Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV, Moscow
Since January 2018, the Russian-language media of Armenia has actively spread information about a bronze monument to Garegin Nzhdeh, who the creator Karen Aleksanian called "a prominent public figure and philosopher", to be one of the eighty monuments to writers and thinkers of different countries and peoples installed in the Двор кириллицы memorial complex in Pliska, Bulgaria. Unfortunately, Nzhdeh's biography is teeming with facts of his regular and full-fledged cooperation with the Nazis during the World War II. Remarkably, his collaboration was targeted not against the third countries, such as the USSR or Turkey, but against Bulgaria itself and the neighbouring Macedonia. Surely, it is up to the Bulgarian government to allow or prohibit the installation the monument to the Nazi henchman who committed acts against Bulgaria and Bulgarians, thereby glorifying the practice of Nazism. Our intention is to tell you about Nzhdeh's crimes against Bulgaria, as concluded by the International Nuremberg Tribunal.
In his 18-pages typewritten testimony from January 10, 1949, archived by the USSR People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs and currently held at the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), a prisoner of war and the former officer of the VI Department of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Peter Kamsarakan, who had personally recruited and supervised Nzhdeh, provided sufficient details of Nzhdeh's service to his Nazi employers, who used to pay him for the intelligence data collected against Bulgaria. Without going into details of this document, we will list the main evidence of cooperation between Nzhdeh and the Nazi intelligence services.
Nzhdeh was the first member of the Armenian diaspora in Europe, whom the VI Department of the RSHA represented by the Vienna-based SS Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Höttl requested assistance through his Armenian agent Peter Kamsarakan. This event took place in March 1940. Nzhdeh was pleased to collaborate personally and on behalf of his organisation Tseghakron, or Racists. Thanks to Nzhdeh's letters of recommendation addressed to well-known figures of the Dashnaktsutyun Party, its local branches in European, Central and South American countries, as well as in the Balkans and the Middle East were open for collaboration with the military and military-political intelligence services of the Nazi Germany. In fact, Nzhdeh has largely contributed to placing absolutely all the political structures of the Armenian diaspora, with the exception, perhaps, of those located in the USSR and Great Britain, at the service of the Third Reich. Initially, Nzhdeh was retreated by the more active party member Drastamat Kanayan, also known as Dro, and remained useless until 1942, for the Dashnaktsutyun Party had insisted that it would cooperate with the Nazi intelligence on behalf of the entire diaspora. Therefore, the Nazis have ignored Nzhdeh and his fellows from the Racists group for two years, as Dashnaks was a considerably larger group with a widespread network of local branches and much more potential to collect valuable information. From an ideological standpoint, however, Nzhdeh and associates were closer to the Nazis than the Dashnaks.
In April 1942, Nzhdeh accepted the Abwehr's offer for collaboration and formed a secret subversive team of ten individuals from among the Bulgarian nationals of Armenian descent to enter Armenia, deep behind lines of the Red Army. Nevertheless, the favourable to the German troops situation on the front lines has dwindled Abwehr’s interest in this team followed by its handover to the SD. In the next six months, the team received special training near Berlin and was taken to the Crimea. But due to the changed military situation, it was not used as intended and was taken back to Bulgaria in January 1944. The same team was used against Turkey and against Bulgaria in spring 1944. Meanwhile, Nzhdeh returned from Berlin to Sofia with an instruction to mobilise all of his supporters for the service to SD. In 1944, the espionage activities of Nzhdeh in Bulgaria for SD-Ausland were coordinated by SS Hauptsturmführer Maidl, the research officer from SD's Section VIE responsible for Bulgaria, Hauptsturmführer Pratsch, and the SD representative in Sofia Hauptsturmführer Koob, who was receiving intelligence data from Nzhdeh and funding him. Peter Kamsarakan was a liaison between the above-mentioned officers and Nzhdeh, who was paying to the resident and his agents 100,000 Bulgarian levs monthly.
Nzhdeh's team was instructed to collect data about any actions and orders of Bulgarian authorities that were against the interests of the Nazi Germany and its allies, as well as about the activities of Bulgarian communists and Turkish diplomats. Some of the associates of Nzhdeh were supposed to work as flankers or traveling agents in Turkish Thrace, to collect data about the location and number of Turkish troops on the border with Bulgaria, as well as the units or military instructors from the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, if any. However, this close and fruitful cooperation between Nzhdeh and his fellows from Tseghakron and the military-political intelligence of the Nazi Germany lasted only two months, from July to September 1944, following the smooth entry of the Soviet troops to Bulgaria. Remarkably, Nzhdeh and his people have remained loyal to the Nazis despite the imminent and inevitable military collapse of Hitler's Germany. Given the military-political situation in the summer of 1944, they could easily step aside and cut ties with the Nazi intelligence. But their sympathies for Nazism were so strong that despite common sense and a sense of self-preservation, they agreed to cooperate with the SD even understanding its inevitable end.
