United States Consul Leslie A. Davis’s Photographs of Armenians Slaughtered at Lake Goeljuk, Summer of 1915
[A Groong posting here of a paper originally published in a Festschrift volume in honor of German Journalist and Scholar Wolfgang Gust on the Occasion of his 80th Birthday, 2015. The celebratory volume Festschrift Wolfgang zum 80. Geburtstag printed by Verlag Dinges & Frick, Wiesbaden was edited by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach and is presented here with her kind permission in the hope that it will give our contribution wider distribution and broader coverage.]
Armenian News Network / Groong
April 7, 2017
Special to Groong by Abraham D. Krikorian and Eugene L. Taylor
Long Island, NY
„Was hat der Mensch dem Menschen Grösseres zu geben als Wahrheit?”
“What does man have to give man greater than truth?” Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)
Especially appropriate epigraph quoted from this ultimate Renaissance man’s writings which was selected for use on the cover of the Wolfgang Gust Festschrift volume
United States Consul Leslie A. Davis’s Photographs of Armenians Slaughtered at Lake Goeljuk, Summer of 1915
“The story of the deportation of the Armenians of Harput is one of ‘perfidy, violence and murder. It is nearer to the truth to say the Turkish government undertook the extinction of the Armenian population” – Words of missionary Rev. H.H. Riggs at the mid-September meeting of the committee on “Armenian Atrocities” in New York City soon after his return to America from Turkey in the summer of 1917.
“Mamuret-ul-Aziz has become the cemetery of the Armenians.”
First of all, we wish to participate in a small way in the honoring and recognition of the major role that Wolfgang Gust has played through his work as a journalist and editor of documentation sensu lato relating to the Turkish genocide against the Armenians. His massive, seminal works covering Pastor Johannes Lepsius and the rigorous documentation of primary records originating from the German Foreign Office Archives [Dokumente aus dem Politischen Archiv des deutschen Auswärtigen Amts] have been an inspiration to many, including those from far outside the usual sphere of influence expected. We have been among them. His published work on the Armin Wegner photographs likewise must be viewed as a model to be emulated. We are retired scientists who have become much interested in carrying out work of attestation and attribution of photographs and imagery relevant to what has come to be called the Armenian Genocide.
The vast majority of the American public, indeed the public everywhere, increasingly obtains information through images. Virtually any and all kinds of mass communication, news reporting, social media discourse and the like are intimately linked with imagery – on-the-scene reporting, real time electronic dissemination, sound bites, data banks and archives of digital and film footage and photographs play a huge role. Indeed, today, both general and more targeted mass media communications about the Armenian Genocide are no exception.
On November 1, 1916 U. S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing communicated by telegram that
“Reports for many months past from official and other reliable sources show that the systematic deportation of the Armenian population of Turkey continues; that their terrible sufferings at the hands of the Turkish authorities are unmitigated; that thousands have died as a result of cruelties, massacres, and starvation; and that it would appear that these awful conditions are the result of a studied intention on the part of the Ottoman Government to annihilate a Christian race. The true facts, if publicly known, would shock the whole civilized world.” [Emphasis added]
Rev. Henry Harrison Riggs was one of many reliable sources referred to. He was born in Turkey of missionary parents and had served since 1903 in Harput, located in the Vilayet or Province of Mamouret-ul-Aziz in eastern Asia Minor, an area about as a large as the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. His reports on the fate of the Armenians in that region were widely reported, and we have used a few of his words as an epigraph at the outset of this essay.
Everyone undoubtedly understood when they saw newspaper articles with headings like Butchery of Armenians. Women and children killed in cold blood by Turks. Ten thousand bodies counted in one small territory – a tale of horror not surpassed in history.” We can only guess how many Americans knew that “perfidy” meant “deceitfulness” or “treachery” - all certainly understood what Rev. Riggs meant by “violence” and “murder”. None of this was in any way, shape or form controversial or complex.
Rev. Riggs went on to say
“About fifteen miles from Harput is a lake hidden from sight with many ravines about it [Lake Goeljuk – today Hazar Gölü]. We were told that the Armenian exiles were being killed and left in these ravines. Two Americans investigated and brought back photographs and actual facts. They saw in a twenty mile ride 10,000 human bodies, most of them killed by bayonet. With a few exceptions they were women and children and the mangled condition of their bodies showed the horrible fate that had been theirs.”
The two Americans they were referring to were United States Consul Leslie A. Davis and Dr. Herbert Atkinson, who was the physician in charge at the American Hospital in Mezereh, the provincial capital and lower city counterpart town of Harput city. We’ll also see that one of the U.S. Consular attendants/guards, Cavass Garabed Bedrosian, witnessed the scenes of horror as well.
We assert that had the photographs Consul Davis had taken around Lake Goeljuk showing slaughter of civilians been accessible to the European and American press, the nonsense proffered and circulated by the Turkish government might well have been put on a very different plane or even stopped. We will develop the argument that if on-the-scene photographs of mass murder and crimes against humanity had been made available to the press and responsible and respected neutrals at the outset of the infamous "deportations", the impact would have been substantial, even pivotal in generating an uproar and even possibly bringing about the cessation of the ongoing crime. In the least, one of the pretenses that persists to this very day could have been nipped in the bud: this was the Young Turk leadership’s statement that “relocating the Armenians to new homes outside the war zones was an absolute necessity.”
(Incidentally, the very first official Turkish denial and rejection in the United States of the carefully compiled Report of the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities, which was released to the press on October 4, 1915, asserted that it was all a “fabrication.”)
Some Early ‘History’ of the Davis Photographs
Amateur camera shots were indeed taken by a hand-held camera and films, or what are nowadays called ‘negatives’ were developed, printed, and shown to responsible individuals on the scene in Harput/Mezereh by the man who took them – the 4th and very last United States Consul at Harput, Leslie Ammerton Davis. These photographs remained virtually unknown for many years to modern researchers of the Armenian Genocide, as will be detailed below. Consul Davis made the deliberate decision to retain the photographs at the Consulate because it did not seem “prudent” to try to get them and a full report to Henry Morgenthau, the American Ambassador to the Sublime Porte in Constantinople. Unlike the photographs, the dispatches from Consul Davis (and indeed other U.S. Consuls as well) to Constantinople, and Davis’s final report dated February 9, 1918 are now widely available, and need not be of great concern here so far as precise citation is concerned.
