Overview

Massacred Greeks of western Anatolia laid out on stretchers. Photo: Evangelos Pappas, military photographer.

The Greek Genocide (or Ottoman Greek Genocide) refers to the systematic extermination of the native Greek subjects of the Ottoman Empire before, during and after World War I (1914-1923). It was instigated by two successive governments of the Ottoman Empire; the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) party, and the Turkish Nationalist Movement of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.  It included massacres, forced deportations and death marches, summary expulsions, boycotts, rape, forced conversion to Islam, conscription into labor battalions, arbitrary executions and destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural, historical and religious monuments. It is likely that the victim toll of the Greek Genocide was somewhere in the vicinity of 1 - 1.5 million. 

The New York Times, January 13, 1915.

The first phase of the Greek Genocide commenced in 1914 in Eastern Thrace where entire Greek communities were forcibly and often violently expelled from the country or deported to the interior of Asia Minor. Other measures used to persecute Greeks in this region were the boycotting of Greek businesses, killings, heavy taxation, seizure of property and prevention from working on their lands. In the Spring and Summer 1914, the ethnic cleansing of Greeks along the western shoreline of Asia Minor was carried out. These operations, including those in Eastern Thrace, were planned and executed by the CUP using regular and irregular forces including members of the CUP's paramilitary unit, the Special Organization (Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa).

Bendigo Independent, 19 May 1914.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Ottoman Greek males aged between 21-45 were forcibly conscripted into labor battalions (Amele Taburları) where the majority of them perished under appalling conditions while doing hard labor with little food or water. Then, beginning in 1915, under the direction of German military personnel, the CUP deported many Greek communities under the pretext of military necessity. Deportees were not permitted to take anything with them and the goods in their shops were later sold by Ottoman authorities. They were deported to the interior and to Muslim villages where they were often forced to choose between Islam or death. In most cases, before deportations took place, Ottoman gendarmes (police) and çetes (armed irregulars) seized money and valuables from Greek communities, committed massacres and burnt churches and schools. According to figures compiled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, by 1918, 774,235 Greeks had been deported from their homes, many of them to the interior of Turkey, never to be seen again.

The Evening Independent, St.Petersburg, Florida, October 17, 1917. 

Following the Ottoman Empire's defeat in the First World War, prominent leaders of the CUP were given death sentences in Ottoman Courts-Martial for their role in deportations and atrocities against Greeks during the war. But the post-war formation of the Turkish Nationalist movement under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk interrupted proceedings to bring the perpetrators to justice. The period 1919-1922 - often referred to as the Kemalist Phase - saw a continuation of the CUP policy of exterminating Greeks. In the region of Pontus, the Kemalists burned countless Greek villages and sent men, women and children to the interior where large numbers perished. In many instances, Greek churches were burnt while Greeks were locked inside. In the region of İzmit alone, Kemalist forces burned over 30 Greek villages and massacred over 12,000 Greeks while in September 1922, at the completion of the Greco-Turkish War, the Kemalists marked their victory by burning the city of Smyrna (today Izmir) to the ground and committing a large scale massacre of the city's Greek and Armenian population.

 

Remembrance Days:

April 6 (Eastern Thrace region)
May 19 (Pontus region)
September 14 (Asia Minor as a whole).

View Recognitions

 

 

Last edited: 1 Apr 2020

 

 

 

Feridunoğlu Osman Ağa (1883-1923) otherwise known as Topal Osman, was a brigand and Kemalist Military Commander responsible for the mass murder of a vast number of Greeks during the Greek Genocide. While serving for the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in the Balkans as a volunteer, he received an injury to his foot which resulted in him being referred to as Topal Osman (topal meaning lame).1  During World War 1 he would round up deserters, some of whom he enlisted in his band.

