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tv   Herbert Hoover and World War I Humanitarian Aid  CSPAN  August 27, 2015 8:00pm-10:00pm EDT

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tomorrow, on c-span 3 between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., a collection of ceremonies this year in washington, including a portrait unveiling at the house judiciary committee for long time member congressman john coniers. next, a discussion on u.s. humanitarian aid to belgium in the early years of world war i led by herbert hoover. prior to serving as the 31st president, herbert hoover headed the commission for relief in belgium. it provided humanitarian aid to german-occupied belgium during the early years of world war i. coming up next, a panel discusses the history of the commission, herbert hoover's leadership, and the american volunteers who went to belgium to help. the herbert hoover presidential
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library and museum hosted this event. >> it is my very great pleasure to introduce the speakers today, who will present. i've known them all for quite sometime. now my age, quite sometime means some indefinite number of years between five and ten. i met each as they came to the herbert hoover library. now, i'm thrilled to introduce them and give them a chance to share with everyone, with you. i sometimes lead tours in the galleries here. i led one this morning. when i get to the world war i era and talk about the crb, i speak of hoover feeding millions, hoover organizing, hoover, hoover, hoover, and it is the hoover presidential library. but even as i'm giving this speech, i realize i'm doing a disservice to the hundreds of americans and thousands that were the boots on the ground for
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the commission of relief for belgium. each of those people have a story, thousands of stories. these four have made a study of that, and they're going to share them be you today. our first speaker brenden little came here as he was doing research. he was working files there. he found an early history of the crb. this lead to further research, further inquiry. he came out here a couple of times on herbert hoover grants. it covers 50 years of humanitarian relief. it explains what i call the creation story of the crb in the context of many competing agencies, the many difficulties of feeding people in world war i, and the pivotal role played by the crb in shaping later
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humanitarian efforts. jeff miller, our second speaker, came to hoover sometime ago to discuss the possibility of donating his grandfather's books to the library. his grandfather, milton brown, was deeply involved in the crb. in addition to the books, kept a diary among others. one of the women that jeff will introduce you to kept diaries as well. jeff said, i'd really like --
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the one book project is now -- three. it is a damn fine read. it tells the story vividly. it's a grim tale, but it is told well. it is one of the best books of 2014. it is available in our gift shop. 16.95, 17.95. 16.95 and jeff will autograph it if you ask him nicely. tom westerman came to the hoover library on a hoover foundation grant while working on his phd at yukon. it laid the ground work for his article. tom puts a human face on humanitarians. when i think of humanitarians, i
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think of larger than life, better than people humans. tom talks about these people who are now across the water for the first time and in addition to doing their food relief work are just purist and engaging with the belgian community in different ways. he argues in this article and proves to me that the crb forged for these men a new identity. hoover men. they were hoover men then and they were hoover men until the day they died. bound by this common experience, they are always part of hoover's circle. tom himself was a belgian-american education foundation scholar. spent a year in belgium studying his first doctorate. the baf fellows was created out of the remaining money when the
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crb disincorporated in 1920. it was hoover's idea at that time to set up an exchange program to bring american scholars to belgium and belgian scholars to america. our final speaker, tammy proctor, who again came to the hoover library sometime ago to do research on civilians in world war i. tammy and my wife's paths kept crossing. my wife and i spoke at her college, whittenburg, on archives and the shaping of history, a grand tour topic we thoroughly enjoyed. we kept running into each other at conferences. since we've met, tammy has written four books.
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she has written "scouting for girls, a history of girl guides and scouts," and "on my honor." i read her article, a recent article, on the destruction and the rebuilding of the lavon library in belgium. i thought i knew this topic well, and i came away with three new ideas. hats off to teaching me something i did not know about a topic i knew very well. our symposium is being held today in conjunction with our summer exhibit. our speakers will offer these insights i often don't do on my tour about the crusaders -- this band of crusaders who worked to feed those in need. i hope you'll come away with appreciation with the crb's most
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effective human angels. [ applause ] >> well, thank you, matt, and thank you, tom. thank you for having me here today. it is an honor and a pleasure to speak with you. frankly, i think it is one of the best archive cities in the world. they're unmatched. they're unparalleled. thank you, matt, for making a historians job, which can be treacherous and full of drudgery, making it thoroughly enjoyable process.
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have you ever wondered when the idea emerged that in the middle of a war or in the aftermath of a disaster that humanitarian aid would be overflowing? we expect such things today, but this was not always so, so when did this humanitarian awakening again? over a decade ago while i was a graduate student, i became interested in these questions in part by stumbling across humanitarian aid as an idea and as a project and looking specifically at the way in which americans got involved in feeding belgium. it was a story i had never heard before, and i was captivated then and i remain captivated still. now the individuals featured here on this slide are some of those very same individuals who helped feed a nation during a war, during an era prior to the internet, prior to the
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conveniences of cellular phones. i plan to tell a story now that reveals that when saving lives amidst a catastrophe became a driving force. let us first consider some of the immediate catalysts for humanitarian intervention in the first world war. including some of the processes that awakened humanitarian sympathies. first, reflexively, communities across the globe offered aid to soldiers, whom they understood would be harmed by the violence of war, but communities across the world also offered aid to civilians. the reason being is that total war in the first world war
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engulfed entire societies, so civilian populations became a source of humanitarian concern perhaps in ways they had not been nearly as prominent before. a second catalyst for humanitarian intervention was the refugee. in the first world war, there were over 15 million people displaced from their home. they all had this vast flood. americans constituted a minor stream, but that one stream proved extremely powerful in awakening the united states government and american society to a reality of a world at war. the united states in the very first weeks of the war would dispatch a relief commission. the warship here is the flagship of that, the uss tennessee. it was sent to facilitate the
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exodus of 125 americans who had been stranded at war's outbreak. this awakened american society to the reality of not only this refugee crisis, but the broader humanitarian dimensions of this enlarging conflict. it was hard not to pay attention to the refugee crisis in the united states. it was predominantly an immigrant nation, perhaps more so than today. the third catalyst in the awakening of humanitarian interests and intervention was hunger and the crcb. he did so in 1914. this program was called, of
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course, the commission for relief in belgium, the crb, and the focus of this presentation today. the central point i'd like to make about this remarkable organization is that its successful nation-feeding operations encouraged imitators. in 1950, for example, the rockefeller foundation, a pioneering giant in the field of philanthropy and public health, seriously considered forming a commission for relief in poland based on the model hoover forged in belgium. you can see members of that rockefeller foundation engaging with german officials as they negotiated the formation or attempted formation of a crb.
