Primary Documents - Talaat Pasha's Alleged Official Orders Regarding the Armenian Massacres, March 1915-January 1916

Talaat Pasha Reproduced below are official telegrams allegedly despatched by Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha authorising ongoing massacre of Armenians from March 1915 onwards.  All were purportedly signed by Talaat himself other than the first.  The first telegram is signed by the "Djemiet", i.e. the executive committee of the 'Young Turk' organisation; given that Talaat was himself chairman of the organisation the telegram was necessarily issued with his authorisation.

Note that the authenticity of the telegrams has long been debated, dismissed as clear propaganda fakes by many and regarded as genuine by others.  Talaat himself strenuously denied writing the telegrams.

Click here to the read the British government report into the massacres.  Click here to read a German memoir of the massacres.

Talaat Pasha's Official Orders Regarding the Armenian Massacres, March 1915-January 1916

March 25th, 1915

To Djemal Bey, Delegate at Adana:

The duty of everyone is to effect on the broadest lines possible the realization of the noble project of wiping out of existence the well-known elements who for centuries have been the barrier to the empire's progress in civilization.

We must, therefore, take upon ourselves the entire responsibility, pledging ourselves to this action no matter what happens, and always remembering how great is the sacrifice which the Government has made in entering the World War.  We must work so that the means used may lead to the desired end.

In our dispatch dated February 18th, we announced that the Djemiet has decided to uproot and annihilate the different forces which for centuries have been a hindrance; for this purpose it is forced to resort to very bloody methods.  Certainly the contemplation of these methods horrified us, but the Djemiet saw no other way of insuring the stability of its work.

Ali Riza [Note: the committee delegate at Aleppo] harshly criticised us and urged that we be merciful; such simplicity is nothing short of stupidity.  We will find a place for all those who will not cooperate with us, a place that will wring their delicate heartstrings.

Again let me remind you of the question of property left.  This is very important.  Watch its distribution with vigilance; always examine the accounts and the use made of the proceeds.


September 3rd, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We advise that you include the woman and children also in the orders which have been previously prescribed as to be applied to the males of the intended persons.  Select employees of confidence for these duties.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.

September 16th

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

You have already been advised that the Government, by order of the Djemiet, has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons [Armenians] living in Turkey.

All who oppose this decision and command cannot remain on the official staff of the empire.

Their existence must come to an end, however tragic the means may be; and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to conscientious scruples.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.

November 18th, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

It appears, from the interventions which have recently been made by the American Ambassador [Note: Mr. Morgenthau] at Constantinople on behalf of his Government, that the American Consuls are obtaining information by some secret means.  They remain unconvinced, despite our assurance that the deportations will be accomplished in safety and comfort.

Be careful that events which attract attention shall not occur in connection with those who are near cities and other centres.  In view of our present policy, it is most important that foreigners who are in those parts shall be convinced that the expulsion of the Armenians is in reality only deportation.

Therefore it is necessary that a show of gentle dealing shall be made for a while, and the usual measures be taken in suitable places.

All persons who have given information to the contrary shall be arrested and handed over to the military authorities for trial by court-martial.  This order is recommended as very important.


December 11th, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We are informed that some correspondents of Armenian journals are acquiring photographs and letters which depict tragic events, and these they give to the American Consul at Aleppo.

Dangerous people of this kind must be arrested and suppressed.

Minister of the Interior,

December 29th, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We are informed that foreign officers are finding along the roads the corpses of the indicated persons, and are photographing them.

Have these corpses buried at once and do not allow them to be left near the roads.

This order is recommended as very important.

Minister of the Interior,

January 15th, 1916

To the Government of Aleppo:

We are informed that certain orphanages which have opened also admitted the children of the Armenians.

Should this be done through ignorance of our real purpose, or because of contempt of it, the Government will view the feeding of such children or any effort to prolong their lives as an act completely opposite to its purpose, since it regards the survival of these children as detrimental.

I recommend the orphanages not to receive such children; and no attempts are to be made to establish special orphanages for them.

Minister of the Interior,


From the Ministry of the Interior to the Governor of Aleppo:

Only those orphans who cannot remember the terrors to which their parents have been subjected must be collected and kept.

Send the rest away with the caravans.

Minister of the Interior,

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

"Gas Bag" was a slang term for airships.

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