A key document said to point to the culpability of the Ottoman Turkish government in the Armenian Genocide of World War I has been discovered in an archive in Yerushalayim, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The document is an original telegram from the military tribunals that initially convicted those immediately responsible for the genocide.
The coded telegram was a request for information sent by a senior Ottoman official about the deportation and murder of Armenians in eastern Anatolia. A copy of the telegram subsequently disappeared, along with almost all original documents and testimony from the tribunals.
The telegram was part of a trove of some 24 boxes of archives organized by the
Armenian leadership in Istanbul for secreting out of the country to England when Turkish nationalists came to power in 1922. The documents were later sent on to a Christian cleric in France, and finally made their way to the archive of the Armenian Patriarchate in Yerushalayim.
There they stayed, inaccessible to scholars since the 1930’s “for reasons that are not entirely clear,” according to the Times.
Of the incriminating evidence, historian Taner Akcam told the Times: “Until recently, the smoking gun was missing. This is the smoking gun.”
Akcam, of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., tracked down the document at the archive of the Armenian Patriarchate of Yerushalayim. Photographs of the original telegram that came into his possession in New York spurred him to pursue the matter.
The telegram’s existence was long recognized as proof of the Turkish role in the genocide, but the inability to locate it has been used by Turkish authorities to insist that no such document ever existed and to deny responsibility for the crimes.