The first mention of the photographs appeared in cipher code that Consul Davis added to the end of his message to Ambassador Morgenthau on December 30, 1915:
“I intend to supplement these reports on the deportation and massacre of the Armenians with an account of two trips which now made to a lake about 5 hours distant? [sic] from here where I saw the dead bodies of fully 10 thousand persons comma many of whom had been recently killed comma and to illustrate it with photographs which I took of them alive in camps Period It would not be prudent to send such a report now Period”
This turns out in our judgment to be the first strategic mistake made concerning the damning photos and specifics associated with them.
Context of the Davis Photographs
To place some of the photographs mentioned by Consul Davis in context, we provide a few excerpts from his communications and writings which went into his report. Indeed nothing from Leslie A. Davis is ever really taken out of context since his entire corpus of dispatches and writings concentrate in large part on the willful extermination of the Armenian people.
“There were also hundreds of children arriving all the time from other places, whose parents had died or been killed on the way…Then the children disappeared and it was reported that they had all been taken to a lake about twenty miles from Harput and drowned.”[p. 41]
“It was rumored that many of the people who were brought here had been pushed over the cliffs by the gendarmes and killed in that way. The rumor was fully confirmed by what we saw. In some of the valleys there were only a few bodies, but in others there were more than a thousand. One of the first corpses that we saw was that of an old man with a white beard, whose skull had been crushed in by a large stone which still remained in it.”[p. 66]
“I was subsequently informed more in detail about the system employed in disposing of these parties of Armenians. They were allowed to camp for a day or two in the valleys or in some convenient place. While they were there the gendarmes summoned the Kurds … and ordered them to kill the Armenians, telling the Kurds they could make money in this way but would have trouble if they refused.”[p. 68-69]
“A remarkable thing about the bodies that we saw was that nearly all of them were naked. I have been informed that the people were forced to take off their clothes before they were killed as the Mohammedans consider clothes taken from a dead body to be defiled. There were gaping bayonet wounds on most of the bodies, usually in the abdomen or chest, sometimes in the throat. Few persons had been shot, as bullets were too precious. It was cheaper to kill them with bayonets and knives. Another remarkable thing was that nearly all the women lay flat on their backs and showed signs of barbarous mutilation by the bayonets of the gendarmes. These wounds having been inflicted in many cases after the women were dead. We also noticed that all the bodies in these valleys were apparently those of people who had been on the road at least one or two months, showing that they were not from Harput but were from distant places.” [p. 69]
We estimated that in the course of our ride around the lake, and actually within the space of twenty-four hours, we had seen the remains of not less than ten thousand Armenians who had been killed around Lake Goeljuk…”[p. 75]
“That which took place around beautiful Lake Goeljuk in the summer of 1915 is almost inconceivable. Thousands and thousands of Armenians, mostly innocent and helpless women and children, were butchered on its shores and barbarously mutilated. It is hard for one living in a civilized country to believe that such things are possible yet as Lord Bryce has said: "Things which we find scarcely credible excite little surprise in Turkey.” [p. 76]
“There were fully 150,000 Armenians in the Vilayet prior to 1915; at the end of that year, although there were more than we had supposed, there remained only 8,000 or 10,000, as nearly as I can estimate it now, with the addition of 1,000 or 2,000 deportees who had come there from other vilayets.” [p. 88]
Consul Davis made a special effort to protect unrestricted access to his typewritten Report. He says in his cover letter:
“I may at some future time, if the Department has no objection, wish to use this report, in whole or in part, for literary purposes and, therefore, respectfully request the Department to kindly not permit it to be copied by any one who may be interested in obtaining material for publication. In addition to what is given in the report, I have at Harput some other material, such as autobiographic sketches of a number of the persons mentioned therein, as well as a large collection of photographs which I took while there and which illustrate many of the scenes described. It was impossible, of course, to bring any of them with me.” [Emphasis added]
No risks, calculated or otherwise, were taken to get the photographic material out of Turkey when Mr. Davis was recalled by the United States Government in 1917 after Turkey severed diplomatic relations with the United States. The Turkish Government selected the route by which Consul Davis should leave Harput. It was about 500 miles from the nearest railroad and the journey was made on horseback.
“In the party with Mr. Davis were nine missionaries, four of them women, whom he took out of the city. They were escorted on the journey by four soldiers, the Turkish authorities explaining that the soldiers would act as a guard. Wagons carried their food and bedding, and as they passed no hotels on the route the party was obliged to cook their own meals and sleep in the open. It took them eighteen days to reach the railroad, and a three day journey to reach Constantinople.”
It may be that Davis did not consider the photographic evidence crucial just then for communicating what was happening, and believed that they would ‘eventually’ be seen. Or, as we believe, it was a regrettable, albeit conscious, decision by Davis, made for other reasons. It did not appear that he had grounds to fear for the safety of the materials during his departure. After all, Consul Davis expressed more than once that he and the Vali or Governor-General Sabit of Mamuret-ul-Aziz were on good terms. He had been given official documents to present along the way and thus was assured of safe, even preferential escort when they left Mezereh. Davis made clear that they were put on a path which was chosen to prevent observation of anything of a sensitive nature. Although the group of travelers that he headed were closely supervised along the way and even much-delayed in their final exit journey, no one searched them. Hindsight tells us many things, but here it also shows us that Consul Davis miscalculated when he decided not to take the photographs out of what he and others on the scene called “the Slaughterhouse Province” when he left the Consulate in Mezereh for good on May 16, 1917. American officialdom was hurriedly shepherded out, and American missionaries had been advised by the Embassy to leave as well. Some stayed behind, however, and to their enormous credit rendered what aid they could. Maria Jacobsen, a Danish missionary nurse, is arguably the best known of these and she showed enormous bravery, ingenuity and resourcefulness under virtually impossible conditions.
