Take, to begin with, the truly awful fate of the prisoners incarcerated in the island of Toundja, Sarai Eski. A member of the Commission visited the island. He saw how the bark had been torn off the trees, as high as a man could reach, by the starving prisoners. He even met on the spot an aged Turk who had spent a week there, and said he had himself eaten the bark. A little Turkish boy who looked after the cattle on the island, said that from across the river he had seen the prisoners eating the grass and made a gesture to show the inquirer how they did it.General Vasov stated in his deposition that he gave the prisoners permission to strip the bark off the trees for fuel, a fact confirmed by other trustworthy witnesses. The same general, from the second day on, ordered a quarter loaf to be distributed to the prisoners, which he took from the rations of the Bulgarian soldiery. This was confirmed by Major Mitov, who was entrusted with carrying out the order, which is moreover inscribed in the War Minister's archives. On the first day the victorious soldiery shared their bread with the prisoners and the starving populace. But touching incidents like this could not, any more than the general's order, supply the mass of the people with the food for lack of which they perished, and there are good grounds for believing that these poor wretches went on consuming the "unwholesome or poisonous" stuffs of which P. C. speaks.The mortality among the prisoners must have been severe, especially in the island, where cholera broke out again on the third or fourth day of the siege. There is evidence of a want of tents, which was indeed true of the whole army. The further fact that these unfortunate creatures passed the night exposed to all the rigors of rain and freezing mud, would in itself explain the increasing mortality. It is hardly possible to believe, after reading the descriptions published in the European press, for example Barzini's article in the Corriere delle Sera, that the isolation of the sick really had the good effects alleged by General Vasov.
The number of deaths has been variously estimated. Major Mitov speaks of thirty after the first morning. Major Choukri-bey, a captive officer, puts the number in a single day at a hundred; General Vasov estimated the total number of deaths at 100 or 200. The real figures must be higher. The Turk interrogated by the member of the Commission told him that the group in which he was consisted of some 1,800 persons confined in a narrow space indicated by a gesture. On the night of March 15, 187 of them, he said, died of cold and hunger. The witnesses, it may be noted, put disease second or third among the causes of death. The main cause was still, as during the siege, weakness and exhaustion resulting from starvation, the agonizing effects of which lasted not only during the five days of the final struggle of which Mr. Vasov speaks, but for months. It must certainly not be forgotten that the explosion of the bridge over the Arda, and the destruction of the Turkish depots, made it difficult to provide food for 55,000 prisoners and inhabitants. But when all these admissions have been made, there remains as a fact not to be denied, the cruel indifference in general to the lot of the prisoners. This fact is fully confirmed by the depositions of the captive Turkish officers at Sofia. One is therefore bound to admit that the conduct of the victors towards their captive foes left much to be desired. Some of the rigorous measures reported by Turkish officers might be given as a reason against the attempts to escape made by certain prisoners. But that can not explain everything: what about the vanquished who were bayoneted at night and their corpses left exposed in the streets till noon? The case reported by Mr. Machkov, of the Turkish captive officer who, being too weak to march, was slain by the Bulgarian soldiers in charge, as well as a Jew who had tried to defend him, is fully confirmed by a reserve officer, Hadji Ali, himself a prisoner at Sofia. Mr. Machkov gives the name of the compassionate Jew, Salomon Behmi; and at Constantinople the very words uttered, in Turkish, by this Jew, "Yazyk, wourma" ("It is a sin: do not kill,") were reported to the member of the Commission. Hadji Ali knew the name of the slain Turk, Captain Ismail-Youzbachi, and saw him fall with his own eyes. The explanation given by General Vasov and the Baroness Yxcoull proves that the death of the thirteen Turks slain in the mosque at Miri-Miran can not be laid at the Bulgarians' door; but the depositions of the Turkish soldiers concerning the murder of the sick and diseased prisoners on the Mustapha Pasha route are more than probably true.