The Attempted Murder of a Nation. An Illustrator for the Press, a Satirist‒artist, and a Cartoonist attempt to portray events.
Three artists, three styles, and three techniques, each with different emphasis – same tragic message of a Genocide.
News Network / Groong
April 24, 2018
Special to Groong by Abraham D. Krikorian and Eugene L. Taylor
Long Island, NY
“The Turks have a plan for the complete extermination of the Armenians. And, they carry it out with a ferocity that makes one’s hair stand on end…”
Image on back cover of Le Petit Journal (Paris) December 12, 1915. Work of EugŹne Damblans (1865‒1945)
[See Endnote 1 for additional details.]
The Apostles of “Gott” [God].
Front cover of Le Rire (Paris) 23 October 1915 shows death and destruction everywhere. At upper right is the symbolic phrase “Gott mit Uns” (God is with us). Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V is on the right; German Kaiser Wilhelm II is on left; Austro‒Hungarian Emperor Franz‒Josef I is in the center. Work of French caricaturist and satirist, painter Charles Lucien Léandre (1862‒1934).
[See Endnote 2 for additional details.]
Sinister and by no means subtle drawing by English cartoonist Leonard Raven‒Hill (1867–1942) captioned Realization. In brackets in very small type at the bottom is an outrageous statement sarcastically attributed to Bulgarian Czar Ferdinand I. “When I went to Bulgaria I resolved that if there were to be any assassinations I would be on the side of the assassins.” In the center is King or Czar Ferdinand I. Armenia lies prostrate, murdered, and at her side is a dead baby. Sultan Mehmed V with his bloodied yatagan (sabre) stands behind her in an aggressive stance with an evil, vile look on his face. At the feet of German Kaiser Wilhelm II is supposedly neutral Belgium which had been invaded in early August 1914. Taken from Punch vol. 139, pg. 323, 20 October 1915.
Many atrocities and mass murders of civilians promptly ensued at the hands of the Germans. Some who had witnessed what happened in Belgium said it was trivial compared to the utter destruction of the Armenian Nation at the hands of the Young Turks. Some even said that terrorization and murders in the Walloon areas of Belgium which were attacked from the East by Germany, could be ignored. Some even insisted, sadly and impertinently that the atrocities should be denied. Even today some dismiss the Belgian (and northern France) atrocities as gross exaggerations. Today the flippant phrase “unavoidable collateral damage” is often used by the very same criminals who committed the crimes in the first place. In the center of Fig. 3 is King or Czar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria. He was a German by birth. Note the sardonic, smirky grin – sometimes irreverently called in American slang a “shit eating grin.” Ferdie grasps his new military alliance buddy Kaiser Wilhelm II with his right arm. (Actually, Ferdinand was Wilhelm’s second cousin! Queen Victoria’s eldest child, Victoria, was Kaiser Wilhelm’s mother, and Ferdinand’s father was Queen Victoria’s first cousin.) The Kaiser’s left arm was essentially useless as a result of an injury he sustained at birth – a condition medically described as “Erb’s Palsy.” Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in late October 1914. The Ottoman Turkish Empire formally entered the War on October 28, 1914. German and Turkish warships, not very modern ones at that, had attacked Russian Black Sea ports in acts of provocation that had been dreamed up by Ottoman Minister of War Enver Pasha. Sebastopol in the Crimea which had been lost to Russia by Turkey was one of them. Russia’s Czar Nicholas II proclaimed War on the Ottoman Empire on 2 November 1914.
[See Endnote 3 for a bit more detail.]
What more need be said?
