United States Post World World War I Relief Efforts: European Relief Council (1919-22)

Figure 1.--With the end of the World War I, American food aid could finally reach the starving people of Centrl and Eastern Europe. Poland was in especially desperate circumstances. Much of the fighting in the East had been fought on Polish soil. There was huge destruction and dislocation. Agricultural havests plummeted. Here we see Polish children receiving American food aid through the European Relief Council. The caption read, "More Polish children being saved from starvatiom by European Relief Council." The photograph was probably taken in 1920 and added to the NEA archive January 22, 1921.

The European Relief Council (ERC) was an American umbrella organization to coordinate the fund raising activities of American charitable relief organizations. American rlief efforts began during World War I and focused on beligered Belgium. Aid eas also delivered to France and Italy, but the War prevented aid to much of the rest of Europe. With the end of the War, it became possible to aid all of Europe which was starving becuse the War has seriously impaird agricultural production. The ERC was called European because that was where the relief was needed. The ERC was organized to lauch a coordinated charitable drive in America. Some $40 million were collected, an enormous sum at the time. The funds were turned over to the American Relief Administration for distribution in Europe. The mandate as to focus on saving children. [Bane and Lutz, p. 5.] The ERC members included: American Friends Service Committee, American Red Cross, American Relief Administratiom, Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, Joint Distribution Committee, Knights of Columbus, National Catholic Welfare Cojuncil, Young Men's Christian Asociation, and the Young Women's Christian Association. Notice that most of the members were religious groups. Nost were Christian groups. The Joint Distribution Committee was a Jewish group. These were the most important groups in American committed to saving European children. Through the Council, these groups organizedan a joint appeal to the americn people an publicize the desperate need of European children. The Council elected Herbert Hoover Chairman and Franklin K. Lane Treasurer. Relief assistance in 1921 was delivered to: Albania, Austria, Turkey (Constantinople), Czechoslovakia, France (northern area), Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Danzig (Free Sity), Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Palestine, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Yugoslavia. There was a special program for Russian refugee children. There were also programs for refugees in Shanghai and Vladisvostock. Notice that Belgium was no on the list. That was because by 1921 Belgium had began to recover and was able to feed itself. These were refugees that had made in to the Pacific across the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The Literary Digest helped publicize the desperat need and collect money.


Bane, Suda Lorena and Ralph Haswell Lutz. Organization of American Relief in Europe, 1918-1919: Including Negotiations Leading Up to the Establishement of the Office of Director General of Relief at Paris by the Allied and Associated Powers (Stanford University Press, 1943).


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Created: 10:24 PM 4/28/2017
Last updated: 10:24 PM 4/28/2017