(Sabah Newspaper, 9 November 2013)
//ed. note: herewith a fascinating historical WWI footnote
from the Ottoman Archives.//
Cry for help from Corsica POW Camp
Documents have emerged from the Prime Ministry Ottoman
Archives about nine fellows from Kayseri who went to Buenos
Aries to work 100 years ago but who ran in to big trouble on
the way back. According to the documents published in Yedikita
magazine, the nine Ottoman citizens set out from Kayseri's
Develi district in 1913 for work in the Argentinian capital Buenos
Aires (!). After working there for some time, the nine read about
the mobilization for WWI in Sabah newspaper, boarded a French
ship and landed in Marseille a month later.
Although all the other passengers were allowed to get off the ship,
the Kayseri fellows were forced to remain on board. Because while
they were en route, France had declared war on the Ottoman Empire
on 5 November 1914 and the Ottomans had done the reverse on 11
November 1914. The unfortunate Kayseri Nine were taken from
Marseille to a POW camp on the island of Corsica.
They wrote a letter about their predicament while in the camp and
were able to have a released German POW bring it to the German
Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, in 1916. The letter was then passed
to the Ottoman Ambassador in Bern, Fuad Selim Bey. It is not known,
however, whether the Ottoman government took any action related to
the Kayseri Nine.
Here is the text of the "Cry for Help", as the POW's called it, which
did not reach the Ottoman Foreign Ministry until 10 April 1918:
"To the Ottoman Ambassador in Bern, Fuad Selim Bey: We are from
the village of Develi in Kayseri, Turkish Anatolia. We worked for
three years in America's Buenos Aires city to make a living for our
families. With the aim of returning to our sacred homeland and upon
reading the mobilization order in Sabah newspaper before the start of
the war, we went to the Turkish Consulate in Buenos Aires and got
"(At Marseille) we were held on the ship while everyone else was
taken off. Two hours later the police came and took us straight to the
police station. They looked at our passports and put us in the Anton
Fares Hotel. Apparently, war had been declared while we were at sea
between France and Turkey. We asked to be allowed to go to Turkey
but they refused. Nor did they let us go to Italy, Bulgaria or Greece."
"They left us free in Marseille for 38 days but a few days ago two police,
a hotel clerk and a commissar came and took 1160 Franks from us. We
can't say our prayers properly, nor can we fast. We asked to go to another
Turkish camp but got no answer. Please don't consider this letter, which
we have written in the language of Anatolia, as a letter but rather as a
cry for help. We all ask for your assistance."
No document was found in the Archives that would explain whether or
not the Kayseri Nine were rescued or whether they returned to their
Long way from Develi to B.A.