Criminals Of War

NZ TV Premiere: Criminals Of War (8 Part Series)

Documentary Channel – Monday 27 August, 9.00pm

In eight one hour television programmes, Criminals of War tells the story of the most brutal crimes committed by man and of the intrepid teams of policemen, doctors, lawyers, scientists and investigators who track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Each episode in the series concentrates on a seminal investigation: from an archive-based description of the crime, through to the myriad of experts used to gather the evidence and culminating in the eventual prosecution of the indicted war criminal. The featured investigations are drawn from crimes committed against the backdrop of four very different major conflicts of the twentieth century.

Criminals of War focuses on the people behind the process as well as the process itself: namely the researchers; the prosecutors; the judges, the human rights activists; the forensic scientists; the police detectives; the councillors; the psychologists. With the advances in forensic science, there is now a much better chance of collecting watertight evidence against the world’s most evil human beings than there ever was before.

Episode One: The Angel’s Assassin

On March 15, 1921, Talaat Pasha, the Turkish interior minister during the Great War was strolling around the Chalottenburg district of Berlin. That afternoon Soghomon Tehlirian crept up behind him, put a revolver to his head, and shot him dead. He was assassinated as an act of vengeance for the murder of his family in the genocide of the Armenians by the Young Turk regime, in which more than 1.5 million people died in 1915. After World War I, the Military Tribunal in Constantinople tried individual Young Turks for war crimes. It found Talaat Pasha and the other leaders of Ottoman Turkey guilty of “crimes against humanity” and sentenced them to death. Talaat fled to Germany with Enver Pasha and other Young Turk leaders to escape prosecution in 1918. But many of the Armenian survivors took part in “Operation Nemesis,” a campaign to track down many of the escaped criminals in Europe and Central Asia. Since the courts had failed to serve the cause of justice, the Armenians pledged to do so themselves. Tehlirian was captured immediately after the shooting and was put on trial in Germany. The initially hostile German public and jury discovered the horrors for which Talaat had been responsible; Tehlirian, who had readily accepted his responsibility for the assassination, was acquitted by the courts because of the overwhelming evidence provided about the Armenian Genocide. Since Turkey was an ally of Germany in both world wars, in 1943 the Nazis returned Talaat’s remains to Turkey, where he was buried with great ceremony.