Page:Ambassador Morgenthau's Story.djvu/355

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297
AMBASSADOR MORGENTHAU'S STORY

came to Van with definite instructions to exterminate all Armenians in this province, but, for the first few months, conditions did not facilitate such operations. Djevdet himself was absent fighting the Russians in the Caucasus and the near approach of the enemy made it a wise policy for the Turks to refrain from maltreating the Armenians of Van. But early in the spring the Russians temporarily retreated. It is generally recognized as good military tactics for a victorious army to follow up the retreating enemy. In the eyes of the Turkish generals, however, the withdrawal of the Russians was a happy turn of war mainly because it deprived the Armenians of their protectors and left them at the mercies of the Turkish army. Instead of following the retreating foe, therefore, the Turks' army turned aside and invaded their own territory of Van. Instead of fighting the trained Russian army of men, they turned their rifles, machine guns, and other weapons upon the Armenian women, children, and old men in the villages of Van. Following their usual custom, they distributed the most beautiful Armenian women among the Moslems, sacked and burned the Armenian villages, and massacred uninterruptedly for days. On April 15th, about 500 young Armenian men of Akantz were mustered to hear an order of the Sultan; at sunset they were marched outside the town and every man shot in cold blood. This procedure was repeated in about eighty Armenian villages in the district north of Lake Van, and in three days 24,000 Armenians were murdered in this atrocious fashion. A single episode illustrates the unspeakable depravity of Turkish methods. A conflict having broken out at Shadak, Djevdet Bey, who had mean-