Nikos Pantelis, a native of Livissi (today Kayaköy) talks about his experience as a 10 year old in Asia Minor (Turkey) and in particular the treatment of males in Turkey during the genocide.
Video compiled by the Greek Genocide Resource Center for educational purposes only.
Susan Wealthy Orvis (1873-1941) was a U.S missionary who witnessed the persecution of Greeks during the Greek Genocide. Orvis traveled to Turkey as early as 1902 under the auspices of the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions. In 1920, she served as the Director of the Near East Relief Schools in Talas, a district in Caesarea (today Kayseri), a province in the interior of Turkey.
In November of 1922, only weeks after the destruction of Smyrna by Kemalist forces, Orvis was coordinating the evacuation of hundreds of orphans from Caesarea to the seacoast, when she witnessed native Greeks from Smyrna - mainly women and children - being marched to their death. Her eye-witness testimony appears below:
I have never in my whole experience in Near East witnessed such human sorrow, distress, death, as caused by this vast flight, which is depopulating one of Turkey's richest provinces. It was like a march of terror.
I brought out the fifteenth and last caravan of orphans from Caesarea, 250 miles inland. First half of journey made in wagons. I traveled on horseback in order better to watch over column. We set out from Caesarea at five, morning. An hour later were in foothills of Mount Argaeus, thirteen thousand feet high, where snow impeded progress. We were marching through historic gates of Cilicia in Taurus mountains when I saw a sight I shall never forget. It was a long thin column of people coming towards us. As they came closer I saw there were a thousand in the line. Ninety-five percent were women, children; remainder old men. Solitary mounted Turkish soldier rode in middle of column.
In answer to my questions my Turkish guide almost startled me with information that they were from Smyrna and were being deported to Caesarea. 'They are being punished', he said, 'for excesses committed by Greek soldiers against our people.'
I knew from their clothing that they had come from another region than the one we were in. Questions revealed awful truth – they had walked from Smyrna, 500 miles away. They had been on road two months, a column of agony. There were three thousands in column when they started. Groups had at intervals been diverted to other roads and many weaker ones had died by roadside. I now recalled village gossip of wholesale deportations after Smyrna disaster. Here it was in its awful reality. Every face bore deathlike pallor. Women carried babies in arms and were stooped from weight of all their possessions on their backs. Majority were barefooted. All were unutterably miserable but bore themselves with remarkable fortitude.
After they passed on I noticed some garments at roadside. No one throws away clothing in the desolate country. Lifting garments I uncovered two little girls about twelve years old. They were white, staring skeletons, so close to death they could not move. They were left for dead by column of agony. We succeeded in reviving them and obtained permission from authorities to place them in our orphan caravan.
After four and a half days we reached Ouloukishla on Baghdad railway, where we paid full fare for our children to ride in six inches of snow in open freight cars to Mersine. My last moments in Ouloukishla were devoted to making strongest representations to authorities for protection against soldiers who tried carry off our oldest girls.
An approximate route taken by Susan Wealthy Orvis (in red) during her evacuation of orphans from Kayseri (Gr: Caesarea) to the seacoast, and the deportation route taken by Greeks from Smyrna (in blue).
- They Are Being Punished, The New Near East, Feb 1923, 12.
- Remembering Susan Wealthy Orvis, Kamo Mailyan, Wendy Elliott, accessed 2/3/2017.
We extend our gratitude to Wendy Elliott for information on Susan Wealthy Orvis. Wendy is currently writing a book on American and Canadian missionaries who were present during the Ottoman genocides. Visit her website for more information on her upcoming book titled Grit and Grace in a World Gone Mad.
Kritzalia, western Asia Minor.
Kritzalia is located E-SE of Smyrna. Prior to the genocide it was comprised of 1350 Greeks.
We left our village to go to Smyrna. We thought we would return again. We wanted to be close to the church of Saint John. There were alot of people there. One of my father's friends took us to his house and we stayed there. But he took his family and left us there without telling us anything - he left secretly. The Turks entered and slayed my father, my mother, my uncle, my auntie and three of my brothers. I, along with my younger sisters, one of whom was two and a half years old and the other three and a half, hid under a loft and they didn't see us.
