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The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I - Volume 2



CHAPTER IV

ABOUT THE ATROCITIES INFLICTED ON OUR PEOPLE-OUR MESSAGE TO CHURCHES-THE SUPPORT GIVEN TO US BY NATIVES OF AFRICA LIVING IN AMERICA-OUR APPEAL TO THE GENEVA ASSEMBLY



While Our people who were living outside the regions not yet controlled by the enemy were struggling to protect their freedom, it was clear that the majority of the population living within the occupied territories did not whole­heartedly accept the government of the aggressor. The Italians, being the only source of news for the outside world regarding the situation in Ethiopia, hid its reality from the rest of the world. That was an impediment to Us.

Nonetheless, without losing hope, We were working hard, using every possible means to bring the issue of Our country to the Geneva assembly and to the attention of the world by appearing at a number of meetings. Following each development in Our country, and explaining them in detail to whomever We met [and] through the unceasing diplomatic activities We undertook, We were able to win over many people.

Though We were disheartened by rumors that the British government was prepared to recognize Italy's occupation, Our knowledge of the fact that some Englishmen would still sympathize with Us remained a great source of comfort to Us.

During Our secluded life, We often heard about the atrocities committed against Our people. Their sufferings increased the weight of Our sadness and made Us nervous. As the result, We endured many sleepless nights.

We heard that, in December of 1936 [Tahsas 1929], the Italians killed the sons of Prince Ras Kassa, Dejazmatch Wondbewossen, Dejazmatch Aberra, and Dejazmatch Asfa Wossen, that they captured Ras Imru in February [1937], and that Ras Desta Demtew and Dejazmatch Beyene Merid were captured and killed. Dejazmatch Gebre Mariam died in battle, and especially We were bitterly disheartened on hearing about the merciless carnage of the people of Addis Abeba on account of the attempted assassination of Graziani on February 19, 1937 [Yekatit 12, 1929], when a bomb was thrown at him.

We sent the following message to all churches:

The whole world knows the bad luck that befell Ethiopia while she was a member of the League of Nations, in which I had placed full confidence. I asked time and again that the League's obligation and agreements be honored, but, until now, no aid has been given to my people. Yet I will not lose hope about the return of my country's independence because I believe that in the end, God's judgment will eventually visit the weak and the mighty alike, according to what each deserves. Until such a time I will toil patiently for the benefit of my people.

I trust that the members of the World Council of Churches have the ability to pressure the aggressor and ease the problems that have confronted my people, who are now working to stop the atrocities being inflicted on them through acts of war. To that effect, I submit this appeal to the World Council of Churches. The world has already been saddened by the news of the massacre of many thousands of the people of Addis Abeba in retaliation for the bomb thrown at General Graziani in February. Such an atrocity and blood letting, which should not have taken place during this epoch, was a deliberate and premeditated act. All entrances [to] the city were closed and all those who attempted to escape were annihilated...

This brutal crime is the worst, of the various atrocious acts for which Italian authorities are responsible. Besides the massacre men­tioned above, I believe that the Italian government is responsible for the following barbaric acts:
1st. Although Italian soldiers have killed many thousands of men, women and children at different times and places, they have gone unpunished for it.
2nd. People of different towns and villages have been arrested and beaten to death on the pretext that Ethiopian soldiers were nearby. The most vicious of such acts is the recent [execution] of 600 peasants in Nakamte.
3rd. At various times several thousands of people were summarily killed for allegedly possessing arms and assisting banditry.
4th. The torture of prisoners [and] burning at the stake those who defied Italian authority.
5th. The beating of Ras Desta and other military officers after capture.
6th. The transfer of unmarried women and those women whose husbands have disappeared to concentration camps as prostitutes...

Besides what has been listed above, there have been committed a number of sacrilegious acts, against the religion and the spiritual practices of my people... [and] of the Ethiopian church. These are stated below:
1st. Priests and mullahs were among the Ethiopians who were surrounded and murdered after the attempted assassination of General Graziani.
2nd. Relatives were denied the bodies of those killed during the February massacre and could not perform Christian funeral rites; rather they [Italians] stacked the bodies and burned them like waste.
3rd. The deliberate arson of the St. George Church in Addis Abeba and other churches.
4th. The public execution of Bishop Petros in Addis Abeba last July because of his refusal to submit to the Italians and to excommunicate those Ethiopians who refused to surrender.
5th. The transport to Rome of an ancient and historic obelisk which a previous emperor erected 1600 years ago.

