A precursor to the fateful events that would happen less than a decade later in Smyrna, the Greeks of Old Phocaea along the Turkish coast suffered a horrible fate beginning on the night of June 12, 1914 when Turkish troops entered the town and began a merciless massacre of innocent civilians.
The events were captured on film by a French engineer and archaeologist named Félix Sartiaux who was sent to Asia Minor by the French government on an archaeological excavation. (photos in gallery below)
He and several French colleagues were instrumental in saving hundreds of Greeks by giving them shelter inside their homes.
“Just as our homes are being emptied of refugees from the previous night, they begin filling again with new arrivals who feel secure from the violence, only under our roof. Their lives have been saved due to the sole fact that they abandoned everything and fled. The majority are wearing torn clothing many of them are covered in blood.
Due to the ferocity of the assault, they were not even able to take some bread with them for the road. Wealthy notables from the region fled bare-footed, the bandits even taking their shoes. The children cry as they search for their parents. We don’t reveal to a mother that her two children have been murdered.
We find a newborn child on the street but we are unable to find its mother so we give it to another woman who is breastfeeding her own child. Women approach us in desperation and beg us to find their husbands or their fathers, or their daughters who were raped or abducted.”
A new documentary film is currently making the film festival rounds in Europe highlighting the history of this massacre through the archives of the French photographer’s testimony and photos.
Photos from the massacre of Phocea: