Pistol Pete's Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances

Khalid Elhassan - October 15, 2020

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Turkish soldiers marching Armenians out of a town and to their doom. NZ Herald

6. Payback via Nemesis

Once WWI had ended, an Ottoman military tribunal sentenced the principal leaders responsible for planning the Armenian Genocide to death. However, the condemned were freed at the end of the trial, and fled to Europe, where they lived under assumed names. Disgusted at such a miscarriage of justice, some members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a nationalist party, sought payback, and set out to bring the guilty to account.

The ARF passed a secret resolution known as “The Special Mission” to punish the main perpetrators of the genocide. The result was Operation Nemesis, named after the ancient Greek goddess of divine retribution. Between 1920 – 1922, Armenian avengers stalked those responsible for the genocide throughout Europe and Asia, to deal them lethal justice.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Fatali Khan Khoyski. Pintrest

5. Nemesis Visits Payback on its First Target

The first target for payback claimed by the avengers of Operation Nemesis was the first prime minister of independent Azerbaijan, Fatali Khan Khoyski. He was accused of having played a prominent role in the massacre of tens of thousands of Armenians in Baku in 1918.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Aram Yerganian. Wikimedia

Azerbaijan’s independence did not last for long, and the Bolsheviks overran and incorporated it into the Soviet Union in 1920. That April, Khoyski fled to Tiflis, Georgia, to escape the advancing Red Army. On June 19th, Armenian revolutionary Aram Yerganian opened fire on Khoyski in Tiflis’ Yerevan Square, killing him on the spot.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Talaat Pasha. Imgur

4. Payback Visited Upon the Genocide’s Initiator

The next payback target to fall to Operation Nemesis was Mehmed Talaat Pasha. One of a triumvirate known as the Three Pashas who had ruled the Ottoman Empire during WWI, Talaat had initiated the Armenian Genocide in 1915 while serving as Minister of Interior Affairs. He fled the Ottoman Empire in a German submarine in early November of 1918, and settled in Berlin.

Talaat Pasha was tried in absentia by a Turkish court martial, and sentenced to death. However, the Turks were not that eager to have him extradited, and the Germans denied knowledge of his whereabouts. In reality, Talaat’s presence in Germany was an open secret, and he travelled throughout much of Central Europe and Scandinavia without hindrance. That state of affairs lasted until 1921, when Operation Nemesis caught up with him.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Soghomon Tehlirian in 1921. Wikimedia

3. Payback on a Berlin Street

The impunity enjoyed by Talaat Pasha ended in 1921. An Armenian revolutionary named Soghomon Tehlirian had discovered Talaat’s Berlin address, and rented an apartment nearby to study his every move. On March 15th, 1921, Tehlirian shadowed Talaat when he left his house, and waited for the right moment to dish out payback. Upon confirming his target’s identity, Tehlirian pulled out a Luger pistol, shot Talaat dead in broad daylight, then waited over the corpse for the police to arrive and arrest him.

Tehlirian’s subsequent trial for murder was a sensation, which he used as a platform to draw attention to the Armenian Genocide. His lawyers focused on the impact the genocide had on Tehlirian’s mental state. He testified that he had acted after his mother – killed during the atrocity – had appeared to him in a dream, berating him for not having avenged her. It took a Berlin jury one hour to acquit him, returning a verdict of not guilty on grounds of temporary insanity.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Cemal Azmi. Pintrest

2. The Butcher of Trebizond

The most vile and abhorrent of Operation Nemesis’ targets was probably Cemal Azmi, known as “The Butcher of Trebizond”. A founder of the Teskilat-i-Mahsusa (Special Organization), a unit created to suppress dissent and separatism in the Ottoman Empire, Azmi was serving as governor of Trebizond province when the Armenian Genocide began in 1915. An enthusiastic participant, he massacred Armenians by the tens of thousands.

Azmi was particularly vicious towards Armenian children and women, and had thousands of them drowned in the Black Sea. Witnesses testified that he had turned a local hospital into a “pleasure dome”, where he indulged in sexual orgies with young Armenian girls, before murdering them. Reminiscing about it, Azmi told an acquaintance: “Among the most pretty Armenian girls, 10 – 13 years old, I selected a number of them and handed them to my son as a gift; the others I had drowned in the sea“. That made him a prime target for payback.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Arshavir Shirakian. Flickr

1. A Butcher Unable to Escape Payback

Following Turkey’s defeat and surrender, Cemal Azmi fled to Germany. The organizers of Operation Nemesis eventually tracked him down in Berlin. Aram Yerganian, who had already killed one of the retribution campaign’s targets, was tasked with visiting payback upon Azmi, plus another genocide accomplice, a Dr. Behaeddin Shakir. Another Armenian revolutionary, Arshavir Shirakian, partnered with Yerganian.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Cemal Azmi and Behadden Shakir after Operation Nemesis caught up with them.

On April 17th, 1922, Yerganian and Shirakian came upon Cemal Azmi and Behaddin Shakir as the two murderers were strolling with their families on Berlin’s Uhlandstrasse. Shirakian opened fire, killing Azmi, but only wounding Behaddin, who took off running. Yerganian took off after the fleeing genocidier, caught up with him, and finished him with a bullet to the head. Neither shooter was apprehended.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

American Mafia History – “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn

Am-Pole Eagle – The Man That Al Capone Feared

Biography – Sam Giancana

Bogosian, Eric – Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide (2015)

Cowboys & Indians Magazine – Pistol Pete

Crime Magazine, October 14th, 2009 – The Guileless Gangster

Dahl, Hans Fredrik – Quisling: A Study in Treachery (1999)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Al Musta’sim, Abbasid Caliph

Encyclopedia Britannica – Andrey Vlasov

Frank Eaton Historic Home – The Legend of Pistol Pete

Gambino, Richard – The True Story of the Largest Lynching in US History (2000)

History – St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: Victims, Evidence, & Suspects

History Net – Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Posse

Legends of America – Frank B. “Pistol Pete” Eaton: Fastest Draw in Indian Territory

New York Times, Times Topics – Armenian Genocide of 1915: An Overview

Strik-Strikfeldt, Wilfried – Against Stalin and Hitler: Memoir of the Russian Liberation Movement, 1941-1945 (1970)

Wikipedia – March 14, 1891 New Orleans Lynchings

Wikipedia – Operation Nemesis

Wikipedia – Vidkun Quisling

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