All these and other atrocious acts too numerous to list here, have been committed at will by a government which, in the name of civilization, defeated my country with the use of a poison gas. After having gallantly resisted the enemy, my people grew weary and were vanquished. They became objects of the enemy's vengeance and of the satisfaction of its whim. The majority of the military officers died. As happened several times, many others were beaten to death after being captured. These actions were done in violation of the rights of prisoners of war. I beseech the leaders and members of the World Council of Churches to denounce the iniquities perpetrated on my people. I also solicit your prayers for the ending of the despicable atrocities being committed on the orders and silent consent of the Italian government.

* * *

The horrifying crimes done against Our people by the fascist Italians, beyond surprising the world, motivated many of Our friends to join Us in Our struggle. As it turns out, a genuine friend is tested in times of crisis, and the heavy challenge We encountered has enabled Us to distinguish between a friend and foe. We cannot afford passing without mentioning the substantial support and political agitation which millions of Americans, particularly black Americans, have made. There was a big organization named "Union of African Natives Association'' founded to help Ethiopia.

The organization established a newspaper called The Voice of Ethiopia and granted Us substantial support. The following instances explain the types of support this organization had given Us.

[I]

To His Majesty Haile Sellassie I
Fairfield, Bath
England

We black Americans express to Your Majesty our sympathy at the recent audacious massacre of the loyal people of Ethiopia and pray for your majesty's well-being and Ethiopia's victory.

P. M. H. Savory, M.D.,
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of African Natives Association.

[II]

February 4, 1937

To the President of the United States
The White House,
Washington D. C.

Dear Your Excellency the President,

In connection with the streamlined massacre of Ethiopians as the result of the bombing incident in Addis Abeba, the executive committee of the Union of African Natives Association, after holding an emergency meeting, has instructed me to send you a telegram as you are the president of 13 million black Americans, to request you to be involved in the matter in person so that you may preclude similar massacres of Ethiopians from happening again.

Respectfully,
P. M. H. Savory, M.D.,
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of African Natives Association.

[III]

To the President of the United States
The White House,
Washington D. C.

Dear Your Excellency the President,

In the presence of all its members, the conference of the Union of African Natives Association has decided and given instructions to send this telegram to Your Excellency. Under the pretext of the bombing incident in Addis Abeba the fascist government has detained about two thousand Ethiopians under a state of emergency with the intention of exterminating them. We beseech you to use your office which has earned you worldwide popularity for your impartial attitude and your well-known sense of justice, to oppose the fascist government, if not in the name of the United States of America, then as a personal act. Up to now 1400 people have been killed. While such barbaric acts are being committed by the brutal regime, the rest of the world has remained a passive and bewildered spectator. So far no word of opposition has been heard. Although all of us are citizens of America, we feel strongly and pitifully about what is being done to the people of the continent whence our ancestors came. We solicit Your Excellency's support because of the fact that we have such a close relationship and racial affiliation, and knowing that there has never been an American president as compassionate and as benevolent in attitude toward mankind as Your Excellency.

Since we have great confidence in Your Excellency, we believe that it may restrain the fascist government if you send some kind of message to the Italian ambassador in Washington.

We would like to bring to your attention that the black race has shown or has been enabled to show remarkable progress during your administration.

...we have shown that blacks have souls and minds like everybody else and have worked with those who have free and good attitudes toward mankind. When one section of mankind destroys the other, it is not unusual for the Union of African Natives Association, the social body which represents all our people ranging from minors to seniors, to submit this appeal.

We, the thirteen million Black Americans, wholeheartedly believe that Your Excellency is the only one who can save the lives of 2,000 innocent people who have been condemned to death for a crime they have not committed.

We would like to express to Your Excellency that all churches are praying for the well-being and long life of Your Excellency.

Respectfully,
William Lloyd Imes D.D., President,
The Union of African Natives Association.

