CHAPTER XI

THE HELLENIC ADMINISTRATION IN SMYRNA

(MAY 15, 1919—SEPTEMBER 9, 1922)

 

DESPITE many difficulties, the Greek civil authorities, as far as their influence extended, succeeded in giving Smyrna and a large portion of the occupied territory, the most orderly, civilized and progressive administration that it has had in historic times. Mr. Sterghiadis, who continued to the last his policy of punishing severely all offenders of Greek origin against the public order, lost, for that reason, popularity in Asia Minor. When he left Smyrna after the debacle of his troops he was hooted by the people of the town who had not come loyally to his support. He was, indeed, a great man who made a supreme effort to perform a superhuman task and who is suffering from the obloquy that always attaches to failure.

   Here are some of the civilizing reforms which the Hellenic administration introduced into the Smyrna region:

   1. During the war, under Turkish rule, the morality of the Christian inhabitants of all nationalities had greatly deteriorated. The Turk had no respect or regard for non-Mussulman women, whom he regards as his legitimate prey. All the American residents of Smyrna during this epoch will remember the orgies indulged in by a certain high Turkish official and his friends and the example set the European colony by a prominent Anglo-Levantine lady who became his acknowledged and public mistress. The lady in question was proud of her position and afterward explained it by saying that she had accepted it to use her influence to prevent persecutions and that a monument should be set up in her honor. In one of the first conversations which I had with Mr. Sterghiades after his arrival, the governor general told me that the Christian people had been debauched by the Turks and had lost their self-respect and their morality, and that they needed an awakening of their pride of race and religious instincts.  One of his first acts was to suppress the disorderly houses located in the central portions of the town, and in this he met with determined opposition from various of the foreign consuls whose subjects owned these houses and conducted them. Helpless to enforce an edict against a European subject, he stationed gendarmes in front of the establishments in question who took down the names and addresses of all frequenters and thus caused their patronage so to dwindle that they were obliged to close. Playing of baccarat and other forms of gambling for high stakes had also become a crying evil in Smyrna, resulting in the ruin of several people and even in suicides. Mr. Sterghiades suppressed gambling in the clubs, and private houses, wherever it came to his notice.

2. The Hellenic Administration supported and aided in every way possible educational institutions. Its support and encouragement of American educational and philanthropic institutions will he taken up later. It is chiefly to be praised, however, for the measures which it took, paid for out of the Greek Treasury, for the maintenance and improvement of Turkish schools. It continued the Moslem secondary schools at its own expense, the taxes for their support having been taken over by the Ottoman public debt as security for a loan contracted by the Ottoman Government. The Greek administration supported by funds from its treasury, two Moslem high schools in Smyrna, two at Magnesia and Odemish, and two seminaries in the provinces, paying therefore yearly seventy thousand Turkish pounds. It kept in vigor the Turkish system of primary education, appointing prominent Mussulmans in the various villages to superintend the same. It maintained a Polytechnic school at Smyrna, at which two hundred and ten poor Mussulman, children were educated and supported, paying therefore thirty-six thousand Turkish pounds yearly. In addition to this, it was especially helpful to those American institutions and schools, which operated in the Turkish quarter and among Turkish children.

3. The Greek administration made a serious and intelligent effort to organize a sanitary service for the compiling of statistics, the betterment of sanitary conditions and the suppression of epidemics and contagious diseases, such as malaria, syphilis, etc. A microbiological laboratory was established for the diagnosis of infectious diseases with an equipment of sanitary motorcars for bringing in the sick from distant points, small wagons for the transportation of infected articles and portable outfits for disinfections on the spot. To describe the work of this service alone, which was organized on a large scale and abundantly supplied with means, material and money, would require a good-sized pamphlet. As a result of these measures, plague, exanthematic fever and smallpox were got so under control that they disappeared as epidemic diseases in the occupied zone. Needless to say that systematic war was waged against lice and rats. A Pasteur institute was opened at Smyrna by the Greeks on the eighteenth of August, 1919, under the direction of a specialist working in conjunction with a staff of experts. Out of over one thousand five hundred patients treated during the first two months of its existence who had been bitten by dogs, jackals or wolves, only four died. Treatment was free in this institute. Previously sufferers had been obliged to go to Constantinople or Athens and those who could not raise the funds were left to die. I have myself assisted poor Turks, frantic with fear, to make the trip to Constantinople for treatment. One section of the University of Smyrna, founded by the Greek administration, was that of the Institute of Hygiene, divided into two sections, hygiene and bacteriology. It was all ready for business when the Turks burned Smyrna, possessing an installation similar to that of the great universities of Europe, including a good library and complete equipment of appliances. It would never have lacked money or support, and would have been at the service of all classes, irrespective of creed or race. Here is the program which it was about to put in operation:

Gratuitous bacteriological, hygienic and industrial examinations for all classes of the community.

The preparation and gratuitous distribution of all healing and diagnostic inoculations, serums, antitoxins, antigonococcus, etc.

The sanitation of the town on an extensive scale, sewerage, water-supply, streets, etc.

Sanitary works for the combating of malaria, the draining of marshes, etc.

The combating of trachoma.

The combating of phthisis on a large scale, (dispensaries, asylums, convalescent homes, special hospitals, sanitation of houses, etc.)

