*** World War I American relief country trends

United States World War I Relief Efforts: Country Trends

American World War I relief
Figure 1.--Western Poland had been a major battleground during the first 2 years of World War I. Fighting then continued into what became eastern Poland--modern Belarus. The resulting damage significantly affected agriculture and farm harvests. Equipment and livestock were destroyed. The tranportation system destroyed. And World War I was followed by Bolshevik invasion and war with the Soviets. Without American food, millions of Poles like these children would have starved. Here Polish children in an unidentified city patiently await for the daily distribution of American food. The photograph was archived in January 1921. we are not sure just when it was taken. Put your cursor on the image to see rest of the children waiting for food. This same scene occurred throughout Poland and much of the rest of Eastern Europe. The same situation existed in Russian and the Ukraine, but the Bolsheviks for several years preferred to let people starve than permit American food distribution.

The American relief efforts during World War is one of the most astonishing humanitarian actions in human history. Some 300 million lives may have been saved. The United States did nothing short of preventing an entire continent from starving. Nothing like this had ever before even been conceived of--let alone attempted. America not only attempted it, but suceeded. The effort began to feed German-occupied Belgium. This in itself would have been a huge accomplishment, but Belgian Relief set in motion America's effort to save an entire continent. A host of American chairitable organizations collected supplies and money. The U.S. Food Administration and the American Relief Administration added crucial government support. The U.S. Government turned to an unknown mining enginer, Herbert Hoover, who coordinated Belgian Relief to oversee America's efforts to save Europe. The American Red Cross played a major role in distributing the supplies. this effort. The Red Cross did not just conduct programs at home or for American soldiers overseas. It played a major role in American relief efforts overseas that prevented millions of Europeans from starving. This was because of its overseas organization, made it the organizational infrastructure to handle food and other relief programs. This was especially the case after America entered the War. Many charitable and volunteer groups organized drives to collect funds, food, medical suplies, blankets, clothing. For example the food here was collected and packaged by the Greek War Relief Association. Such groups, however, had no way of getting the food and other relief supplies to Europe and destributing it there. It was the Red Cross that proved to have the cability to deliver the relief supplies to desperate Europeans. It essentially acquired this role by default. American Relief started in Belgium with private donations. Eventually the U.S. Food Administration got involved, putting Government resources behind the relief effort. Just about every European country received American war relief and the Red Cross became the major American orgnization distributing food and other relief abroad: Armenians, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Serbia. The food went to all kinds of distribution points, including food kitchens, schools, and orphanages. It was a major salvation for refugees, but also civilian populations that had not been displaced, but were experiencing severe food shortages because of the War. Here we have information on about 20 coyntries America assisted. This is only part of theceffort which reached 33 different countries.


The Ottoman actions against the Armenians was widely published in the Western media. The resulting publicity generated considerable support for the Armenians. Relief funds were collected to aid those Armenians who managed to escape from Turkey. One of the most important groups was in the United States was Near East Relief. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. urged the U.S. government to act. One of those actions was to provide emergency humanitarian assistance. The Department of State asked the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions to urgently collect funds. James L. Barton and Cleveland H. Dodge led the effort and founded the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (1915). President Woodrow Wilson supported the effort. The Committe held well publicized public rallies to save "the starving Armenians". They convinced churches throughout the country to take collections. The Committe also received extensive support from many charitable organizations and foundations. The Committee succeeded in raised millions of dollars. Because America was still neutral, The Committee was able to forward funds to the American Embassy in Constantinople which used missionaries and consuls to reach the Armenians. The Turks did much of the the actual killing in Anatolia. Armenians who reached other sections of the Ottomon Empire (such as Syria and Palestine) could be saved with the Committee's finds. The United States entered the War (April 1917) thus cutting this conduit to the Armenians. The Committe was only able to resume its operations after the War. The Committe after the War provided aid to Armenians who had fled to Russian-controlled areas. The Committe was renamed the American Committee for Relief in the Near East (1918). Congress incorporated the Committee as the Near East Relief (NER) (1919). This guaranted the NER the sole right to use the name in fund raising efforts. The NER under its various names collected and distributed $117 million to assist the Armenian people. That doesn't sound like much today, but in 2000 dollars that was probably close to $2 billion. The aid was delivered in various forms, including food, clothing, and various materials for shelter. Such aid arrived by the shipload. The NER established and supported refugee camps, clinics, hospitals, orphanages, and vocational training facilities. The NER helped save an estimated 132,000 Armenian orphans in the Near East. Many of the Armenians who survived the Turtkish genocide did no because of the NER. Large numbers of the people in modern Armenian have ancestors sho were saved or aided by the NER. The NER finally closed its oprtations (1930).


