Massacre of Phocaea

Massacre of Phocaea
Phocaea in flames, during the massacre perpetrated by Turkish irregulars
Location Phocaea/Eskifoça and Yeni Foça, Ottoman Empire
Date 12–18 June 1914
Target Greek population
Deaths c. 50 [1] - 100 killed,[2] c. 6.200 fled (entire town)[3][4]
The county population decreased from 23,000 to 4,000[5]
Perpetrators Turkish irregulars (Bashi-bazouk, Cretan Turks)
Ottoman army[5]
Ottoman police
ordered by the Young Turk government
Greek genocide
Young Turk Revolution · Ottoman Greeks · Pontic Greeks · Ottoman Empire
The genocide
Labour Battalions · Death march · Massacre of Phocaea
Evacuation of Ayvalik · Samsun deportations · Amasya trials · Great fire of Smyrna
Foreign aid and relief
Relief Committee for Greeks of Asia Minor · American Committee for Relief in the Near East
Responsible parties
Young Turks or Committee of Union and Progress · Three Pashas: Talat, Enver, Djemal · Behaeddin Shakir · Teskilati Mahsusa or Special Organization · Nureddin Pasha · Topal Osman
See also
Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) · Greeks in Turkey · Population Exchange · Greek refugees · Armenian Genocide · Assyrian genocide · Turkish courts-martial of 1919–20 · Malta Tribunals

The Massacre of Phocaea (Greek: Η Σφαγή της Φώκαιας, I Sfagí tis Fókaias) occurred in June 1914, as part of the ethnic cleansing policies of the Ottoman Empire.[6] It was perpetrated by irregular Turkish bands against the predominantly ethnic Greek town of Phocaea, modern Foça, in the east coast of the Aegean Sea.[7] The massacre was part of a wider anti-Greek campaign of genocide launched by the Young Turk Ottoman authorities, which included boycott, intimidation, forced deportations and massive killings;[8] and was one of the worst attacks during the summer of 1914.[6]


In 1914, the Ottoman Empire had just emerged from the disastrous Balkan Wars, in which it had lost most of its European territories, except for Eastern Thrace, to the Christian Balkan League.[9] Several tens of thousands of Balkan Muslims were streaming into the Empire as refugees.[10]

At the same time tensions mounted with the Kingdom of Greece over possession of the islands of the northeastern Aegean, which Greece had captured during the wars. In February 1914, the Great Powers decided that Greece would keep most of them, a decision that the Ottoman government rejected. A Greco-Ottoman naval race was the result, with threats of war over the issue of the islands.[11] In this atmosphere, the Greek population of the Ottoman Empire became a target of the Young Turk Ottoman government, from a press campaign against them, limitations to the autonomy of their educational institutions, the imposition of military service, as well as various financial measures, culminating in a boycott of Greek-owned businesses.[12]

The Young Turk leadership began implementing ethnic cleansing policies in the spring of 1914. The Greek communities of the Aegean region of Anatolia and Eastern Thrace were targeted, facing boycott, intimidation, attacks by irregulars and massacre.[13] Some communities had the opportunity to avoid death by converting to Islam.[14] In the Aidin Vilayet, on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, a total of 8,000-10,000 armed irregulars (bashi-bazouks) were operating as part of this campaign. According to reports submitted by the Danish consul of nearby Smyrna, Alfred Van de Zee, these groups were financed and run by the Ottoman state.[10]


During early June 1914, Turkish irregular bands looted the villages south of Menemen, causing the Greek populations to flee. Greek refugees of the surrounding regions poured into nearby Phocaea (Eskifoça and Yeni Foça) on June 11.[15][5] Phocaea, a coastal town north of Smyrna, comprised ca. 9,000 inhabitants and was predominantly populated by ethnic Greeks.[15]

On June 12, irregular bands launched their attack against Phocaea itself. The attack began during the night from three different sides and was well organized from the beginning.[6] The armed groups broke into several dwellings and shot their inhabitants, irrespective of age and sex, while apart from the killings, several rapes also occurred.[16] German ambassador Wangehheim and American ambassador Henry Morgenthau reported that about fifty people had been killed,[1] while reports of Greek refugees from Phocaea raised the number to 100. The bodies of those massacred were thrown into wells and included priests, old men and children.[2] Dwellings and stores which were already abandoned by the panic-stricken population were systematically looted.[17]

The amount of the looted property was so extensive and widespread that even irregular groups who didn't participate in the massacre and the destruction took part in the share.[17] The surviving civilian population ran to the harbor and tried to escape by boat. Due to the general disorder, some people were drowned while trying to swim in order to save themselves.[17]

On June 25, the Danish consul of Smyrna, Alfred Van de Zee, quoted an eyewitness of the destruction:[6]

[W]ithin a quarter of an hour after the assault had begun every boat in the place was full of people trying to get away and when no more boats could be had the inhabitants sought refuge on the little peninsula on which the lighthouse stands. I saw eleven bodies of men and women lying dead on the shore. How many were killed I could not say, but trying to get into a house of which the door stood ajar I saw two other dead bodies lying in the entrance hall. Every shop in the place was looted and the goods that could not be carried away were wantonly destroyed.