By the time these photographs that could "horrify and indict" were eventually gotten out of Turkey, over four years of horrible genocidal crimes had occurred. And to be perfectly clear, no one today can be absolutely certain of the exact details – the trail of events relating to the photographs is spotty. Because they were left behind, their very history soon became very much muddied. It was only after the war that they were recovered from Turkey by one Dr. Laurence H. MacDaniels and taken to the United States. According to varying reports, they were delivered to the State Department, and some copies were later given to Cornell University while others remained with the family of MacDaniels. From there the saga becomes more complicated, as detailed below.
One important factor regarded whether the United States would have wanted to use the photographs to repudiate publicly the widely disseminated Turkish claims of simple relocation by deportation. No doubt Consul Davis’s photographs could have played a significant role in honest reporting, but more than likely their use could not have been sanctioned by Official Washington since President Wilson was determined not to declare war on Turkey and Bulgaria.
Within a month of getting back home from duty at Harput on 28 August 1917, Consul Davis participated in a meeting in New York City aimed at assessing the situation in Turkey and the needs of the remnant stricken communities. The sole direct outcome of his participation in that meeting that we have been able to trace is that he wrote a letter of endorsement for those seeking funds for administering relief. The statement of endorsement first appeared in a 48 page booklet entitled Armenia, The Word Spells Tragedy that was published on 3 October 1917. But because of the apparent limitations put on him by the State Department, his public utterances were very circumspect as to any specific details that only he as an official employee of the diplomatic service had lived through and was privy to. Despite his being in a position to be so specific about it all, it is noteworthy that he avoided mentioning anything in public about the violence and massacres perpetrated.
Indeed, in a letter dated 30 November 1917 addressed to the Secretary of State Consul Davis pointed out that he had been requested several times to speak for the cause of Armenian and Syrian Relief.
“I referred the Committee to the Department and understand that the answer received has not been favorable, but think that may have been due to an incorrect statement made by the Committee about the subject on which it wished me to speak. I should, of course, confine myself strictly to the needs of the Armenians in Turkey, avoiding all reference to anything of a political nature and saying nothing about the atrocities that have been committed. [Emphasis added] In fact, I should try to follow the lines along which Ambassadors Morgenthau and Elkus are now speaking for this Committee. If the Department has no objection, I shall be glad to assist to some extent in this work, especially at this season of the year when the need is so great, as I naturally feel much interested in it after my experience in helping these unfortunate people while I was in Harput and as I am so keenly aware of their present wretched condition.”
In brief, once out of the Ottoman Empire, and so far as the general public at large was concerned, Leslie Davis concentrated on the great need of the Armenian survivors. He took up the task of seeking out Armenians who had relatives in the Harput Consular district. We have no written record of how he approached the situation at each of the places he visited but there are a number of letters of thanks on file.
The language that Consul Davis necessarily used in his single public endorsement of efforts to raise relief funds primarily among non-Armenians can be judged as circumspect, even awkward, and certainly not very specific. For example, in the 1917 booklet Armenia, the Word Spells Tragedy and in the 1918 version we read:-
"I believe there is no place in the world where there is greater and more urgent need of relief at the present time than among the surviving Christian population in the Turkish Empire. [Emphasis added]
“I speak from a personal knowledge of the situation as during the past three years I have been located at Harput, and there was brought into close contact with the distress and misery of thousands of homeless and destitute women and children who are absolutely dependent upon charity for their subsistence. [Emphasis added]
“For the past two years [1915-1917] systematic relief has been regularly given by the American missionaries and myself to more than 5,000 Armenians in the vicinity of Harput alone. Notwithstanding our efforts, it was impossible to reach all and many hundreds were constantly being turned away owing to insufficient funds, while in scarcely any instance was the relief given adequate for their needs. All that anyone ever received was one small piece of bread a day, and in many cases this had to be shared with others. It is to be borne in mind that very few of these people have any way of earning, as owing to the existing conditions there is no work to be obtained.
“The majority of these unfortunate women and children are now in such a wretched and helpless condition that they cannot long survive if help is not received. In fact, many did die last winter for lack of food. Present conditions are more critical than ever.
“Arrangements have been made by which funds can continue to be sent there without any risk of loss, and it can be done in this difficult interior district, there can be little doubt about reaching all other parts of Turkey where relief is being distributed.” [details at 20]
Consul Davis’s use of the expression “surviving Christian population” raises the obvious question as to exactly what had they “survived”? Precisely what was the origin of the “distress and misery?” Was none of that worth at least some semblance of a gentle reminder? We conclude from such statements and a wide array of other available facts that it had been decided that official representatives of the United States would concentrate on relief measures and refrain from any open condemnation of “the Turks.” In short, the decision was made well before President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.
It was only in 1923 that the horror scenes at Lake Goeljuk and vicinity surfaced again in an official capacity. In a letter from former Harput Cavass Garabed Bedrosian dated July 25, 1923 addressed to the Honorable Wilbur J. Carr, Director of the Consular Service, State Department, Washington, D.C. we read:
“Sir: …I take liberty of the occasion to give some facts of the activities of Consul Davis. In July 1915, the most tragic historical period of our race, there happened to be a considerable number of Naturalized American citizens of Armenian origin in the State of Mamouret-ul-Aziz. Every Armenian was ordered to go to an unknown destination. Consul Davis wrote a formal protest to the Turkish authorities for the exemption of the American citizens from deportation and asked them to give such citizens a safe conduct to leave the country. The Governor answered him saying that the citizens must first go to exile and thence they could go to America if they chose. So Consul Davis was unable to do anything officially. After a few days we were informed that the people who were deported were being killed within a few miles from the city. Consul Davis would hardly believe this so he and I went out on horseback from the town and when we were away about three miles, on both sides of the main road the dead bodies could be seen. When we made fifteen miles we saw thousands of bodies of men women and children killed and decayed. Consul Davis was then convinced that the Governor meant to root out the Armenian race from his state, so he began to do the utmost to extend protection to the existing citizens.”