Unlike most of his followers from the Tseghakron, Garegin Nzhdeh has never been an ordinary Nazi henchman. In 1943, he was a key element of one of the SD-Ausland operations in Macedonia, Bulgaria's territorial neighbour. Details of this operation are available in Peter Kamsarakan's testimony (GARF), who took part in it as a flanker, and in the memoirs of its organiser, SS Obersturmbanführer Wilhelm Höttl, The Secret Front, published in German (1953), English (1955) and Russian (1991). Here is how P. Kasmarakan describes the operation:
“In May 1943, [Wilhelm] Höttl, who was at that time an assistant of the Section E, told me that he had received a message from Bulgaria saying that his Macedonian agents were making all kinds of trouble trying not to work for the SD because of the worsening situation of Germany on the Eastern Front. Among the Macedoanian agents of the SD were the leaders of IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation) based in Zagreb, including the movement's leader Ivan (Vancho) Mihailov, and his associates, Dr. Tsilev and Burov in Sofia.
Since Höttl did not want to retaliate against them and knew that Nzhdeh had long worked with the Macedonians of Mihailov, he decided to use Nzhdeh to press on this organisation as long as it was favourable to us.
Therefore, at the end of May 1943, Höttl met with Nzhdeh in Berlin and instructed him to see Vancho Mihailov in Zagreb and to obtain further intelligence from the Macedonians. Nzhdeh agreed to fulfil this instruction.
In early June, I travelled with Nzhdeh to Zagreb. Since Höttl notified Mihailov in advance, he was expecting Nzhdeh. We checked in at the hotel on the Jelačić Square. The next day, Nzhdeh drove to Mihailov, who lived in one of the villas outside the city. Nzhdeh was squaring the issue for two days, followed by Mihailov's promise to instruct Dr. Tsilev in Sofia to continue collaboration with the SD.
I did not attend the meetings of Mihailov and Nzhdeh. Nzhdeh took me to Mihailov only to say goodbye and introduced me to Mihailov as his translator from German. Then, Nzhdeh and I returned to Berlin, where he reported to Hengelgaupt about the accomplishment of his mission, followed by my internal memo on this issue, which I handed over to Höttl. Höttl told me later that the Macedonians had continued to provide intelligence data [since our last visit to Zagreb].”
If we take the memoirs of Wilhelm Höttl (The Secret Front) for granted, his last meeting with Vancho Mihailov took place in the resort town of Altaussee on the border of modern Austria and Slovakia in the mid-May 1945. This place was chosen to store the SD archives and hand over the SD officers to the American command in Europe. It is also known as the location where the head of RSHA, SS-Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner, surrendered to the Americans along with his assistants. This is not surprising, since he was a native of these places. Until the mid-June 1945, the leader of the Croatian Ustaša, Ante Pavelić, has hidden in the vicinities of Altaussee. Höttl himself did not leave this place until 1953, working on his memoirs at the request of the British military intelligence, MI-6.
In the history of the Balkans, Vancho Mihailov is best known for his involvement in the murder of the Serbian King Alexander I and the French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou in Marseille (France) on October 9, 1934. According to Höttl's memoirs, Mihailov's wife was like him: “A few years before Austria joined the Reich, she murdered a certain Bulgarian politician sentenced to death by the court of the Macedonian independence movement. She shot him right in his lodge in the Vienna State Opera. Then neither did she resist the arrest by the Austrian police nor try to escape.” In other words, Nzhdeh was a close friend of the leaders of international terrorists and enemies of Bulgaria. And now the Bulgarian Armenians want to install his monument in Pliska calling him a “prominent thinker”.
Certainly, no one may or should dictate to the Bulgarian government which monuments are allowed on its territory. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to recall 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). Following the provisions of this resolution, the monument to Nzhdeh in Bulgaria can be perceived as a modern form of glorification of the Nazism through exalting the personality of the individual who committed crimes against the laws and people of Bulgaria in the interests of the Third Reich.
Spying for money against the country of one's citizenship is considered the most dirty and grave state crime in the world, regardless of the political reasons behind such an action. Not only did Nzhdeh spy against Bulgaria in the interests of Nazi Germany, but also he created an entire network of agents from among the Armenian nationals of the Bulgarian Kingdom and recruited mercenaries that would render full-time services to Nazi military intelligence officers in the Caucasus. Mercenaries, as well as their recruiters, are always outlawed in all armed conflicts. Close interaction with international terrorists is considered a crime, at least as another form of extremism. It turns out that not only was Nzhdeh a Nazi henchman but also a traitor, a spy, an extremist and a recruiter of mercenaries.
So, how much does Bulgaria need to have a monument to this man?