University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Turkish Holiday

    Turkish Holiday

    The Armenian deportations were often greeted with  great joy by the Turkish populations as an opportunity to plunder the Armenians one final time.

    The members of the Committee of Union and Progress and their friends were given preference and could buy Armenian homes for 2% of their market value. Huge personal fortunes were made overnight by the Young Turks.

    Some proceeds were sent to Constantinople to repay war debts to Germany. Other homes were auctioned off to the local Muslims, as was the custom after funerals. There was one difference: all proceeds went to the government since no heirs would survive.

    Every source was exploited. Talaat Pasha confronted American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, demanding that he submit a list of all Armenians who carried life insurance with American firms. Since they and their beneficiaries were all dead, all payments should go to the Turkish government as the beneficiary. Morgenthau refused to cooperate. It is estimated that the Young Turks appropriated 14 billion dollars from the Armenians in goods, livestock, personal possessions, industries and finance. It was plunder on a grand scale.

    One day Talaat made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ever heard.  The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians.  The extent to which this people insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits.  "I wish," Talaat now said, "that you would get the American Life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders.  They are practically dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money.  If ... all escheats to the State, the Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so?"

    This was almost too much, and I lost my temper.  "You will get no such list from me," I said, and I got up and left him.

    Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, p. 339.

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