The Elusive Davis Photographs
The exact number of photographs taken at the scenes of brutal murder in the area round Lake Goeljuk is today unknowable. What happened to the photographs, at least some of them, after they were out of Turkey is yet another story or two - each fraught with its own uncertainties and difficulties. We believe that more photos were taken than those that were ‘re-discovered’ in 1984 by Susan K. Blair at the MacDanielses residence in Ithaca, New York April 18 and 19 and which were reproduced in distressingly poor quality in her book of 1989. It is worth emphasizing here as well that it was not only a matter of photographs relating to Davis’ dispatches and Final Report being or becoming irretrievable or "lost," but it is also a fact that the Davis Final typewritten report itself somehow ended up being misfiled or otherwise submerged at the United States National Archives. This was at the time there was only the downtown Washington, DC facility. It was there that the Report was eventually chanced upon by Susan Blair while doing related work, and was "re-discovered" as well. (The enormous, modern “US National Archives II” facility at College Park, Maryland, was not opened for research until the summer of 1994.)
The first batch gotten out was by Dr. Laurence H. and his wife, Frances C. MacDaniels, an American couple who served at Harput with the American Committee for Relief in the Near East (ACRNE). The MacDanielses were among those who left New York February 1919 on the S.S. Leviathan to serve with ACRNE. The two spent the early part of their service at Derindje on the Sea of Marmora, and only later at Harput. Former Harput Consulate Cavass Garabed Bedrosian handed over some photographs around that time to Dr. Laurence H. MacDaniels, whom he had worked with while serving for the ACRNE. (Probably at the time of their leaving.) Taking the photographs with them on departure from Turkey in the spring of 1920 was easy enough since Turkey had been defeated in the war and presented no difficulties.
The sequel to the story after the pictures were taken out of Turkey is considerably less straightforward. For convenience we refer to these ‘rediscovered’ photographs, as the MacDaniels Davis photos.
The MacDaniels Davis photos were said to have been sent by L. H. MacDaniels to the United States State Department (fide their sole surviving child, a daughter, Mrs. Ellen M. Speers). Exactly when this was done is not known. Upon return to America he assumed duties as a professor in the Department of Pomology at Cornell University, as reported to us by his daughter, and as verified in the Cornell Archives. The photographic materials sent by Dr. MacDaniels have never been found either at the United States National Archives or elsewhere. (We use the word ‘materials’ advisedly since it is not known whether prints, or negatives or both were sent. If we were to hazard an educated guess, only prints.)
Although no written record of transmittal of the photos by MacDaniels has been found, it is apparent that he either prepared himself or had glass lantern slides made of several of the Davis photographs for use in talks. The quality is poor, a result of storage under terrible conditions in Turkey, and the subsequent digital scans made for us some years ago from the slides reflect this. Poor quality as they are, they are, let it be emphasized, the only ones that are available at present for full scholarly access and study. These glass lantern slides are now at the Cornell University Archives, but a couple of images are also in MacDaniels family hands. None are in the hands of the Davis family, i.e. fide his late son Caleb Davis and his wife, Leslie Davis’ daughter-in-law Barbara Hale Davis, and personal knowledge since we scanned such photographs as were available at their home.
Author Susan K. Blair nominally borrowed some of the photographs from the MacDaniels family, but has not returned them. As personally communicated to one of us (ADK), she retains them and there is no evidence that she will share them with anyone, much less deposit them any time soon in a place where we would maintain they rightfully belong, namely the United States Archives in College Park. This again, we would suggest, as things stand now, once more put the Davis photographs at risk of being lost to unrestricted use and study.
The publication trail of the MacDaniels Davis photos is incomplete. Publisher Aristide Caratzas has communicated that some of the photographs used in the publication of The Slaughterhouse Province were lost by the Printer. Although he possesses some MacDaniels Davis photos and has promised to make them available to us for study, this has so far not materialized. Mr. Caratzas also has other photographs taken by Leslie Davis that were taken from the collection of son Caleb Davis when he was alive. Attempts by the Davis family to recover those photographs were unsuccessful.
In view of all the above, we are very much inclined to designate the Davis genocide photographs as ill-fated, not only from the beginning but at every subsequent step along the way.
The outcome has been that some of the "rediscovered" photographs referred to by us as the MacDaniels Davis photos, were presented to the reading and viewing public albeit in rather poor reproduction and in small format in Susan K. Blair’s cited book The Slaughterhouse Province. The story of the photographs as given by Blair in her book is considerably abbreviated. For instance, the role of Elsie Kelly, who worked at Near East Foundation in New York City in the Office of President Richard H. Nolte is not mentioned. Incidentally, David S. Dodge living in Princeton, New Jersey was Chairman of the Board of NEF at the time.  Elsie Kelly, and especially the Dodges were friends of Ellen MacDaniels Speers and her husband Peter. Ellen Speers had approached NEF by mail in the first instance for advice about finding an eventual place for the deposition of her parents’ relief work in Turkey letters, papers and photographs etc. This is nowhere mentioned by Blair. In fact, it was Elsie Kelly who made Susan Blair aware of the American Committee for Relief in the Near East materials at the MacDaniels’ home in Ithaca in the first instance, after she had been contacted by Ellen Speers. One would think that the role played by these two women, at least Mrs. Speers, deserved considerable credit.
For all practical purposes, our unrealistic hopes and attempts to learn much that is really new about the photographs have become an exercise in futility. And, although some might not like reading this, the true value and relevance of the photographs have faded as much as the few existing "original" or "semi-original" glossy prints.
The entire story represents to us a consummate travesty. The visual proof obtained on the spot by an American official from a neutral country that never did declare war on Turkey is dramatic and unassailable. The Davis photographs directly contradict the official "Turkish Point of View." Regrettably, although the consequences of the calculated slaughter of innocents were documented on film, the photographs never played any role whatever in getting the real story out. A few like Rev. Riggs mentioned the photos in their talks but no one could show any photos since they were “hidden” in Mezereh, Turkey.
Today, those recovered, marginally rehabilitated photographs that can be presented are not dramatic by modern standards. More importantly, they have long been either ignored, dismissed or explained away by the “Turkish Point of View” as isolated, regrettable and very atypical incidents perpetrated by unruly “rural Muslim populations.”
If one were to make a studied effort to appear measured, even seek diligently to be “fair and balanced”, and to understate deliberately the matter, as some historians assert that one should, one could say that the Leslie A. Davis photographs call into question any contention that the Armenians were being “resettled”.
In an apparent response to Consul Davis’s request that the “Department to kindly not permit [his report] to be copied…” the specific text of the request was underlined in pencil and the relevant part of the sentence noted marginally as well, and stamped in the right hand margin “confidential.” Indeed, the cover letter, typed on official American Consulate stationery is stamped CONFIDENTIAL.