Austria was a new republic formed out of the German-spealimg western area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the World War I Central Powers. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had been a major European power for centuries, but it was a laregly agricultural power and failed to industrialize lik Germany to the north. Most of the indutry was in the Czech lands of Bohemia. Austrian itself was primarily agricultural with craft manufacturing. While agricultural, austrian farms were no particulaly efficent. Thus Vienna and other cities imported food from the grain producing eastern ares of the Empire. Unlike Germany, the Empire as a whole was self suffucent in food production and exported food to Germany. The Empire was part of the Central Powers and Germany supported it's desire to punish the Serbs for the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (June 1914). The result was World War I. Like Germny, Austria mobilized expecting a short war. And like Germany, Austria Hungary failed to adopt polices to maintain its agricultural production. Harvests fell dramatically due the War or better stated austrin mimanagement of the war effort. The shrinking food supply combined with the unequal distribution at the Imperial, provincial, regional and local levels generated inreasing discontent. The population faced daily struggles for food resulted in the fragmentation of the Imperil structure. The food distribution system broke down in Russia and the Ottoman empire first, but the same eventually occured in Austria-Hungary as well. By the end of the War, people throughout the Empire were hungary, some starving. And the sitution was the wort in Austria, especially Vienna which before the war relied on the grain producing reas in the eastern part of the Empire. One author reports that the quota alloctions in Austria was bout 30 percent below that of the Hungarian quotas. [Schulze, pp. 94–96.] Food shortages in addition to the terrible war casualties were the major reason for the collapse of the Empire. The Austro-Hungarian armies were battered, but with with German support were not defeated in the field. Instead they desintegrted with the major ethnic groups forming or joining national states (Czechoslovkia, Hungary, Poland, Romanua, and Yugoslavia). Austria was the smllest of the states and sufferd economic locations as it was now cut off economically from the larger part of its former empire. And in the aftermath of the War there were serious food shortages. A surprising resurer appeared, Austria's former enemy--the United States. The Amerikanisch Kinder Hilfs Aktion began distributing food in Vienna and other cities.


Herbert Hoover after assisting Americans stranded in Europe at the onset of world War I, helped organize the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) (October 1914). The purpose was to provide food relief for occupied Belgium and Belgian refugees. The CRB fed millions of people in Belgium and occupied northern France (1914-18). Americans raised money, obtained food, shipped the food past the British naval blockade and prwling German submarines, and supervised the distribution of the food by the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation. The CRB shipped 5.7 million tons of food to Belgium, much of it was flour. The flour was packaged in cotton bags by American mills. In addition to the flour itself, the CRB also monitored by the CRB since cotton could be used in the manufacture of German ammunition. The empty flour sacks were distributed to professional schools, sewing workrooms, convents, and artists. When the United States entered the war, Belgian relief was turned over to the Comité Hispanico-Hollandais. This had figurehead directors (the king of Spain and the queen of Holland). Hoover continued to actually oversee the effort to aid Belgium and the food continued to come from America. The CRB continued to function through 1919. Some 2.5 million tons of food worth $300 million fed some 10 million people in Belgium and France, about 7 million of that total were Belgians. This is an extrodinary figure give that that the 1914 population of Belgium was only about 7.5 million people. The American effort was an exceptional, unpresedented indertaking and 'constituted a superb accomplishment, technically, morally, and practically'. [Burner]


