Το Σιδηρόκαστρο στο βιβλίο The crimes of Bulgaria in Macedonia, 1914

Το Σιδηρόκαστρο στο βιβλίο The crimes of Bulgaria in Macedonia, 1914

THE SLAUGHTER AT DEMIR-HISSAR The first news of the massacres committed at Demir-Hissar were made known by the following report of the commanding officer of the Sixth Division dated July 12, 1913, and published in the Paris' Temps on July 14: "I have the honor to report to Your Majesty that an officer of my staff, sent to Demir-Hissar, ascertained that Captain Meligof, of the Bulgarian gendarmerie, arrested, at the instance of three pro-Bulgarian persons, the Bishop, Monseigneur Constantine, the priest Papastravou, Mr. Papazacharizanou, a prominent citizen, and more than 100 Greeks who were im- prisoned in the confines of the Bulgarian school. On July 7 and 8, Bulgarian soldiers and gendarmes massacred them and
requisitioned Turkish peasants to bury them within the school property outside the enclosure on the east side. An officer of my staff caused the grave to be opened in order to verify the facts. He found in a depth of about six feet the bodies of the victims all in a pile. Further, the Bulgarian officers and soldiers outraged sev- eral young girls and killed one named Agatha Thomas, daugh- ter of a gardener, who resisted their attacks. The shops were either ransacked or destroyed, and the house furniture of the Greeks carried away. The lives of many were saved by the Turks who sheltered them in their homes. The city in general presents a mournful spectacle of destruc- tion." A commission composed of Greek ex-members of the Chamber of Deputies at Constantinople from Macedonia, and members of the Chamber of Deputies in Athens, visited the place and forwarded to His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch at Constantinople and to the President of the Greek Chamber of Deputies, a report con- taining the following details : “The line of the Bulgarian retreat from Lahana led through Demir-Hissar where 104 prominent citizens were at once ar- rested, including the Bishop and three priests. Eighty were immediately put to death and the remaining twenty-four, feign- ing death, although covered with serious bayonet thrusts, man- aged to escape. Two women were among the victims and two children, aged two and three years, respectively; two of the survivors, very old men, were covered with bayonet thrusts. One of them had been buried alive, but the earth being thrown lightly over him he managed to free himself sufficiently to at- tract attention and was saved. His condition is critical. | A very great number of women and girls suffered at the hands of the retreating troops, all stores and houses were looted, but the height of Bulgar barbarity was attained when the Bishop and three priests were killed by the very hand of Captain Anghel Dimitrieff Bostanof of the 12th Regiment, who first cut their hands and gouged their eyes out. All these atrocities were committed by officers and soldiers of the regular Bulgarian army belonging to the 12th and 21st Regiments. The consuls of Austria and Italy interviewed and took the depositions of the survivors. The bodies of the dead, some of which have been frightfully mutilated, are now being buried. 1This was confirmed by the correspondent of the New York Herald. See issue July 17, 1913.
26 On the morning of July 7, toward nine o'clock, a score of Bulgarian soldiers, carrying arms with bayonets fixed and hav- ing an officer in command, went to the residence of the Bishop where the Great Logothetis of the Diocese, Mr. Thomas Papa- charizakis, was visiting at the time, and knocked at the door. As the Bishop refused to open, they broke it down. An officer with a detail of six men placed the immates under arrest and ransacked the house from garret to cellar. They took among other things forty Turkish pounds ($200) which they found in a drawer of the Bishop's desk. After treating the prisoners with every imaginable indignity they conducted them near the Bulgarian school and forced them to kneel. The Bishop was repeatedly stabbed by bayonet thrusts, and his skull crushed by a blow. Mr. Papacharizakis died of apoplexy, due to fright, but his corpse was, nevertheless, bayoneted. The sufferings of the Bishop lasted longer. The Bulgarians kicked and insulted him, and tore the hair and beard from his head. Afterwards they stripped the bodies of their victims even to their undergarments. Having accomplished their inhuman work, the soldiers re- turned to the residence of the Bishop seeking for his sister, who had escaped, and who remained in hiding on the roof of a neighboring house. The aged mother of the Bishop died from shock. The looters secured all the vestments of the church be- longing to the Bishop, including two mitres, a cross set in diamonds, and a gold bound Bible. They took all secular valu- ables and 240 Turkish pounds (about $1,200), belonging to the Bishop's sister. Until noon of the following day the corpses of the victims remained exposed on the roadside. Then, with the bodies of many others, they were tied by the feet and dragged to a pit which they dug in the yard of the half-finished Bulgarian school house and there thrown in. We exhumed some of the remains and, although decomposition had set in, we could see unmis- takable signs of the dreadful tortures which had been inflicted. An examination of all of the corpses was impossible, as many were far gone in decay. The body of the Bishop was thrown in head down. The faces of the martyred victims bore the traces of ineffable sufferings. The exhumation took place amidst the sobs of the widows, the orphans and the entire community.” The competent local authorities drew up a list of the victims, among whom were the Bishop of Meleniko, Monseigneur Constan- tine, the Archpriest Stavros, the great Logothetis Thomas Papa- charizakis, Constantine Harizano and other notables. 1 1 For a full list of those that were killed and those that disappeared or were wounded, see the official report of the Greek staff supra cited.