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now the crb also emboldened war weary populations and their loved ones in the united states to solicit american aid. people became habituated to start to ask americans for aid as a result of what hoover was demonstrating in belgium. now, in truth feeding belgium was extraordinarily complicated and improbable. it's success was unlikely giving the unexpected challenges the war continued to present, but nevertheless hoover and his associated found a way to make it work. and because it was so successful, people understood it was at least possible that you could aid populations during a war. not just after, but during a war. people started to expect it should be doable and it should be forthcoming.
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not just could, but should be forthcoming. this was forever entrenched in international opinion. we live in a world that's been shaped powerfully by that expectation. belgian relief also shaped and influenced u.s. war policy by positioning americans as defenders of embattled civilian population. this theme of intersession on behalf of victims of war resonated in president wilson's message to congress in 1917 in which he proclaimed the need to make the world safe for democracy and to protect the rights for small nations, which you could translate to stopping aggressors and helping the noble. here on the left, we can see a poster. this is a u.s. liberty poster that came about after the united states declared war on germany.
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it evokes the concept of remembering german atrocities in belgium. it depicts the flames of a belgian city and a german soldier carrying off a young belgian girl to commit a dastardly crime. remember the alamo. remember the maine. remember belgium and fight to liberate belgians who are under the steel-toed boots of german oppression. on the far right, we see actually a u.s. food administration poster. now the food administration was actually formed during wartime by herbert hoover and his associates. many of the crb personnel ended up helping to populate and organize the food administration that managed national food production and consumption in a way that could satisfy the
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voracious appetites. you've already been doing it. just keep doing more of it. now the end of the war -- well, actually, i back up for just a moment. policemen and firemen of the world. what do i mean by that? teddy roosevelt advanced a concept of americans becoming a world police force. in effect, americans should intervene wherever there's unrest around the world for the sake of instilling stability and peace. guess what. during world war i, we can amplify this concept because of the humanitarian urgency of so many distressed people.
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the american population addresses the idea they become the firemen of the world. now the end of the war, which was signaled by an armistice in 1918, did not do much to stop the misery it had produced. no better illustration of the enduring humanitarian catastrophe can be found than the necessity to enlarge a humanitarian organization. this was called the american relief administration or the ara. now the ara was a bit like the crb but on steroids. it was bigger and more powerful, and it was a hybrid u.s. governmental, military, and private organization that fed tens of millions, tens of millions, of malnourished people in more than 20 war-devastated countries between 1919 and 1924.
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in the map and the poster in the foreground, feature ara food distribution channels in the early 1920s. unsurprisingly, hoover and his associate from the crb formed the leadership of these organizations, the u.s. food administration, and the american relief administration because they already developed the expertise. there are other organizations that try to replicate what hoover and his associates were doing. one of these is the international committee of the red cross in operations in post-war greece, and it failed miserably in its efforts to follow that recipe. one of the essential links to what i call the ongoing revolution in humanitarian affairs is the way in which emergency relief in the form of food and medical distribution necessitated larger economic
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reconstruction initiatives to deliver emergency supplies en masse. today we call this nation building. across the continent of europe, the ara rebuilt or improved national railway and telecommunication systems to facilitate the distribution of emergency supplies in tremendous quantities, so combatting famine required two things. finding an organization that could do the work. second, developing an infrastructure that would permit the distribution of relief supplies, which meant that american relief administrators worked so closely and were so enmeshed in european economics and politics that they understandably chafed local sensibilities wherever they were, even though they were working to save people's lives. from the standpoint of american aid organizers, their efforts
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would be wasted, absolutely wasted, if stable foundations for peace were not ensured, laying the ground work for stable political and economic development that diminished the likelihood of a recurrence of war. so remaking european society thoroughly infused all american humanitarians in this conflict. we could ask, well, what's the takeaway from the perspective of americans who do this relief work overseas mostly or facilitate it by supporting it in the united states? certainly, some ambulance driver e drivers saw their fill of carnage and wrote stories about the futility of war that created lingers impressions that americans simply wanted to distance themselves from a perpetually war-racked society.
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they did not feel their work was in vain. photographs of belgian children eating food and smiling with the stars and stripes confirmed for americans the value of ingratiating foreign populations and developing a love for american thanks to american generosity. now the memoirs of humanitarians associated with hoover, their letters to family and friends, their correspondence, their diaries, even their obituaries testify to their firm conviction that the most meaningful work they ever did was saving the lives of children like this, and we can find that type of everyday actually here at the hoover presidential library in its collection.