Bulgaria had not yet revovered from the Balkans War when World War I broke out. It at first remained neutral, but saw the opportunity to regain lost territory by joining the Cental Powers (1915). The country had lost some of its most valuable farm lands in the Balkan Wars. The country was a poor, largely agricultural country of only 4.5 million people. It mobilized a 0.8 million man army, am incredible effort by such a large country. The Germans provided modern arms and equipment. World War I, however, was not like the relatively short Bakan Wars. And the country was not prepared to keep its huge army under arms for an extended period. The conscription of rural workers affected agicultural productivity. Foods supplies were also reduced by black markert shopping. Germny was unable to supply the Bulgars with food or with adequate arms. Thus there were shortges of food as well as equipmen by the last year of the war (1918). The Army reported shortages of basic equipment, especiall boots because of leather shortages. The Army had to feed the soldiers corn bread with perhaps a little meat. By the final mnonths of the War, some 0.9 million Bulgars were still under arms--almost 40 percent of the country's male population (autumn 1918). The Bulgars suffered 0.3 milliom casualties with 0.1 million killed. This was the cgreates prportionasl losses of any World War I combsatant country. It created a severe food problem. Bad weather and shortages of farm labor caused a 50 percent frop nin the all-imprtant grain harvest. A run away infltion add to the food and fuel problems, especilly in the cities. Women's food riots began in the cities (early 1917).


The Austro-Hungarian Empire was one of the countries that did not take effective steps to maintain food production during World War I. The heavy war losses and food shortages resulted in a collapse of the Empire. One of the sucessor states was Czechoslovakia. Only after the War could Ameican food relief could reach the Czechs. The United States at first did not want to break up the Empire, nut when Germany prevented The Empire from seeking terms, the United Ststes began woking to undermine the Empire. Even before establishing formal relations with Czech autjorities, the United Dttes began provbiding financial aid. The Czecho-Slovak Council received the first Americn loan for Czech egion operations in Russia (1918). [Polišenská, p.46.] With the end of hostilities (November 1918). American Relief Administration (ARA) Herbert Hoover sert up an office in Prague (February 1919). [Murphy, p. 114.] ARA efforts in Central Europe were directed at rebuilding commercial links so as to start reconstruction and prevent hunger, poverty and political radicalism. Getting food to children was high priortity. [ARA] We note photographs of Czech children waiting at an American Red Cross soup station in Prague after the War, some time in 1919-20. Most of the food destributed by the Red Cross was provided by American food relief -- the U.S. Food Administration). We are guessing that the mobile feeding station and the truck (you can see the tire and bumper) was American also supplied by American food relief. American experts help restore Bohemian industry and commerce in the region. The new Czechoslovak Government negotited n American loan to purchase raw cotton for the country's textile industry. [Bane and Lutz, pp. 686–703.] These ininitil steps layed the foundtiom for expanded cooperation. American experts became better acquainted for the region's economic and political envirinment.


The 1905 Russian Revolution swept through the Tsarist Baltic provinces. There ewre dtrikes and demonstrations. The manor houses of Baltic German lanfoweners were burned dto yhe ground. Tsarist troops brutally supressed the uprising. but in the process raiicalized the Baltic peoples, intensifing resisdtance to Tsarist rule. Detsils varies, nut the same pricess occured throughout the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). World War I and the Russian Revolution opened a pth o independence, although they had to fight Bolshevik Armies to secure their independence. They received some suppotrt from he Allies. The War left the Baltics devestted, like the rest of Eastern Europe. There was a desperte need for food, medicine, nd other dsupplies. The new uthorities appealed for help. nd it modt csme from America. Herbert Hoover's ARA came to their aid. The ARA established feeding stations across the three Baltic republics. The ARA provided providing food for thousands of hungary children daily. There were also medical and dental programs. The ARA workers reported testimonials and festivities honoring the ARA effort. We do not, howeever, have details on the ARA work on Estonia.