We hid there for 12 days with no food or water. The house had a type of water heater and water flowed into it. What was I to do? I wanted to wet my lips. I held my nose and drank a sip. The water was so filthy I almost vomited. One of my sisters had been wounded by a bullet to her leg.
As the days passed, the corpses started bruising, hardening up and the stench had become repulsive. Turkish ladies were entering the house to steal things but were unable to stay inside for too long due to the foul smell. They would steal whatever they could; chickens, spoons, copper utensils, and would then leave without knowing we were present.
Then at one point, like an enlightenment from God, I decided to venture outside. I saw many people fleeing. I crossed myself, placed my injured young sister on my back, and held my other sister by the hand and went out onto the street. I ran to catch up with everyone else who was running. At one stage I noticed a girl seated on a pile of rocks. I shouted out to her, as I needed someone to help me. She didn't respond. She sat there without moving. I spoke to her without taking too much notice. I then saw that her eyes were rolled back, but it still didn't occur to me what had happened. Before long, I noticed something was wrong. She had been stabbed from behind with a stick which had passed through her mouth. That was when I decided to run faster. What was I to do with the two children? I entered the church, but since the three of us stunk of decaying human blood - our hair, the child's foot, our clothes - they told us to leave. What were we to do? We huddled into a corner like puppies. So many years have passed, but I won't forget it. I thought our time had come.
We cried, we mourned, we talked and we talked some more! My mother didn't die immediately like the others did. They had pulled out her intestines, her blood spilled out everywhere as she uttered the following to me: "My child, when you see the dark, fall into the sea." She then pulled her purse from out of her pocket and gave it to me, as well as a photograph which was covered in blood. I still have the photo but I cannot show it to you right now.
Finally, wherever the other people went, I followed. We kept going and going until we entered the [departure] zone. There, the Turk didn't allow us to enter. Just what I needed! But I managed to get both my sisters and myself on board and we went to Mytilene. There, they took us and relocated us to Thessaloniki, and from there I ended up here. I had a cousin who was a good seamstress. She put me into a home. I was fourteen years old. The lady of the house knew Ms. Koundourioti who placed my little sisters into the Amalieio Orphanage. One of my sisters died at the age of 22. The other is still alive. She is married and lives in Nea Erythraia. I married a very quiet man, a man of God, a patriot, but my life has been full of suffering.
Source: Exodus, Volume I, Testimonies of the provinces of the Western coast of Asia Minor, Centre for Asia Minor Studies, Athens 198, pp42-43.
Region: Ayvalik (western Asia Minor)
The testimony of a farmer. As documented by his wife.
In 1922, I was saved because my father had a good knowledge of the Turkish language and was on good terms with the Turks. He was a town crier, a 'delali' as it was called back then.
He was informed that everything was being destroyed and everyone would perish if we didn't hurry. In order to frighten him, they jokingly told him that the Turks had bad intentions. He came out the same evening after dark and sent the word out loud in order to alert people to leave. He went around the village twice and then hid himself. The following day, the Turks were looking for him. They wanted to cut him into pieces. As people started descending to the sea coast, they were encircling the crowd. But we dressed him in rags and he pretended to be blind. He was obese, a large man. Everyone knew him, but now he was being held by his two daughters, one on either side. He was stumbling, and I was following them holding things in my arms. The security wasn't that strict at the time, so we entered through a nearby alleyway. The women starting crying, so the guard allowed them through and we went directly to the port. Once inside, we wrapped him in a mat and the women sat on top of him until the boat set sail. It took us to Mytilene.
That was 1922, but what about 1914? Let's remember that expulsion too. It was at the time that the Germans were advising the Turks – that dishonourable lot – to destroy us in order to erase us as a nation. Let us also remember the German occupation during the second World War. We always find them in front of us. What if their people were being persecuted? How would they feel?