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how hoverover's deputies forged lifelong fraternity. they maintained alumni networks and kept in constant contact. now hoover called these individuals who worked with him a band of crusaders. they called him their chief, and they remained devoutly loyal to him for the rest of their lives. the great depression, the most harmful effects on hoover's representation did little to dampen their enthusiasm for his leadership. his crusaders felt differently. they truly did. there was one observer of hoover in this era who recognized this contrast between two divergent views of hoover. his name was joseph willard. in his post-war diary, ambassador willard described
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hoover as possessing no personal magnetism, but willard acknowledged anyone who has ever worked for hoover has become devoted add mirrmimireradmirers. not only did they remain devotees of his humanitarian stat statesmanship for the rest of their lives, but they became leaders in his agencies. the hoover men were not the only individuals involved in international aid projects. they weren't. but what distinguishes them from the constantly shifting leadership so many other relief societies is that the hooverians constituted a united front irrespective of u.s. governmental, international, or private relief activities in which they are associated well into the middle 20th century. the hooverians acted in concert
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to advance a common agenda in accordance with their chief's vision and principles relating to international security. here on the far right we see an ara association annual dinner from when? march 1941. not far before the united states had formally entered world war ii. imagine that they will join together again when a second world war breaks out. geopolitically hoover's band and many senior officials in the united states government ascribe to what i call the contagion theory of international relations. the line of reasons of this contagion theory as i would frame it goes something like this. war, revolution, natural disaster, governmental misrule produces great distress and that distress breeds radicalism,
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leads to unrest, and potentially violent. consequently hoover was concerned that world war i and other problems overseas would produce radicalism, produce violence, produce instability, and even encourage other populations to embrace commun m communism. woodrow wilson would state hunger does not breed reform. it breeds madness. in order to arrest the spread of disaster, american aid needed to be injected. if we were to use a medical metaphor, an injection or inoculation to cure these ailments. in the short-term, it might hurt, but in the long term there
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would be great effects. if you give a man bread, he won't turn red. it didn't turn out so well in soviet russia for hoover at least in the 1920s, but his confidence in this formula of american aid provides a baseline of stability so that prosperity can be achieved, that formula he remained unflinchingly convinced of for the rest of his life and his disciples did too. hitler's armies went on the rampage. as soon as war broke out, the second world war, hoover's network reconstituted itself. they formed a second commission for relief in belgium. they formed now a commission for relief in poland. they formed a finish relief fund. they formed, as the letterhead here says at the bottom, a
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national committee on food for the small democracies which were occupied by hitler's arms, so they reconstituted their organizations, or at least tried to, but discovered some impediments. that was ultimately the opposition of president roosevelt and the opposition of prime minister churchill to preventing aid on a scale in a similar fashion to the kind that was offered in belgium in world war i. roosevelt and churchill just simply blocked it. these organizations though in their infancy were hooverian. surprise, surprise. the individuals who wanted to reconstitute their former organizations and help the very same people they had helped before. but daunted in that inability to reconstitute large aid organizations, most hooverians found meaningful work in world war ii. another directed u.s. policy,
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u.s. government policy, with respect to war charities. a third, or several of them actually, managed and designed military government curriculum processes. where did they gain this expertise? from their experiences in world war i. during the second world war, hoover and his deputies labored to awaken american. they expected malnutrition would be raging across the world, that famine would spread, that diseases would spread, that communism would spread. honestly, few americans, at least in the war years themselves or in the immediate aftermath of the war, listened to them. revenge was an animating impulse or the desires for revenge.
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few people wanted to consider the possibility of treating the germans or especially the japanese in a nice way at war's end. but by 1947 something dramatic had happened. the occupied peoples of the axis countries grew angry. please send food because otherwise you need to send troop to maintain security in our occupied zone. americans had a lot of food. they didn't have that many troops as america's armies were demobilizing. hoover also warned about post-war famine conditions. 1/3 of the world were at risk for starvation, and this wasn't just his own idea. he had actually traveled on
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president truman's endorsement to evaluate world food conditions and world economic conditions to formulate the marshall plan. one of the reports that hoover would pen, the president's economic journey to washington. he's writing it for president truman. president, president. here he is tracing through the ruins of a german city. hoover's warning helped create a cris crisis mentality in washington to trigger a response. but we overlooked something essential with this vital program called the marshall plan, and that is it requires well-fed populations to do reconstruction work. hoover understood this first and foremost. if there's not food, people will not have the strength to rebuild
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anything. we could ask ultimately who are the people who did this work, who are the hooverians. let's highlight a few biographies in the u.s. government and related agencies during the second world war and beyond. on the upper right, we have a fellow named maurice pate. he started in the crb. he worked in poland with the ara. in the second world war, he works in a variety of these organizations in conjunction with his chief, who was hoover. he doesn't find a ready job, so he directs the red cross organization in shipping food. after the war and as a result of his wartime experiences, he would become the executive district director for a new organization called unicef. he remained in that organization for 18 years until he died in 1965. but everything he ever did in his life he credited to hoover.
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hallen tuck would also start in the crb. in world war ii he did the same types of things pate did, although he works in u.s. military government programs in the u.s. navy and army. he directs a new organization called the international refugee organization, establishes it to settle all these displaced people across europe in world war ii. then he steps into a u.n. relieves and works agency, which is alive and well today. arthur ringland started a little later working for hoover under the american relief administration. during the second world war, he managed u.s. policy from the state department, but he managed u.s. policy with respect to war charities. from that position, he would be the founding father of a new organization called care, established in 1945, to do what?
