Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV, Moscow
Financial support was one of the key components of the collaboration of Nzhdeh and other Armenian nationalists with different Nazi structures. This is principal issue to understand the extent or level of interaction between the Dashnaks and Nzhdeh's racists with their employers from the SD and Abwehr, as well as to answer the question of whether they were minions or employees of the Nazis.
In any secret service, a full agent is the one who is remunerated regularly, not occasionally or once for the accomplished mission. Sometimes the acknowledgement of even a one-time payment is enough to be considered a criminal, a spy and a traitor by law. Nevertheless, we believe it is very important to clarify this issue once and for all to have a clear understanding of Nzhdeh and his people: were they ordinary collaborators, like several million citizens of the USSR and other European countries during the World War II, or Nazi criminals? Fortunately, the testimonies of their supervisor from the SD, Peter Kamsarakan, allows us to answer this question with all certainty.
Earlier we wrote that the Nazis used the Dashnaks in Romania to sell medium and small-sized diamonds on the black market. This jewellery was stolen from Dutch jewellers of Jewish descent according to the order of the occupation authorities dated September 8, 1940, which barred the Jews from certain types of occupations and crafts. Colonel-General S. N. Kruglov, Minister of Internal Affairs of the USSR, also indicated this fact in his memo dated October 18, 1948, accompanying it with Kamsarakan's testimonies. In fact, the Dashnaks' collaboration with the Nazis began with the decriminalisation of the Nazi income by selling the property of Holocaust victims in the Netherlands using the members of the Armenian diaspora in the countries that were not formally occupied by Germany. Kamsarakan describes this secret criminal-commercial operation in his first testimony as follows:
“Romanian Dashnaks used to do another important job for Germany, that is the sale of diamonds and other precious stones that Nazis seized in the Netherlands occupied in the summer of 1940. Nazis could not sell these items openly, as they were a product of the organised looting of individuals, firms and state funds in the occupied country. Medium and small-sized diamonds, which could not cause comments about their origin, were delivered to the SD officer [Otto von] Bolschwing in Bucharest as part of the diplomatic baggage. He would then hand them to Dro and Ararat for illegal sale. Dro himself told me about this operation. He underlined that Bolschwing was very pleased with their work, as they used to set a 'very good' price and not to ask for commission fees, which I seriously doubt. This very delicate assignment once again shows that the Germans maintained strong practical contacts with the Dashnaks, which was based on complete mutual trust, and the Dashnaks fulfilled any instruction of their new owners.”
Thanks to the complicity of Armenian nationalists in this criminal act, they had very specific relations with the RSHA representatives, when both parties felt more like business partners than employers and mercenaries, unlike the situation in stable criminal societies of modern times, also called gangs.
Dashnaks tried their best to keep the partnership with the Nazis running. Thus, they often complied with their demands and even made concessions in matters concerning remuneration for the provision of intelligence or agent work. The issues of funding, amount of remuneration and the order of payment were put on table almost immediately during the first negotiations between the SD officials and the Dashnak leaders in Bucharest in early April 1940. By the way, the position of Dashnaks very surprised the Nazis. Kamsarakan described this part of the negotiations briefly:
“Unwilling to scare the German representatives and unsure of their financial capacity, Araratian said that they didn’t need money yet, but would negotiate the amount required for each case when specific tasks were assigned. This position of the Dashnaks in financial issues had a very favourable impression on Germans. Volckheim later said in Baden that this was the first time in his practice when the German intelligence was trusted so much so that the advance payment was not a binding issue.”
As we can see, information gathering and espionage were both a habitual practice and a cost-effective business. At the same time, they were very well aware that it was not the intelligence activity but its results that the Nazis appreciated. Therefore, as experienced merchants offering dubious services, they did not bargain since the first day, rather they tried to gain confidence that would later allow them be involved in more profitable operations, such as selling Dutch diamonds through the Armenian diaspora, than the routine intelligence work.
But the Dashnaks were paid for daily intelligence as well. According to P. Kamsarakan's testimony of October 21, 1948,
"Section VI of SD usually reimbursed the Dashnaks their travel expenses, while the payment for intelligence activities was made through Bolschwig, a representative of Section VI in Bucharest, who used to collect intelligence data from the Dashnaks."
By the end of 1940, Armenian nationalists and Nazis have had a smooth system of financial operations. Nazis paid all operating expenses of the Dashnaks in advance. Based on the results of business trips, Nazis paid the Dashnaks a reward or a fee, depending on the operational value of the information collected and transmitted, uninterested in other illegal incomes.
