By Raffi Bedrosyan
The date November 2, 1918 is an important turning point in Turkish, German and Armenian history.
Three days after the Navy Minister of Ottoman Turkey signed the Mudros Armistice aboard the British warship Agamemnon on October 30, 1918 and accepting defeat in the First World War, a German submarine picked up three persons from three different port locations in Istanbul and spirited them to Sevastopol in Crimea, and then to Germany. Who were these three persons running away from Istanbul in the middle of the night?
They were the leaders of the Ottoman government — Talat, Enver and Cemal, the triumvirate which led Ottoman Turkey into the First World War, causing the deaths of millions of Ottoman citizens, the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire and the deliberate annihilation of the Armenian people from the lands that they had inhabited for four thousand years. Their imperialistic dreams of creating an all Turkic Empire called Turan stretching from Europe to Caucasus, Middle East and into Central Asia, manipulated and encouraged by Germany at the expense of Great Britain and Russia, had failed miserably. Hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Army conscripts had died and millions of civilian Moslems displaced for the sake of this dream; 1.5 million Armenians regarded as an obstacle to this dream were killed outright or driven to desert for a slow death. Both Turkish and world public opinion had branded these three persons as “most wanted men and criminals against humanity.” German intelligence reports circulated that these three persons would be immediately arrested and hung from street light poles as soon as the Allied occupation forces landed in Istanbul. German leaders who had encouraged the Ottomans to enter the war for their own imperialistic dreams, and who had turned a blind eye to the systematic slaughter of the Armenians during the war, were now afraid that these three persons would start ‘singing’ upon arrest, would rightly or wrongly blame the Germans for their excesses, and would shift responsibility for the crimes against humanity onto the Germans themselves. Therefore, an escape plan was hatched for these three persons.
On the night of November 2, 1018, the German boat first picked up Talat, Istanbul governor Bedri and five others from the port of Moda on the Asian shores of Istanbul. The password used to let the Turks come aboard the boat was ‘Enver’. Then the boat sailed to Arnavutkoy on the European side to pick up Enver and a few other Ittihat and Terakki Party leaders. Following north on the Bosphorus, the boat had a final stop at Istinye for Cemal, before sailing into the Black Sea toward Crimea.