Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV, Moscow
Garegin Nzhdeh is not the only Nazi criminal, who is actively lauded in Armenia. Drastamat Kanayan, better known in the past century under his nickname Dro, follows him by popularity. In modern Armenia, Kanayan ranks behind Nzhdeh because Armenians view him more as a military man, not a statesman and ideologist, as a man of action, and not a thinker. Contrary to Nzhdeh, Dro is honoured without any artificially created and hypocritical impression of mystical and occult worship. Nevertheless, Dro’s personality is still highly esteemed by the veteran nationalists of Armenia. Those who had closely collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. According to agreement reached between the governments of Armenia and the United States, his ashes were taken from his grave at the Boston cemetery and reburied in Armenia with the highest military honours at the memorial cemetery of the participants of the Bash-Arapan battle in Arapan. One of the squares and streets in Yerevan, as well as the Institute of National Strategic Studies of the National Defence Research University under the Armenian Ministry of Defence bear Drastamat Kanayan’s name, which proves that Armenian authorities are implementing a systematic approach to lauding the personality of this Nazi criminal.
According to Peter Kamsarakan, Third Reich recruited Dro in April 1940 on the recommendation of Nzhdeh, which helped Dro to make all the bodies of the Armenian nationalist party Dashnaktsutyun available to the Nazis. Kamsarakan described in detail the negotiations of Dro with the SD representatives on cooperation, as well as the cooperation itself in his testimony, dated October 21, 1948. The most interesting parts of the testimony are quoted below:
"... Following the agreement reached in Bucharest, Dro and Araratian immediately began providing intelligence to von Bolschwing, official of SD’s Department VI in Romania. Most of this information was local and included intelligence gathered from Dashnaks and other Armenians who came from abroad. According to Höttl, these reports went directly from Bucharest to Volckheim in Berlin, who was not satisfied with them at first. About ten days before the Soviet Army entered Bessarabia, Dro handed over a message to Bolschwing, saying that the Soviet troops were concentrated on the border with Romania, preparing for operation to take Bessarabia. Due to Bolschwing, this message reached Berlin only seven days before the operation. Apparently, Volckheim did not consider the message important, as he did not trust Dashnaks that much. When Bessarabia was taken by the Soviets, everyone in the Department VI was amazed by the awareness of Dashnaks. During one of the subsequent meetings with Dro, I tried to learn the source of this information, but he did not tell me. He was extremely proud of this message, ranting about how the Germans could neglect such valuable pieces of information, apparently not trusting enough Dashnaks.
Dro told me that from now on the Germans would have to trust them. Dro also told me that he had sent another important message to Berlin about the concentration of Soviet troops in the Chernivtsi region, where, as he put it, the Soviets were "mustering an iron fist."
At that time, the Germans were extremely interested in the situation in the oil-rich regions of Romania, the state of oil production and processing, equipment of individual industries, availability of oil reserves and so on. Since Romania did not firmly side with the Nazi Germany during the reign of Carol II, the Germans made every effort to strengthen their positions in this country. Bolschwing had instructed Dro and Araratian to find out options for purchasing the oil producing lands through German proxies.”
Dro's collaboration with the Nazis in the summer of 1940 included not only the collection of military and political intelligence against Romania. He was also dealing with issues of large-scale speculation operations. SD recruited the Romanian Dashnak organisation under Dro’s leadership to sell on the black market medium and small sized diamonds confiscated from Dutch jewellers. This fact is also included in the memo of Colonel-General Sergei Kruglov, the USSR Minister of Internal Affairs, dated October 18, 1948 and the testimony of Peter Kamsarakan, dated October 21, 1948. In fact, the cooperation between the Dashnaks led by Dro and the Nazis was based on full confidence and began with Dashnaks’ assistance in legalising Nazi criminal proceeds from the sale of the property of Holocaust victims in the Netherlands. This process involved the Armenian diaspora in countries that were not formally occupied by Germany. This is how Kamsarakan described the secret criminal-commercial operation between Armenian nationalists and Nazis:
“Dashnaks in Romania used to do another important job for Germany, which was the sale of diamonds and other precious stones that Germans seized in Holland occupied in the summer of 1940. It was impossible to sell this property openly, as it was a product of the plunder of individuals, firms, and state funds of the occupied country. Medium and small sized diamonds, which could not be traced back to their origin, were delivered by diplomatic baggage to Bolschwing in Bucharest, who then handed them to Dro and Araratian for illegal sale. Dro himself told me about this operation. He emphasised that Bolschwing was very pleased with their work, as they gave a very good price and allegedly did not retain commission fees due to ideological motives, which, I think, can be argued. This very delicate assignment once again demonstrates that in practice, the Germans’ contacts with the Dashnaks was based on complete mutual trust, and the Dashnaks used to fulfil any assignment given to them by their new owners.”