The United States was unable to get food relief to Finland during World War I, at the time part of the Tsarist Empire. This was simewhat complicated by Tsarist efforts to supress Funnish nationalism. The German dominated the Baltic approches to Finnish ports. And during the War, Finnish contacts with the Gerrnmans were fiannly possivle, especially after the departure of German troops. We do not yet have the full story. To help deal mwith the acute food shortage in Finland, the United States from 1918 to 1920 exported 170,000 metric tons of grain and foodstuffs to Finland. [Golden] This was part of the overall ARA efforyt. After the immeduate post-War crisis, the United States offered long term low-interest credits. Finland borrowed nearly $US 8 million dollars (1918-2?) to deal with severe food shortages. Remember in assessing the anout that these were dollars st the time. In modern currenvy the actually value would be far greater. The loans were to be repaid over a 62-year period, with an interest rate of 3 percent for the first 10 years, and 3.5 percent for the remaining period. Finland was a rare country which paid off their World War I debt in full. In addition to the ARA effort. Private charities were also effort. The American Juniir Red Cross collected sclothing a school supplies for the children.


France's rich agicultural sector helped feed the country during World War I. France had industry, by it was more agricultural than either Brutain ior Germsny. Like other countries, however, food production declined. France concripted agricultural workers and had to feed a huge army, meaning unproductive workers. Thus France was not in a position to provide the massive food supplies neded by thec 2 million refugees, both Belgians and the population of northern France. Homes and other facilitues were opened throughout France for the refugees. America was in aposition to help. The American Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) also coordinated relief in northern France after 1915. This included both the Belgian and French refugees. The German invasion of northern France affected industrial production, but had less of an impact on agriculture. Private American ($3.6 billion) and British ($3 billion) war loans enabled France to maintain military production and import food. With American entry into the war, American food, money and raw materials flowed into France (1917). And the U.S. Goverment provided loans to support France. There was a very imprtant program organized by the red Cross to aid Picarrdy, a badly damaged are of northern France. It grew out of the Committee for Devestated France.


Highly industrialized Germany was one of the Ruropean countrie most vulneranle to food shortages. Germany wa not self sufficent in food production. It imported vast quantities of food from Russia -- the European bread basket. And also from from other countries through maritime commerce, primarily through the port of Hamburg. Going to war with Russia and Britain which had the naval power to blockade the North Sea (thus shutting down the port of Hamnburg) was thus a very risky undertaking. Kaiser Wilhelm decided to take yjat risk, calculating that the powerful German Army could gain a quick victory--as his grandfather had achievd in the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71). He was very nearly correct--almost. This time Germany bit off more than even its Army could achieve--war with Bitain, France, and Russia as well as other contries, and the Miracle on the Marne (September 1914) meant that there would be no quick victory,but rather a war of attriction. The Brutish immediately imposed an air tight North Sea blockade cutting off food and other citically needed resources. Germany did not have the resources the Allies had and could import food and raw materials from America and the Empire. The food situation is the reason that the Germany Army as they marched through Belgium, seized the civilian food supply--creating a humanitarian crisis. This fundamentally changed the image of the German nation around the world, most importantly the United States which had a huge German ethnic population and might have been expected to be sympthetic to Germany. Germany attempted to deal with the food situation, introducing government controls on both food production and dustribution. Many of these policies proved to be badly thought out and only worsened the developing shortages. Germany did not even effectively utilize the capacity of its agricultural sector. Conscripting farm workers and not maintaining inputs into the agricultural sector (fertilizer, livestock, machinery, etc.) mean that harvest levels declined. The Germans produced substitute (ersatz) foodstuffs from a variety of unappealing ingredients. Not only did the Germans not like them, but their nutritional value was negligible. Food shortages began to develop very quickly in Germany and became steadily worse. The Germans expeienced the dreadful Turnip winter (1916). But unlike Belgium, there was no country motivated to help them. Thy had cut themselves off from Russian food and maritime imports because of the British North Sea Blockade. As a result, not only did shortages develop, but significnt malnourishment became a problem by 1916. By the end of the War Germaby was starving along with much of the Continent that the Germans had occupied. America had not attempted to help the Germans duing the War. This changed, however, with the end of the War and the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty (1919). The German food experience during the War was understood by Hitler and would become part of his planning for World War II. He was detemined that thee would be no food shortages in Germany again.