Osman Ağa roamed the Black Sea region with his band of ‘cut-throats’ and was responsible for numerous massacres and deportations of Greeks and Armenians. He had a fanatical loyalty to Mustafa Kemal who awarded him a colonelcy and also served as his bodyguard.2 He was appointed mayor of Giresun (Gr: Κερασούντα) in 1919 as a reward for his murderous deeds. Mustafa Kemal's biographer Andrew Mango, refers to Topal Osman as 'a sadistic ethnic cleanser of Armenians and Greeks'.3

The Central Council of Pontus received eye-witness accounts of the following atrocities committed by Osman Ağa and published them in a report dated October 17, 19214:

In July of 1921, after having murdered the greatest part of the notables and robbed them of their fortunes, Osman Ağa deported the male population of Tirebolu (Gr: Tripolis) near Giresun, and Bulancak (Gr: Pulantzaki) to Harput, Mamouret-oul-Azis and Alpistan, while he shared the beautiful women with his fellow partisans. The victims were conveyed into the mountains by the çetes. Women and children who were left unprovided for and completely nude, perished from hunger. Of the 2,500 Greeks in Tirebolu, only 200 women and children remained, and of the 14,000 Greeks of Giresun only 4,000 women and children survived. The Greeks of Fatsa and Ünye were also invaded by Osman Ağa and suffered the same atrocities.

In the little village of Çakallı four hours from Samsun, Osman Ağa ordered the women and children (the men having previously been deported) to be locked up in some houses of the village and there they were burnt alive.

In the village of Kavak he committed the same crimes; only a single old man of 80 was saved.

At Havza he drove together the women and children on the banks of the river, where they were massacred and thrown into the river. All the Greek villages of the district were laid to ashes. Eighteen brides and girls of the above village were picked out by Osman Ağa for their beauty in order to be distributed to his fellow criminals, who after having satisfied their carnal appetites for several days, shut them up in a house and burnt them alive.

At Merzifon, Osman Ağa and his companions, after having completely bereaved all the Christians, put fire to the Greek and Armenian quarters. The scenes which took place in the course of the fire were heart appalling. All the exits were barricaded and the unfortunate people trying to escape were either mercilessly killed or thrown back into the fire without distinction of whether they were women, children or old men. In the course of 5 hours, 1800 houses along with their inhabitants were burnt down. It was impossible to describe the orgies committed against virgins and children. While they were performing these cruelties, they shouted at their victims; "Where are the English, the Americans and your Christ to save you?"


Other atrocities committed by Osman Ağa 

While on his way through the village of Kirli having lodged and fed at the expense of the people there, he demanded the daughter in law of Anastasse Agha, a notable of that village who refused. Osman Ağa then ordered Anastasse Agha to be butchered together with his four children and four other men.5

In June 1920 at the village of Enayet near Giresun, a family of five Greeks were murdered by Osman Ağa and his followers and several women and young girls carried off. Houses were robbed and cattle stolen.6

In July 1920, Osman Ağa massacred 15 Christians in the village of Karali and Kuruk. Because of the violation of a Muslim woman by a man named Panayoti, 50 Greeks of this name were arrested and beaten and two tortured and killed. His followers then extorted large sums from the Christians while he himself threatened to massacre all Christians unless the San Remo decision was modified.7

In July 1920 Osman Ağa arrested and beat the Bishop of Sivas.8

On 20th of August 1920, Osman Ağa continued to extort money from the Christians and many of the richest had been reduced to poverty. On the night of the 13/14th of August, Osman arrested the whole male population of Giresun in order to expel them; his followers subsequently entered and pillaged their houses.9

On the 8th of September 1920, a newspaper report described how Osman Ağa carried out a ghastly series of atrocities in Giresun whereby he shut up all the males, and every evening led out five to be executed. The remaining Christians bought their liberty with a ransom of £300,000.10

 

The Daily Telegraph, Launceston, 8 September 1920.


In March 1921, Osman Ağa compelled the inhabitants of the town of Sivas to feed him and his band of 500 men for three weeks. At Ezboter two Greeks and an Armenian were arrested and after having their bare feet shod with horse shoes, they were massacred. He also ordered the massacres of women and children of the villages of Kul-Hisar, Mesudiye and Kirik.11

In 1921 on passing through Amasya and Çorum, Osman Ağa instructed his men to massacre every Christian man or woman whom they encountered.12

A report on the 9th of July 1921, described horrible details of the persecution of Christians when Osman Ağa arrived there on the second day of Bayram (a Turkish religious holiday) and murdered ten Greeks, then surrounded the stores of the American Tobacco Company and arrested all the Greek clerks numbering some 800 and had them transported to an unknown destination. The Greek quarter was then surrounded and 1,500 other Greeks were arrested and deported to the interior.13

On the 20th of December 1921, a band of 100 Turco-lazes from Rize enlisted by the Mayor of Giresun Osman Ağa, landed at Ordu and were received by the authorities of the town. The following day they surrounded the streets and proceeded to pillage the shops of Christians taking with them two Greeks. The merchant Michel Macrides of Giresun was decapitated in a small boat by order of Osman Ağa and his body thrown into the sea. Several other notables were also deported causing a severe sense of terror among the other Christians.14

