Nicolae Titulescu, the Congressman Chris Smith of Romania, a true friend of the people of Ethiopia
Former Romanian foreign minister Nicolae Titulescu’s ideas on respect for the boundaries established by the international peace treaties, the preservation of good neighborliness between big and small states, respect for the sovereignty and equality of states in international relations and the rejection of revisionism in Europe were imperative in the 1930s as well as today.
What are the circumstances in which the famous Romanian diplomat reached the hearts of the Ethiopians?
Since 1921, Nicolae Titulescu was permanently delegated by Romania at the League of Nations, where he was, on two occasions – in 1930 and 1931 – president. For this reason, in front of the United Nations Palace in Geneva, he has a monument. The greatest honor, however, was given to him by the Ethiopians, placing him among the saints in the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Addis Ababa.
On 5 May 1936, fascist Italian troops entered Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The young Emperor Haile Selassie I (1930-1974) went to Geneva to ask for help and to assert his determination to continue the fight against the aggressors. While on the podium at the League of Nations, a group of Italian fascist journalists tried to obstruct the emperor’s speech. The new president of the Assembly of the League of Nations, Paul van Zeelan, seemed timid and did not take forceful action to stop them. Nicolae Titulescu stood up and challenged the Italian journalists, saying the phrase that went around the world: “Monsieur le Président, faites sortir ces sauvages.” In English: “Mr. President, get these savages out!”
This episode, accompanied by the continued courage of the Romanian diplomat, was not taken lightly by fascist Italy’s government. Shortly after Mussolini’s intervention with King Carol II, the Romanian diplomat was removed. However, Titulescu’s attitude remained in the collective memory and in the consciousness of the Ethiopians as a sign of love and courage. The Romanian diplomat is placed in honor among the saints on the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.
Titulescu’s courageous action at the League of Nations in defense of Ethiopia was told by Emperor Haile Selassie during an event hosted by the State Council of Romania to honor the emperor on September 26, 1964. He said: “Ethiopia-Romania relations are not recent. I personally will never forget the courageous support I have received from Mr. Titulescu, then Foreign Affairs Minister of Romania, on the day when I asked the League of Nations for help against the fascists who invaded Ethiopia. What Titulescu did for the Ethiopian people is written in the hearts of all the Ethiopians, and the memory of his deeds will live forever.”
The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa is a Memorial Church built at the will of Emperor Haile Selassie I, in memory of the sacrifice and honor of the Ethiopian heroes who defended Ethiopia with their lives against the aggression of the Italian fascists.
Shortly after the Geneva incident, the Romanian government removed Nicolae Titulescu from his position as Romania’s top diplomat.
Six years later, on March 17, 1941, Titulescu died in exile in France. After half a century, in March 1992, his body was brought to Romania and rested near St. Nicholas Church of Şcheii Braşov, a place that the Romanian diplomat and visionary considered “the heart of Romania.”