The Greek-Turkish War followed World War I. The Greeks believed that they could defeat the Turkish Army. They could not. After several defeats the Greeks agrreed to exchange populations. The Armistice of Mudanya (near Bursa) ended the fighting between Greece and Turkey (October 1922). The Greek troops withdrew beyond the Maritsa River. The Turks occupied eatern Thracee. The Turks as part of the Armistice accepted a continued Allied presence on the straits and in Istanbul until a comprehensive peace settlement could be negotiated. Large areas of western Turkey were cleated of Greeks. Much of the Greek population of Anatolia left with the retreating Greek Army or in the repressions and forced resettlements conducted by the Turks after the war. The process created a huge refugee problem, especially in Greece which received the largest number of refugees. The population exchanges created a huge refugee problem--more than a million people that had to be cared for and resettled. This would have been a problem for any country--but Greece was a very small country of less than 6 million. There are few instances in history where such a small country had to care for so many refugees. In fact there is no way Greece could have cared for these people. Greece was not self-suficent in food production, and adding a million poeople who had to be fed meant that tens of thousnds if not more would have starved. Adding to the problen, most of the military-age men had been killed or taken prisoner. This meant that the refugees were mostly women, children and elderly--meaning people who were mot capable of supporting themselves in the best of circumstances. Again as was the case throughout World War I, it was Aamerica that prevented mass starvation. Fortunately American relief workers in place, in part because of the Armenian Genocide. The British, French, and Italian Governments or private groups in those countries showed little interest in interveming. The American Government and private chritable groups in America did act. Not only did American naval personnel help feed and evacuate Greeks from Symrna, but the American Red Cross and Near East Relief provided vital food and supplies to the refugeees that reached Greece. One source estimates that hinresa of housnds of lives were saved among the refugees from Asia Minor, Pontus, and Easten Thrace.


Hungary as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was one of the Central Powers. Like Austria the country did not have a substantial industrial sector. It had a largely agricultural economy. Despite the substantial agricultural sector, there were serious food shortages as a result of the war. Imperial policies had worsened the food situation. Very little thought seems to have been given to maintaining agricultural production. Drafting farm workers was a major cause of declining production. The resulting food scarcity was a major cause in the collapse of the Haspsburg monarchy. Independent Hungary after the war faced a serious food crisis. ARA Director Hoover wanted to aid the Hungarians, but Britain and France were reluctant to support aid efforts to its former enenies, especially until a peace treaty was signed. The ARA focus was on Central Europe, but could not reach Hungary for nearly a year after the War. The Allied embargo remained in force during the Armistice Period, meaning from the signing of the Armistice (November 1918) until the signing of the Peace Treaty (June 1919). Relief was further delayed by Béla Kun's Communist coup and creation of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Only with the fall of Kun was the blockade lifted and American relief activities began (August 1919). The first ARA representative reached Buapest only a few day after the fall of the Kun regime and the ARA progrm soon underway. The ARA relied heavily on the American Red Cross in its distributioj effort. The American food relief effort would continue into 1923. [Surface and Bland, p. 202.]


American began to provide food aid to Europe soon after the war began. What began as a small private operation turned into a major national effort conducted by the The United States Food Administration (USFA). The first such effort was to prevent starvation in Belgium. The German Army which occupied most of Belgium, seized control of the food stocks in the country. The United States during and after the War would privide food assistance that saved millions of Europeans. This included affter the War both Germany and the Soviet Union. We do not have many details yet on American food assistance to Italy. Italy was a largely agricultural country with some industry in the north. Despite having a largely agricultural economy, Italy was not self sufficent in food production. Once Italy entered the war on the allied side, Italian shipping became U-boat targets. And farm laborers were concripted for the military, sunstantially reducing the rural work force affecting both yields and harvests. This created a growing need for food from overseas. On the previous hime front page you can see food being distrubuted by the American Red Cross at a Croce Rossa Americana / Cucina Economica -- meaning American Red Cross Economic (free or inexpensive) Kitchen. Here you see an unidentified American Red Cross worker in Belluno during 1917-18 (figure 1). The Red Cross was aprivate charity, non-governmental organization (NGO) in modern parlance. The food it distributed, however, came primarily from the U.S. Government USFA. In addition to American Government programs, there was also funds collected in Italian emigrant communities to assist needy Italians. Italians were one of the largest immigrant group at the time, with many people still having close ties to family and friends and thus a strong desire to help.


We do not yet have details on the ARA work in Latvia. See 'Estonia' above for a description of the general pattern in the Baltics.


