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 European Witness


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The European Prospect

    AT ATHENS, at Paris, and later in the United States, I met various eye-witnesses of the great disaster who related to me things that they had seen. I have made notes of the testimony of several of these persons, carefully excluding all such as were Greek or Armenian, not with the feeling that statements made by such would necessarily be unreliable, but rather that it might be impugned as prejudiced.

    American relief workers, standing on the deck of a ship, which left Smyrna soon after the Simpson, related that they saw a man throw himself into the sea and swim toward the vessel. A Turkish soldier raised his rifle, took aim and blew the man’s head off. Another American, in relating the same incident to me, added the detail that the Turk pointed his rifle over the shoulder of a British Marine. Teachers and others of the American Girls’ school told me that they saw a lady who resided in the house directly across the street standing in the road surrounded by Turkish soldiers, who were robbing her and tearing the rings from her fingers. When they finished, one of them stepped back and cut one of her hands off with his sword. The lady was never seen again and doubtless died as the result of her injuries.

    The story has frequently been told by Americans and others who were at Smyrna that a crowd of residents, men, women and children, had gathered on a lighter lying in the harbor but a short distance from the pier, with the hope that some Entente or American launch would tow them to a ship and save them. The Turks threw petroleum on them and burned them all to death. A confirmation of this dreadful story was furnished me by Miss Emily McCallam, directress of the Intercollegiate Institute of Smyrna. She arrived in that ill-fated city on the morning of September 14, 1922, after the fire set by the Turks had been raging all night, and saw a number of charred bodies floating in the harbor, which she was informed were the corpses of the people cremated on the lighter.

    A prominent Dutch merchant of Smyrna, who had taken refuge on his yacht during the fire, related to me at Athens that all through the night of the dreadful thirteenth he heard fearful screams from the shore, ending suddenly in a queer watery gurgle. He learned the next morning that a lot of throats had been cut.

    A book of great human interest could be written by any one who cared to interview the refugees and set down the stories he would thus hear of hairbreadth escapes and the desperate and ingenious expedients resorted to. One wealthy woman with a large family of small children saved them all in the crush and panic by tying a long rope around their waists, the other end of which she attached to her own. A lady living at Vourla, a large town near Smyrna, saved her beautiful daughter by skillfully disguising her as a bent and ugly crone. A woman in the United States, an American citizen, wrote me that her baby girl, four years old, whom she had left in Smyrna with grandparents, had turned up in one of the islands. During the massacre this little tot had crept into an open grave where she lay as still as a mouse for many hours, until she heard people speaking English, when she made herself known and was rescued by friendly hands.

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