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send care packages overseas, which is where we get the term. we often think of it, but don't realize the connection. where does he get the idea for care? well, it's from the ara, and the ara provided the explicit model for care officials to send emergency food packages in the aftermath of war and to avert disaster. these are private initiatives or international initiatives supported fully by congress. on the far right, a fellow named alex smith in his older years. collectively, two leading legislators from new jersey and massachusetts would get policy support for hoover initiatives after world war ii. who funds unicef? the u.s. government does initially. why? herder and smith understand this holistic need to encourage
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prosperity and peace through food security. so american legislation, such as the mutual security assistance act, send tanks overseas to allies. also funds unicef to send milk overseas to children. the reason being is evidenced by letters like this in the middle by pate to his friend alex. it is basically to confirm the wisdom of continuing to send u.s. dollars to his friend's program. it's not just because they're friends. it's they agree upon the work. these guys helped to shape ultimately u.s. policy in the cold war to encourage american money for development programs, to encourage american initiatives in the developing world, as well as even encouraging american intervention ala teddy roosevelt. in the first world war, not all of this relief stuff is ad hoc,
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permanent. nobody expects to need to do it again. they don't want to do it again. but when world war ii rolls around and the cold war keeps it going, the hooverians decide to institutionalize these internationally. you can take a selection from just about every president and look at some key themes. basically emphasize that americans play a special interaccessory role in the world. they are concerned about preventing future ones through demo democracy initiatives and a diverse array of american activity. we could call this the ongoing
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revolution in humanitarian affairs. thank you. [ applause ] >> that was a great speech. now for something completely different. thank you, matt, very much and the herbert hoover library for having me today and to all of you who are here today. you don't know how much i appreciate being here and part of that appreciation comes from one day i spent in washington, d.c. a year ago. it was october 22nd, 2014, which was the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the crb by
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herbert hoover and a small band of men in london. last year on that day, i was in washington to attend an event of the belgian embassy to honor the crb anniversary. it was a cold, miserable, wet day, and the event was going to happen in the evening. and i had all day to kill if washington. so without any to do, on the spur of the moment, i decided i would talk my way into seeing someone, anyone, at the national headquarters of npr radio. i was sure that my smooth talking ways could get me into see somebody. i had a story to tell, and i would not be denied. did i succeed? thank you for asking that question. i'm here to report what we all know. some stories have happy endings. others not so happy endings. i have to tell you, though, that after close to half an hour of negotiation, not unlike those between hoover and the germans 100 years before, i was
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personally escorted out of the building by the female armed guard. while i did not win that day, i can guarantee you one thing. by the time i was tossed out on that cold, miserable, wet day, that guard knew one thing that a lot of other americans don't know. she knew what the crb stands for. that's why i'm appreciative of being here today because probably it's safe to say today there are more people in this room who know what the crb stands for, now especially after your speech, brenden, than in all the npr building and possibly washington, d.c., so after the story i wanted to tell npr, it's the same incredible humanitarian story that all of us are going to tell you today in our own separate ways. i will touch on those early years of the war, august 1914
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through december 1914, and relate some of the stories about two belgians and a few of the crb delegates, all of whom i call first responders. my story starts with this woman right here, erica. she was my grandmother. a 22-year-old young belgian girl. she had four sisters, and her father was a very successful merchant who started a shipping company, which included also products, agricultural. it still exists today and it is on the new york stock exchange. to show you how big he was, the last -- just before the war started, he had just secured the contract to supply the russian army with boots. the largest standing army in the world, i believe, at that time. in 1914, two of the bunge sisters had married and moved
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away. so erica and her two other sisters lived with their father, who had lost his wife years before and had not remarried. to better connect you with the family, i have one question to ask you. do you know the pbs series "downton abbey"? of course, we do. we love that show. here are the three edward bunge sisters. here is the house downton abbey. here is the chateau, which is where my great grandfather and erica and her two sisters lived. the chateau was the home they had 20 minutes outside of antwerp. they also had a townhouse in the city. both sets of sisters lived very privileged lives before the war. the difference between the two
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sets of sisters is that the edward bunge sisters, they all lived through the invasion and occupation of belgium, and they became part of the humanitarian relief that followed. as all of you probably know, when the germans came into belgium, on august 4th, the country was thrown into incredible panic. all public transportation was shut down. all communications was shut down. rumors spread like wildfire. i'm fortunate enough to have erica's diaries, her correspondence, her photographs she took years ago. they help me give a window into this time. and i'm going to share with you just a few of the entries that she had in her diary on the day before the invasion. a day of terror, the situation is very grave. the germans have moved in belgium and are coming from the
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north. we started to pack up everything and then waited for news from father. news of the german invasion denied. not a german soldier in belgium. the day of the invasion there is no more telephone for private people. the street outside the house is torn up and we can't get through. the german consulate's windows have been broken. stones and ladders were used. the next day, all german citizens were thrown out overnight. my god, don't let this war last long. news is rare and everything is contradictory. what a great line that is. we don't know anything officially. today, we hear pessimistic news for the first time. we really don't hear anything definite. few days later, no official news. where are the allies. waiting is awful. we cannot do anything.