Funding of intelligence activities of Nzhdeh and his racists through SD was based on a single scheme also applied to all Armenian nationalists in the service of the Third Reich. Nazis made no exceptions for anyone. In his testimony on January 10, 1949, Kamsarakan provided the details related to the salaries of Nzhdeh's agents in summer 1944. As we noted above, SD paid their salaries in Bulgarian levs, and the total amount of funding was 100 thousand levs per month. According to Kamsarakan, technically it looked like this:
"In Plovdiv, Nzhdeh ordered one of his trusted men, Gekharkuni, to collect intelligence for the Germans. They agreed that [Gekharkuni] would send all the intelligence in a closed envelope addressed to Opermaier, an SD official working at the German embassy to Sofia, through the German consul in Plovdiv. I gave Gekharkuni thirty thousand levs to pay for his work and those agents that he had used to collect information. According to Koob, Gekharkuni gave him the information. In August 1944, I visited him again and left him another thirty thousand levs.
Among the loyal supporters of Nzhdeh in Plovdiv was a shoemaker named Nshan. He was 45 years old, slim, medium height, with glasses. We instructed him to work in the Demotiki - Lala-Agach district, which he knew well... He was requested to transfer the gathered information to Gekharkuni.
In Shumen, Nzhdeh and I chose one of his supporters named Papazian. As far as I remember, he was a short man, 50 years old, a merchant. He was given ten thousand levs. He promised to collect information during his travel to the province. Papazian told Nzhdeh and me that he did not want any of the Armenians know about his work for the Germans, and we agreed that he would personally deliver the collected information to Sofia to Obermaier at the German embassy. In August, I sent him an additional pack of ten thousand levs. When I left Sofia in mid-July 1944, I left about fifteen thousand levs to Nerses Astvatsaturian, the closest employee of Nzhdeh, to distribute this money as instructed by Nzhdeh."
German intelligence funded the activities of Nzhdeh and his supporters from the racist group Tseghakron, targeting mainly Bulgaria, its authorities and the people, fairly well, at least by wartime standards. This allowed Armenian nationalists at the service of Nazis to live reasonably well, ignoring the main source of income for spying on their country as a more profitable business. It is clear that few people were thinking about the future, understanding the upcoming collapse of the Hitler coalition in the Balkans, which was rapidly advancing at that time. They were trying to survive thinking about the moment. Therefore, for many Armenians, Nazi payments were a chance to get rich at least for a while, without thinking at all about the moral and legal consequences of their deeds. If one takes an unbiased look at the entire history of this people over at least the past three centuries, it is easy to see that Armenians had always had such an attitude to themselves, to life and the surrounding world in conditions of geopolitical cataclysms. The Nazis very cleverly and prudently used this feature of the Armenian mentality, keeping them close to themselves until the very last moment. Nzhdeh and his supporters, of course, understood that they were betraying Bulgaria for the sake of Nazi Germany, but agreed to this deliberately, not only from mercantile, but also ideological considerations.
The criminal activities of people like Garegin Nzhdeh received a full-blown legal assessment in the verdict of the International Military (Nürnberg) Tribunal of October 1, 1946. The preamble stated that all the "leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan" during the Second World War. According to Article 9 of the Statute of the International Military Tribunal, the main criterion and basis for bringing individuals to justice is the recognition by the tribunal of the "group or organization" of which he was a member of the Third Reich in the service of the Third Reich, a "criminal organization". In this capacity, the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany (NSDAP), Gestapo and SD, the organization and troops of SS, CA, government apparatus, the General Staff and the High Command of Nazi Germany were recognized as criminal organisation pursuant to the verdict of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Among the Nazi criminals of Gestapo and SD, the tribunal’s verdict included "all other members of the SD, including all local representatives and agents, honorary or otherwise, whether they were technically members of the SS or not."
According to his supervisor from the Viennese office of SD, Peter Kamsarakan, in 1942-1945 Nzhdeh was a local SD agent active in the territory of Bulgaria, Germany, modern Macedonia, and partly in the USSR. He was also on the payroll of this Nazi organisation later recognised as criminal by the International Military Tribunal (IMT). As mentioned above, Article 9 of the IMT Charter considers any individual member of any such group or organisation a Nazi criminal, who shall not be subject to any statute of limitations regardless of all his or her past services to the country and the people. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify that such an individual is not a collaborator in a true sense of the word. For example, the verdict of the Nuremberg Tribunal did not apply to soldiers of the Armenian military or construction battalions of the Wehrmacht or Armenian agents of Abwehr from the Dromedar sondder command, later renamed as the Abwehr Team 114. He was an agent of SD, an organisation recognised as criminal, and was not a collaborator or an accomplice of Nazism, as Armenian propaganda is trying to present it today, but a criminal in full accordance with the Charter and the verdict of the Nuremberg Tribunal.
We should always remember that the documents of the Nuremberg Tribunal provide a legal framework for the modern world order. They are primary sources of reference for such fundamental acts as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the basis of the existing system of human rights. This is enough for the mankind not to tolerate any evidence of glorification of Nazism, such as the installation of monuments and memorial signs to criminals.