On the 25th of February 1922, 20 Greek villages were destroyed by fire in the region of Giresun by the order of Osman Ağa, Major of Giresun and Kemalist military commander, and on the 1st of March the villages of Beislan, Pozat, Topekeny and Kiavourhiki were also burned down, the inhabitants consisting only of women and children who were previously imprisoned in the houses, having completely perished in the flames.15

On the 23rd of March 1923, Osman Ağa strangled Trabzon Deputy Ali Sukru Bey to death because the Deputy criticized Mustafa Kemal. He was shot dead in Ankara on the 1st of April 1923 after an exchange of gunfire with the military police who had been sent to capture him. His body was hanged in front of the Turkish Parliament and later buried in Giresun. He is considered a hero in Turkey where a monument has been erected to honor him.

 


1.  Mango Andrew, Ataturk. John Murray, London 1999, 551.
2.  Turkish Affairs. Kemal's Bold Stroke, The Maitland Weekly Mercury. 4 Apr 1923, 5.
3.  Mango, Ataturk, 383.
4.  Black Book the Tragedy of Pontus 1914-1922. A few short notes on the Turkish cruelties perpetrated against the Greeks
of the Pontus during the months of June, July and August 1921. The Central Council of Pontus. Athens 1922, pp 20-21.
5.  Yeghiayan Vartkes ed., British Reports on Ethnic Cleansing in Anatolia: 1919-1922, Center for Armenian Remembrance, USA 2007, XXXI,
6.  ibid, 154
7.  ibid, 157
8.  ibid, 252
9.  ibid, 170
10. Ghastly Atrocities,The Daily Telegraph, Launceston. 8 Sep 1920, 5.
11. Yeghiayan, British Reports, 252
12. Yeghiayan, British Reports, 257
13. 700,000 Greeks Victims of Turks, The New York Times. 10 July 1921, 4.
14. Yeghiayan, British Reports, 190.
15. UK Parliament Hansard, 3 April 1922.

 

German General Otto Liman von Sanders was the commander of the Turkish Fifth Army. He arrived in Turkey at the end of 1913 at the request of the Young Turks to reorganize the Turkish military. In a report to the Ottoman authorities, von Sanders wrote that the entire Greek population of Ayvalik must be deported immediately to the Interior otherwise "he would be unable to take the responsibility for the security of the army." Sanders was reported as saying, "Couldn't they throw these infidels into the sea?"

The deportation of the Greek population of Ayvalik to the Turkish Interior was carried out on von Sanders' orders and many died as a result.  The Ayvalik deportations took place in 1917, the destinations being Yenişehir and Bilecik located 350km and 400km to the interior. In a 1919 newspaper article titled First Hun Held For Atrocities, Sanders' arrest for Greek and Armenian massacres was recorded. The paper wrote: "Sanders is first of the German commanders to be seized for trial for violation of the rules of warfare. And he’s going to be tried in Constantinople, too. Sanders was in command of the Turkish forces which were operating under direction of Berlin. He is known to have sanctioned Turkish Atrocities, including massacres of Greeks and Armenians."

Sanders had been arrested by British forces when he attempted to return to Germany in February 1919. He was held at Malta for six months as a war criminal. Liman von Sanders retired from the army in October 1919 and died in Munich on 22 August 1929.

 

Further Reading:
15 Mar 1919: First Hun Held for Atrocities, The Evening Independent
Deutschland über Allah!
Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination
Two War Years in Constantinople

 

 

Rafet Pasha, otherwise known as Rafet Bey or Refet Bele, was a member of the Committee of Union and Progress.

On 26 November 1916, Rafet Bey informed Dr. Ernst von Kwiatkowski, the Austro-Hungarian Consul in Samsun: "We must at last do with the Greeks as we did with the Armenians...".  Two days later on 28 November 1916, Rafet Bey returned and advised Kwiatkowski:  "We must now finish with the Greeks. I sent today battalions to the outskirts to kill every Greek they pass on the road."

Reports gathered by the Greek Legation at Constantinople in 1917, hold Rafet Pasha responsible for the arson and deportations in Samsun during 1916 and early 1917. In the reports, he is described as being “fanatic, passionate and to a high degree a hater of Greeks.” The report goes on to say that he had “become the scourge of the country and the tyrant of Christians.”