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we have 600 belgian soldiers on the estate. 15 are in the chateau. 450 grams of meat a day, one loaf of bread, and the rest 150 potatoes are taken per day. the next day, where the devil are the french? next day, still no news. we are desperate. in their desperation, the three bunge sisters volunteered at area hospitals. this is a picture on the right-hand side in the upper corner is erica bunge. she cared for patients who were badly burned. in early october, they were in their townhouse. when antwerp officials informed
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residents about the german's plan for bombardment, thousands of people panicked and tried to leave the city. this is an incredible photo. in the upper left-hand corner is a pontoon boat thact was the lat way to get out of antwerp. the sisters stayed in the city, and they survived the three days of bombardment. the sisters worked in their hospitals, and edward bunge became one of only a handful that still occupied the city. because of their background, they joined in the efforts to aid those less fortunate. edward bunge in belgium, long before the war began, there was a tradition of the wealthy helping those who were less
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fortunate by forming or belonging to charitable groups and/or giving money or items directly to the impoverished. when the war came, many of the wealthy committed their time and money to help relief efforts. edward was no different. he served as the vp on the antwerp provincial committee. he provided individual relief through his own private contribution. one of those personal contributions was coffee. he bought a large cargo of coffee that was owned by the brazilian state of sao paulo. he bought it, then gave it to the cn, and the cn distributed it around the country. he also aided the crb directly. he provided the townhouse that they had in antwerp for the crb
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delegate. he provided an office space in the downtown building he had. he opened his home to these young crb men. opening up his chateau was something that a lot of belgians wealthy did. why did they do that? i'm really glad you asked me that question as well. you guys are really smart. the delegates were some of the few outside of the military who were able to -- to be able to travel around the country of belgium in automobiles. back then in german-occupied territory, there were no holiday inns to stop for the night, so the wealthy belgians opened up their chateaus for these crb delegates to stop for the night. and they gave them -- they provided food and bed. they even loaned them their
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motor cars to the young men. while all this certainly sounds altruistic, it sounds so kind of them to do that, there was a self-serving side to this action as well. spontaneously, the thought among some of the belgians was that if you and your property were associated with the americans, somehow that would -- that would guarantee that the germans treated you a little bit better, and there was a lot of truth to that thought, but there's also just as much truth that edward bunge was a very charitable man all of his life, even when it did not serve him. it did not have any self-advantage. as for erica, what did she do. as i mentioned before, she was a volunteer at the hospital. she was a member of the little
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bees and worked in one of the children's canteens. erica was doing so much to help, but she wanted to do more. sometime in late 1914, early 1915, she and her father came up with an idea. what concerned them most was the young infants in the country. their small babies and their young mothers needed nutrition, and they need eed as much as th could. they wanted to supply the children with milk. they got the germans to agree that they established and supervised a dairy farm. they convinced the germans to allow edward to buy 100 dairy cows from holland and bring them into buelgium. erica, who had actually graduated from an english agricultural college before the war, she took on the task of
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getting all of the dairy up and running. these pictures, i'm sorry they are in very bad shape, but they are very old photos from our family. every morning, the men on to wagons and take them in for distribution. after the war ended, erica was given accommodation by the german government for donating one million liters of milk to the children. with all this relief work, you might find it surprising she had time to do another important job. she worked in the underground against the germans. unfortunately, that's for another presentation another time. now, i'd like to turn to the other side of the belgian-american relief. i'll talk about the crb deleg e delegates. late 1914, herbert faced incredible hurdles, as he and
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his group decided how they would feed an entire nation. one challenge stemmed from a condition the british had put on relief. as some of you already probably know, the british demanded that neutral americans be allowed into belgium so it'd be guaranteed not to be taken by the germans. when it came to this problem, herbert had a delegate dilemma. where could he find volunteers ready to drop everything, work for free, go into german-occupied belgium, do a job no one could explain in detail and for an unknown time. he recruited friends and family. where could he find boots on the ground american volunteers to do the work inside belgium? before he could organize efforts to recruit experienced americans
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back home, which would take weeks by steamship to get back to europe, there were two unique sources from where he got men. serendipity and oxford university. sarerendipity serendipity, by the middle to late november, 10 to 15 american men had floated into the sea and on to the beach. some had informally become crb del delegates. a few examples of the serendipity was edward curtis. father, well-to-do. harvard grad. he joined the aid to the tourist, which let to the crb. he became the first courier for the crb. he was the first non-executive delegate to enter belgium. there had to be a courier from
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holland to belgium, back and forth all the time. the courier was an important part of the process. frederick was in belgium when the war broke out. he took charge of a province, and i believe he might be the only delegate who started and ended in the actual same position through this entire operati operation. the other place from which -- excuse me. this guy i want to have a beer with. i love this man. e.e. hunt. he was 29 years old, old man compared to others. he had been on the editorial staff of american magazine. he was a freelance war correspondence. had gone over to cover it. he survived the fall of antwerp and walked with the refugees from antwerp into holland. he heard about the crb from the
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holland staff when he was researching other articles. on the 24th of november, he entered belgium to find out more about the crd. then he returned december 11th and took charge of the antwerp province. the other place from where other men became part of the crd was oxford university. there were numerous american students studying in oxford. most were rogue scholars. they'd be leaving school soon for six weeks of winter break. gal v galvin approached after seeing an article in a british newspaper after seeing a need for neutral volunteers. sorry. after a telegram from hoover on tuesday, galvin got together with fellow students and organized a group of students to get together and figure out if they wanted to go into belgium.
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within a few days, the first ten oxford student s had agreed they'd go into belgium. as you can imagine, it was re relatively easy to get students to volunteer for this because it not only talked to their sense of wanting to help other people, but it talked to their sense of adventure. german-occupied belgium. as galvin admitted afterwards, he said most of the students volunteered, quote, the spirit of adventure and desire for active work, more than a certain knowledge of the capabilities to fill the bill. this might account for the fact that out of the first 25 oxford students who did ultimately go into belgium, six weren't ever mentioned on any of the crd membership lists. i believe they washed out. had some kind of problem and were asked quietly to leave belgium. although there's no official record of that. at the time, no one had any idea
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of what the conditions were like in belgium, or what the delegates were supposed to do when they got there. a man who became a delegate wrote, we had visions of sitting on top of boxcars. we expected to see german savages prowling around ready at the slightest provocation to scalp women and children and, perhaps, provoke a quarrel with us for the same purpose. that was where it stood. one of the oxford students who became a delegate was only 19 years old. a few weeks later, he had his 20th birthday in belgium. college students going into the prison of belgium. having to face war-hardened german officers and button-down, conservative, belgium businessmen. it's a great story. you can't make this stuff up.
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these students, oxford students, along with the men who came with serendipity, were some of the first volunteers. in most cases, they created the job as they went along. interpreting instructions from the crd london office, brussels office and the demands of the committee national, officials and german officers. that's six different bosses without even counting hoover in the equation. nearly everyone was as confused as to how relief was supposed to be done. it's a wonder that anything got done. although once you know a little bit about hoover and the americans and the belgians who got involved, you'd know the chaos would be taken care of quickly. hoover wouldn't have had it any other way. as to some of the individual stories, here are a couple i think are illuminated.
