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The 40 Days of Musa Dagh

Prof. Dr. Erich FEIGL*
Armenian Studies, Issue 4, December 2001 - January-February 2002

 ="justify">What does the word “BIBLE“ mean? It means “the sacred book of Christianity“ and it further means that this book is undoubtable and above everything. But it also means “any book or collection of writings constituting the sacred text of a religion“, and, at the same time, “any book considered as authoritative in its field“.[1] Unfortunately this description is also valid for Franz Werfel´s novel entitled „Forty Days of Musa Dagh“.

By the way, it is one of the most macabre after-wits, a paradox in history that the word „bible“ has its origins in the ancient Phoenicia´s city Byblos from where the papyros (paper) was exported; a seaport-town not far from a place called “Musa Dagh“, theatre of events which never had happened in the way as it is described by Armenian forgers and their victim and tool Franz Werfel.

There is hardly another novel in world-literature, which caused so many misunderstandings and mischiefs to a nation as Werfels´s „40 Days“, except, perhaps, „The Elders of Zion“, which caused so much misery over the world of the Jews.

Since the first publication of the „40 Days“ Turks are slandered as rude tyrants, if not butchers. Of course since years there were amounts of anti-Turkish, Armenian publications. During the war, Arnold Toynbee´s „The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire“ fulfilled the same duty as Werfel’s novel did. Toynbee’s wretched piece of work was a plain war-propaganda sponsored by Lord Bryce and his ministry in order to force the United States into a war with the Ottoman Empire. The Protestant Churches, which were fighting so long and so hard for a Protestant Armenian Republic in Eastern Anatolia, willingly joined this devilish party. They failed. Anyhow: some 15 years later they reached a new starting point in their work against Turkey and the Turks.  

With Werfel´s ‘masterpiece’ „The 40 Days“ an absolutely unique new standard was reached: perfect poetic art combined with perfectly presented biased historical constructions.

Hardly any reader considered the fact that nowhere in the Ottoman Empire the Armenians had a majority. And the fact that a historic landscape named „Armenia“has absolutely nothing to do with the race or origin of the inhabitants, was (and is) forgotten. In „America“ there live „Americans“ with Italian, German, Irish, British, Indian, Chinese or African roots etc. etc. 

Comparable to America, in “Armenia“ people of Turkish, Iranian, Georgian, Azerbaijanian origin, also a minority of  “Haiks“, who make just use of the habit to be called „Armenians“ were living. When Franz Werfel´s book appeared it had a remarkable echo, right from the beginning. A thriller, pretending to present history!

At first, within the German-speaking world and soon later within the entire „educated“ reading public, where the on dit counts more than knowledge, the „40 Days...“ became a kind of a new Bible. The message was clear:

“How long, O LORD, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on earth?“ Werfel had chosen this verse (Revelation VI, 19) as a motto for his ‘masterpiece’. Unfortunately he became – with this motto and his book – the basic instrument of Armenian post-war terrorism, which killed not only so many innocent people but also the reputation of a whole nation.

The creation of terror-groups and fanatic murderers, who blindly killed and killed (remember Orly!) absolutely innocent passengers or Turkish diplomats (remember my friend Erdo?an Özen) who were born long after the events during World War I, was only possible with indoctrination – Werfel´s fake story constituted the ground for this. 

The Poet And His World

Anyhow, to understand Franz Werfel  (and his „40 Days“) one has to examine the author’s roots and his environment. Werfel was born in Prague in 1880, which was in those fortunate days capital of the kingdom of Bohemia, under the rule of Kaiser Franz Joseph I., belonging to the House of Habsburg. Werfel, who was the son of a wealthy Jewish glove manufacturer was surrounded by poets like Franz Kafka („The Castle“, „The Trial“) or Rainer Maria Rilke. In 1911 he published his first poetry volume.

The young poet was transferred to the Military Press Bureau like other writers and artists, which was typical for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, at the beginning of the war in 1914. Werfel never forgot this token of tolerance.

By and by Werfel published a series of plays and became as popular as well-to do. But starting in 1929 his and the public´s conception of world-history reached a new dimension.

Adolf Hitler, this uneducated jobless Austrian, who hated nothing more than the Habsburgs and the Jews, gained more and more power in Germany. One of the secrets of his success was his ardent, fanatical fight against everything Jewish (although exactly these people had helped him to survive during his needy years in Vienna where he had spent his life in an alms-house).

