Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV, Moscow
The Soviet intelligence and counter-intelligence services have long kept an eye on Garegin Nzhdeh considering him an ideological opponent of the USSR rather than an accomplice of intelligence services or other institutions of the Third Reich, which were later recognised as criminal by the International Military Tribunal (IMT) held in Nuremberg, Germany. His name has never been mentioned in the directives of the Main Directorate of Counter-intelligence (SMERSH) regarding the detection of foreign intelligence or counter-intelligence agents except once in a special SMERSH directive no. 29200 dated April 14, 1945 ordering the search of Dashnaks in the East European countries. It was this document that contributed to the arrest of Nzhdeh in Bulgaria on October 12, 1944. On April 24, 1948, at a special meeting of the USSR Ministry of State Security, Nzhdeh was sentenced to 25 years for counter-revolutionary activities including the organisation of anti-Soviet uprising in February-April 1921 in Zangezur, proclamation of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia and the massacres of communists during this uprising (much to the outrage of Nzhdeh, who knew that the accomplices were pardoned in 1921). At the same time, the verdict did not mention anything about his collaboration with the Nazi intelligence services against the Soviet Union. This information appeared six months later, when the identity of Peter Kamsarakan (see: Part II, R+) was established, and he provided evidence about his service at the VI Department of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) and the German military intelligence service (Abwehr). By that time, Kamsarakan had been held captive in the USSR as Peter Karer, a Wehrmacht corporal and a security officer of the German Embassy in Romania.
At least twice, on November 18, 1949 and January 10, 1949, the handwritten testimony of Peter Kamsarakan was reprinted and sent to Joseph Stalin for personal review. More than half of his 28-pages second testimony of typewritten text described the collaboration of Nzhdeh with the VI Department of RSHA responsible for foreign intelligence services (Ausland-SD). This second testimony is also available at the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) as part of the correspondence held between the Secretariat of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and Stalin in January-May 1949. It is an extension of the first testimony providing the details of activities of both Kamsarakan and those Armenian nationalists whom he recruited to serve the intelligence services of the Third Reich. Kamsarakan's role in this case was fundamental because he was personally responsible for identifying eligible candidates, holding initial talks with them and remunerating the most successful agents and undercover groups. Since he was responsible for all the "technical" aspects of ensuring collaboration of the Dashnaks and other Armenian nationalists with the special services of the Nazi Germany, his evidence was extremely important and is of exceptional historical value today.
Kamsarakan's confessions can still be found as part of the confidential cases of the NKVD stored at the GARF. Front pages of corresponding archive records bear codes and special notes, although the academic community has been aware of their existence and content since at least 2010. All electronic catalogues of GARF contain redirection links to these documents, which means their availability to researchers. Nevertheless, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is insisting that the country's leadership does not have sufficient evidence of Nzhdeh’s connections with the Nazis, implying that the glorification of Nzhdeh's personality and teachings does not violate the principles of international law and is an "internal affair" of Armenia, albeit this statement fundamentally contradicts the historical reality. In fact, it is not difficult to verify this, if the Russian political leadership bothers looking into its own archives.
Kamsarakan's testimonies contain fragments indicating even a closer-than-official type of relations between Nzhdeh and Nazis. Therefore, we excluded such quotes from the following text while trying not to disturb the plot and logic of the narrative. So, let's listen to Peter Kamsarakan:
“Until leaving the SD (Nazi security service, R+) in early 1942, I had not worked directly with the famous Dashnak general Ter-Harutyunian, also known as Nzhdeh, and his collegues. But I had known Nzhdeh personally since 1937, when I first met him in Sofia while being there for private affairs. We have met quite often afterwards. He has not been involved in intelligence work because the VI Department of the SD had agreed with the Dashnak representatives to recognise the monopoly of the Dashnak Party over the cooperation between the SD and Armenian émigrés.
Thanks to this agreement, Nzhdeh, who was absolutely pro-German, and his supporters have been used on a very limited scale until 1942, when I moved to the Abwehr. Nevertheless, German intelligence was interested in Nzhdeh as in the leader of an Armenian émigré organisation, the Racists, which he represented in the U.S. in 1935, and which had supporters in a number of countries. <…>
He rejected the Communist system and any chance for cooperation with it as much as he rejected any possibility of a peaceful resolution of the Armenian question with Turkey. On the other hand, he used to tell me about his great admiration for Adolf Hitler. He highly respected and honoured Germany, both ancient and present, expecting that it would redivide the world and would resolve the Armenian question. He hoped that Nazi Germany would help creating Armenia and both countries would be closely linked to each other.
