CHAPTER XIX

ADDED DETAILS LEARNED AFTER THE TRAGEDY

 

   AT ATHENS, at Paris, and later in the United States, I met various eye-witnesses of the great disaster who related to me things that they had seen. I have made notes of the testimony of several of these persons, carefully excluding all such as were Greek or Armenian, not with the feeling that statements made by such would necessarily be unreliable, but rather that it might be impugned as prejudiced.

   American relief workers, standing on the deck of a ship, which left Smyrna soon after the Simpson, related that they saw a man throw himself into the sea and swim toward the vessel. A Turkish soldier raised his rifle, took aim and blew the man’s head off. Another American, in relating the same incident to me, added the detail that the Turk pointed his rifle over the shoulder of a British Marine. Teachers and others of the American Girls’ school told me that they saw a lady who resided in the house directly across the street standing in the road surrounded by Turkish soldiers, who were robbing her and tearing the rings from her fingers. When they finished, one of them stepped back and cut one of her hands off with his sword. The lady was never seen again and doubtless died as the result of her injuries.

The story has frequently been told by Americans and others who were at Smyrna that a crowd of residents, men, women and children, had gathered on a lighter lying in the harbor but a short distance from the pier, with the hope that some Entente or American launch would tow them to a ship and save them. The Turks threw petroleum on them and burned them all to death. A confirmation of this dreadful story was furnished me by Miss Emily McCallam, directress of the Intercollegiate Institute of Smyrna. She arrived in that ill-fated city on the morning of September 14, 1922, after the fire set by the Turks had been raging all night, and saw a number of charred bodies floating in the harbor, which she was informed were the corpses of the people cremated on the lighter.

A prominent Dutch merchant of Smyrna, who had taken refuge on his yacht during the fire, related to me at Athens that all through the night of the dreadful thirteenth he heard fearful screams from the shore, ending suddenly in a queer watery gurgle. He learned the next morning that a lot of throats had been cut.

A book of great human interest could be written by any one who cared to interview the refugees and set down the stories he would thus hear of hairbreadth escapes and the desperate and ingenious expedients resorted to. One wealthy woman with a large family of small children saved them all in the crush and panic by tying a long rope around their waists, the other end of which she attached to her own. A lady living at Vourla, a large town near Smyrna, saved her beautiful daughter by skillfully disguising her as a bent and ugly crone. A woman in the United States, an American citizen, wrote me that her baby girl, four years old, whom she had left in Smyrna with grandparents, had turned up in one of the islands. During the massacre this little tot had crept into an open grave where she lay as still as a mouse for many hours, until she heard people speaking English, when she made herself known and was rescued by friendly hands.

There are horrible tales told of the burning of the sick in the hospitals and of children in the schools. The pupils in the American schools and institutions were practically all saved, as also the orphans entrusted to our care.

Just before I left the city, the Greek high-commissioner turned over to me a considerable sum of money belonging to an orphan asylum which he had founded at Boudja, a suburb of Smyrna, and asked me to take charge of the institution and the children in it. I did so and organized an American committee to carry on the work. The children were all saved and got away to Saloniki, owing largely to the heroism of Mr. Murman, a young American. There is no doubt, however, that many Greek children, attendants of the schools in the center of the burned area, perished in the flames, and that numerous sick lost their lives in the same way. What the number was can not be determined, but in view of the rapidity of the spread of the fire, any safe evacuation of the hospitals was evidently impossible.

Wholesale violation of women and girls was one of the outstanding features of the Smyrna horror. It is necessary to mention this disgusting subject, though not to dwell upon it; it can not be possible that the Christian people of America for material advantages will be in sympathy with a policy of coddling a race that specializes in such conduct. On this point a letter is submitted by Doctor M. C. Elliott, a noted and native-born American physician who for several years was engaged in hospital work in the Near East. Doctor Elliott’s testimony that she has never yet seen a Mussulman woman who had been violated is significant and, incidentally, is high tribute to the Greek soldier. It will be seen, also, that Turks confine their lustful orgies to Christian girls. Here is Doctor Elliott’s letter:

 

AMERICAN WOMEN’S HOSPITALS

NEAR EAST BRANCH

GREEK UNIT

Athens, Greece, June 2, 1923.

 

Consul-General George Horton, American Legation, Athens, Greece,

 

My dear Mr. Horton:

How true Gladstone’s famous statement was in regard to the Turk’s character has been most amply proved in the late Smyrna disaster.