When the Nazis occupied Austria in 1938, Werfel went to Paris, where he became one of the best co-operators of Austria´s young heir to the crown Otto von Habsburg (son of Charles I.). Otto von Habsburg was in those days the only one, who together with a handful of friends fought against the Nazi-aggression and the renaissance of an independent Austria. Later Werfel and his wife could escape from Paris to America, just like Otto von Habsburg and his family did. Werfel, again, could establish himself as a great writer. His novel „The Song of Bernadette“ sold nearly one million copies. 20th Century Fox bought the rights for US$125 000 to make a movie! Just like the novel, the movie became a world success, too. Unfortunately a book like “The Song of Bernadette“, which deals with the miracles of Lourdes, a book, which brought a complete credibility within the Christian world, contributed also to Werfel’s authenticity as an advocate of the Armenian case.

Franz Werfel died in his villa in Beverly Hills in August 1945.

When Werfel was searching for material for a new book, his wife Alma remembered a visit to an Armenian carpet-factory in Damascus, where they had seen Armenian orphans working at the weaver´s looms. Armenian opportunists, immediately recognized that they were at a turning point and provided Werfel with “material“. This material was nothing but Aram Andonians faked “documents“.

Werfel´s Perception Of “Truth“

?inasi Orel and Süreyya Yuca published at the beginning of the eighties their “blue-book”[2], where they precisely disprove the Armenian allegations. They write:

“For many years a campaign has been directed against Turkey with the claim that Armenians were „massacred“ by the Ottoman Government during he First World War. After the Second World War the term „Genocide“ was added to these “massacre“ charges, with the intention of bringing to mind the Nazi holocaust of European Jewry...

Immediately following the First World War... the claim was advanced to ensure that a share of the Ottoman territories... would be set aside for the Armenians.“

In this situation an unknown Armenian named Aram Andonian produced a collection of “official papers“ under the title The memoirs of Naim Bey: Turkish official documents which lead to the deportations and Massacres of Armenians“ which should accuse the Turks as a nation of murderers and present them being not worth for having a state of their own.

Andonian published this work in 1920 in Paris, London and Boston and distributed it worldwide in French, English and Armenian. „Since that day these „documents were the backbone of their claims“ states ?inasi Orel in his book „and until now no one had subjected Andonian’s falsifications“. But with the scientific approach, ?inasi Orel and S. Yuca unmasked this typical Armenian forgery. More than half of a century later, Andonians fame ended in shame. In the book of Orel&Yuca we find an initial remark, almost an excuse by the authors, who did not want to blame their government „Turkey, the modern Republic, had more important things to do than dealing with Armenian propaganda“. In this point of view I disagree with the authors. In my opinion it would have been one of the most important tasks of the Turkish authorities to blame the Armenians, immediately after the appearance of these “documents“. Actually there were no documents at all. All what Andonian was able to show were photographic reproductions. Meanwhile they disappeared. The most curious thing about this story is that the Armenians managed to remove almost all copies of this forgery from public libraries in order to hide the truth about the falsifications!

Unfortunately Werfel used these „documents“. This can easily be demonstrated by several passages in his book, for example when he describes the moment of Talat´s decision to extinguish the Armenian race:

“The same forthright and stumpy fingers (of Talaat Pasha) had composed that order sent out to the walis and mutessarifs: The goal of these deportations is annihilation.“

These dramatic words fit perfectly with Andonian´s fake papers where, already in “document No 1 the word appears: „Of course the Government will give the necessary instructions about the necessary massacres to the Governors“ and the next document states, by November 18, 1915, “It is the duty of all to effect on the broadest lines, the realization of the noble project of wiping out of the existence the Armenians...“

For sure one has to read this nonsense twice before believing that a forger could have expressed such humbug, after Turks, Muslims and others had lived together for nearly a millennium together peacefully in the Ottoman Empire.

But Werfel took it – did he take it really? – for real. I think his real aim, which was the fight against the rising Nazis, was more important to him than these old stories about the Ottoman Empire. For sure he did not expect that the Armenians would take his fiction as the base of there terror against Turkish diplomats and so many others, who had in no way to do with these allegations.