In 1914 war was declared and things at Ayvalik were immediately turned upside down. Many people fled to Greece. The Turks immediately blocked the sea transit routes and didn't let anyone leave. We were blockaded for a year. But then they ordered everyone to evacuate all of Ayvalı. They put us together with another 200 families in four-wheeled ox-drawn open carriages without us knowing where they were taking us. We walked all day and when the sun was about to set, they stopped the carts and got us off in order to rest and feed the oxen. I forgot to mention that we took with us whatever we could lift with our hands and some bread. Those who had that little bit of bread sat to eat it, while those who had nothing went begging for some. Two hours later they got us moving again. We walked for 5-6 hours until we reached a place called Valanidia. There, we stayed outdoors on the carts, while others rested on the ground. During the night we were attacked by Turks. They wanted to take all our girls. But the policemen that escorted us resisted them along with all of us; young and old, and they didn't take anyone. We didn't sleep all night. When the day dawned we took to the road again. We walked all day. And in the evening, as we passed through some winding roads we encountered some unruly Turks, but they didn't hurt us. But we were afraid because we not only had girls with us but also many pregnant women, and others who were close to giving birth. As dusk arrived we reached an inn at Brousali. We stayed there one night, and the next day we took up again and we walked for two days without food and water before arriving at Balu Kiseri [Balikesir]. There, they didn't allow us to stay at all. They immediately took us to the train station and put us on trains and we were taken to Sousourlou [Susurluk]. They put us in ox carts again and we took to the roads and in three days we reached Tas Kiouprou [Tas Kopru] which is a large stone bridge. There they left us in the fields without giving us anything to eat or drink. All of us dived in to the large prickly weeds and we peeled and ate them. We spent several days there eating prickles. From there they brought new ox carts. They loaded us on and took us to a small village called Loumpat which is near lake Apollonias.
They made us get off there and then put us in boats and passed us over to the opposite shore. There we rested a bit until they found carts. We loaded our few clothes, the old men, old women and babies and then we took off again. The youth walked at the rear of the carts and in two days we arrived at Bursa. There, they took us to stay in some shacks. They gave us a mix of white and red corn and just after we ate it, due to fatigue and exhaustion we were passing blood and 16 people died. We left behind our first dead there.
There were Greek doctors there but not a single doctor attended to the sick because the Turks didn't let them. There was a Metropolis there and my father who was our leader who protected us because he spoke very good Turkish, went and asked them for permission to stay in Bursa but they didn't let us.
We stayed there for 10 days. For food they gave us corn flour and a bit of German soup but we were afraid so we didn't it. We went out begging at all the Greek houses who gave us food, while later the Metropolis offered us some rations, so we passed by as best we could. They then took us out again to send us into the interior of Turkey. Most of us were walking for days with only a few carts for our clothes and the elderly. We passed through various villages including Timpos and Kuyu Neser, and with much toil and hunger we reached Yenişehir. We thought we would stay there for a little to eat and rest, but as soon as the Turks and the Turkish women and their children saw us, they began chasing us with sticks and stones while shouting, "Infidels, go away!" Finally they took us to some hostels and they gave us some bread to eat but no food.
We had a woman with us who was a little intellectually disabled. This poor woman couldn't handle the hunger any more so she went to a Turkish house. The Turkish lady there was kneading some bread and she was watching her from outside. As soon as the Turkish lady left, the woman went inside, opened the oven and took a piece of bread. But they saw her, caught her and began beating her. As soon as my father heard her cries he ran to save her. A Turk took a piece of wood and hit my father over his ear. It swelled so much that he was unwell for two days.
What else could the people do? They were hungry.
On one hand they would push us away while on the other, we the children would wander around all day and whatever the people gave us we shared it amongst ourselves and ate it. We stayed there for 14 days and we were made to move on again because nobody would accept us. We loaded the carts and started again. Fortunately we were young and weren't as affected; we were able to survive. But the old men and old women and the pregnant women were crying, they didn't want to go anywhere. They would have preferred to stay there even if they were killed. But my father told them, "Be patient, they will allow us to rest somewhere." Throughout the entire journey he would encourage them. After another two days journey we reached a water mill and we unloaded the carts to rest and eat some bread and drink some water. During the night we were attacked and two girls and a woman of 55 years were kidnapped. No matter what we'd have done and no matter how much we'd have shouted, nothing would have been done because the guards were with them. The following day as we started out again we found the woman dead beside a pole that was up to her chest in height. We couldn't find the girls. We started out again, however on the road we started feeling very tired. As soon as the elderly were left behind the Turks just gave them a whipping and stabbed them with a knife and left them there to die. Along the way we left many dead behind here and there. People started to get sick from exhaustion and extreme fatigue. The weather was also getting so cold that we were freezing on the roads. After four days we reached Bilecik. There were many empty Armenian houses there because they had killed the Armenians. We negotiated with them to either let us stay there or take us to Sogut further inland. The next day we were taken to Sogut, but once there, they didn't want all of us to stay so they split us into two groups. Our group returned to Bilecik. On the road, due to the snowfall and the extreme cold, one of my brothers got hypothermia and everybody went to his aid thinking he was dead. My father however, quickly ran to a drug store and asked for some Argan oil. He started to massage him. He undressed him and after massaging him for an hour he came to life again. He saved him from certain death. Other children who were younger lost their toes. Such was the cold in those areas. The experience will remain in my memory for as long as I live.
