More From Alder's Ledge

March 8, 2011

The Greeks' Last Stand

Not Exactly Spartans

When the Spartans faced off with the invading armies of Middle East they died as warriors. When the Greeks of Asia Minor were forced to stand against the Ottomans they died in much the same fashion. This time however the enemy would not allow a brave last stand. This time the enemy was in a position to commit genocide.

During the summer of 1914 the Ottomans' Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa (Special Organization) began its campaign to eliminate the Greeks by enlisting all young male Greeks into forced labor details. Most would die under the conditions imposed upon them. Others would die from disease. But this was just the beginning.

Having shipped the young male Greeks into the barren countryside of Anatolia the Turks began to slaughter their captive workers. When the numbers of young male Greeks in Asia Minor began to drop at alarming rates the Ottomans began to target the rest of the Greek population.

On the 12Th of June, 1914, the Turkish army surrounded the Anatolian town of Phocaea and began butchering its Greek residents. This strategy would continue for the rest of the summer. And its methods would be perfected as the Young Turks continued to produce their propaganda.

As the summer of 1914 fell into the history books the year of 1915 would see a rise in the intensity of Turkish "white massacres" (deaths from starvation, forced labor, or poor conditions found in Ottoman concentration camps). The bloody butchering of Greeks by the Turkish Army would be stepped up as well as the spring of 1915 approached.

Over the years leading up to the Greco-Turkish War (1914-1919) the Ottomans would use concentration camps, mass rapes, deportations, mass executions, starvation, death marches, forced labor, and the razing of Greek villages to destroy Greek society in Asia Minor. The United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau witnessed the actions from 1913-1916. The things he saw led him to claim that the Turkish government was committing acts of "outrageous terrorizing, cruel torturing, driving of women into harems, debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at 80 cents each, the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to and starvation in the desert of other hundreds of thousands, [and] the destruction of hundreds of villages and many cities". He then followed by stating that the Ottoman Empire had a "scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian Christians of Turkey."

By the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War around 1,500,000 Greeks had either been deported or killed. It is estimated that about half of those were killed. The beginning of the war would in effect be the Greeks' stand against the Turkish oppressors. However it is the very fact that the Greeks stood up and fought that has led to limited recognition of their genocide at the hands of the crumbling Ottoman Empire.

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