The Mountain of Moses And The Lowlands Of Alma And Franz Werfel

At the end Werfel decided to describe the story (not history!) of an Armenian settlement near the crossroads Damascus-Iskenderun, i. e, Anatolia and Syria. In this story Armenians should serve as victims and ‘bloody’ Turks as killers.

Actually Werfel did not definitely mean unscrupulous „Young Turks“ and innocent „Haik“. Werfel, who was as a poet and most sensible seismograph, was already feeling the coming earthquakes, caused by the German Nazis, who would started extinguishing the Jewish race.

Nevertheless we cannot understand that Franz Werfel did not investigate a little more. If he did he would soon have discovered that the Ottomans had saved numerous Jews (around 200 000) – from the terror of the „Catholic kings“ in Spain (1494). By the way, again during Hitler´s tyranny some 30 000 German, Austrian, European Jews found a save heaven in Turkey; not a single Jew was repulsed or handed over to the Nazis despite most severe German threats. Let us come to the point: In this case, when Franz Werfel named the Nazis „Turks“ and the Jews „Armenians“ Franz Werfel committed a crime, from my point of view!                                                       

He committed murder – in German there is the word “Rufmord“, which means the murder of one´s reputation - by defaming the name of the Turkish nation, the killing of ones reputation. Sometimes „Rufmord“ is worse than real murder. It leads easily to further crimes, in our case against Turkey and Turks.

In his note – or introduction – to the “40 Days...“ Werfel wrote:

“This book was conceived in March of 1929, in the course of a stay in Damascus. The miserable sight of some maimed and famished-looking refugee children, working in a carpet factory. Gave me the final impulse to snatch from the Hades of all that was this incomprehensible destiny of the Armenian nation.“

Finally Werfel remarks that he had selected the “historic records of a conversation between Enver Pasha and Pastor Johannes Lepsius“ for his readings in Germany in March 1933. The source of this “conversation“ were the memoirs of a German protestant pastor, the well known Dr. Johannes Lepsius. But how could it come that Werfel, this most sensitive poet, fell into this trap? It seems that the initiative came from his wife, Alma Maria Mahler-Werfel.

Alma, The Alter Ego Of Franz

Alma Werfel was doubtless one of the most fascinating women of her time. She was born in 1879 as the daughter of the Viennese landscape painter E. J. Schindler and grew up in an environment with artists like Gustav Klimt or Alexander Zemlinsky – her composer tutor – and at the age of 22 she married the meanwhile world famous composer Gustav Mahler who dedicated his 8th symphony to his wife Alma. After years of marriage Alma sought refuge with an indefinable amount of (again world famous) lovers. She raised the interest of admirers plus husbands like Walter Gropius or Werfel. Her relation with Oskar Kokoschka contributed to her fame with his famous painting „Die Windsbraut“ (bride of the wind), which fits in this case perfectly. Windsbraut can also be something like a hurricane... and Alma Werfel was such a phenomenon. Die Windsbraut gave also reason for a Hollywood film, describing her turbulent life, her love affairs and her attractive qualities, which she doubtlessly had. The list of her adorers is sheer endless: Erich Wolfgang Korngold dedicated to her his famous violin concerto, she made friendship with Gabriele d´Annunzio, Toscanini, Arnold Schönberg, Darius Milhaud, Poulenc, Marc Chagall, Thomas Mann. She further met Bernhard Shaw, she liked H. G. Wells, Romain Rolland, Auguste Rodin very much. This is an endless list of great personalities, who all adored this femme fatale. She fascinated men.

Unfortunately in her personal life as a mother she was less lucky. Her daughter Anna Maria (from Gustav Mahler) died at the age of five. From Walter Gropius, the famous creator of the „Bauhaus“ she had another daughter, Manon, in 1916, who also died at a very young stage. In 1918 she became, although she was still married with Walter Gropius, pregnant by Franz Werfel. The child, named Martin, only lived ten months; A series of personal tragedies.

Why is this excurse to failed motherhood and painful pregnancies so important for the background of our problem with Franz Werfel? These facts seem to be the key to the „40 Days of Musa Dagh“. 

While Werfel himself mentions in his “note“ to the book just „famished-looking children, working in an carpet factory“ Alma Mahler-Werfel in her memoirs „Mein Leben“[3], writes about the days in Damascus, 1929:

„The owner (of the carpet-factory) guided us through his establishment. We walked along the weaver´s looms and everywhere we saw the starved out children, with pale El Greco-faces and over dimensioned dark eyes. They rolled upon the floor, took spools and might, sometimes, have swept the floor.