We remained at Bilecik for two years. Everyone did something to get by. Those who had valuable clothes wandered through the villages exchanging them for food together with any jewelry they had. My father found a job as a baker, but our family was growing bigger each day. Orphans who had lost their parents due to typhoid and parents who were dying every day, left behind orphans who remained alone in the streets. My father was afraid that the Turks would take them and convert them, so he gathered 25 orphans. And if you include the 15 individuals of our own direct family, there were now 40 people at our table.
One day, a little girl whose mother and father died was kidnapped by Turks. We learned about it but we couldn't find her because the Turks were hiding her. My father however kept an eye out for her. He asked people who he felt could learn more about the whereabouts of the girl, and after about a month he discovered where the little girl was. He staked out the place and when the Turk went out he went inside to take her.
However the girl didn't want to leave the Turkish lady because she was being fed well and started shouting in Turkish, “My mother!” The Turkish lady cried out to other Turks who caught my father and beat him with wood. But he didn't leave the child, he held on to her tightly, He also knew Turkish very well and made the Turks understand that the child was not theirs but his. He took the girl after putting up a great fight and took her home. She was crying and wanted to go back, but he locked her up, fed her and took care of her. There were so many children at home that she eventually became re-accustomed.
Every evening he would gather all the children and he would say nice things to them, and that we would go back to Ayvalık again and that there wouldn't be any Turks to tyrannize us any more and that we would live well. The children would watch him intently thinking they were hearing some fairy tale. They adored him because every night he would sometimes bring them mints, other times chickpeas; whatever it took to keep them happy.
In those two years things diminished considerably because a lot of people died. Then the Armistice arrived ending WW1 and we were all placed together and taken to the station at Kiouplia [Kuplu] and there they told us they would take us to Constantinople. They loaded us on trains and we reached the first station called Vizier Hani [Vezir Cami]. We then arrived at Nicomedia [Izmit] and stayed there in the trains, and at last we reached Constantinople, at Haidar Pasha. From there they took us to Catikioy and put us in a Greek school there. We stayed there for two months. All the Greeks raised money for us and prepared a soup kitchen for us until we left.
After two months they put us on a steam ship and on the 2nd of January 1919 they transported us back to Ayvalı. Only half of us returned. Everyone went to their houses. My father still had the 25 orphans in our home like one big family. After a week passed he went out and shouted the names of all the children around Ayvalık and everyone came to take their children. Some of the children were collected by the brothers and sisters of the parents. People didn't know how to thank him. In fact the Chancellor as well as many officials congratulated him too. He said, “I did what a father should do for his children. I just feel sorry for our fellow town-folk who were killed on the streets and others who died from severe diseases.”
From the book: Koinos Logos (Common Voice) by Elli Papadimitriou, 1st edition, Ermis, 2003.
The Greek Genocide Resource Center would like to thank our volunteer translator with the translation.
Translated with the permission of the publisher.
Stanley E. Hopkins was born in Pittston, Pennsylvania on 14 July 1895. During the Greek Genocide, Stanley Hopkins joined the New York branch of the Near East Relief and was sent to Turkey to work in automobile transportation for the relief organization. The nature of his work meant he traveled extensively throughout the country and witnessed the sufferings of the Greeks in various regions. He left Turkey by ship from Constantinople on 12 October 1921 and reached New York on 11 November. Five days after his return, 16 November 1921, in the New York offices of the Near East Relief, Hopkins wrote a statement titled “Report on Conditions in the Interior of Anatolia under the Turkish Nationalist Government”, his eye-witness account of the Greek Genocide. The report was promptly forwarded to the US Secretary of State by Charles W. Fowle, the foreign secretary of the Near East Relief. Copies of his testimony are housed in both British and American archives.