Consul Davis hoped that he could use the report for literary purposes. His use of the word “literary” seems odd to us. The closest intent that we can come up with is that he hoped to produce a “finely crafted narrative”. That would have been interesting indeed since it would have been the first detailed narrative of the events in the Harput area as the genocide unfolded. But he did not do this because, according to his correspondence with Garabed Bedrosian, he seems never to have gotten all his photographs.[refer to Endnote 23]
Let it again be emphasized that Consul Davis’ Final Report was submitted to Washington on February 9, 1918 and as it turned out, the Armistice of Mudros that would end hostilities between Turkey and the Allies on October 31 at noon was signed on October 30, 1918. By the time the report had been filed it was too late for anyone to do anything, even had they wanted to do so.
What Davis, and indeed others, witnessed and communicated to the American Embassy in Constantinople and from there to America is nowadays available to anyone who wants to read it. At the time Davis sent his official "despatches", very few outsiders were privileged to know what was really going on. There was, for all intents and purposes, a news blackout.
Photographs In A Print-Oriented Discipline
Photographs have never been a high priority with historians, or social scientists for that matter. They have rarely been viewed as evidence. This is changing we believe. They need to be attested and attributed if they are to be of optimal use. Some earnest efforts by interested parties may refine many of the details of photographs that we, ourselves, portray as “Witnesses to Massacres and Genocide and their Aftermath.” But not surprisingly, the conclusions remain the same — there was a genocide. Compared to the Nazi Holocaust, studies of the Armenian genocide and any photographs connected with it are somewhat rudimentary but they are by no means inconsequential. The photographs taken by Leslie A. Davis are very significant since he took them, and placed them in full written context.
It is unfortunate that the history of the photographs has remained far less well-known than desired. The oft-used expression ‘Cataract of the Times’ may arguably be used in connection with the photographs in modified form to read ‘The cataract of time blurs the details that were once so vivid.’  The penultimate paragraph in Consul Davis’ report of February 1918 reads:-
“It appears from the foregoing report that during the past three years the greater part of my work has been for Armenians. This report, however, is not intended to be a brief for their cause, whatever the merits of that may be. I was so placed that I happened to be a witness of the terrible treatment they received at the hands of the Turkish Government and naturally did what I could to relieve their suffering. I kept on friendly terms with the officials and found some of them very agreeable, but I trust the Turkish Government will never again have the opportunity to persecute the Armenians or any other of its subject races. I was able to help comparatively few, of course, in the wholesale destruction of life that took place while I was there [Emphasis added] and, although I helped all whom I could, there were cases where it was not possible to do anything; yet it is somewhat remarkable that none of the Armenians whom I have met here have spoken a word of complaint, no matter what the news for them might have been.”
The stoic refrain of many Kharpert Armenians who survived the genocide "What has happened has happened." (personal recollection of ADK)
Fig. 1. Reproduction of the dust jacket of The Slaughterhouse Province. Permission of Aristide D. Caratzas.
Fig. 2. View of the recreational area used by Missionaries and American Consular officials at Lake Goeljuk.
Photograph from the summer of 1913 given us by the late Mary Masterson, daughter of the penultimate U.S. Consul to Harput,
William W. Masterson. The trees are mulberry trees which provide edible fruit. Mulberry leaves are used as food for silkworms.
Fig. 3. Photograph by Leslie Davis of bodies at Lake Goeljuk. The one closest to the viewer with outstretched arm is clearly a female.
Courtesy of Cornell University Archives, Professor Laurence Howland MacDaniels. Papers 1915-1986. #21/25/815. Box 41.
Fig. 4. Photograph by Leslie Davis of body at Lake Goeljuk. Courtesy of Cornell University Archives,
Professor Laurence Howland MacDaniels. Papers 1915-1986. #21/25/815. Box 41.
Fig. 5. Photograph by Leslie Davis of bodies at Lake Goeljuk. Courtesy of Cornell University Archives,
Professor Laurence Howland MacDaniels. Papers 1915-1986. #21/25/815. Box 41.
Note the trees on the horizon at the right hand side.
This photograph was apparently taken from a side of the Lake distant to the view in Figs. 2 and 3.
Fig. 6. Photograph by Leslie Davis of bodies in one of the ravines at Lake Goeljuk.
Courtesy of Cornell University Archives,
Professor Laurence Howland MacDaniels. Papers 1915-1986. #21/25/815. Box 41.
Fig. 7. . Photograph by Leslie Davis of open grave in one of the ravines at Lake Goeljuk.
Courtesy of Mrs. Ellen MacDaniels Speers. also
Cornell University Archives, Professor Laurence Howland MacDaniels. Papers 1915-1986. #21/25/815. Box 41.
We thank Cornell University Archives for permission to use some of the scans presented here, as well as Mrs. Ellen MacDaniels Speers for her ongoing encouragement and help with access to her parents’ materials both at Oberlin College and those materials or copies that she retained for family archives. We thank Aristide D. Caratzas for permission to reproduce the dust jacket of The Slaughterhouse Province. We also thank the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware, and the Armenian Research Center, University of Michigan, Dearborn, especially Gerald E. Ottenbreit Jr., for access to various Bedrosian and Davis documents and letters. Many thanks to Caleb W. Davis (now deceased), his wife Barbara Hale Davis and daughter Carla Davis for their kindness and help. Last, but by no means least, we thank our friend Peter Muir for his help in improving the images.
 See for example The St. Johnsbury Caledonian (St. Johnsbury, Vermont October 18, 1917; The Cornell Daily Sun (Ithaca) October 18, 1917. See Chronicling America, Library of Congress http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
 Quoted in Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s “The Greatest Horror in History.” Red Cross Magazine March 1918, p. 12. This statement is attributable to Swedish missionary Alma Johansson working in the German orphanage at Moush. Reference to Harput being the cemetery of the Armenians may also be found in “Lord Bryce’s Report on the Turkish Atrocities in Armenia” Current History 5 (November) 1916 p. 327 ff.