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this is david t. nelson. he was 23 years old. born and raised in north dakota. taught in a one-room schoolhouse. traveled around the state on a motorbike, saying good-bye to friends and family before arriving at oxford. he arrived in oxford in november. he felt he could achieve anything if he only set his mind to it. he reflected much of what the rest of the country thought. this was a time when america was on the move. we had just finished the panama da canal. the country was filled with self-confidence that only comes with not being yet completely tested or tried. as for nelson, it was right up his alley, to go wander into a potentially dangerous unknown and figure out things as he went along. he jumped at the chance to join, and became one of the first ten oxford students. on saturday evening, december 5th, he arrived with nine other fellow students. on monday, he was assigned to be
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the sole delegate. i can't figure out how to put accent marks in the power point. nelson's entry to belgium wasn't the easiest, and reflected how confusing the situation was. he takes the train fr. he learned the station master known allow an upcoming train into belgium. without anyone to consult, he decides he needs to confront these guys. the next day, he gets a ride in the motor car to the town where the train permits are being held up. he located a man who speaks many languages because he say, you need all to deal with the dutch official. he was not too kind thinking about dutch officials. he never liked the dutch officials much at all. he convinces the station masters to allow the train through, but he's not allowed to wait and ride the train when it shows up. he can't find another motor car ride, and his suitcase is too
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heavy to carry the 5 to 10 miles he has to walk into belgium. he leaves it with the station masters and hopes it will be forwarded. on the cold wednesday afternoon, december 9th, 1914, as the sun is getting low in the sky, nelson, without a suitcase and carrying only the clothes on his back, his wallet, id, papers and permits to enter belgium, begins his lonely walk to german-occu y german-occupied belgium. he was probably wishing he had his indian motorcycle. two ore ther oxford students ha different story. they were assigned to the northeast corner of belgium. they were driven there, checked into a hotel and immediately began working, contacting city officials, venturing out into the province and setting up an office. one later wrote in a history,
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some of the jobs the first delegates faced. they had to get damaged canals to be cleared of sunken bridges and barges. intimidated into obeying orders. warehouses to be installed, filled and protected. communications within provinces and brussels. mills to be controlled. bankers to be constrained into living up to their contracts. there's a book -- no book about it but i'd love to write about the bankers. systems of distribution. administrative forums. cards to be deviced. local committees to be organized and distribute food. complaints to be smoothed out. with great understatement, he ended his list with, the task was a formidable one. what would be a delegate's biggest, most important task?
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thank you for having again. arguably, it was somehow to remain absolutely neutral. it was to remain absolutely neutral. hoover knew that neutrality was the linchpin to the whole operation. he would have liked all the delegates to be neutral in both thought and in realistic about young men and where they hearts might lead their brains. according to a journalist friend of the crd member, when hoover met the first ten oxford students in december, early on friday afternoon, december 4th, before they left for belgium, he told them, you must forget the greatest war in history is being waged. you have no interest in it, other than the feeding of the belgium people, and you must school yourselves to realization that you have, to us and to your country, the sacred obligation of neutrality in every word and
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deed. where did the first men stand when it came to neutrality and the war? as you can guess, most of them were pro-ally. but there were some exceptions and, in fact, david nelson, who we already met, was self-proclaimed pro-german when he entered belgium. hunt had a different perspective. he wrote to his article agents on october 31st, after the fall of antwerp but before he became actively involved in the crd, he wrote, i believe aisi'm the onl real neutral left in europe. everyone here is anti-german or insanely pro. you can take your choice, but the campaign of lies is international, and i'm ashamed to say some of our newspaper correspondents have helped the bad work along. such neutrality though did not preclude him from feeling the effects of the war and the impact of the war. writing to two other agents he had in new york city, i could
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write you endless human interest things if i had the strength. the war takes life from all of us over here. i've so much to say and so little mental or emotional whim behind it now that sometimes it all looks very dark. it would not take long for hunt to begin shifting his thinking with regard to the germans, while constantly maintaining his neutrality, his outward stance of neutrality. his excellent world war i book reflects his ultimate belief in the allies and the rightness of their stand against the germans. in 1914, as the men came together and found their way into belgium, began to interact with the belgiums already working on relief, the chaos and confusion of the situation was nearly as great behind the lines as it was in the battlefield. it was a new world of warfare and becoming a new world of humanitarian aid. no one knew how best to approach
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either one. thankfully, the helm of the american side of relief was herbert hoover. a great humanitarian and organizer. on the belgium side, there was a man we'll hear a little bit about, and the whole distribution chain was set to be organized in the country. just as importantly though, there were the boots on the ground, americans, little-known men and women, who heeded the call to save a nation from starvation. they're as much of a story as herbert hoover is. which leads me to mention at the close of my remarks, a quick last story. there were approximately 185 men who were ever involved in the crd who went into belgium. i say approximately. and one woman. excuse me. i say approximately because there are membership lists, but there is no definitive list that is accurate. every list that's out there has some kind of inaccuracy.
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regardless of the exact member of delegates, one i knew intimately. i would be remiss if i didn't mention him today. my grandfather, milton brown, raised in cincinnati. travel lecture from 1914 to 1915. entered belgium as a delegate january 1916. put in charge of the clothing department for all of the country while he was in the city of belgium. he happily fell in love with erica and left belgium on the last delegate train in 1917. he married erica in 1919 and they lived until 1939. where my mother was born in 1921. when my grandparents died, i inherited their diaries, photos and correspondence. i felt two years in the 1980s researching and writing a historical novel about this time called "honor bound," which didn't get into print, unfortunately. what i want to leave you with
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today is the thought of, even though i've written this book and it covers a lot of the crb and the belgiums, what it really focuses on is what i put in my author's note. the crb is a great story of one of america's finest humanitarian achievements and deserves to be told. for a long time, these men and women have been lying quietly. silent through the years because few asked them to speak n. this book, i hope you feel they're standing proudly and telling their story. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> we're going to take a couple minutes here so she can switch out the reel. come a little farther forward to make this a more intimate crowd.