I have been in the interior of Anatolia in the employ of the Near East Relief for about a year. My work has been automobile transportation which has carried me many times over the road from Samsoun to Marsovan, Sivas, Caesarea, Oulou Kichla and Harpoot. During the winter of 1920-21, I was a member of the Harpoot Unit of the Near East Relief and did industrial and transportation work there in connection with the large orphanages maintained by the Near East Relief.
About September 1st 1921 I started on a trip by automobile from Harpoot to Samsoun. On the roads between Harpoot and Malatia I passed a large number of Greeks being deported from the south coast region of the Black Sea to the east. I estimated them to be about twelve thousand persons. They consisted of entire families and villages that have been uprooted and started on the road with whatever property they could carry on their backs and ox-carts. They were guarded by Turkish gendarmes, and they were moved slowly so that they would be unable to reach any point where they could settle before the winter snow would come. As regards health, clothing and food, the gendarmes and Turks along the way took every possible advantage of them. One man sold a cow for one hundred silver piasters, the equivalent of about $3.00, in order to obtain food.
After leaving Samsoun on my return to Harpoot I passed the old men of Samsoun, Greeks, who were being deported. Many of these men were feeble with age, but in spite of that fact they were being pressed forward at the rate of thirty miles a day and there was no transport available for those who were weak or ill. There was no food allowance for them, and any food that they could obtain had to be procured by money or sale of small articles that they could carry with them. On the trip I passed many corpses of Greeks lying by the road side where they had died from exposure. Many of these were the corpses of women and girls with their faces toward the sky, covered with flies.
About October 1st I started from Harpoot toward Samsoun being accompanied by Miss. Bailey and McClellan, all of us planning to return to America. On this trip we passed what I estimated to be about ten thousand Greeks. I remember one group of about two thousand, being women alone, most of them with no shoes, many of them carrying babies on their backs and in their arms. A driving cold rain was falling at the time I passed them and they had no protection whatsoever and their only place to sleep was the wet ground. These women were on the road within a day's automobile journey of Harpoot.
On this, our last trip out from Harpoot, we passed similar groups all along the way.
Harpoot seems to be a gathering and forwarding center for these Greek refugees. There are between fifteen and twenty thousand Greeks in Harpoot from all regions to the west and north. They are absolutely without help, and in the nature of the case large numbers of them are dying. They are allowed to stay in Harpoot a short time and are then sent forward to the east where their fate is not known. The Near East Relief is not allowed by the Turkish Government in any of its centers in Anatolia, so far as I know, either to hire Greeks or to help them by giving food, clothing or money. In Sivas the Americans of the Near East Relief were not even allowed to go and see the conditions in which the Greek refugees were.
I was given an account by someone in Samsoun of the way in which a large number of Samsoun men, said to be fifteen hundred, were treated near Kavak. Kavak is about half way between Samsoun and Marsovan on the main road. The road out of the town toward the south descends a valley, crosses a bridge, and ascends the hill on the other side. The valley is that of a stream which flows down from the west. These fifteen hundred men were marched out of Samsoun on August 15th, and as they left Kavak were diverted up the valley and shot down by fire of Turkish troops. It was stated that of the fifteen hundred, thirteen hundred were killed in two and a half hours.
These are conditions and incidents all of which except the last I witnessed. They seem to indicate that the Greeks of Anatolia are suffering the same or a worse fate than did the Armenians in the massacres of the Great War. The deportation of the Greeks is not limited to the Black Sea Coast but is being carried out throughout the whole country governed by the Nationalists. Greek villages are deported entire, the few Turkish or Armenian inhabitants are forced to leave, and the villages are burned. The purpose is unquestionably to destroy all Greeks in that territory and to leave Turkey for the Turks. These deportations are, of course, accompanied by cruelties of every form, just as was true in the case of the Armenian deportations five and six years ago.
Witness testimonies provide a valuable first hand account of the genocide. The list below includes accounts by survivors, relief workers, diplomats and officials.
“... Mustapha Kemal's Army ... celebrated their triumph by the burning of Smyrna to ashes and by a vast massacre of its Christian population...”