765.84/5182: Telegram

The Minister Resident in Ethiopia (Engert) to the Secretary of State

47. My 45 and 46, February 19th. Yesterday afternoon and all last night the Italians by way of reprisals set fire to hundreds of native houses including some in the immediate vicinity of this Legation which necessitated our taking special precautions to prevent our buildings from catching too. If there had been a strong wind it would probably not have been possible and I have this morning pointed out the danger to the authorities.

The Italians have, as was to have been expected after their incendiaries last July and August, completely lost their heads. Undisciplined bands of Black Shirts and laborers armed with rifles, axes or clubs have since the incident been roaming the streets killing all natives in sight even women amidst scenes of revolting savagery. Many natives whose huts were burning were either shot as they tried to escape or were forced to perish in the flames. Not since the Armenian massacres have I seen a display of such unbridled brutality and cowardice. Besides there have been mass executions in batches of 50 or 100 all over town of wretched people who by no stretch of the imagination could have had anything to do with the incident.

French Minister informs me a band of Black Shirts rushed into his compound yesterday afternoon, set fire to three huts in his servants quarters and chased away four of the native servants. He agrees with me that for the last 24 hours the Italians have been acting like raving maniacs which bodes ill for the future.

Desultory firing continues in the city and on my way back from the French Legation I saw several fresh corpses strewn along the road while large trucks were carting away those killed earlier in the morning.