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thank you. give me a sign when you're done. >> tom? tom westmerman. [ applause ]
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>> thank you, everyone, for coming. thank you for matt and tom for organizing this wonderful seminar, to talk about the crb men and their relationship to world war i. it's an honor to be here at the presidential library. i first started doing research on my dissertation, and it was bitterly cold. matt lent me an extra pair of gloves, which i have since lost. sorry. not getting those back. it's nice to come back when it's warmer. so the title of my talk, which is the most effective human angels ever known, comes not from me. that's not my statement about these, although they are angelic in many ways. it comes from what herbert hoover said about one of his friends and colleagues, who branden introduced to us earlier
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today. at a dinner in 1956, hoover called him, quote, the most efficient and dedicated human angel that i have ever known. this is great praise coming from someone who spent a great deal of his life working in the realm of humanitarian relief and literally is called, up here, the great humanitarian. i figured it'd be an apt statement to adapt for this symposium dedicated to examining the personalities who are part of the humanitarian awarening during world war i. a moment which launched the careers of hoover men. i take that term from hal. public careers of men like hoover and tate. hoover's story is the better known of all this, and the stories of men like pate's are not. thankfully, there are a number of scholars working about these, including branden, jeff, julia
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irw irwin, matt, who exflplore the lives of those involved during world war i. i first came to know pate here at the library in january of '05. the bulk of his material is at princeton university. the hoover library has copies of a lot of particular, copies of his die rar -- diaries, of how life was like on the ground of the crb. they provide important insights into the lived experience of the men who worked for the crb and would later continue their humanitarian work in places like poland and finland after world war i and world war ii. so like jeff, we'll talk about a few of the individuals. mainly pate and their experiences in belgium while
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they worked for the crb. i want to talk about these gentlemen in two distinct but related ways. first as spectators of the war, but then also as witnesses of what was going on, especially what the germans were doing, in particular, this crisis of deportation in late 1916, early 1917. so the american spectators, an article i published, the witnessing coming from my dissertation. i hope to show that while these young men were obviously dedicated humanitarian agents, they had a complex relationship with their work as neutral americans in a war zone and as international humanitarians confronting new and unsettling situations at the hands of the occupying germans. in real ways then, their activities in belgium not only awaken their own humanitarian spirit but help propel them and
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the united states, the idea of the united states, on to the world stage in the early 20th century as a national agent of humanitarian activity. pate and his fellow delegates lived in an active theater of war. in addition to their participatory role as humanitarians, they were spectators to one of the greatest calamities in human history. they experienced the war by seeing, absorbing the sights and sounds of the conflict. they reflected on their experiences and the different people they encountered along the way. jeff explained that greatly. often times falling in love with belgian women and carrying them. that's a different way to engage, literally, with belgium and the belgian people. these men came from highly educated backwards. princet princeton, yale, stanford.
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hoover's association with stanfo stanford, where he got his undergraduate degree. there are very specific types of people. francis wick wrote of them as e these exceptional men of the united states. they came to belgium to witness the war in addition to working on their aid initiatives. they constructed an identity to comprehend the war and their place in it. it was shaped by their neutrality and the space they inhabited in belgium. they were neither combatants or victims, occupied or occupiers. their role of relief aid was complemented and complicated by their role as travelers and tourists in a strange land amid strange situations.
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for the first time in nearly a generation, americans like pate were experiencing war firsthand. complete with all its sights and sounds. as neutrals, they tried to stand apart from the politics, but they were also very much a part of the day to day life as civilians, working in a distressed land. pate was 22 when he joined the crb. he applied to work for herbert's commission out of princeton university, using his experience in the american red cross. said, listen, i can do this work. he had a letter of reference from princeton's president. and even though his french was not up to the mark at all, he was allowed into the crb. there were exceptions for the westerns. in his diary, pate juxtaposes the work of an administer. he has meetings with germans,
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trying to find ways for people to have food. german black bread wasn't nutritionally great but had to be fed to everyone, upper class and lower class, as well. class, relationships, how the relief effort collapses those issues. pate, like all the delegates, took his job very seriously and worked quite hard in these difficult circumstances. he and the other delegates were not immune to the world around him. belgium was and is a beautiful country, unlike what they had in the united states. in october of 1916, he wrote in his diary, quote, of a beautiful airplane raid during the morning. the sky was perfectly blue, except for a few very high white clouds. several bombs were dropped. bursting with a deep intonation. these were answered by a steady fire of german
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the greater part of the time, the planes were hidden by white clouds, reappearing and giving a picturesque effect. pate's language in his diary entry evoked an air of performance show, as much as it did a dangerous and violent air-raid. pate's war involved more than a daily drudgery of distribution lists. it spoke of a spectacle of modern technology and sensory experience like none he had experienced before. these men who worked for hoover were present at the creation of the modern world of humanitarian practices. they were seeing firsthand the new ways of war in their american identity as neutrals in this new humanitarian endeavor. especially when they would observe the germans. up close. again, from pate's diary, just not too far away from the
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beautiful air-raid explanation before. to see them, the german army, drill or make arms at rest, is a marvel. it is a perfect machine. lacking only individuality. pate here had a front row seat to the spectacle of the german army itself. it was perfect, he said, except for the individuality. a key, as we know, a key american identity. this spectacle and spectator ship he had was a prelude for deeper engagement by americans during the occupation, that would raise more questions about not just their role as humanitarians, but the proper role of what a humanitarian should do in a theater of war. how far could they go? how far could their neutrality be challenged before they did something that might shoinvolve being removed from the
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situation? so hoover's mission relied on his and his men's neutrality. they work was to solicit and distribute the food to the counterparts, not involve themselves in the affairs of the german occupation. pate and others record instances of when the crb members and americans played some role in aiding the belgigians for this that. getting restitution. they use their status as americans and crb as honest brokers. something president wilson was trying to do by keeping the united states neutral. they were achieving what wilson tried to do on a larger scale. what happened then, what happens then when the neutrality is put to the test by what, today, we'd call gross human rights violations. we come to how men acted as witnesses, not just spectators, but witnesses during their time in the belgian occupation. i want to turn briefly for the