We have not found much infomation on American feeding programs in the Baltics, including Lithunia. The Baltics like most of Poland had been part of the Tsarist Empire. We know there was extensive feeding progrms focusing on children. Of the three Baltic replublics, Lithuania was a little different because of its historic association with Poland. There was no clear boundary between Lithunia and Poland. In border areas the population was mixed. And much of Lithuania like Poland was within the Pale of Settlement. This meant that there was a substantial Jewish population. As a result the Joint provide relief support for Jews. No American Goverment relief effiorts were possible until after the Armistice (November 1918). We note the American Relief Committe feeding children (August 1919). This seems similar to the ARA operations in Poland. Even after the War there were complications, howver, as the Bolsheviks tried to retake Poland and the Baltics. As far as we know there were no destributions in Bolshevik controlled areas. The Bolsheviks refued to allow it. Despite dire need, the Bolsheviks regarded the ARA as a hostile entity. We also notice Red Cross nurses operating in Lithuania, although we have few details. Nurses did not only work in hospitals, but were involved in relief work as well. Red Cross nurse Cora Elm serving in France had her passport validated for Lithusnia, Latvia, and Russia. We think the Russian validation was a optimisic assessment of the ability to get into Russia to assist the Russian people. We are not sure she used that passport because she married (1921). [Relief workers]


Serbia and Montenegro were two of the countries most devestated by the War and the Central Powers occupation. The Allies were not able to get supplies into Serbia and Montenegro. America which was still neutral could. Dr. Charles B. Penrose helped organize A Montenegin Committee in America (January 1916). It acted much like Belgian Relief to provide ememerncy aid to the war torn country. Mrs. John C. Groome served as Chairman. Queen Milena award her the deciration of the Montenegrin Red Cross (PWHC). One American Red Cross worker began his Red Cross service in Pech and Jacovitza, Montenegro, on June 18, 1915. The journal describes the cleaning, fumigating, sterilizing, and whitewashing of local hospitals and public building as well vaccinations, bathing facilities, and other sanitation work. He went on to work in Serbian until being ovrrrun bythe advancing Bulgarian Army. [Osborn] When America declared war (April 1917), these deliveries could not longer reach Montenegro. This only changed with liberation at the end of the War. Much of the relief supplies including food, meivine, and warm clothing came from America. The American Red Cross (ARC) played a major role in the relief efforts. The ARC reports, "In the fall of 1918 a commission was sent to Greece, and early in 1919, with the opening up of large territories occupied by the Central Powers during the war, units were sent to North Serbia, Roumania, Montenegro and Albania to combat conditions beyond description. However, the work of these units was hardly well under way by February 28, 1919, hence a record of things accomplished must be omitted from this report. The appropriations for the Balkan States recorded on page 66 include $2,550,489.99 for expenditure by these units." [ARC]


The Netherlands with the outbreak of the War declared its neutrality. The Dutch by thus time had come to see neutrality as a governing principle of Dutch foreign policy. Neutrlity does not mean that the War that rageing all around them was not affected by the War. Huge number of Belgian civilins fled the Germns and crossed over into the Netherlands. The Dutch set up temporary camps along the Belian border. The Dutch were not self suffient in food production and food had to be found for the refugees. The Dutch economy also declined. The Netherlands was atraing and maritime nation. The British embrgo and German U-boat attacks thus adversely affected the Dutch economy. Unemployment climbed meaning people had troubke affording food. Food supplies plummetd. The Govrnment introduced rationing. Food riots broke out in Amsterdam and Rotterdam (1917-18).