For infants: dispensaries, gouttes de lait, creches, foundling homes, etc.

For children: various philanthropic institutions. For mothers: pre-natal pre-culture.

Education and training of doctors to compose the service of public health.

Training for midwives and nurses.

Organization of a registry office of births and deaths.

Organization of special medical statistical service

4. Financial aid on a large scale was furnished, as was the distribution of flour, clothing, etc., to refugees caused by the Khemalist raids in the interior and the destruction in 1919 of the cities of Aidin and Nazli. Among those so succored were thousands of Turks.

5. All American missionaries, as well as educational and charitable workers in Smyrna and its hinterland during the Greek occupation, will verify the statement that the Hellenic administration showed itself most helpful and cooperative in many ways, aiding their labors among Turks as well as Christians. Here is a list of certain benevolent acts toward these institutions:

The high-commissioner granted to the Y. M. C. A. a large house on the quay, one of the biggest and finest in Smyrna, for use as a “Soldiers’ Home.” He also helped its management in many ways by detaching Greek soldiers for its service.

An adequate building was also given to be used as a “Soldiers’ Home” at Magnesia, where many facilities were afforded.

The civil department of the Y. M. C. A. was in need of an adequate building for its installation. The Greek authorities requisitioned a cafe belonging to a Greek for that purpose. It was still in operation at the time of the burning of the city.

The same Y. M. C. A. organized on a large estate near Smyrna an installation for the study of agriculture by young men. The Greek administration helped this organization by furnishing tents, blankets and other requisites from the quartermaster’s department and a motor-car for transportation.

The Y. M. C. A. had also organized at Phocea, near Smyrna, a summer camp for boys. The Greek administration helped by furnishing lumber, a boat and other materials, and allowed the importation of a motor-car free of duty.

The Y. W. C. A., which was managed by Miss Nancy McFarland, was helped in many ways by the Greek administration in the form of considerable sums of money, lumber and supplies.

A branch of the girls’ school, known as the Intercollegiate Institute, was started at Guez Tepe by Miss Minnie Mills for Mussulman women. The high-commissioner furnished a part of the equipment for this.

For the N. E. R. at Smyrna the high-commissioner gave Miss Harvey five hundred pounds Turkish to be used in favor of poor Mussulman women.

The American College near Smyrna is situated in a place contiguous to a marsh formerly flooded by stagnant water causing malaria. The Greek administration drained the swamp and repaired the road passing by the college.

All the agricultural implements, which were imported for the use of the returning Greek refugees or for resale at cost price or on credit for the purpose of restoring the destroyed areas were purchased by the high commission exclusively from American factories at my request. Thus thousands of plows were brought in to be distributed among Turks as well as Christians.

A farm of thirty thousand acres situated at Tepekeuy, used by the Greek administration for the study of motor-culture, was bought and made exclusive use of American motor-plows. As a result, students completing the course recommended to the landowners the use of American motor-plows.

While I was in Saloniki during the war, the American Y. M. C. A. was greatly aided, both financially and morally, by the Greek authorities, both Mr. Venizelos and the Greek archbishop being friendly to this institution and present at the dedication of its new house.

The American missionaries, who had an agricultural college and a school there, were at first viewed with suspicion by the Greeks for the reason that they all spoke Bulgarian and continued to reach in that language after the Greek occupation. I brought the missionaries and the Greek authorities together and since then the said authorities have been most benevolent to the missionaries and helpful to them in many ways. At my invitation the late King Alexander came to Saloniki to visit the various missionary and educational institutions and assured them of his friendly interest and support.

During the Greek administration, I traveled frequently over a large part of the occupied territory and visited many of the interior villages. I found perfect security everywhere, native Greeks and Turks living together on friendly terms. In general there would be in each village a small administrative office in charge of a petty officer and two or three aides. I noticed the persistent effort, which these people made to fraternize with the Turks and to placate them. Very often have I taken my coffee in the public square of some small town with the Greek officials, the Turkish hodja, (A teacher in the secondary Turkish school attached to a mosque) and various of the Mohammedan notables. - I remember particularly shortly before the Greek defeat sitting thus with a venerable hodja and a Greek surgeon under a plane-tree, helping to celebrate the marriage of the hodja to his fourth wife, which had taken place the day before.

The dark side of this seemingly idyllic picture is that quite frequently the two or three Greek officials would be found some morning with their throats cut, whereupon an order would be sent to the village that the names of the assassins must be revealed or the town would be burned. This, if I remember correctly, was modeled upon our so-called “punitive expeditions” in the Philippines, which the Greek authorities often cited to me in speaking of the matter. In no case did the Turks reveal the names of the offenders and at least twice my office has been invaded by the notables of some town who complained that their village had been burned. On each occasion, I asked: “Were the Greek officials in your town murdered last night?” And the answer on both these occasions was, “Yes, but we could not tell the names of the offenders because we did not know who they were.”

There were also sporadic acts of great ferocity committed against the peaceful Christian inhabitants of the country, which were always attributed by the Turks to roving bands of Chetas. Who these Chetas were, I do not know, but it is my opinion that they did not come from far. I remember one particularly atrocious case-the massacre and disemboweling of a Greek miller and his wife and their two children.     

 

 

Next: Chapter XII | Previous: Chapter X | Book Contents | Book main page | Back to Top