The photos of Armin T. Wegner are among the few that capture the bleak struggle to survive facing Armenian deportees. As a second-lieutenant in the German army stationed in the Ottoman empire in April 1915, Wegner took the initiative to investigate reports of Armenian massacres. Disobeying orders intended to stifle news of the massacres, he collected information on the genocide and took hundreds of photographs of Armenian deportation camps, primarily in the Syrian desert.
Wegner was eventually arrested, but not before he had succeeded in channeling a portion of his research material to Germany and the United States through clandestine mail routes. When he was transferred to Constantinople in November 1916, he secretly took with him photographic plates of images he and other German officers recorded.
Navigate through the Wegner collection as a slideshow by clicking the arrows below.
Family of deportees on the road
1915, Armenian deportees -- women, children and elderly men. Woman in foreground is carrying a child in her arms, shielding it from the sun with a shawl; man on left is carrying bedding; no other belongings or food noticeable among effects being carried. All are walking in the sun on an unpaved road with no means of shelter from the elements. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Burial services in deportation camp
1915, Armenian deportees living in the open desert under makeshift tents. Central figure with long black robe and cap is an Armenian priest, probably performing burial rites for the dead a three men behind are kneeling while others are standing next to and behind the priest. Clothing of some deportees is already worn to rags. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Tent camp in Syrian desert
1915, Armenian deportees in a camp of makeshift tents inhabited mostly by women and children in barren desert. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Corpses of children left in gutter
"Abandoned and murdered small children of the (Armenian) deportees," according to the photographer, 1915-1916. Three are dead including stripped boy in gutter. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Murdered man cast in ditch
1915-1916, murdered Armenian male adult lying in a ditch as children watch the corpse. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Young boy dies on doorstep
1915-1916, corpse of young Armenian boy starved to death, collapsed at doorstep. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Family without shelter
1915, Armenian deportees living in the open desert with bedding as their only shelter. Tents are in view in background. Person on the right is a woman with unwashed hair, a child is in the center, and an older boy is sitting on the left. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
1915, deportee camp of Armenians living under tents in the desert. All persons in the photo are in rags. Older man in foreground is picking lice from the head of a child, probably his daughter, as another girl looks on. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
1915, orphaned Armenian children in the open, all in worn-out clothing, with many covering their heads from the desert sun. Twenty-eight boys in the foreground. Some adults are visible in the background. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Corpse of murdered young man
1915-1916, corpse of young Armenian adult male killed and stripped naked lying along a dirt road. Injuries to the head and lower chest are visible. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Starvation claims two boys
"A 15-year-old child who died of starvation," according to photographer, 1915-1916. Two boys with bare and bandaged feet starved to death in open desert. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Foraging for grain
Scattered deportees in a desert wasteland, individually foraging as their only source of food. There is no shelter, water, or habitation in sight.
Three generations share tent
1915, deported Armenian family-two older couples and two young children-living under a tent in the desert. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Resting under the desert sun
1915, Armenian deportees stopped along desert deportation route, resting on the ground. All belongings of deported families are in the bundles on the grounds. No tents are in view indicating recent arrival at site or impending departure. Two boys are visible on the right. Man in foreground is barefoot. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Women living in the streets
1915, Armenian deportees sleeping in the street -- mostly women who appear to be without families. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Laundry in the Euphrates River
1915, Armenian deportee women doing wash in the Euphrates River. Note bank of the river is lined with people all the way to the right edge of the photo. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Skulls of deportees
1915-1916, skulls, in various stages of decomposition, of Armenian deportees, some of whom may have been burned to death. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Pair of orphaned boys
1915-1916, two orphaned Armenian boys in bare feet and outgrown, torn clothing. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.
Mother and child
Fleeing from death. An Armenian mother on the heights of the Taurus Mountains. Her husband has been killed or slaughtered, thrown into prison or driven to forced labour. On her back she carries all that she owns, i.e. what she could take with her, a blanket for sleeping or to use as a tent to protect against the sun, some wooden sticks, and then, on top of everything, her baby. How much longer can she carry this weight? The Government would bring them by rail to the foot of the Taurus Mountains. In 1915 trains could no go further as the tunnel had not yet built. From there, the refugees continued by foot. (Caption from Armin T. Wegner and the Armenians in Anatolia, 1915: Images and Testimonies, Guerini e Associati, 1996, p. 96.)
Click on a thumbnail to view a full-size photograph from the Wegner collection.