My position as a woman physician makes me peculiarly well placed to know about the treatment of young girls by the Turks. In my four-year experience in Turkey I think it is a rather remarkable fact that I have yet to see the Turkish girl or woman who has been ravished. As a marked contrast to this I have seen hundreds of Christian girls who have been in the hands of Turkish men. The late Smyrna disaster was no exception to this and I can justly come to the conclusion from what I have seen with my own eyes that the ravishing of Christian girls by Turks in Smyrna was wholesale. I have actually examined dozens of such girls and have had the story from them of the experiences of other girls with them. By actual examination I have proven that their story in regard to this was not exaggeration, so I have no reason to believe the statement they made in regard to their companions was not true.

The treatment of girls in Smyrna during the late disaster of 1922 is unspeakable and I am willing to go on record as an American physician and as director of an organization doing a very large medical work in Greece following the Smyrna disaster, as having made this statement.

Sincerely,

(Signed) DOCTOR M. C. ELLIOTT,

Director American Women’s Hospitals, Athens, Greece.

Among other witnesses of the Smyrna outrage was an employee of the great firm of MacAndrews and Forbes, of New York. Their offices at Smyrna were in the fire-devastated area. This man saw Turks throwing hand-grenades into buildings, which later caught fire.

A prominent Y. M. C. A. official, a native-born American, related to me the following:

“I was standing with several others on the deck of a ship, watching the fire, when I saw some persons throwing some liquid against one of the large buildings directly on the sea, and very soon the building burst into bright flames. Turkish soldiers were patrolling up and down in front of the building at the time and did not interfere.”

A well-known Y. M. C. A. worker informed me at Athens that he saw women stabbed with bayonets by Turks and the bodies of children who had been thus stabbed. His progress through the town in an automobile while on errands of mercy, was impeded by corpses.

While I was in Washington during 1922 and 1923, I saw much of Doctor Esther Lovejoy, the well-known woman physician of New York. Doctor Lovejoy had arrived in Smyrna while the refugees were still on the quay and the evacuation was going on. She literally threw herself into the work of giving medical aid to the sick and wounded, and especially to women in childbirth. She described vividly to me the robbing of the refugees by Turks, soldiers and civilians—both on the water-front and at the moment of their embarking. While our men were helping these unfortunate people to get away, the Turks were pawing them over, women and men, searching through their clothes for any money or valuables that they might have on them.

One of the most outrageous features of the Smyrna horror was the carrying away of the men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. These were inoffensive farmers and others, in nowise responsible for the landing of the Hellenic army in Asia Minor. They were the breadwinners and their forcible detention left the widows and orphans to be supported by the so-called “Christian nations,” especially the United States. It requires but little imagination to picture the scene as it was described to me by Doctor Lovejoy and others, who told of children throwing their arms about the legs of their fathers and shrieking for mercy, and of wives clinging to husbands in a last despairing embrace; and it takes less imagination to visualize the manner in which these couples were torn asunder.

This last scene on the Smyrna quay reveals the whole diabolical and methodically carried-out plan of the Turks. The soldiers were allowed to glut their lust for blood and plunder and rape by falling first on the Armenians, butchering and burning them and making free with their women and girls. But the Greeks, for whom a deeper hatred existed, were reserved for a slower and more leisurely death. The few that have been coming back tell terrible tales. Some were shot down or killed off in squads. All were starved and thousands died of disease, fatigue and exposure. Authentic reports of American relief workers tell of small bands far inland that started out thousands strong.

The Turks allege that they carried off the male population of Smyrna and its hinterland to rebuild the villages destroyed by the Greek army on its retreat. This has a ring of justice and will appeal to any American unacquainted with the actual circumstances. The Greek peasants of Asia Minor were Ottoman subjects, in nowise responsible for the acts of the Hellenic government. Very few enlisted voluntarily in its armies and they used every influence and subterfuge imaginable to avoid fighting. Had the Greeks of Asia Minor been a stout warlike race and had they cooperated strongly with the Greeks of the mainland they could have kept the Turks at bay.

The object of Khemal, as we have seen, was one of simple extermination. The reason alleged was one of those shrewd subterfuges used by the Turks to fool Europeans. But not all the unfortunates carried away by the Turks were Greek men. Many thousands of Christian women and girls still remain in their hands to satisfy their lusts or to work as slaves. A report submitted to the League of Nations gives the number as “upward of fifty thousand,” but this seems a very conservative estimate. The United States should sign no treaty with Turkey until these people are given up.

Mustapha Khemal made a stupendous blunder when he burned Smyrna and maltreated its inhabitants. Had he used them kindly, irrespective of religion, they would all have rallied loyally around him and he would have shown himself a really great man. Moreover, such a move would have been a splendid triumph for Mohammedanism.

 

 

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