The London Morning Post's special correspondent stationed in Constantinople on 5 December 1918 wrote:

"Rafet Pasha, the late Governor of Bitlis, was sent to Samsoun with express orders to become a scourge to the Greeks. He did the work thoroughly. Over a hundred and fifty thousand were deported in this district and in Trebizond."

 

 

Mustafa Kemal ‘Atatürk’ was the consummator of the Greek Genocide. He was born in 1881 at Thessaloniki, Greece (then part of the Ottoman Empire).  He attended the Ottoman Military School in Constantinople and graduated in 1905. Around 1908 he joined the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) party. Kemal was an officer of the Turkish Army and founded the Turkish Nationalist Movement (the Kemalists) by regrouping the Ottoman Army, irregular fighters and the remnants of the CUP. He continued the genocidal policy engineered by the Committee for Union and Progress.

Ottoman Greeks were persecuted throughout Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace under the Kemalists. Between the period 1919-1923, media reports, accounts from missionaries, foreign diplomats and survivor testimonies, describe a well organized persecution of native Greeks. On the 6th of August 1921, the Maryborough Chronicle of Queensland published an article titled “Reign of Terror by Kemalists–Massacre of Greek Subjects” referring to Kemalists rounding up Greeks in Trebizond and putting them to death.1 On the 23rd of March 1921, The Examiner of Launceston reported: “Concentration of Kemalists–Terrible Massacres of Christians”, referring to a three day massacre of Christians at Caesarea in the interior of Turkey.2 On the 14th of June 1922, a New York Times article subtitled “Kemalist Troops Employed in Systematic Campaign of Murder and Starvation” reported on the massacre of 15,000 Greek men, women and children in the district of Rhodopolis. The report also described how Greeks from the town of Geronta (today Didyma) had been deported to the interior toward Mugla, a distance some 132km away. Dr Dalalio, an Italian physician of the Red Cross, personally witnessed atrocities by Kemalists in the town of Macri (today Fethiye) and the deportation of all males from the ages of 12-85 to Funjah and Malatia.3 

 

The New York Times, 14 June 1922.

The Armenian-Greek Section was formed following the First World War by the British High Commission in Constantinople and was a series of 87 meetings conducted during the period February 1919 to November 1922. On the meeting of the 29th of September 1920, it was reported that a large band of Nationalists led by a certain Djemal, surrounded the Greek quarter of Iznik (Gr: Nicaea) and seized the entire population numbering about 600 and later massacred them. No survivors were found.4 On the 5th of July 1920, 120 Kemalists and 600 Turkish citizens surrounded and pillaged the four villages at Foundouklia near Ada Bazar. They collected 7,800 sheep and all cattle belonging to Christians. The men were shut up in a church and the women exiled. The men were then ordered to come out in 5's and were shot. Of the population of 3,400, 400 men were murdered and 30 of the women were exiled. The rest of the population fled to the mountains.5

Apart from persecuting Greeks in villages and towns, Mustafa Kemal also established special tribunals or Courts of Independence to sentence to death hundreds of influential Greeks - usually by hanging - including publishers, mayors of towns and villages and previous members of the Ottoman government. Through these courts, Greek intellectuals and the political elite throughout Asia Minor were killed in a matter of months. In the Pontus region alone, 60 people per day were hanged during the month of September 1921.6 Historian Mark Levene, in his journal titled “Creating a Modern Zone of Genocide" stated: "...the CUP committed genocide in order to transform the residual empire into a streamlined, homogeneous  nation-state on the European model. Once the CUP had started the process, the Kemalists, freed from any direct European pressure by the 1918 defeat and capitulation of Germany, went on to complete it, achieving what nobody believed possible: the reassertion of independence and sovereignty via an exterminatory war of national liberation."7

Mark Hopkins Ward, an American physician was working at the American Hospital in Harput while Greeks were being deported to the interior of Asia Minor. He was expelled by the Turks for keeping notes on the deportations. Ward described the deportations by saying: “The Kemalists pursued with vigor their considered and systematic campaign for the extermination of the Greek minority in Asia Minor, which was attended with the same incredible brutality as marked the Turkish massacre of 1,000,000 Armenians in the early part of the Great War.” 8