[IV]

To the Lord of Canterbury,
Lord Archbishop,
London, England

Pax Vobiscum:

Thousands of believers meeting in different places under the sponsorship of the Union of African Natives Association condemn the brutal act of the Italian fascists for spilling in vain the blood of Ethiopian Christians who are fighting a just war for the independence of their country. The association also expresses its deepest regret over your silence as a representative and Vicar of Christ while heinous crimes are being inflicted on Ethiopia.

Respectfully,
William Lloyd Imes D.D., President,
Union of African Natives Association.

[V]

To the Prime Minister of Britain,
10 Downing Street,
London, England.

Dear Excellency,

It is obvious that the people of Ethiopia, who are loyal to their emperor and comprise 14 million of Africa's population, are in a dangerous situation. This happened as a consequence of the reprisals which ensued after a bomb was thrown at Graziani The news from Rome and Addis Abeba holds that the fascist plan is to exterminate the Ethiopians altogether. We were deeply disheartened at this. 14,000 people were shot dead in cold blood. Your Excellency is aware of the situation.

Many thousands of church members congregated in different places by the Union of African Natives Association have condemned the fascist brutalities and resolved in favor of the dispatch of this telegram.

We appeal in the name of God and for the sake of humanity to world public opinion to stop the fascists from their brutal killings of the Christian people of Ethiopia.

We appeal to your excellency, in particular, to air your opposition to the wanton extermination of a people who are heroically fighting to safeguard the independence of their country. To continue to inflict incessant and brazen crimes against black people is an obstacle to world peace and progress.

We appeal to you to be prepared time and again to help and save Ethiopians. Please earn the immortal gratitude of the natives of Africa during this times of darkness and agony.

Respectfully,
William Lloyd Imes D.D., President,
Union of African Natives Association.

* * *

We cited a few of these letters as examples in order to remember those to whom We were indebted, even though many others took part in Our struggle. On Thursday March 16, 1937 [Megabit 9, 1929] the dean of Winchester Church in England offered a prayer of commemoration in Our presence in order to express his sympathy to Us. In his prayers he mentioned the names of our fallen nobles in the following order. Fitawrari Alemayehu Goshu killed at Wel Wel, Dejazmatch Afework Woldesemait of the Ogaden, Ras Mulugeta Yigezu, Dejazmatch Wondirad Difabachew, Fitawrari Ashenafi, Azaj Beyene Serawitu, Dejazmatch Mengesha Yilma, Bitwoded Makonnen Demisew, Dejazmatch Beyene Wondimagegnehu, Dejazmatch Meshesha Wolde, Dejazmatch Balcha Safo, Abuna Petros, Dejazmatch Fikremariam, Dejazmatch Wondbewossen Kassa, Dejazmatch Aberra Kassa, Dejazmatch Asfa Wossen Kassa, Dejazmatch Gebre Mariam Gari, Dejazmatch Beyene Merid, and Ras Desta Damtew. He also raised in prayer the names of John Melly, Gerald Burgoyne and Everett Colson, who, though non-belligerents, lost their lives while helping Ethiopia.

We subsequently felt that it was our duty to protest the Yekatit 12 massacre, whether or not the Geneva assembly gave [my statement] due consideration:

The Lion of Judah
Haile Sellassie I
Elect of God, Emperor of Ethiopia

His Excellency Monsieur Joseph Avenol
General Secretary of the League of Nations
Geneva

I ask Your Excellency's good offices to pass the following to all members of the League of Nations.

First. In violation of the Covenant of the League of Nations, from the pitiful day on which barbarous Italy invaded my country... the ill-fated people of Ethiopia have suffered from countless atrocities... brutality and misery. Today, those who died in battle are luckier than those who are suffering from recurrent torture at the hands of the brutal enemy.

As the result of Our deep sorrow, I appealed to the League of Nations and to the whole world about our misery and despair. Nevertheless, until now our voices have not been heard. The nations have blocked their ears to our lamentations.... However, hope has not vanished from our hearts. Had you been aware of the brutalities of our attackers, you would have given us a fair judgment.

Today, the invader has doubled its barbaric acts. Outraged by the prolonged opposition... the Italian government aggressively has continued its brutal policy of exterminating a people who depended on the promise of the charter to protect their freedom and to gain the good will of the world; and, who believed that international agreements would be respected.

I have not cited individual acts of brutality. I have restrained myself from accusing anybody without having undeniable and concrete evidence, preferring to verify what I have heard.