[Endnote 1] Scanned from the back cover of Le Petit Journal. Supplement Illustré, 26me Année Numéro 1.303 12 Décembre 1915. Page dimensions are 45 cm [ca.17.5 inches] X 30 cm [ca.11.75 inches] (the accompanying text on page 326 of the issue is entitled “Les Massacres d’Arménie.”) The statement in the caption to Fig. 1 excerpted from the original French description on the back cover [26 cm long column or 10 inches] first in French and followed by our very literal translation to English reads:‒ “Les Turcs ont dressé un plan pour l’extermination complŹtes des Arméniens et ils exécutent avec une sauvagerie qui fait dresser les cheveux de la tźte, avec des raffinements de crauté dont l’histoire de l’humanité, mźme dans les siŹcles les plus reculés, donne peu exemples…” [The Turks have designed a plan for the complete extermination of the Armenians. And they carry it out with a savageness [ruthlessness, ferocity] that makes the hair on one’s head stand up, and with refinements of cruelty that even distant centuries can provide few examples…] This detailed engraving seems to belong to a stylistically fixed category of drawing that one could refer to nowadays as a “file photo” or “file image.” We believe that this is a pretty good descriptor since this drawing is similar (but by no means exact) to a stylistically similar piece in the same newspaper (Le Petit Journal) ‒ again in its weekly supplement, in this case Sunday 2 May 1909 ‒ in connection with the Cilician or Adana massacres. There the scene of massacre on the front page was captioned “Massacres de Chretiens en Turquie” [“Massacres of Christians in Turkey”, Le Petit Journal 20 Année Numéro 963, 2 mai 1909, amazingly sold at the price of 5 centimes in both 1909 and 1915!] Both images have been used (with and without attribution) on front covers of softbound volumes dealing with other Ottoman Genocides – Greek and Assyrian. The artist who executed the drawing in Fig. 1 was EugŹne Damblans who was born in Montevideo, Uruguay to French parents. We are told he worked for Argentine newspapers and went to Paris in the early 1890s. There he did work for a number of illustrated journals/newspapers – including Le Petit Journal Illustré. Some biographical snippets describe Damblans as a “dessinateur de Presse.” This has various meanings including “Press cartoonist.” Recall that the word ‘cartoon’ ‒ even today in Europe, means any of several kinds of visual art (even charts, schemes and graphs used by scientists).
Included below is a copy of the front page image from 1909. No credit is given as to artist on this May 2, 1909 issue. It is not a matter of illegibility – it simply is not there. We own both issues and have carefully examined them. Even the one without attribution may have been a work by Semblans. He certainly was in Paris at that time. Each might today be referred to as an ‘in-house produced’ image, a so-called “gravure de Presse” [or, Engraving for the Press]. Over the years in Paris, EugŹne Damblans produced quite a few images that we think are very dramatic and stunningly accurate and informative. His water colors are attractive as well and have been collected. Major Estate sales in America have featured some of his water colors. He died in January 1945 in the Paris suburb of Bois-Colombes. Sadly, although his illustrative work for newspapers and books were once very popular, he seems to be little remembered today by professionals. Examination of eBay.fr (in contradistinction to English language eBay.com) shows that some of his work is still available and hopefully merits attention, especially in France.
[Endnote 2] The expressions on the faces of the Central Powers triumvirate as represented by their leaders in Fig. 2 are horrifying and chilling, especially since this image was published 23 October 1915! German Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) has a hand-bomb in his raised right arm, and a bloody dagger in his left hand. Austrian Emperor and King of Hungary Franz-Josef I (center), a devout Catholic, is portrayed as the bald old man that he was (he would die in November 1916 at the age of 86). He is wielding a processional cross or liturgical crucifix as a weapon. On the right is Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V, caricaturized as a tubby, dumpy man with a bloody yatagan (sabre) in his right hand and a bloody dagger in his left hand. He would reportedly die of a heart attack on July 3, 1918 four months before the end of the War. He is shown violently stomping on an area with a buried body. An outstretched hand or arm from a dead body is in evidence. More dead bodies and burning background finish the scenario from what was often described as a Dante’s Inferno.