Nzhdeh actively used his pro-fascist views among the youth. He said that he had a large group of adherents, Armenian nationalists, in Bulgaria. Even supporters of the Dashnak Party in Bulgaria and other countries respected him despite his expulsion from the party.
In early March 1940, after receiving instructions from the representative of the VI Department of the SD in Vienna, Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Höttl, I met with Nzhdeh in Sofia. My task was to contact prominent political figures of the Armenian émigré community and to convince them of cooperation with Nazi Germany. I told Nzhdeh openly about my intention. In principle, he agreed to work with Germans but advised me to talk to one of his politically-savvy friends from the Dashnak Party, Araratian, who lived in Bucharest. At that time, I also met with one of his closest associates, Dr. Hayk Assaturian, the editor of Armenian newspaper Razmig, which was published by racists in Sofia. Assaturian was also a big fan of the fascist Germany. Nzhdeh gave me a letter of recommendation for Sarkis Araratian, who helped to get the members of the Dashnak Party collaborate with the Germans.
When Nzhdeh learned about the contacts between the Germans and the Dashnaks without his participation, to which he had contributed with his letter of recommendation to Araratian, he became extremely angry and used to reproach me during our subsequent meetings.
In Plovdiv, Burgas, Varna, and Ruse, Nzhdeh introduced us to his people, young Armenians, who were ready to do anything under his command. Nzhdeh mainly called them by first names being reluctant to call their last names. I remember only a few of them: in Varna, he had only Seto Jamalian, a Russian-speaking schoolteacher who headed a large group of young Armenian racists. He was considered suitable to act as the eldest of Armenians selected to be sent to the Eastern Front.
... SD representatives in Sofia, Koob or Obersturmführer Vollmann, who was working there as an employee of the German embassy, loaded these people onto a German steamboat (illegally, without visas and passports) heading to Germany. I think it was at the Vidin Port. Later, they were accommodated in a small farm near Erkner, not far from Berlin, to serve under the command of two training officers. In autumn 1942, Nzhdeh himself took Dr. Hayk Assaturian as an interpreter and left for Berlin to intensify cooperation with Germans. He was afraid that Dro could outride him when the German troops occupy the Caucasus.
In January 1943, Nzhdeh was in Berlin, while his ten people from Bulgaria continued to live in the farm near Erkner. Nzhdeh used to visit them and watch them prepare for the Eastern Front. In February 1943, he quarrelled with Jamalian and managed to withdraw him from the group thanks to Hengelgaupt from the VI Department. SD later helped Seto Jamalian be employed at one of the factories in Hamburg. Shortly after my return to the SD, Hengelgaupt ordered the dispatch of these ten people to the Crimea because the Germans hoped to launch an offensive in the Caucasus and to use them for intelligence work... However, in autumn 1943, they were sent back to Germany because the military situation had worsened making the use of these people in Armenia impossible. At the insistence of Nzhdeh, they all returned to Bulgaria, and Nzhdeh left for Sofia.
Since Turkey suspended its diplomatic relations with Germany, and Bulgaria plunged into turmoil because of the deteriorated situation on the Eastern Front, in July 1944, Höttl ordered me to meet with Nzhdeh in Sofia to strengthen our intelligence in Bulgaria and in the Middle East. A research officer from Section E responsible for Bulgaria, Hauptsturmführer Pratsch, who no longer trusted his Bulgarian informers, was particularly interested in the outcome of our meeting.
I was instructed to get Nzhdeh’s consent to let his people collect intelligence data in Bulgaria. I was also instructed to contact in Sofia with a representative of the Section E under the VI Department of the SD, Hauptsturmführer Koob, to solve all the issues concerning the organisation of work with Nzhdeh…
... We left with Koob to Nzhdeh, to whom I introduced Koob under the name Kolberg. After Nzhdeh and Koob agreed to work together, Koob asked him about funds that would be needed to accomplish these tasks. We agreed that I would pay the people responsible for information supply at my own discretion. Koob said that he was ready to pay a hundred thousand levs each month for these purposes. After that, Nzhdeh and I went to his people.