Second. I present my case to the League of Nations and to the whole world about three savage acts committed in Addis Abeba and its vicinity in February 1937. These... comprised:

1st. The merciless executions of Ras Desta, Dejazmatch Beyene and thousands of other nobles, who were killed after being captured in the battlefield.

2nd. The three-day massacre of many thousands of people following the assassination attempt on Marshal Graziani.

3rd. A London newspaper has estimated at 6,000 the number of Ethiopian people who were deliberately massacred. Permit me to attest that the number reported to me is much higher than this estimate.

All these atrocities were done in violation of the international rules... governing warfare on land as defined in the fourth section of The Hague Treaty of 1907 about conventional warfare. The signatories of the Hague treaty, out of their enthusiasm for supporting the ever expanding obligations of modernization and the concomitant interest of mankind, resolved... clearly to spell out... and specify the laws [regarding warfare]. Consequently, along with the customs of the civilized nations, natural human laws and according to the pressure of world public conscience, they declared that all people and belligerent nations should be governed by international law.

Third. The nobles who were captured on the battlefield were killed... immediately. This constitutes an unjust execution which violates article four of the Hague treaty of 1907. Prisoners of war are in the custody of the enemy government and are not the property of the men or soldiers who captured them. Other than the money, weapons, horses and documents given them for military purposes, prisoners should retain all personal articles. They deserve to be treated in a humane and compassionate way.

Article three of the treaty forbids the execution or wounding of an enemy who has surrendered and has rendered himself defenseless by handing over his weapons.

These punishments were premeditated acts of atrocity. The government in Rome did all of these in public in order to confirm its policy of the politics of terror.

In December 1936 the three sons of Ras Kassa, Dejazmatch Aberra, Dejazmatch Wondbewossen and Dejazmatch Asfa Wossen were killed in cold blood so as to terrorize the Ethiopian people. These nobles were entitled to the fair and compassionate treatment which the Hague treaty and civilized nations granted to any fighter exposed to such situations as a result of war.

Fourth. On the day an assassination was attempted on Graziani's life, an instruction was issued by the Italian authorities to... carry out horrible acts of extermination. Many Ethiopians were killed without investigation or trial. This was a measure of revenge taken against innocent people and was by no means a lawful act of punishment. Italian military force encircled the area of the incident. All Ethiopians found therein were killed. Among those killed were many Christian and Muslim leaders.

Fifth. From the day of the incident onwards Italian authorities embarked on a plan of terror and summary executions which lasted three days. Aided by armed civilians, soldiers... were ordered to kill all Ethiopian men, women and children. I have evidence of this horrifying and ugly act. Carrying rifles, pistols, grenades, knives and clubs distributed for this purpose, "black shirt" soldiers and workers went through the city's districts killing whomever they found, including women and children. Others, who carried flame throwers, burned down thatch-roofed and other houses, killing all those who tried to escape. These atrocities were not done amid the riot of battlefield fighting [but]... were done, on the orders and with the full knowledge of Italian authorities. Those who were sacrificed were not armed men. They were innocent men, women and children, whom the occupying country, Italy, in accordance with international law, should have protected. The massacre of February 1937 will leave on the Italian aggressors a [stigma of] perpetual shame.

Sixth. These are some of the brutal deeds committed against the ill-fated Ethiopian people. On behalf of my people who suffered from this wicked assault and the ensuing sadness, I submit my case to the League of Nations and the entire world.

Dear members of the League, you are aware of the plague that has befallen my people. Is there not anything that you can do to stop the destruction of humanity? Do you remember your promise to the Ethiopian people, which I am asking you to honor today? Will you simply sit back and watch while defenseless people are being wiped out? Can you remain indifferent to the heinous brutality which has befallen my people and has dragged Europe into horrible misery, while its perpetrator is planning new barbarisms? Are you going to forget us forever? What kind of crime have we committed that led you to reject us? Was your conscience not moved when we were experiencing all these trials?

I hereby request that a special commission be formed to investigate and report the brutal crimes that the government of Italy has perpetrated on Ethiopia.

Written at Bath on March 25, 1937 [Megabit 6, 1929],

Haile Sellassie I
Emperor
Herui Wolde Sellassie
Minister of Foreign Affairs

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