 See the writings of Dr. Leshu Torchin “Since we forgot: remembrance and recognition of the Armenian genocide in virtual archives” in (F. Guerin and R. Hallas, eds.) The Image and the Witness: trauma, memory and visual culture, (New York and London: Wallflower Press 2007, pp. 82-97; idem Creating Witness: documenting genocide on film, video, and the Internet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2012.
 See Foreign Relations, 1916, Supplement, p. 858 File No. 867.4016/299, Foreign Relations of the United States digital collections from the University of Wisconsin http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/FRUS
 For a range of details on Armenian Kharpert see R. G. Hovannisian (ed.) Armenian Tsopk/Kharpert, Costa Mesa, CA.: Mazda Publishers 2002.
 See H.H. Riggs Days of Tragedy in Armenia: personal experiences in Harput, 1915-1917, Ann Arbor: Gomidas Institute 1997.
 The Watchman and Southron (Sumter, SC Oct. 20) p. 8, see Chronicling America, Library of Congress http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
 A.D. Krikorian and E.L.Taylor (October 4, 2014) “99 Years Ago Today:- Who Knew What, When and How about “The Massacres that Would Change the Meaning of ‘Massacre’: The Committee on Armenian Atrocities in New York City’s Release for Publication in Papers of Monday, Oct. 4, 1915”, at Groong, Armenian News Network http://www.groong.org/orig/ak-20141004.html; also for a considerably broader perspective see Fatma M. Göcek Denial of Violence. Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians 1789-2009, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 2015. It is also noteworthy that the German Ambassador to the United States Count von Bernstorff, declared the alleged atrocities in the Ottoman Empire were “pure inventions.” See New York Times 28 September 1915 p. 2.
 Personal communication, the late Caleb Davis, Consul Leslie Ammerton Davis’s son.
 Consul Davis’ Final Report was submitted to Washington on February 9, 1918 and the Armistice of Mudros that would end hostilities between Turkey and the Allies on October 31 at noon was signed on October 30, 1918. See Report of Leslie A. Davis, American Consul formerly at Harput, Turkey, on the work of the American Consulate at Harput since the Beginning of the Present War. This Report is prepared at the request of Mr. Wilbur J. Carr, Director of the Consular Service. Filed Oct 25 1920. United States National Archives, Index Bureau 867.4016/392; A. Hairapetian “’Race Problems’ and the Armenian Genocide: The State Department file.” The Armenian Review 37, 1984, pp. 41-59; Susan K. Blair (ed.), The Slaughterhouse Province, an American Diplomat’s Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1915-191, New Rochelle, NY: Aristide D. Caratzas, Publisher 1989; Ara Sarafian United States Official Documents on the Armenian Genocide, vol.2, (Watertown, MA: Armenian Review 1983); idem United States Official Records on the Armenian Genocide 1915-1917, (Princeton and London: Gomidas Institute 2004). Online see http://www.gomidas.org/uploads/Index.pdf and the Foreign Relations of the United States digital collections from the University of Wisconsin http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/FRUS. Carbon copy filed in RG 59 Department of State Decimal File 1910-1929 123 D291/6 to 123D 2913/80A Box 1306.
 Leslie A. Davis (1915) “I have the honor to continue my reports of June 30th, July 11th, July 24th, August 23rd and September 7th [File No. 840.1] about the deportation and massacre of the Armenians in this region…” see United States National Archives RG 59 867.4016/269. Papers associated with activities as Consul at Harput, Turkey may be found at Davis, Leslie A. (1915). U.S. Department of State, Record Group 59, International Affairs of Turkey, 1910-1929 (Microfilm Publications) Microcopy 353: 88 reels, especially 867.4016/1-1011, reels 43-48. When we first began our studies on Leslie A. Davis we were allowed access to the paper records in RG 59 Department of State Decimal File 1910-29 ‘From 123 D 291/6 to 123 D 2913/80A. Box 1306.’ The condition of the documents was such that we were allowed to make scans on a flat bed scanner. Obviously such access allowed color marks etc. to show up rather than the black and white of microfilm.
 Davis’s original typewritten report of February 9, 1918. Page numbers in the following all refer to this report.
 NA/RG59/867.4016/392 (Cover letter stamped Index Bureau D291/62; stamped received by Consular Bureau Feb 13, 1918; stamped filed March 11, 1918. Declassified 1/24/02).
 On April 20, 1917 Turkey communicated that “as the United States has declared itself to be at war with Germany, the Ottoman Government’s ally, it found it necessary to sever its diplomatic relations with the United States as from that date.” See “Lansing confirms break with Turkey. Constantinople notified our embassy of its action on April 20. Belligerent action likely. Washington expected to recognize Revolted Arabs and British Protectorate of Egypt.” New York Times 24 April 1917 p. 3.
 See e.g. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday 31 August 1917 p.5.
 Susan K. Blair’s edited book comprising the Final Report of Consul Davis submitted in February 1918 draws its title The Slaughterhouse Province, an American Diplomat’s Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917 from the designation given by Leslie A. Davis to his Consular district. The Report proper in that volume runs from pp. 37-125. The Introduction by Susan K. Blair runs from pp. 1-35. There are 21 notes to the Introduction, pp. 127-131. Notes to the Report total 80 in number, and run from pp.131 to 139. There are more than a few errors: a few may be cited, in note 64 to the report Dr. Ruth A. Parmelee’s surname is misspelled Parmalee; in note 66, what Blair gives as Viscount James Bryce of Fallodan, is in the first instance erroneously described as Earl of Fallodan. In either case Fallodan should have been spelled Fallodon. James Bryce finally agreed to be raised to Viscount Bryce of Dechmont on 28 January 1914. Blair has confused Lord Bryce with Viscount Grey of Fallodon to whom the well-known British Blue Book Treatment of the Armenians was submitted. Also, an omission from Davis’ original report was made, presumably inadvertently. In any case, despite its shortcomings, the least of which have been cited, it was, and still is an important work because it was the first to make available his witnessing much of the systematic destruction either firsthand or through trusted informants. See Ara Sarafian in his review of Blair’s book entitled “The Slaughterhouse Province: An American Diplomat's Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917 - Leslie A. Davis, edited by Susan K. Blair. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Aristide D. Caratzas, 1989, 216 pp." in The Armenian Review 42, 1989, pp.83-86. A significant point about Consul Davis’s Report prior to its being rediscovered by Blair, is that hardly any scholar seems to have paid attention to it in their research and professional writings. Professor Robert L. Daniel mentions it in a footnote. R.L. Daniel ‘The Armenian Question and American-Turkish relations, 1914-1927" The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 46, 1959, pp. 252-275 footnote 2 p.253. It is significant that Armenian genocide denier Esat Uras “The Armenians in History and the Armenian Question” 1988 and denier Salahi Sonyel completely ignore Leslie Davis, see review of the former by Christopher Walker in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland Issue 1, 1990, pp.165-170 and again, a review by Christopher Walker of Sonyel’s “The Great War and the Tragedy of Anatolia” in Asian Affairs (London) 32, 2001, pp. 314-315.