One of the final acts of the Greek Genocide was the burning of Smyrna (today İzmir) by Kemalist troops in September 1922. At the conclusion of the Greco-Turkish War, a victorious Mustafa Kemal entered İzmir on September 10. The following day, Kemalist soldiers and civilians began a systematic orgy of rape, looting and murder of Armenians and Greeks. On the 13th of September a fire was lit by Kemalist troops which eventually burnt the Armenian, Greek and European quarters of the city to the ground; the Turkish quarter was spared. Kemal then issued a two week ultimatum for all Greeks and Armenians to leave or face deportation to the interior. Males between the age of 18-45 were declared prisoners of war and were immediately sent to the interior, most of them to perish. In his memoires, Winston Churchill (1874-1965) stated that: “..Mustapha Kemal's Army .. celebrated their triumph by the burning of Smyrna to ashes and by a vast massacre of its Christian population...9

New York Times, 21 September 1922.

One of the world’s most despised dictators, and the perpetrator of the 20th century’s most notorious genocides Adolf Hitler, often referred to Turkey as being a role model for him, and Atatürk as being his 'star in the darkness.' Hitler expressed admiration for Atatürk and repeatedly stressed that he was Atatürk‘s student. In 1938 during an interview with Turkish politicians, Adolf Hitler said: “..Atatürk was a teacher; Mussolini was his first and I his second student."10  Hitler also considered Atatürk‘s Turkish Nationalist movement as being a ‘shining star’ for him.

In an interview with Swiss journalist Emile Hilderbrand published on Sunday 1st of August 1926 in the Los Angeles Examiner under the title "Kemal Promises More Hangings of Political Antagonists in Turkey", Mustafa Kemal acknowledged the Turkish massacre of its Christian element but attributed responsibility to the Committee for Union and Progress: He said: “These left-overs from the former Young Turkey Party, who should have been made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse, from their homes and massacred, have been restive under the Republican rule.”11

The Los Angeles Examiner, 1 August 1926.

Today, Kemal holds the title "Atatürk" meaning Father of Turks and is regarded as a national hero in Turkey where it is illegal to insult his memory. However, western academics have widely questioned the Turkish view of Kemal's role in the late Ottoman Empire. For example, in a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels on 13 November 2008, Dr. Ronald Münch from the University of Bremen pointed out that if Atatürk were alive today, he would have to stand trial for war crimes.12

He died in Istanbul in 1938.

 


1.  1921 'GRAECO-TURKISH HOSTILITIES.', Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 - 1947), 6 August, p. 7, viewed 5 May, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article151143251
2.  1921 'Concentration of Kemalists.', Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954), 23 March, p. 5 Edition: DAILY, viewed 5 May, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51116687
3.   Turks Massacre 15,000 More Greeks, The New York Times, 14 June 1922. Viewed 5 May 2015,  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D0DE4DE1539EF3ABC4C52DFB0668389639EDE
4.   British Reports on Ethnic Cleansing in Anatolia 1919-1922: The Armenian-Greek Section, Vartkes Yeghiayan. Centre of Armenian Remembrance, page 172.
5.   ibid page 157.
6.   The Genocide of the Ottoman Greeks, Tessa Hofmann. Caratzas Publishers, pp74-75.
7.   Creating a modern ‘zone of genocide’: The impact of nation- and state-formation on Eastern Anatolia, 1878-1923, Mark, Levene.  Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 12, Issue 3, Winter 1998, p. 415.
8.   Nations of War Urged to Declare Turkey an Outlaw, Christian Science Monitor, 21 June 1922.
9.   Churchill, Winston, The Aftermath, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929, p. 444.
10.  Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination, Stefan Ihrig.  Belknap Press, 2014. Page 116.
11.  Los Angeles Examiner, Kemal Promises More Hangings of Political Antagonists in Turkey. 1 August 1926.
12.  German faces probe for insult, Huriyert Daily News,viewed 5May 2015, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/domestic/10484629.asp

Last edited: 24 Jun 2020

 

Subcategories

The perpetrators of the Greek Genocide were responsible for planning and executing the destruction of Greek communities. They include members of the Committee of Union and Progress Party, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his nationalist supporters (Kemalists) as well as German military personnel. 

A focus on some of the regions affected and other documentary evidence.

Many individuals and organizations provided relief to the victims and survivors of the Greek Genocide. The following are some of the individuals who sometimes risked their lives to provide such care. Please note that this is a new section of the website and is currently being updated.

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