The Massacre of the Boy Scouts and the Greeks of Aydin: June 1919
A massacred Boy Scout in Asia Minor.
The massacre of the Boy Scouts and the civilian Greek minority of Aydin, Turkey took place in June of 1919. Aydin (Grk: Αϊδίνι) was located in the valley of the Meander River, 110km south-east of Smyrna (today Izmir) and comprised 35,000 people, 8.000 of whom were Greek.
Greek Boy Scout groups began forming in Asia Minor at the conclusion of the First World War (October 1918) and three groups formed in Aydin. In Smyrna alone, 17 Boy Scout groups existed while another 46 formed in other parts of Asia Minor. They took part in religious, athletic and philanthropic activities.
In May of 1919, seven months after the end of hostilities in WW1, Hellenic forces were deployed in western Asia Minor to prevent further atrocities by Turks on the Ottoman Empire’s minorities. Two months prior, Greek delegates seized documents that indicated that Turks were planning a wholesale massacre in the Aydin province.1 By the end of May, Hellenic forces arrived at Aydin to provide protection to those minorities.
These forces soon came under fierce attack by regular Turkish army units and irregular chettes causing the Hellenic force to retreat, leaving a defenseless minority at the mercy of the Turks. Following the retreat, Turkish forces entered the town, executing citizens, torturing, raping and setting fire to houses and churches, in a massacre that lasted 3 days.
During the massacre, the regional leader of the Greek Boy Scouts of Aydin, Nikos Avgeridis (pictured, seated), along with his 31 boy scouts and their leaders were captured by the Turks and imprisoned in the town hall. They were directed to the shores of the Evdona river where one of the Kemalist cetes, Adnan Menderes, asked Avgeridis to renounce his Christian faith and his ethnicity. Avgeridis declined and uttered the words “Long live Hellas”. With a sword Menderes removed one of his eyes. He was asked again, and Avgeridis replied in the same way. He was then skinned alive and his body dumped in the Evdona River. Avgeridis’ 31 Boy Scouts also refused to renounce their faith and ethnicity and were blindfolded, tortured and then massacred.
When Hellenic forces re-entered Aydin, they discovered the bodies of thousands of Greeks. A French officer put the figure at 1,500-2,000 Greeks. Hacked and bullet ridden bodies were found lying on roads and in burnt houses. In the church of Saint George of Aydin, hundreds of bodies of women and children were found burnt alive, some after having been raped. At Omourlou, all the Greeks were massacred and their bodies thrown into the three huge wells of the village. Some escaped the massacre by hiding in Armenian churches and the monastery of the French nuns. Thousands took to the mountains and hid in the dense forest of the Tsakiroglou region thinking they would avoid the massacre but the Turks searched for them in the mountains and later massacred them. In the Metropolitan church, priests were killed and incinerated before the altar.2 Reports were also received describing the massacre of Jews at Deirmendjik close to Aydin.3
Avgeridis and his Boy Scouts did not raise a rifle or hurt anyone. They promised to help every man and woman of Aydin, be it Greek or Turk in any circumstance in accordance with the Scout's law and they completed that task admirably.
Similar massacres of Boy Scouts in Asia Minor occurred in April 1922 at Sokia (Söke) where 13 Boy Scouts were massacred, and in August 1922 at Kato Panagia (Ciftlik) where 800 people were massacred, amongt them Greek Boy Scouts. The massacre of Boy Scouts in Asia Minor brought indignation and protests by scouting organisations all over the world and was reported in the mainstream media. In 1922, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement requested that the Council of the League of Nations be informed of the massacre of Boy Scouts that was occurring in Asia Minor.4
Pictured left: Turks Massacre Greek Boy Scouts, The Milwaukee Journal, 22 August 1919.
1. Greeks Capture Documents Directing Massacre in Aydin Province, The Washington Herald, 20 March 1919.
2. Aydin a Vast Sepulchre, The New York Times, 29 August 1921.
3. Greeks Sentence Two Turks to Death for Massacre, The Washington Times, 12 July 1921.
3. Council of the League of Nations, Ref. Code : R1755/48/24212/23548
Monument erected in memory of the massacred Boy Scouts of Aidin and Sokia. Location: Boeotia, Greece.