American Relief efforts began in Belgium soon after the war erupted (August 1914). Belgium was a relatively easy country to get to as it was close to Britain and bordered on France. Soring out arrangements so the food would not fall in German hands was complicated, but worked out. Other countries were much more difficult to reach and this included Poland whoch was not yet a country when the war began. Polnd was a major battlefround on the Eastern Fron (1914-15). Relief agencies in Poland were overwealmed and the Germans controlled food supplies. Polish grops in America collected relief supplies and money. The problem was that Germany stood between Poland and ports the United States could use to deliver the food. Hoover worked up a plan to use the Dutch port of Rotterdam. Monitoring food shipments to Belgium was one thing, doing it across Germany and into German-occupied Poland was quite a differnt matter and as a result the British opposed the Ameican plan. It would have required a staff monitiring the food to an extent that Germany would not permit. Hoover continued to press, convincing the Bitish. His efforts failed, however, when the Germans demanded some of the food be used for their occupation forces. Hoover continued to press, but the effort had to be shelved when America entered the War (April 1917). As a result, it was not possible to aid Poland until after the War ended (November 1918). With the end of the war, the United states wouund down the USFA, but created a sucessor organization to deal with post-War relief--the American Relief Administration (ARA) (February 1919). USFA Director Herbert Hoover was put in charge. The ARA inherited the USFA staff with extenive relief experience. The ARA was funded by both the U.S. Congress and private donations. Poland wss a major relief priority because of the desperate need. The ARA eventually provided food to 23 countries, but about 20 percent went to war-torn Poland which had been a major battle ground on the Eastern Front. At the end of the War, the Second Polish Republic was founded making Poland a nation again for the first time since the 18th century Polish partitions. And as result fighting resumed, the Germans withdrew except forsime birder areas, but the Bolsheviks were determined to quash an independent Poland--resulting in the Polish-Soviet war. ARA assistance in Polnd went primarily to children. And as in other areas was mostly distributed by the Red Cross. Some of the food got to Polish soldiers fighting the Bolsheviks. The desperately needed food saved millions of lives. Polish President Józef Piłsudski wrote to Hoover thanking him. A street in Warsaw was named after him. Hoover was awarded honorary degrees from Jagiellonian University, Warsaw University and Lviv University. Colonel Alvin B. Barber headed the ARA group in Poland (1919-22). A Commission for Polish Relief (CPR) also called Comporel or the Hoover Commission was organized after the outbreak of World War II and provided relief supplies to the Poles, including Jews until Hitler declared war on America (December 1941).


We have been able to find information on many of the countries assisdted by the American ARA after the War. For some reason, we have been able to find very little on Romania. We know that W.N. Haskell headed the ARA unit in Romania (1919). As in other countries, the ZRA reloed heavily on Anerican Red Cross volunteers. And we have found a Red Cross photograph with this caption. "Economy on Roumania is practiced by the women of the country to an alarming degree. So prohibitive, for example, are the prices of clothes that they are far beyond the means of the poor. To save what few clothes the members of their families possess the children are sometimes sent out nude in the summer weather. In this way their mothers expect to save them warm garments for the winter months. A report sent to the Paris headquarters of the American Red Cross from Roumania representatives states that naked children are common sights in the streets of Bucharest. Several trainloads of clothing were sent out to better the condition of these people, who but for the aid of the Red Cross would be compelled to face the coming winter with little protection from exposure."


The American relief mission was overseen by Herbert Hoover. As terrible as the Civil War was, the loss of life could have been much worse. The American Relief Administration (ARA) had offered Russia food relief in 1919, despite the Bolshevik takeover. The Bolsheviks rejected the offer because of the terms involved. The ARA insisted that an American overseer was to be in charge of all food stations to ensure that the food was not distributed on a political or religious basis. The Bolsehvicks in 1921 changed their minds. Faced with a severe famine as a result of their Civil War and a severe drought, the Bolsheviks accepted the American terms. When a critic inquired if he was not thus helping Bolshevism, Hoover retorted, "Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!" As in Europe, American food again played a role in saving millions of children and adults (1921-22). One author claims that the American food deliveries may have even saved the Soviet regime. [Salisbury, p. 442.] There were in deed worker strikes as well as a Navy mutiny at Krondstadt (Fenruary 1921). We are not sure the American relief saved the Bolshevik regime. There is no doubt, however, that it saved millions of starving Russians. Few Russians today are not rekated to a relative saved by American food aid. This American undertaking was written out of Russian history by Soviet historians during the Stalinist era. The mere mention of it could earn a term in the Gulag or worse. As a result, few Russians know about it today.