Nzhdeh and I instructed these people to report on any actions or instructions of Bulgarians against the Germans, activities of Bulgarian communists, as well as the connections and activities of the Turks, especially the Turkish consuls.
In August 1944, I left Vienna for Budapest to meet with Höttl. He instructed me to meet with Nzhdeh in Sofia and to find more people for intelligence. My last meeting with Nzhdeh was around August 21. With no practical results, I left for Bucharest, where I was captured on August 25, 1944 along with the entire staff of the German embassy in Romania.
Although the German intelligence preferred Dashnaks instead of cooperation with Nzhdeh and his supporters, Nzhdeh was one of their loyal agents, who had made all his potential available for the Nazi Germany.”
As follows from Kamsarakan's testimony, his recruit, Nzhdeh, collaborated with two different sections of the SD: VI C (responsible for political intelligence in the USSR, Central and Eastern Asia, and the Far East) and VI E (responsible for the study of attitudes in hostile states). Incidentally, his collaboration with Section VI C was based purely on ideological reasons. In other words, he did this work practically free of charge compensated only for the incurred expenses, whereas his work for Section VI E was a paid job. It seems that Nzhdeh's hatred for the USSR, which expelled Dashnaks from Armenia, and for anything more or less associated with Russia was so great and irrational that he was ready to fight for free. Nevertheless, he agreed to be a Nazi spy in Bulgaria, which provided him with a shelter in difficult times, only for money.
Remarkably, Peter Kamsarakan gave his second testimony only after one of the most senior Soviet political leaders has acquainted with the first, who then demanded additional information about cooperation with the German intelligence agencies during World War II. This request concerned not the Dashnak Party, about which the Soviet leaders and intelligence services knew almost everything, but the collaboration between the Hitlerites and a part of the Armenian diaspora that was not Dashnak. Given that the subsequent testimonies of Kamsarakan are a part of the correspondence between the Secretariat of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and J. Stalin, we can fairly assume that the latter was personally interested in information about the collaboration of Nzhdeh with Nazis.
I think such a close attention of the Soviet leader to Kamsarakan can be explained only by the Soviet Union's territorial claims to Turkey at that time. USSR was preparing to demand the return of the territories in the South Caucasus (Kars, Artvin and Ardahan) ceded during the First World War. For this purpose, the repatriation of Soviet Armenians had been declared and the deportation of Azerbaijanis from the Armenian SSR had begun in order to liberate this territory for temporary relocation of Armenians. Therefore, the top political leadership of the Soviet Union was extremely interested in information about its other opponents, besides the Dashnaks, inside the Armenian diaspora. It was necessary to take adequate and proportionate preventive measures to neutralise them by the state security forces, which required the most complete and accurate information on this issue.
Advocates of Nzhdeh and his theories actively disseminate information that this Nazi henchman has repeatedly offered his services and connections in the Armenian diaspora to the top Soviet political leadership and intelligence services to fight against Turkey. Stalin, Beria, Molotov and others have indeed discussed this proposal, which also explains their interest in the past of Nzhdeh during the World War II. However, the proposal was rejected, for Nzhdeh's infamous background overpowered any benefits from cooperation with him. In fact, none of the Stalinist people's commissars was an angel; each of them had a certain degree of pragmatism that triumphed over ethics and humanism. However, Garegin Nzhdeh's associations with the Nazis was a taboo so strong that they could not defy despite lack of political principles. Otherwise, the totalitarian communist regime would have faced the Tseghakron theory of Nzhdeh, which was even more totalitarian in spirit and practice; an idea that the communist system could not implement fearing of destruction. That is why Nzhdeh ended his days in the Vladimir prison of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, despite his intention to serve the Bolsheviks, a job he had previously did for the Nazis.
Fifty years ago, the top Soviet political leaders knew perfectly well that Garegin Ter-Harutyunian, also known as Nzhdeh or the Guest Worker was not just a Nazi supporter but also an interpreter, populariser and promoter of the Nazi ideas and racial theory for Armenians. It is therefore surprising that the political elite of modern Russia considers the erection of Nzhdeh's monument in Yerevan an “internal matter” of Armenia. This is just a new form of glorification of Nazism and racism, which is absolutely incompatible with the provisions of the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 2013 'Combating glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance' (A/RES/68/150).