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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
OverviewTotal WarSlaughterNagel/StockwellEtem/Wegner
Voices of the Great War

Turkish soldiers in trench Hasan Etem
Hasan Etem, law student turned soldier, fought at Gallipoli in 1915 to defend Turkey from the invading allied force.

Play Audio"I can see a line of soldiers washing their clothes in the stream near the emerald hillside. One soldier with a beautiful voice is saying prayers... Everyone, everything, is listening to that heavenly voice... I forgot about all the chaos and the war and the worldly troubles.
I opened my hands, looked up at the heavens and said: "God of Turks. Master of the birds, the sheep, the leaves, the mountains. You have given all this to the Turks. Please leave it to the Turks. God, all this soldier wants is to keep this land from the British and the French. Grant me this wish."
-- Hasan Etem, Turkish soldier - A letter to his mother.

Australian giving water to Turkish soldier
Australian giving water to Turkish soldier
In April of 1915, a combined force of British, Australian, French and New Zealand troops went ashore on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli, but were quickly pinned down on the beaches. The men were trapped between the sea and the hills, ably defended by Turkish soldiers. The Gallipoli landing was a disaster caused by inadequate intelligence, insufficient attention to the terrain, an underestimate of the enemy's strength and resilience in defense of their native soil. Nine months after landing, the allied forces withdraw after incurring over 250,000 casualties, including over 46,000 dead. Turkish soldier Hasan Etem died defending Gallipoli a few days after writing his letter home.

Historian Commentary

A. Mete Tuncoku, Historian
The war at Gallipoli, for Turks, is a holy war. We are fighting for the sake of Allah, for the sake of God, and for the protection for the heartland, Turkey. The Australians and the New Zealanders landed on 25th of April, early morning. Mustafa Kemal, who was the Commander of the 19th Division on the peninsula, was inspecting the troops. Suddenly he met certain Turkish soldiers. They were retreating, and Kemal said, "Why are you retreating?" And they said, "Because they are coming: the Australians are coming... the enemy is coming." Mustafa Kemal orders them to stop and start fighting back.
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Armin Wegner Armin Wegner
Armin Wegner, a German medic stationed in Turkey in 1915, smuggled his camera into an Armenia refugee camp.

Play Audio"In the last few days, I have taken numerous photographs... on penalty of death. I do not doubt for a moment that I am committing a treasonable act. And yet I am inspired by the knowledge that I have helped these poor people in some small way.
...Hunger, death, disease, despair shout at me from all sides. Wretched me, for I carried neither bandages nor medications... I was seized by terror and hurried out of the camp, my heart pounding. I was overcome by dizziness, as if the earth were collapsing on both sides of me into an abyss...
-- Armin Wegner, diary entry

Armenian refugee
Armenian refugee
The very same night that Allied troops landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, the Turkish authorities began a process of repression of those whom they saw as internal enemies - the Armenian communities. Over the next two years the Armenian population of Ottoman Turkey was uprooted and expelled to the desert regions of Mesopotamia. In the process between 500,000 to one million Armenians where killed or died of exposure or disease. In the midst of the Great War, substantial parts of a long-established and prosperous civilian community with identifiable religious and cultural characteristics were wiped out.
Armin Wegner was a young German medic who visited an Armenian refugee camp, smuggling in his camera against orders. What he captured on film was a visual record of the first genocide of the 20th century. Years later, Wegner would send a letter to Adolph Hitler in defense of the Jewish people. It was a plea that fell on deaf ears, for Hitler would remark to his inner circle: "Who remembers the Armenia massacres today?"

Historian Commentary
The Armenian Genocide

Jay Winter, Historian
The presence in the northeast [of Turkey] of a thriving cultured and relatively wealthy community of Armenians was a difficulty to Turks long before the First World War. It became a political and strategic threat when the war broke out because of the place of Armenians in the Russian Empire. However, most Armenians, two million of them living in the Turkish Empire, were no threat whatsoever.
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