Sassounian: Talat’s Personal Account of the Armenian Massacres

In last week’s column, I reported that Talat Pasha, the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, had told British intelligence officer Aubrey Herbert in 1921 that he had written “a memorandum on the Armenian massacres.”

I would like now to present brief excerpts from Talat’s lengthy account published in the November 1921 issue of Current History, the monthly magazine of the New York Times, titled, “Posthumous Memoirs of Talat Pasha,” and subtitled, “The former Grand Vizier’s own account, written shortly before his assassination, of why and how Turkey entered the war—Secret alliance that preceded the conflict—Causes of the Armenian massacres as stated by the man who ordered them.”

In an introductory note, the Current History editors explain how they obtained a copy of this revealing report: “After Talat’s death, the manuscript passed into the possession of his wife, who remained in Germany; she has not yet published the whole of it, but after the acquittal of her husband’s assassin she permitted the Paris correspondent of Vakit, a liberal Turkish newspaper published in Constantinople, to reproduce the most interesting portions of it. These have been translated from Turkish for Current History by M. Zekeria, a native of Constantinople. They represent about fifty pages of the original manuscript, the opening sentence of which, ‘I do not tell all the truth, but all I tell is truth,’ aroused a great sensation in Turkey.”

In his memoirs, as in his interview with Aubrey Herbert, Talat tries to exonerate himself by blaming everyone else—Armenians, Russians, even Turks—for the Armenian massacres. He does not deny “the deportations of the Armenians, in some localities of the Greeks, and in Syria of some of the Arabs,” but claims that such reports “were exceedingly exaggerated.” Talat then adds: “in saying this, I do not mean to deny the facts. I desire only to eliminate the exaggerations and to relate the facts as they occurred.”

The former grand vizier confesses: “I admit that we deported many Armenians from our eastern provinces, but we never acted in this matter upon a previously prepared scheme. The responsibility for these acts falls first of all upon the deported people themselves. Russia, in order to lay hand on our eastern provinces, had armed and equipped the Armenian inhabitants of this district, and had organized strong Armenian bandit forces in the said area.”

Attempting to repair his tarnished image, Talat acknowledges the Turkish brutalities against Armenians: “I admit also that the deportation was not carried out lawfully everywhere. In some places unlawful acts were committed. … Some of the officials abused their authority, and in many places people took preventive measures into their own hands and innocent people were molested. I confess it.”

Continuing his face-saving rhetoric, Talat concedes: “I confess, also, that the duty of the government was to prevent these abuses and atrocities or at least to hunt down and punish their perpetrators severely. In many places, where the property and goods of the deported people were looted, and the Armenians molested, we did arrest those who were responsible and punished them according to the law. I confess, however, that we ought to have acted more sternly, opened up a general investigation for the purpose of finding out all the promoters and looters and punished them severely. But we could not do that. Although we punished many of the guilty, most of them were untouched.”

Talat proceeds to provide excuses for not pursuing the perpetrators of the Armenian massacres who “were short-sighted, fanatic, and yet sincere in their belief. The public encouraged them, and they had general approval behind them. They were numerous and strong. Their open and immediate punishment would have aroused great discontent among the people, who favored their acts. An endeavor to arrest and to punish all these promoters would have created anarchy in Anatolia at a time when we greatly needed unity.”

To set the record straight, Talat’s claims that Armenians stabbed Turkey in the back during World War I are completely false. Minister of War Enver Pasha, commander-in-chief of the Ottoman Armed Forces, in a letter to the bishop of Konya, praised the bravery of Turkish-Armenian soldiers fighting against the Russian Army in the winter of 1914-15.

Ironically, Talat’s assertion that his government would have taken brutal actions against Armenians even at “a time of peace” reconfirms long-standing Turkish genocidal practices as previously demonstrated by the Hamidian and Adana Massacres of Armenians, which were carried out when there were no wars.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. “I do not tell all the truth, but all I tell is truth.” Talaat Pasha, 1921

    Can there be a more cunning, deceptive beginning to a “confession”? This could have been just as easily said by Sultan Abdul-Hamid, Mustafa Kemal or Tayyip Erdogan. Typical of Turkish leadership for centuries.

  2. Or, possibly an embellishment or even fabrication from British intelligence officer Aubrey Herbert? According to some, British Intelligence already knew of Operation Nemesis as it was happening and allowed it. lets follow the money. That will tell you what is going on. The main purpose, in my opinion, and of the seeming blatant complicity of other major actors in not only turning a blind eye, but almost colluding in the denial till this day, of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian PLANNED Genocides, by the Young Turk Regime, was theft of wealth. And, of course once gone, a repositioning of “their own” traders, merchants, bankers, architects, lawyers who had been, up until that point, mostly all Armenian for centuries. These actors had their eye on that wealth wanted it.. Talaat, as well as the other CUP were sociopaths, who had a tendency for sick perversions and pedophilia but as it turns out, were basic thieves themselves. The ONLY Turks they “punished” were those Turks or Kurds that occupied murdered Armenian homes as ‘it naturally went to the state’ and for no other reason alone. And like all sociopaths, if true, seems to justify or deflect from his sick perversions by blaming every one else, especially his victims. May he rot forever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.