As early as 1914, under the pretext of protective wartime measures, it was deemed necessary by the Young Turk government to relocate Christian populations from the coast to the interior of Anatolia. The decision for the relocation, originally a German conception, was interpreted by the Greeks as the starting point for tumult in the area.
The relocation was aimed at the extermination of the Greeks through starvation and bad living conditions. Men of the cities were being sent far into the interior, supposedly to work, but most of them would die there from hardship and typhus. Soon, relocation was also implemented in the villages; but women and children who were forced to cross high snowy mountains in the middle of winter—January—would die by the dozens on the way, because of the cold, starvation and disease.
The main accomplice in all these inconceivable Turkish atrocities was, undoubtedly, Germany, and the main instigator of the relocation was German commander Liman von Sanders. Under the same pretext, the Turks were trying to justify actions aimed at the annihilation of a specific section of the people, with the Germans acting as their accomplices by supplying them with excellent strategic planning and supervision.
Under the pretext of preventive measures, the relocation of Greek populations from the coastal areas of Ionia, Eastern Thrace and the Black Sea to the interior of Anatolia was initiated. The Greeks were informed that this measure was designed to protect them from the enemy fleet; but the uniformity of execution proves that the measure was instigated in accordance with specific instructions from the Turkish administration. The gendarmerie would land in the scheduled location, round up the inhabitants in the town square, and order them to prepare for immediate departure. The deportation usually took place in winter, under adverse weather conditions, and it was forbidden to the deportees to carry food, clothes or mattresses. As soon as the caravan started out for its unknown destination, the Greek houses were invaded by Turks who had arrived from adjacent towns and were obviously impervious to the threat of the enemy fleet. The caravans would only stop at uninhabited locations, preventing the deportees from obtaining any supplies, while treatment of the sick and burial of the dead were prohibited. It was also obligatory for deportees to undergo ‘disinfestation’ in hot Turkish baths, followed by exposure to the cold in order to be counted and medically examined. After the Turkish bath ‘clearance’, the march would continue without food. Any donation of food, as well as the sheltering of abandoned infants, was forbidden to fellow Greeks on penalty of death. The resettlement locations were invariably isolated villages in the interior of Anatolia, inhabited exclusively by Turks.
In order to realize the above goals and under the pretext of preventive measures, the relocation of Greek populations from the coastal areas of Ionia and the Black Sea to the interior of Anatolia was initiated. The Greeks were informed that this measure was designed to protect them from the enemy fleet; but the uniformity of execution proves that the measure was instigated in accordance with specific instructions from the Turkish administration. The gendarmerie would land in the scheduled location, round up the inhabitants in the town square, and order them to prepare for immediate departure. The deportation usually took place in winter, under adverse weather conditions, and it was forbidden to the deportees to carry food, clothes or mattresses. As soon as the caravan started out for its unknown destination, the Greeks’ houses were invaded by Turks who had arrived from adjacent towns and were obviously impervious to the threat of the enemy fleet.
In April 1915, the inhabitants of Matsouka were ordered to abandon their homes and were deported across the Pontic Alps to the interior of Asia Minor, most of them to the Erzerum plateau. The sufferings they underwent in the region’s chill April weather were indescribable. Starvation and infectious diseases would deal the final blow to the Greeks. The freezing cold was the main cause of death among deportees. Confidential decrees and orders rendered Christians outlaws and their life worthless. Yiorgos Laparidis, who survived the hardship of exile to Erzerum, describes in a tragic yet concise manner his personal strife, and that of his fellow villagers:
It was 1916. The Russians took Zavera and the Turks ordered that all the men of my village be deported to Erzerum. The weather was chill; it was the middle of January. It was so cold that stones would crack, but we poor men had to go on marching unshod and inadequately clothed. If someone had a pair of peasant shoes on, he was considered very lucky. While we were walking, the gendarmes would hit us with their rifle butts and push us into the river Kanis. We’d become sopping wet. Then they’d lead us out of the river and we would start walking again. Our wet clothes froze on us and the ice could be heard crackling as we moved on.
God alone knows how many people died on the way, or fell ill from the cold, or starved to death!
When my group was assembled in Zavera, there were 120 of us. Only 45 made it back…
According to the reports of the German ambassador to Istanbul, the arguments used by the Turks to justify the relocation of the Greeks who lived on the coast of the Black Sea were founded on false claims that the Russians had provided the Greek population with arms, thus subjecting the Turkish state to the danger of a possible Greek revolt. This reasoning was faulty, since the relocated population consisted mainly of women, children and the aged. Those fit to bear arms had either been drafted or had managed to escape to the mountains or abroad. Purposely overemphasized by the Young Turk government, the guerrilla issue was also used as a pretext for imposing harsher measures on the unprotected women, children and elderly. At that time, even the German consul in Trebizond, Bergfeld, considered information about the size of the guerrilla forces to be “downright exaggerations.
The deviousness and connivance of Germany were confirmed by Talaat Pasha himself at a meeting with the Greek ambassador, Kallergis, in which he admitted that “the relocation of Greeks is due to the remonstrations of the Commander of the Fifth Army Corps, Commander-in Chief Liman Von Sanders. Initially, the Ottoman government was negative; however, when the Commander-in-Chief said that he would be unable to assume responsibility for the general safety of the army if this measure were not carried out, they were forced to comply.
The above are excerpts from Constantine Fotiadis concise volume The Genocide of Pontus Greeks.
The expulsion maps have been translated from Fotiadis 3rd Volume.