excluded this part of the testimony, stating it
If this was true, how come the
German court didn't separately try the murderer for shooting an innocent woman?
Didn't German law regard getting shot at as a crime? Especially if the bullet of
said gun makes actual contact with the tender flesh of said victim?
An Associated Press account
accompanying this article also reveals: "An unsuccessful attempt to
assassinate Talaat was made in Constantinople early in 1915, at which time he was
seriously wounded by the would-be murderer's bullet." Wow! How did Talat
Pasha recover so quickly, if he was so seriously wounded after getting shot?
He must have been one tough, savage Turk, as Ambassador Morgenthau described him in "Ambassador's
Morgenthau's Story." (Well... not tough enough to survive getting shot in
the back, though. That is, at close range, getting shot in the back of the head, in
a miserably cowardly fashion.)
The article then extensively
cites that remarkably unbiased historical "source," "Ambassador's
Morgenthau's Story," to prove Talat's guilt.
The doors of The New York Times were always kept wide open for
the writings of George R. Montgomery (Director, Armenia-America Society)... I'm familiar
with his attempt to discredit U.S.
Admiral Colby M. Chester within the pages of the biased newspaper. In the July, 1921 issue
of The New York Times Current History Magazine, Mr. Montgomery (whom I assume must have
had the original name of "Montgomerian") was allowed his little soapbox in an
article entitled, WHY TALAAT'S ASSASSIN WAS ACQUITTED.
Here, Mr. Montgomery wrote "It developed
into a case against the German military authorities, who had at least allowed the
massacres to continue without protect,"
which supports Holdwater's view that the reason why the assassin was acquitted was mostly
because the Germans were afraid a conviction would implicate them... as Defense Attorney
Werthauer craftily pointed out: "If a German court were to find Soghomon Tehlirian
not guilty, this would put an end to the misconception that the world has of us..."
Montgomery makes it seem it was the Talat telegrams that made the case, such as:
The heartlessness of the Turks in regard to the
doomed children made a deep impression on the Berlin jury. The following are some of the
documents presented on this point: Nov. 5, 1915
To the Government of Aleppo:
We are informed that the little ones belonging to the indicated persons [Armenians] from
Sivas Mamuret-ul-Aziz, Diarbekir and Erzeroum are adopted by certain Moslem families and
received as servants when they are left alone through the death of their parents. We
inform you that you are to collect all such children in your province and send them to the
places of deportation, and also to give the necessary orders regarding this to the people.
The Minister of the Interior,
(There are more such examples.)
The director states Professor Lepsius was the one who produced these "Turkish official documents which proved the heads of the
Turkish Government at Constantinople -- and particularly Talaat himself -- to be directly
responsible for converting the deportation into shambles." There is no mention of Andonian, who appears to be present at the
trial from the transcript, above. Mr. Montgomery also states these "letters and cipher telegrams" resulted from "the
capture of Aleppo by the British" which
"made possible the securing of these
official documents from the archives."
If what is being referred to are the documents discovered by British forces commanded by
General Allenby when they captured Aleppo in 1918, then we must be talking about the
forger, Aram Andonian, who published his reworked samples from this batch in Paris, in
1920. Gwynne Dyer, in his Turkish
'Falsifiers' and Armenian 'Deceivers,' referred to documents "captured by the
British in Palestine in 1918" which went beyond the realm of my knowledge. (Although
I think Dr. Dyer might have mistakenly said Palestine for Aleppo.) Assuming we can
take the word of the Director of the Armenia America Society, regarding the source of
these telegrams, it seems almost certain the telegrams that Mr. Montgomery cites came from
the hand of the forger, Aram Andonian.
Another weirdo notion is, if the British captured
these telegrams and letters, how did they come to the possession of hysterical Turcophobe
Dr. Lepsius? Maybe that's not where these telegrams came from... perhaps Mr. Montgomery
was just throwing out a typical ... ehhhh.... "Armenian exaggeration" (or, in
his defense, simply accepting an "Armenian exaggeration" thrown out by his
counterpart of the German-Armenian organization, the good Dr. Lepsius), and these
telegrams were just another batch cooked up by good old Aram.
I can only be 100% certain of one thing, at this
point. Since a couple of the telegrams Mr. Montgomery provided are very incriminating, and
the kind of "smoking gun" genocide enthusiasts are searching for, if these
documents were valid... they would have certainly be used as the evidence the British were
desperately searching for, in the two-and-on-half-years Ottoman officials were holed up in
Malta, awaiting trial for war crimes.
Especially if such documents were captured by the British.
If you'd like to get a better bead on telegrams
Talat Pasha really wrote, this is where you'd want
ADDENDUM, 03-07: "Montgomery has a Turkish missionary background and
accompanied the King-Crane com. to the
Levant as a 'technical advisor.' ...[H]e also served with the U.S. peace delegation at
Paris. He later became director of the Armenia-America soc." Dr. Robert Zeidner, The
Tricolor over the Taurus: The French in Cilicia and vicinity, 1918-1923, The
University of Utah, 1991, p. 205, fn 68.