Serbia had one of the worst refugee problems of the war. The Serbian Army was defeated, but refused to surreber, they actually retrated out if thecountry. Many civliians tried to accomoany them into the Albanian mountains, but there were no provisions to care for them, and no wa to feed them. There was hoirific trek over the mountains to awaiting Allied shios. The casualties were horenbdous. As much as one-third of the population is believed to have been displace for at least some time. And the Central Powers occupation was very harsh. Not only was there repression, summary execution, but also the occupation forces took as mich food and resources out of Srbia as possible, creating near famine conditions during the 3 years of occupation. A Serbian author writes, " In this very year (1917) there was a drought that can never be forgotten. A frost and then a drought destroyed everything. Even had there nor been a war, hunger would have invaded us. People ate wild herbs and sawdust made from beechwood .... It was then for the first time that we spoke of death. [Djilas, p. 101.] TheAustrians and Germans quarled over the spoils. The Austrisan commsnder, Gen. Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, ordered that Serbia's resources be 'squeezed dry' regardless of the consequences for the population. [Calic & Geyer, p. 157.] Reports of famine reached the internationsl press, campaigns were mounted demnding relief for Serbia like rhe efforts for Belgium. The CRB expanded its efforts to northern France where both Belgian and Fench refugees were located. Other efforts to assust refuges and people suffering because of the war proved more difficult, including efforts to aid the Serbs Hoover wanted to expand the CRB to get relief supplies into occupied Poland and Serbia. Efforts to help the Poles during the war floundered on both British and German opposition, efforts to help the Serbs might have suceeded. The Serbs were fighting allies and the British were more disposed to assisting them. Hoover believd, however, decided that getting relief supplies to the Serbs during the war was just too complicated. He was also disturbed by British efforts to tie Polish relief to Balkans relief. Relief shipoments did not begin to arrive until the end of the War when the Allied offensuve from Salonika finally beoke through the Bulgarian liners (September 1918). Reserves from Germany were unabke to stop the Allies klarsing to the laiberatioin of Serbia (October 1918). We still have no information on the Serbian relief efdort, but Amerucan food suppolies weere soon reachung the Serbs.


American Relief Administration (ARA). "The American Relief Administration in Czecho-Slovakia: Aa sketch of the child-feeding operations of the A.R.A. mission to Czecho-Slovakia, 1919-1921," (New York, N.Y.: 1921). .

American Red Cross (ARC). "A statement of finances and accomplishmentsfor the period July 1, 1917 to February 28, 1919 Ch. 5 Work elsewhere overseas" (October 1919).

Bane, Suda L. and ‎Ralph H. Lutz. (Eds.) Organization of American Relief in Europe, 1918–1919 (Stanford: Stanford University Pres, 1943).

Burner, David. Herbert Hoover: A Public Life (1979).

Calic, M.J. and D. Geyer. A History of Yugoslavia Central European studies (Purdue University Press: 2019).

Djilas, Milovan. Land Without Justice..

Glant, Tibor. "Herbert Hoover and Hungary," Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS) Vol. 8, No. 2, (Fall, 2002), pp. 95-109.

Golden, Nancy L. "The United States and Finland: An Enduring Relationship, 1919 –1989," Office of the Historian, Department of State (19=89).

Murphy, Elizabeth Anne. "Initiative help: United States-Czechoslovak relations from Versailles to Munich," A PhD Dissertation theses. (Cornell University, 1999).

Osborn, Stanley Hart. "A diary of the American Red Cross Sanitary Commission to Serbia 1915-16, (1915-17). Osborn had to leave Sebia and Montenegron after the two ckuntries were occupied by he Central Powers.

Polišenská, Milada. Diplomatické vztahy Československa a USA 1918–1938 (Praha: Libri, 2012).

Schulze, Max Stephan. "Austria-Hungary’s economy in World War I," in Stephen N. Broadberry and Mark Harrison, eds. The Economics of World War I (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge/New York, 2005).

Surface, Frank M. and Raymond L. Bland, "American Food in the World War and Reconstruction Period: Operations of the Organizations under the direction of Herbert Hoover, 1914 to 1924" (Stanford: 1931).

"Relief workers. "American women in World War I" (October 16, 2017).


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Created: 8:26 AM 3/16/2016
Last updated: 2:19 AM 11/11/2022