Franz Werfel asked the owner about these remarkable children. „Oh, these poor creatures, I collect them from the streets and I give them one piaster per day, so that they should not die from starvation. They are children of Armenians, slaughtered by the Turks. If I do not shelter them, they would die of hunger. Nobody cares for them. They can afford nothing, they are to weak... Werfel and I left the place, nothing from now on seemed to be of importance or beauty...“

This moving moment provokes, beyond any irony, two questions:

How is it possible that AD 1929, fourteen years after the tragic events of 1915, starved out Armenian children, apparently not older than four or five years, could be orphans, begotten

1914, children whose parents were „slaughtered by Turks“ AD 1915??

Further more who made money out of these poor children? Who let them work for one piaster a day in a carpet factory? A Turk? Or an Armenian slave - owner?

We explained already the reason, why Alma Werfel was so moved when she saw these poor children. She had lost three of her four children and when the Werfel family was in Damascus she was already far beyond the age of another motherhood. Anyhow, she could somehow substitute her personal tragedy with the doubtless tragic story of the Armenians who were victims of their own fanatic leaders. There is little difference between the Taliban of today and the ASALA, the Dashnaks and all the other fanatics, including the Nazis, who put their race or racism and nationalism beyond any reasonable thought. And, again beyond reasonable fact-finding until our days nobody cares for the horrible fate of the Turks and their children, who suffered much more than the Armenians under the circumstances of 1915 and later. The death-toll Muslims:Armenians counts 3:1 in a civil war, which was instigated by the Armenian fanatics.

The Hidden Truth

If we seek evidence in Werfel´s work for these facts we have to read – unbelievable but a fact – those parts of the book, which do not appear in his book, at least not in the latest English and French editions. Meanwhile I heard that finally also a Turkish translation of the „40 days“ appeared. I didn’t have the chance to check, which version has been translated. Was the original Austrian one, or the „corrected“ French or English version translated? I would appreciate it if one or the other reader of this article could investigate and answer this question. At any rate the Armenian mafia has already fulfilled a fine job. Werfel’s „40 Days...“ underwent in their hands a true „purgatorium“. They cleared the book from all passages which could create doubts at the reader or any historian.

Let us forget many of the “minor“ omits, although they are all typical and fit in a pattern to make Werfel´s statements as plausible as possible. If, for instance Werfel goes to very far to describe Enver Pash as a kind of travesty, who loves his female hands and his cufflinks more than the words of the great Pastor Lepsius, they simply delete these words. Although this is typical, it is not essential. The truth behind the story is: Did the Armenians start a civil war right in the days when the Russian army advanced towards Van?

This is the point.

Now, carefully reading the words of Franz Werfel (translated from the original German edition) we receive the inner message of the falsifications Werfel had fallen victim to. He writes about the preliminary victory of the well equipped Armenians of the Musa Dagh:

„Therefore a war ending in defeat often means a set back of such races for decades whereas other peoples less military-minded are able to overcome military misfortune far more easily and more productively. But the most horrible humiliation for a belligerent upper class is to be taught in a bloody lesson by an “inner enemy“, i. e. an inferior minority ...“

Excuse me for this intermission but we hear now something so sensational that it has to be announced in a proper way: „... i. e. an inferior minority oriented to trade, the crafts, and education.“

And Werfel continues: “This upsets the whole purpose life of those taking such pride in their weapons, because the honour of the trade of war is seriously challenged when...“ please, excuse me for a second interruption but Werfel´s words are too delightful: “... when a soft intellectual race gives the professional heroes a sound thrashing – as a spare-time activity, so to speak.“

It seems to me that the present occupation of Azerbaijanian territory (20% of the country) the massacre of Khojaly and the expulsion of one million Azeris from their homes is also the work of an intellectual race.

Back to the “40 Days...“ and the reason of the civil war. Werfel says that the Turkish defeats in Urfa and Van were of less importance for the Turks than this minor and temporary defeat at Musa Dagh „because these (Van, Urfa) were Armenian towns whose insurrection was under the banner of the Russian advance.“ This was true!