Due to the complicity factor, Armenian nationalists and the RSHA representatives have developed a kind of relation when both sides felt more like business partners than employers and mercenaries, contrary to contemporary stable criminal societies, also known as gangs.
Immediately after this operation, the Nazis, convinced of the personal loyalty of Dro and the Armenians led by him, as well as their sufficient business skills to work for the secret services of the Third Reich, assigned him with a more difficult task. Kanayan was instructed to organise a special team, Sonderkommando, made up of the representatives of Armenian diaspora in Europe, who had previously emigrated from the USSR and Dro had known personally, for use in operations in areas populated with Armenians. The Sonderkommando was eventually named Dromedar, allusion to Dro’s nickname.
On the eve of World War II, almost all famous Armenian nationalists in the diaspora were natives of Azerbaijan, not of Armenia. Nzhdeh and Dro were from Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan), where they had numerous relatives and those who had known since childhood and youth. Therefore, the Soviet state security quite rightly assumed that the Dromedar would begin intelligence operations not in Armenia, but in Azerbaijan. According to Directive no. 2/6/31215 of the USSR People's Commissariat of State Security (NKGB), dated December 31, 1943, the coordination of activities to counteract the intelligence and sabotage activities of the Nazi intelligence agency in the rear was assigned to the NKGB of Azerbaijan SSR. In the front line, this operation was the duty of SMERSH, Main Directorate of Counterintelligence. The case file ‘Dromedar’ of the NKGB of the Azerbaijan SSR is still reserved at the archive of the State Security Service of Azerbaijan and contains almost complete information about the activities of this Sonderkommando. After the end of the World War II, this rich material served as a basis for an informational and analytical article prepared for the ‘Collection of reference materials on German intelligence agencies operating against the USSR during the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War’. The USSR Ministry of State Security published the collection in 1952 to familiarise the Soviet leadership with the real scale of military and political threat and its consequences existed at that time.
Dro commanded this intelligence team of the Nazi Germany from the summer of 1940 until July 1943, when the Abwehr removed him from his post for organising looting during combat missions. Dromedar Sonderkommando was later reorganised into the Abwehr Group 114. It has not been involved in intelligence, sabotage, terrorist and insurgent operations on the front line any more. Rather it was focused on recruiting, training and dispatching agents into the rear of the Soviet troops. As such, under the direct German command, it existed until April 1945. In total, Dromedar has raised up to 1,000 military intelligence agents of Armenian nationality for the Nazi Germany. The Soviet army and territorial counterintelligence services could later identify them and declare them to be wanted, neutralised or killed. These facts were indicated in the special information and reference publications of the Soviet state security bodies. The names of the Dromedar agents are regularly found on the pages of the special ‘Top Secret’ publications issued by SMERSH and the USSR Ministry of State Security. Thanks to scrupulous study of these sources, we could make an almost complete list of names of the agents of Dromardar and the Abwehr Group 114.
During his leadership as the head of the Sonderkommando, Dro has demonstrated the most vicious traits of his character, which he had used to satisfy his thirst for fame and profit. Below is another excerpt from Kamsarakan’s testimony:
“In 1941, Dro put together a team mainly consisting of Armenians from Paris and Dashnaks from Bucharest, including Harutyun Harutyunian and Sarkis Sargsyan. As Araratian told me in Bucharest, Dro had often travelled to the Eastern Front, where he had collected intelligence about the USSR through his people. According to Araratian, Dro was very proud of his cooperation with the Germans and was anticipating that he would be provided with a leading position in Armenia in the future. He had always supported unconditional cooperation with the Germans.
As Nzhdeh and Araratian told me, Dro’s team had been mainly involved in the plunder of civilians for the purpose of self-enrichment, rather than risky operations to obtain intelligence. Apparently, Dro took most of this property. According to a young Armenian from Bucharest (I don’t remember his name), in the spring of 1944, Dro transferred from Romania to a Swiss bank one hundred thousand Swiss francs under his real name Kanayan.”
In general, Kamsarakan’s testimony matches the information found in the ‘Collection of reference materials…’, indicated above:
“Fed up with marauding Dro and his henchmen, the German command reorganised the Sonderkommando as Group 114, subordinated to German Oberleutnant Bruno Stein. Dro himself returned to Romania to sell the jewellery stolen in the USSR on the black market through the Armenian diaspora.”
Thus, he repeated what he once did on the instructions of the Nazis with the diamonds stolen from the Netherlands in 1940. But this time he acted independently.