The Armenians, not specifically designated here as such were, needless to repeat, the choice target of the Turks during the Genocide. Armenians did not need to be mentioned or drawn here as victims of the Sultan ‒ it was fully understood who bore his wrath. The Blue Book and Bryce report (authored with young Oxford historian Arnold Toynbee) had just been distributed, and lengthy Press reports had been released for newspaper publication on October 4, 1915. Moreover, French readers like many others throughout the literate world were all too familiar with the various atrocities committed over the years against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Supposedly the German Kaiser, as a matter of routine, invoked Divine Aid in his war efforts. He did this with the greatest confidence, and, this confidence would nominally flow over with typical generosity to all of his comrades in arms as well. At the same time both Emperors, especially Kaiser Wilhelm II but also Emperor Franz‒Josef saw themselves as defenders of Germanic culture [Kultur] and civilization. Kaiser Wilhelm even went so far as to instigate and promote declaration of a Holy War or Jihad against “the enemies of Islam, i.e. the Triple Entente made up of Russia, Britain and France.” This was done on 14 November 1914 by the Ottoman sheikh ul-Islam. Although Jihad was indeed declared, it was more or less ultimately ignored, and has generally been adjudicated by historians of the period as unsuccessful (for the specific wording of the Jihad see Geoffrey Lewis “The Ottoman Proclamation of Jihad” in Islamic Quarterly vol.19, pgs. 157-163 (1975) and Donald P. Little and A. Ṻner Turgay “Documents from the Ottoman Period in the Khālidi Library in Jerusalem” in Die Welt des Islams vol. 20, pgs. 44-72. esp. at pg. 48 (1980). Also for details on the events and political circumstances and reaction to the Jihad see Gottfried Hagen “German Heralds of Holy War: Orientalists and Applied Oriental Studies” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East vol. 24, pgs. 145-162 (2004).
In sum, the lot of these figures in toto reflect extreme barbarism and use of murderous, bloody and deliberately violent methods. It seems a pity that members of the Young Turk regime who were in control in the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Mehmed V being a puppet at best, were not figured in this tableau but the Sultan was after all, the nominal, indeed official head of the Empire and the Caliph of Islam. He presumably would have felt insult had been added to injury if he had been left out, and not showcased. Mehmed V was so dull on worldly matters that some have suggested that he really had very little clue as to what was really happening in his Empire. The Thugs of the Young Turk triumvirate and their associates and charges reigned supreme. They ignored both cabinet and parliament. Mehmed V may also well have had an ego problem since publicity photographs and artistic renditions of him in War Propaganda published in Germany and at home were clearly selected from considerably earlier photos in which he was much younger and not fat. In fact he looks rather suave and urbane in some of them. One thing that is certain, he would not be ‘seen dead’ as one might say jokingly, in peasant’s garb. But then again the Sultan was justifiably being satirized and presented as the “Terrible or Unspeakable Turk.” As a whole the caricature certainly makes it clear that “Everything had been done and was being done in his name.”
Finally, to justify our describing Sultan Mehmed V as “dumpy” we suggest readers view some rare film footage from 1917 on YouTube. We feel certain that we will not be judged unfair in our assessment after evaluating the footage.
We plan to address the topic of imagery and caricature of the penultimate Ottoman Sultan as it was used in contemporary publications dealing with Turkey before and during the Armenian Genocide. We will deal from the period of the outset of the reign of this very weak Sultan through to his illness with gall stones, and to his final demise. Mehmed V reigned 27 April 1909 until his death on 3 July 1918. We have already presented one satirical color image of Mehmed V in connection with our special treatment of his brother Sultan Abdul Hamid II at the time of his deposition. Charles Léandre, the artist who did the work of Fig. 2 presented in this posting, did the wonderfully expressive cover on the 15 May 1909 issue of Le Rire. It is the very last image in our publication posted on Groong September 21, 2014 entitled “Sultan Abdul Hamid II: What did he really look like? Caricatures versus photographs” by Eugene L. Taylor and Abraham D. Krikorian. See: http://www.groong.org/orig/ak‒20140921.html
[Endnote 3] In a Groong posting by Krikorian and Taylor October 4, 2014 entitled “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,we drew attention to a cartoon that appeared in the Westminster Gazette, a London liberal newspaper, on October 19, 1915. See: http://www.groong.org/orig/ak‒20141004.htmlThat cartoon shows Kaiser Wilhelm introducing King/Czar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, readily identifiable with his huge nose, to Sultan Mehmed V wearing a butcher’s apron stained with bloody handprints. The Kaiser states “Our friend the Butcher.” The caption further states “only Armenian blood.” The phrase “only Armenian blood” harkens back to the Bulgarian horrors committed against Christian Bulgarians during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1876. The Westminster Gazette carried a number of articles on the “Armenian Horrors” considerably earlier than the publication of this political cartoon.
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