The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State

No. 1570

Sir: With reference to the Department’s instruction No. 429 of February 6th, 1939 (File No. 365D.1163/131), regarding compensation for properties in Ethiopia which were taken over by the Italian authorities from the United Presbyterian Mission, I have the honor to report that on August 23, 1939, Dr. John A. Cremer, representative of the United Presbyterian Mission in Addis Ababa, informed the Embassy that the Italian authorities had expropriated the American Mission Hospital in that town, offering 980,000 lire in full settlement for buildings and fixtures. Dr. Cremer asked that the Embassy protest (1) against the expropriation because the hospital is run in close collaboration with the local government and on humanitarian lines and that a large number of indigent patients are treated free of charge; (2) on the ground that the offer made by the Italian Government is out of all proportion to the “actual value which, according to an independent Italian valuation, reaches approximately four million lire.” Dr. Cremer also stipulated that the purchase price should be paid in United States currency.

Accordingly, this matter was taken up with an official in the Italian Foreign Office on August 24. The matter was referred to the Ministry of Italian Africa, and that Ministry’s reply to the Foreign Office was communicated to the Embassy today, orally, by the Foreign Office official. The Ministry of Italian Africa takes the position that:

Inasmuch as the expropriation of the hospital has been definitively decided upon, it is impossible to reopen or to reconsider the matter;
the amount to be paid for the property, however, is a matter which may be made the subject of juridical proceedings. The Italian authorities state that, if the Mission so desires, it may lodge a civil suit in the Italian courts at Addis Ababa, putting forward a claim for whatever it may estimate to be the worth of the property.

Dr. Cremer has been informed of the foregoing reply of the Italian authorities. A copy of my letter to him, dated September 29th, is [Page 519] enclosed.11 It is suggested that Mr. R. W. Caldwell, of the Board of Foreign Missions of the United Presbyterian Church of North America, 500 Schaff Building, 1505 Race St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, be informed of its contents.

Respectfully yours,

William Phillips
  1. Not printed.