 Maria Jacobsen Oragrut`iwn, 1907-1919: Kharberd [Diary, 1907-1919, Kharpert, in Armenian and Danish], Armenian Catholicosate 1979: Antelias, Lebanon; Maria Jacobsen “Diaries of a Danish Missionary: Harpoot 1907- 1919”. Gomidas Institute Press, Princeton and London 2001.
 We borrow this phrase from Tessa Hofmann and Gerayer Koutcharian “Images that horrify and indict”: pictorial documents on the persecution and extermination of Armenians from 1877 to 1922”, The Armenian Review, 45, 1992, pp. 53-184.
 Why the United States was adamant in not declaring war on Turkey or Bulgaria cannot be dealt with here. For the role of Cleveland Dodge in advocating America’s distance on that point see “The friendship of Woodrow Wilson and Cleveland H. Dodge.” Mid-America: an historical quarterly 43, 1961, pp.182-196. See also Stephen P.L. Penrose That They May Have Life, the Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866-1941 New York Trustees of the American University of Beirut 1941 especially pp. 162-163. On 2 April 1917 President Wilson went before Congress asking for a declaration of war against Germany. On 6 April the Senate agreed and two days later the House so did the House. War was declared on Austria-Hungary on 7 December 1917, but never on Turkey or Bulgaria. The consequences of this are still enormous.
 American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief Armenia, The Word Spells Tragedy New York: American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief 1917.) In a later printing, with no publication date but certainly no earlier than very late 1918, and in a slightly different format and with an Index, as well as a letter of appeal included from President Woodrow Wilson on White House letterhead and dated 29 November 1918, we see in what is essentially the same ‘handbook’ statements by several American Consuls etc. The same testimony written by Consul Davis in 1917 is included without date. It is among the letters included under the heading Testimony from United States Consular Agents” - see the Speakers’ Handbook of American Committee for Relief in the Near East. New York City: Headquarters One Madison Avenue, 48 pages, 1918. See esp. pp. 44-45. All the indications are that this handbook emerged out a meeting held on Tuesday, January 22, 1918 at the Foreign Missions Conference Rooms 19th floor 25 Madison Avenue, New York. Leslie Davis was on the morning program of the “Conference of Armenian-Syrian Relief Committeemen and Workers.” The First session, starting at 10:00 a.m. was entitled “Reports from the field and survey of conditions and relief requirements in Asia Minor, Syria, The Caucasus, Persia, Mesopotamia an[d] Palestine.” Dr. William Wheelock Peet, and Consul Leslie A. Davis and others” were slated to make presentations. Accession 1174, Charles L. Huston papers, Box 15, Hagley Museum and Library, Manuscripts and Archives Department, Wilmington, Delaware.
 U.S. National Archives 123D291/56 November 30, 1917 American Consul, Leslie A. Davis formerly at Harput to The Secretary of State concerning invitations to take on speaking engagements, and promise not to enter into discussions of a political nature etc.
 Consul Davis seems to have done this in a very effective way and by 30 November Consul Davis was able to report to the Secretary of State that he had visited the “principle cities where there are Armenians with whom I have had correspondence concerning their relatives in the Harput consular district and have given them such information as I could about the persons in Turkey in whom they are interested.” U.S. National Archives 123D291/57. There are many letters of thanks in the files from Armenian community leaders pointing out appreciatively the meetings he held with the communities, see e.g. U.S. National Archives 123D291/57 Wilbur J. Carr to Davis 22 December 1917.
 The Garabed and Aghavnie Bedrosian Collection of documents, correspondence, photographs, a diary and other papers, ca. 1919-1964 are at Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, Mass. A partial copy set of correspondence is available at University of Michigan, Dearborn, Armenian Research Center. We also own a spiral bound copy of some of the relevant correspondence that was given us by Leslie A. Davis’s granddaughter Ms. Carla Davis, daughter of Leslie Davis’s son the late Caleb Davis and his wife Barbara Hale Davis. See also J.M. Hagopian “Voices from the Lake: the secret genocide” in R.G. Hovanissian (ed.) Armenian Tsopk/Kharpert (Costa Mesa: Madzda Publishers 2002, and J.M. Hagopian, G. Farr, C. Garapedian, J. Bilezikjian Voices from the Lake, the secret genocide, Thousand Oaks, Armenian Film Foundation 2000, videodisc, 84 minutes; M. Jones, V. Price, P. Lindley, J. Perkins The Hidden Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, 1915 (London: Panoptic 1993 videodisc 50 minutes (first shown in 1990 on Television on Jack Perkins’ Time Machine, A & E Home Video.)
 From original correspondence given us by Mrs. Ellen M. Speers, permission granted for unrestricted use.
 Susan K. Blair, Op. cit. Unfortunately the publication of this book based on Consul Davis’s presence at Harput as the genocide unfolded and was taking place evoked a considerable “diplomatic storm” from Turkish diplomats in America. Physical threats of violence were heaped upon both author and publisher by unknown protectors of “the Turkish point of view” in an unrelenting manner and for a very long time – so much so that Ms. Blair felt obliged to go into hiding. For some specifics of this sad episode in American publishing see Edwin McDowell, “Killing Armenians” [Book notes], The New York Times, Nov. 15, 1989, C26; Kate McKenna, “Account of Armenian Massacre provokes diplomatic storm,” The New York Times, Long Island Weekly, Section 12, December 3, 1989, p. 1 and pp.16-17; John Robinson, “Author defends book on Armenian killings,” Boston Globe, April 18, 1990, p. 4; Paul Farhi, “Haunted by an old horror: a family’s ordeal. Shedding light on a 1915 Genocide has forced a Virginia writer into the shadows,” The Washington Post, Section F, Sunday, May 26, 1991, pp. 1 and 4.