„From the foreign policy angle, the desperate appeal of Van was even highly welcome in view of the advancing enemy of the Empire because, in front of the eyes of the world, it supplied the best possible excuse to justify, a posterior, the crimes against the Armenian Millet very convincingly. There you have clear proof that the Armenians are traitors and that we have to free ourselves from them. The raison d´etat has never considered it too important to make a gracious turn from cause to effect.

The bad conscience of the world, too lazy to think, the press of the groups in power and its readers´ distorted brain always turned and understood matters only the way they wanted them. In certain places one could write with indignation, and read with even greater indignation, about the matter of Wan: Yes, the Armenians have risen in arms against the Ottoman leading nation which is involved in a serious war, and have defeated to the Russians“.

Remark: It was not only a serious war (which war is not serious?) but a war of survival fought at the frontiers of Suez, Sinai, Mekka and Medina, Basra and Baghdad, the Dardanelles, the shores of the Black Sea, Eastern Anatolia, the Caucasus...

“The Vilajets inhabited by Armenians therefore have to be freed from that people by deportation“ Similar statements could be read in the Turkish announcements, but not the reverse which was the truth: “In despair about the deportation, started long before, the Armenians of Wan and Urfa defended themselves against the Turkish military power until they were rescued by the advancing Russians“.

The fact that the clever Armenians or their servants deleted this fundamental original passage in their translation has a reason: It is absolutely clear that the Armenians of Van started the insurrection behind the Ottoman lines already in February 1915, waiting for the Russian offensive. Before the Russians had reached Van they had already extinguished the whole Muslim (Turks and Kurds alike) population of Van with all the neighboring villages. Meanwhile there is also archeological evidence of these mass-murders, as countless mass-graves with Muslim victims have been spotted, excavated and identified.

The initial signal was given by the Armenians, who were well equipped, young and powerful. The Turks defended their lands at the frontiers, leaving behind aging people. The gendarme was beyond any fighting power or ability.

Thanks God, the triumph of the Armenians was documented by themselves. Photographs and reports were sent to the Entente-magazines. There is no doubt about the origin of the calamities and one – just one, but an important one – is the fact that the Armenian mafia wanted to get rid of Werfel´s statement concerning Van.

The Bed-Sheets Of The Musa Dagh-Fighters

A poet is a poet and a novelist a novelist. But how can bed-sheets be a message for a battleship, cruising somewhere in the Mediterranean?

Let us imagine the situation: Armenians from the Musa Dagh take some white (?) bed-sheets and write in big letters CHRISTIANS IN NEED! and expose these textiles at the beach. Now, what a miracle: A French fleet, headed by Jeanne d´ Arc appeares all at a sudden at the shores of Musa Dagh, frees the poor Armenians and disappears.

The story is so childish that it is impossible to take the CHRISTANS IN NEED as a fact. The truth is that the entire insurrection of Musa Dagh was well prepared by the Armenians and the Entente. The aim was, to cut the Ottoman Empire into two pieces, separating Anatolia from Syria and the Suez. The poor, miserable and starving Armenians proved immediately after their rescue that they were powerful young fighters and the French and the British made immediately after their transfer to Suez and Cyprus practical use of them. They fought within Armenian battalions and they were fighting in such a way against the Ottomans that the French and British authorities withdrew them from the front because their behavior was intolerable.

Anyhow, Werfel´s novel is a masterpiece, a gem in the crown of world literature. But it is at the same time shameless fiction, a story, which paved the way for Armenian terrorism and aggression until today. It delivered the absurd raison d’etre of a nation, which cannot survive without the backbone of martyrdom, while they are the most aggressive nation of our age as we can witness their crime and crimes against Azerbaijan.

In that sense the „40 Days of Musa Dagh“ is not a bible, but a pamphlet, finally not better than Hitler’s „Mein Kampf“. It is a peak of absurdity, because Werfel and his – our – world fell victim to this pamphlet, too.


Gravestones talk: Not all Armenians left the Musa Dagh after the events of 1915. The cementry next to the church shows openly that many Armenians, who did not participate in the rebellions, stayed there and continued their lives



[1] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
[2] The Talat Pasha Telegrams – Historical fact or Armenian fiction, (K. Rustem&Brother, Levkosa, ISBN 9963-565-07-7)
[3] Alma Mahler –Werfel „Mein Leben“ Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, ISBN 3-596-20545-x

* Historian -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 4, December 2001 - January-February 2002
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