18. The Daylight Vigilante Execution of an Architect of Genocide on the Streets of Berlin
Next to fall to Operation Nemesis was Mehmed Talaat Pasha. One of a triumvirate known as the Three Pashas who had ruled the Ottoman Empire throughout WWI, Talaat had initiated the Armenian Genocide in 1915 while he served as Minister of Interior Affairs. He fled the Ottoman Empire in early November 1918, aboard a German submarine, and settled in Berlin. He 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 a semi-open secret, and he traveled throughout much of Central Europe and Scandinavia without hindrance. That state of affairs lasted until 1921 when karma and Operation Nemesis caught up with him.
An Armenian revolutionary named Soghomon Tehlirian discovered Talaat’s Berlin address, rented an apartment nearby, and studied his every move. On March 15th, 1921, he shadowed Talaat, and when he confirmed his target’s identity, pulled out a Luger pistol and shot him dead in broad daylight. He then waited over the corpse for the police to arrive and arrest him. Tehlirian’s murder trial was a sensation, and he used it as a platform to draw attention to the Armenian Genocide. His lawyers focused 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 and berated him for his failure to avenge her. It took a Berlin jury one hour to acquit him and return a verdict of not guilty on grounds of temporary insanity.