27 The Paris L'Illustration of August 2, 1913, contains numerous photographs of Demir-Hissar and of the survivors. Also the pic- tures of four of the forty-two young girls that were outraged by the Bulgarians. The following account signed by L. Leune accompanied these pictures: “We are passing through the pretty town of Demir-Hissar built on a hill, with its picturesque bridge set on the rocks and its cypress trees. Women and children come and go, shadows of human beings with faces full of suffering and despair. A wounded man crosses the street. He has had a strange experi- ence. Before their precipitate departure, the Bulgarians caused the drum to beat, a sign which means, in nearly every country, that some important communication is about to be announced by the authorities. The people of Demir-Hissar rushed out of their houses in masses. The Bulgarian soldiers seized the Bishop, the priests and the notables, 110 people in all, and conducted them to the courtyard of the Bulgarian school house, where an immense pit had been freshly dug. The prisoners were forced to sit around it. Poor fellows, they well under- stood that this great yawning hole was going to be their grave. They looked at it and smiled like martyrs. They were about to depart for the great beyond to commence that great life which time can not destroy. They will watch from above the victorious Hellenic army take possession of the land which they have so bravely defended during their short stay on earth and preserved for their mother country. It would be their work. The Bulgarian bayonet is doing its terrible work. A thrust carries the beard of the Bishop away with the jaw. Another digs his eyes out. A third stops the beating of the heart. Fingers, hands and other limbs are torn away from the victims and thrown pell-mell. It can hack, that Bulgarian bayonet ! Their work, that mass of mutilated bodies without form, the Bulgars contemplate with satisfaction and a sneer. * * * How brave they are, the soldiers of King Ferdinand, these 'Japanese of Europe,' these ‘Prussians of the Balkans'! * * * But the Greek army is approaching! * * * The corpses remain and the murderers are fleeing. And the wounded man continues: ‘After my first wound, I feigned death. When the Bulgarians fled, I got up. The Greek soldiers were there.'” A small town can not so easily recover from such a disaster. The picture which Mr. George Bourdon, who spent three entire weeks at Demir-Hissar after the slaughter of July 7, has drawn of the place is proof of this statement.
28 Here is the text of his dispatch to the Figaro which appeared in that paper on August 4, 1913: SALONICA, August 2. “On my return from the general headquarters at Livanovo, which is the Olympus of a very busy staff, I visited the city of the dead. I am speaking of Demir-Hissar. Demir-Hissar, a charming little Turkish town northwest of Serres, is built at the foot of a rocky mountain which gives it the aspect of a thicket lying against a wall. Dominated at the top by the ruins of an old fort, traversed by a river, which, at this time of the year, shows its dry bed of white pebbles; with its pretty little coffee house standing on stilts and open to the four winds; its murmuring springs; its mosques and trees as old as Mahomet; its uneven pavements; its quaint little stores where but lately sat squatting merchants from afar picking the glittering beads of their amber chaplets; it forms a fetching picture. Turks, sitting behind their baskets filled with fruit, vainly await a customer. One seeks on the azure skies the blue line of the Bosphorus or the small wave of the sea of Marmara. I imagined myself back in Broussa where I felt to have found again that gentle and mysterious charm of the high quarters of Scutari. Nothing, however, but silence reigns in this grief-stricken city, which resembles a motionless widow, who, having cried her eyes out, can not shed any more tears. The rare people we meet on our way, mostly Turks, rise and salute us with deference. The aids of the King and the Greek princes are guiding me through the town. How very few peo- ple indeed we meet! The streets are deserted of the human beings that gave them life; the little neat stores are abandoned, the big houses are without their occupants, even the courtyards are without their inmates. What cataclysm then has so sud- denly struck this charming town? It is neither fire, earthquake .nor lava. Its houses are intact. The Bulgarians, however, have passed this way. Swords, bayonets and knives were freely used, and Demir- Hissar realized how true was its old Turkish name: The Fort- ress of Iron. Turks and Greeks although unequal in number suffered alike. A large number of Greeks owe their lives to tenderhearted Turks and they own this with gratitude. In many places, where the bodies of the victims were interred, pious hands have placed a stone, a cross or a candle to burn. There is nothing so touching as these humble signs of grief and mourning. They bear no names. It is like a human wail which quietly and discreetly finds vent, yet it rends the heart and fills the skies. · At Nigrita, at Doiran, at Strumnitza, the same atrocities.
Serres was barbarously destroyed. The three-fourths of the town was reduced to ashes. Four thousand houses, churches and mosques were systematically set on fire and burned. Forty thousand people remained without food or shelter. So many massacres, so much looting and destruction of prop- erty, stirred the Greek hearts to exasperation and brought about that wonderful transformation that carried the armies of King Constantine forward for three weeks. The impulse was ir- resistible as each and every man felt in him the violent desire to conquer. These are not the empty words frequently used to embellish the exploits of a successful athlete. They express profound realities, and the state of mind of an army, which made up in heroism what it lacked in experience. It was imbued with some of the religious and the divine. I do not think that our great revolutionary armies were inspired with a purer faith and a more violent willingness for self-sacrifice. . There was something of the sublime in this Greek army, as in our own, a spectacle rare enough to compel admiration. I know that I will not be believed or believed but par- tially. I know also that there are people who would smile when they hear of heroism and of wonders. It matters not. I am but a witness who sees, hears and relates, and I am satisfied that not one of the foreign newspaper correspondents, not one of the witnesses who like myself have heard and seen, would contradict me." THE MASSACRES AND THE DESTRUCTION OF Doxato Doxato, the center of production and tobacco industry, was the most prosperous of the Macedonian cities. Nothing but the church, which was saved by a miracle, and a few families hidden among the ruins, remain. The newspaper correspondents, Messrs. Puaux and Magrini, vis- ited the town the day following its destruction by the Bulgarians. Commander Cardale, of the British Royal Navy, who was at Kavala, proceeded there at once and became also a witness of the terrible catastrophe. We are reproducing here below their testimony, to which we will add that of Vladimir Tordoff, editor of Outro Rossijé of Moscow, and a few others. TESTIMONY OF MR. PƯAux? “I spent the following morning in Doxato, about ten miles south of Drama, and I had the good fortune to interview many 1 See Paris Temps, July 21, 1913.

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