Also, Félix Sartiaux and his excavation team witnessed the massacre.[18] Sartiaux's documented testimony and photos are invaluable in describing the sequence of events before and during the massacre.[18] The French archaeological mission, took drastic measures to help the remaining population and managed to save hundreds of them.[19] They hoisted French flags on their homes and provided shelter whenever possible, while the irregular groups were still committing atrocities. According to French archaeologist and eyewitness, Charles Manciet, the Ottoman authorities sent regular troops to Phocaea to deal with the perpetrators, but these troops also participated in the destruction of the town.[6] s. Manciet, mention that when they left their houses, he saw the most disgraceful acts ever imaginable.[5] He also states that on 17 of June soldiers were sent from İzmir to establish order but these soldiers ended up plundering the town and that the murder and plunder continued until the 18th of June.[5] Manciet states that the atrocities he had witnessed were of an organized nature that aimed at circling Christian peasant populations of the region.[5]

In addition, the German reporter, Harry Stuermer, who was the correspondent of Kölnische Zeitung newspaper and was usually sympathetic to Turkish authorities later saw the town's "smoking ruins".[20] There were also cases in nearby Muslim butcher shops where the dismembered parts of the victims were in display with the label "Christian meat".[21]

Also, Muslim residents of the town mention the massacre.[5] They also stated that when the Greeks left, their houses were occupied by muhacirs (forced Muslim migrants).[5] According to a local Muslim resident testimony, the local Muslims were happier with Greeks as their sharecroppers compared to having muhacirs, because muhacirs had no respect to the rights of ownership.[5] He also described the members of the chettes (irregular armed forces) as foreigners to the region and cursed them as "rats" who "looted, stole and burned down Greek property".[5] According to another local testimony, "there was so much looting going on… everybody took what was left from Greeks, food, carpets, furniture…".[5]

People who belonged to the local networks were radically different in their perception of the Greeks compared to the muhacirs who were alien to the local networks.[5] The local communities favored the Greeks.


The Ottoman authorities tried to cover up the incident. However, after two days a French steam tug boat arrived at Smyrna and spread the news about the massacre. The crew had observed a large number of people on the promontory and sent ca. 700 survivors to the nearby Greek island of Lesbos. The Greek authorities there rescued the remaining 5,000–6,000 inhabitants by sending boats to bring them to the island.[6] According to Manciet, the massacre continued until 18 June, when there were no Greek inhabitants left and Phocaea was finally turned into a ghost town.[4]


Right before the massacre, the county reached a population of approximately 23,000 people most of whom were Ottoman Greeks, but after the forced migration and killing of the Ottoman Greeks due to the massacre the population of the entire county decreased down to 4,000.[5]

The events in Phocaea elicited sympathy for the victims in Europe, especially in France. The people of Marseille raised a sum of 20,000 French francs to support the refugees.[22]

Similar activity was also carried out by Turkish irregular bands against several other settlements in western Anatolia, while on one occasion almost all inhabitants of the village of Serekieuy, near Menemen, were killed after local Greeks armed themselves for resistance.[23] These attacks against the Ottoman Greeks were performed in manner similar to those undertaken at the time against the Armenian population in eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire.[24]

During 1914, a total of ca. 154,000 ethnic Greek inhabitants living in the Ottoman Empire lost their homes. With the outbreak of World War I, the Ottoman policies against the Greek communities took a more violent and systematic form and affected a more extensive area, including also Pontus in northern Anatolia. These policies included confiscations of property, as well as the creation of forced labor battalions for all Greek males.[25] Also, the Ottoman government sent many Ottoman Greeks into inner Anatolia.[5]


  1. 1 2 Akçam, Taner (2012). The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press. p. 84.
  2. 1 2 Turks Slay 100 Greeks The New York Times, June 17, 1914.
  3. Bjornlund, 2013: p. 47
  4. 1 2 Smith, 1998: p. 32
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 A Multidimensional Analysis of the Events in Eski Foça (Παλαιά Φώκαια) on the period of Summer 1914-Emre Erol
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bjornlund, 2013: p. 40
  7. Αγτζίδης, Β. (15 June 2014). "Η καταστροφή της Φώκαιας στην Ιωνία" (in Greek). Archived from the original on 26 June 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  8. Lieberman, 2013: pp. 7980
  9. Bjornlund, 2013: p. 14
  10. 1 2 Bjornlund, 2013: p. 39
  11. Boubougiatzi, 2009: pp. 82–86
  12. Boubougiatzi, 2009: pp. 76–100
  13. Lieberman, 2013: p. 79
  14. Bjornlund, 2013: p. 35
  15. 1 2 Smith, 1998: p. 31
  16. Boubougiatzi, 2009: p. 109
  17. 1 2 3 Boubougiatzi, 2009: p. 110-111
  18. 1 2 Emre Erol. The Ottoman Crisis in Western Anatolia: Turkey’s Belle Epoque and the Transition to a Modern Nation State, ISBN 0857728814, I.B.Tauris, 2016.
  19. The Classical Journal. Classical Association of the Middle West and South. 1916. p. 198. he succeeded in protecting several hundred Greeks and helped many to escape
  20. Lieberman, Benjamin (2013). Terrible Fate: Ethnic Cleansing in the Making of Modern Europe. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 95.
  21. Boubougiatzi, 2009: pp. 102
  22. Boubougiatzi, 2009: pp.146148
  23. Bjornlund, 2013: p. 41
  24. Lieberman, 2013: p. 80
  25. Vryonis, Speros (2000). The Great Catastrophes: Asia Minor/Smyrna September 1922; Constantinople September 67, 1955. Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle. p. 3. By 1914, some 154,000 Greeks had lost their homes. Phase two of the persecution was much more systematic and widespread...


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