Lions of Marash, The
Personal Experiences with American Near East Relief, 1919-1922
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The Lions of Marash is an eye-witness account by an American Near East Relief official of the tragic events which resulted in the annihilation of the Armenian population of Marash, in Central Anatolia, following World War I.
On 10 February 1920, the French garrison at Marash withdrew abruptly under cover of darkness, thus abandoning more than twenty thousand Armenians to the Turkish Nationalist forces. The French pullout caused considerable embarrassment in Paris and roused a storm of angry protest in England and the United States, but for the Armenians of Marash, and all of Cilicia, it led to renewed massacre and to final exodus.
American philanthropy administered through Near East Relief, successor organization to the American Committee for Relief in the Near East, saved thousands of starving Armenian women and children from Turkish marauders. Workshops and other rehabilitative establishments built by ACRNE and NER slightly mitigated the bitter disappointments arising from the American refusal to ensure the Armenian people a collective future by accepting a protective mandate over the independent Armenian state that had been sanctioned by the Paris Peace Conference. In Cilicia NER worked among the repatriates for four years and, after the total Armenian exodus in 1922, attempted to assist the refugee throngs to resettle in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and other lands of the Middle East.
Among the scores of men and women who responded to the ACRNE call for volunteers in 1919 was Stanley E. Kerr, then an officer in the United States Army Sanitary Corps. First serving at Aleppo in a multiplicity of positions, including clinical biochemist, and photographer, Kerr transferred in the autumn of 1919 to Marash, where he took charge of American relief operations after the French withdrawal. In view of the fact that many Turks regarded the Americans as collaborators with the French and Armenians, it was at no small risk that Kerr and his courageous colleagues stayed at their posts to help the thousands of Armenians whom the French had deserted. Indeed, the uncertainties of a hostage-like existence did not end until Kerr departed for Beirut with the last caravan of Armenian orphans in 1922.
Now, fifty years after leaving Cilicia, Dr. Kerr presents his account of the happenings of Marash. Although his personal experiences form the basis for narrative, the author has also utilized the studies and memoirs of French officers, and priests, Turkish military historians, and Armenian survivors, particularly prominent Protestant and Catholic spokesmen.
Stanley E. Kerr earned a Ph. D. degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1925, returning to the Middle East as chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the American University of Beirut. In 1965, following 40 years of faculty service, he retired with the rank of Distinguished Professor. The Republic of Lebanon has conferred upon him its Order of Merit and its Order of Cedars (Chevalier rank) in recognition of his service.