 There are more than a few instances of what might be referred to as selective misfiling of important documents. Over the years one document to which our attention has been repeatedly drawn is mentioned in a statement relating to America and the Palestine Question, cf. Selig Adler “The Palestine Question in the Wilson Era.” Jewish Social Studies 10, 1948, 303-334, at p. 308, “[Secretary of State ] Lansing had been warned to keep it [a critical letter] in a safe place ‘so that future historians who may be prowling around the archives of the State Department may not hit on it...”
 For a perspective on the relief work of Laurence H. and Frances C. MacDaniels and their photographs relating to their tenure in Turkey for ACRNE see the Oberlin Archives Near East Relief Photo Album, 1919-1910 at http://www.oberlin.edu/archive/NearEast.html and http://dcollections.oberlin.edu/cdm/search/collection/relief).
 The photographs ‘rediscovered’ by Susan K. Blair at the MacDanielses were in an envelope that was reproduced in Susan K. Blair’s book in her Appendix E. According to Mrs. Ellen MacDaniels Speers, the envelope labelled “Armenian Deportations” is in her father’s handwriting, and we certainly concur since we have worked with the MacDaniels materials both at Cornell and Oberlin. The other writing is her own, “written at two different times – the writing on the lower part of the envelope is an attempt to summarize the story as recounted perhaps in the sixties or seventies.”
 The expression territoriality is often used to characterize this perspective.
 Telephone conversation with Aristide Caratzas when he was visiting Washington, D.C. in February 2014.
 Personal communication from Aristide Caratzas in February 2014 minus the fact that he had expropriated the photos, and before that plus the fact that he expropriated the photos, from Caleb Davis well before he died, 19 December 2003, and his wife Barbara Hale Davis – now still alive and very alert.
 David Stuart Dodge (1922- 2009) was a 4th generation member of the famous Dodge family that served in the Middle East. See especially Stephen P.L. Penrose That They May Have Life, the Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866-1941, New York Trustees of the American University of Beirut 1941.
 In a letter to Mrs. Speers dated 2 October 1984 David S. Dodge states “We suggest that you have your Parents’ documents sent to the Foundation in New York City. The Foundation does not have archives, but we do feel it could study the documents intelligently and have them deposited in an appropriate place. Princeton is a possibility and Dick Nolte has other possibilities in mind too. We could have a better idea about where they should be kept after seeing them. Susan Blair is not connected with the Foundation, but I understand she is writing about Near East Relief. The Foundation people know her and could discuss the letters and photos with her. She would probably like to see them too.” [Emphasis added] From original correspondence given us by Mrs. Ellen M. Speers, permission granted for unrestricted use.
 As an example see Professor Andrew Mango “Speaking Turkey.” Review Article in Middle Eastern Studies 33, 1997, pp. 152-170, at p.159.
 Although Consul Davis was unaware of it at the time, one of his dispatches to Ambassador Morgenthau dated 11 July 1915 was included (albeit redacted to eliminate date, authorship and location) in the first Report of the Committee on Armenian Atrocities which consisted of 12 galleys. It announced massacres on an extensive scale and the incredibly severe treatment of the Armenians (see Report of the Committee on Armenian Atrocities: release to publication in papers of Monday, Oct. 4, 1915; also as Rapport du Comité américain de New-York sur les atrocités commises en Arménie / trad. de l’anglais, Paris: H. Durville, 1915) – see under section XXIV in A.D. Krikorian and E.L.Taylor (October 4, 2014) “99 Years Ago Today:- Who Knew What, When and How about ‘The Massacres that Would Change the Meaning of Massacre’”: The Committee on Armenian Atrocities in New York City’s Release for Publication in Papers of Monday, Oct. 4, 1915”, at Groong, Armenian News Network http://www.groong.org/orig/ak-20141004.html. This entry included as well in Lord Bryce’s The Treatment of the Ottoman Empire, documents presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Hodder and Stoughton, London, New York and Toronto 1916, pp. 262-264, and subsequent unredacted modern editions.) We can merely mention here Davis’s supposed involvement in a “leak to the press” about events at Harput in the summer of 1915. It is an early example of the nowadays typical “tempests in a teapot” complaints. This complaint about Consul Davis was orally lodged by the Ottoman government to the American Embassy and concerned what might be called “an unappreciated leak”. Abram Elkus, Henry Morgenthau’s replacement at Constantinople, ended up having to deal with the episode and other elaborate exaggerations from the Turkish side. See United States National Archives 867.4016/313.
 For example T. Hofmann and G. Koutcharian (1992) cited above at 18; A.T. Wegner and A.M. Samuelli Armin T. Wegner e gli Armeni in Anatolia, 1915 : immagini e testimonianze = Armin T. Wegner and the Armenians in Anatolia, 1915 : images and testimonies, Milano: Guerini e Associati 1996; Ulrich Klan Armin T. Wegner - Bildnis einer Stimme Begleitbuch, Göttingen:WallsteinVerlag 2008; Armin T. Wegner, Andreas Meier and Wolfgang Gust Die Austreibung des armenischen Volkes in die Wüste : ein Lichtbildvortrag, Göttingen: WallsteinVerlag 2011; A.D. Krikorian and E.L. Taylor “Achieving ever-greater precision in attestation and attribution of genocide photographs” in Tessa Hofmann, Matthias BjŅrnlund, Vasileios Meichanetsidis (eds.), The Genocide of the Ottoman Greeks, Studies on the state sponsored campaign of extermination of the Christians of Asia Minor, 1912-1922 and its aftermath: history, law, memory, New York and Athens: Aristide D. Caratzas 2011.
 “Position of the American Media on the Armenian Genocide” from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Position_of_the_media_on_the_Armenian_Genocide; also J.A. Thomas “Photography, National Identity, and the ‘Cataract of Times’: Wartime Images and the Case of Japan,” The American Historical Review 103, 1998, pp.1475-1501.
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