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remainder of my talk to a moment in late 1916, early 1917, when hoover's humanitarian angels were faced by the deportation men, as potential labor to german. deportations was a program by the germans in october of 1916, violated decades of international law that forbade the compulsion of an occupied territory to take military operations against its own country. this action by the german government moved some 60,000 belgian men forcibly from belgium to germany, which outraged observers, like the crb and united states, including the wilson administration. hoover's humanitarian angels were witnesses to the abuses and recorded what they saw and
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experienced. after the war, another delegate wrote of the news of these deportations, quote, came like a storm approaching from the west. the grief and sorrow and fear of the deportation spread overnight. these deportations by train were coordinated projects by the german army. which were desperate for workers in german to replace the men who were called to the front. historians, like david watts and others, have seen the deportations as precursors to the way the holocaust would play itself out, in terms of removing people en masse by train from one place to another. he also expressed the dilemma that he and his fellow crb members faced. it was hard, he wrote, not to be able to help the people who looked up to the americans with
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a trust, rarely one finds save in dumb beasts. we had to remember that we were in belgium for the relief effort alone. we had no interest in the deportations unless they affected our own men. in one way, he's patronizing towardgiabelgians, calling them dumb beasts. there was an element, they're our children, we're taking care of them. even though belgium was an industrizy izcountry, key railr center, after the war, the leveling of belgium, kind of taken back to a medieval state. so he recognized there was a compelling interest to intervene in some way, but also know that there was no way of doing so without putting the broader
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humanitarian aid at risk. this is still, today, a key debate over humanitarian versus human rights philosophies. he expressed helping the immediate problem without thinking of long-term political issues and preventative or refortive human rights, which is legalistic. the crb and its delegates were acting as agents of humanitariani humanitarianism, not human rights. they acted as witnesses to the human rights violations. in this way, the americans were awakened to the reality of the immense suffering of world war i and of humanity around the world during wartime. in a time when america was theoretically neutral. the americans's neutrality had been challenged in belgium, the deportation of lairerborers, wh
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led to the tension between the wilson administration, was a challenge to their identity. they could step in and protest the deportation and jeopardizing the relief efforts, by being asked to leave. or they could advocate only for those dbelgians who worked in a capacity for the crb. about 50,000 or so, maybe, belgians worked for the crb. they are the ones who actually did the distribution of the food. the americans made sure nothing shady was going on. black market stuff, germans taking things. it's the belgians who did the distribution. they were working for the relief effort, even if they were unemployed and weren't working for, say, the belgian economy in a way that'd be traditional before the war. at the time the crb under hoover's orders chose to play a
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limited rose in observing the actions of the germans. it's an example of what hoover's men endured during the time. hoover and his colleagues were disturbed by the german policy. the crb -- again, this as a political problem that was not up to them to solve, thus beyond the scope of the commission. hoover though did write the u.s. minister in belgium in november of 1917, informing him of the situation. he reported back to the state department and it gets back to wo woodrow wilson. there is news coming from a trusted source in belgium. he agreed with hoover, that making too much of an official protest might harm the relief effort. the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, as hard as
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that might have been. after world war i and world war ii, another delegate, francis when i c said he was present for the protesting of the transactions, when the young men were brought in by the soldiers and put into confined areas, then loaded like cattle into freight cars and carried off to germany for forced labor. the americans' protests were for any man who had employment for the crb. early on, just as the policy was getting underway, pate also recorded in his diary, the crb office was often, quote, the headquarters of the ministerial protectivctor in spain and the for all evils. the spanish and dutch were also neutral at the time, and they had honorary chairman ship on the crb's board.
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when the americans would leave, becoming involved in the war in 1917, the spanish and dutch would take over, running the day to day operations, even though hoover had a heavy hand with what the crb was doing. they see themselves in this particular role as a protector of these people. pate recorded that he was asked directly about 30 men who had refused to work in the aviation field and were started to germany. he continues, the new post had serious penalties, unless necessary workman are forthcoming. the germans would say, you need to give us 500 laborers on saturday. if not, we'll charge you 10,000 franks per citizen. restitution to us. it's ransom for people. even though the actual procurement and fair
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distribution of food, the crb, was at this point well-founded, well-respected and officially run, for men like pate, they were trying to deal with, well, as he writes in his diary, the biggest question is the wholesome requisition of civilians, as opposed to the food during this time. even though they couldn't do a whole lot. how much the americans could or would do is always in question. personal intervention by a delegate was always a tactic and they used it to make sure people weren't getting deported that shouldn't have been. the crb settled on a policy of getting identification cards to many belgian workers. some could do this. others would only do it retroactively, if they were being taken. others were like, we don't have to do this. even though the crb was centralized, individuality, a lot of american delegates could do things differently in
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provinces, depending on what their relationship was. these id cards became important. the americans reported that at the beginning at least, and in general, the germans did respect these cards. as time went on, the respect kind of was uneven and went by the wayside. then the americans worked on a more kind of on the ground element to try to get the belgians not deported. so pate did record some successes at stopping the deportations of belgians. many were forced to go, causing strains between the belgians and the americans. what pate recorded, in january of 1917, times he felt, quote, the belgians now detest the americans as much as anybody pause the united states does not go to war over the deportations. this was an organization that was on board with the belgians, but now this new thing is filling in the vacuum, filling the space and americans aren't
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doing enough. this is the problem. war with germany would come in a few more months. until then, the american crbs would have to do their best to protect the belgians. they would provide good and loyal service to the relief program. the americans drew on their powers as members of the crb. antwerp guard reported back as, the crb employment cards that have been issued have been respected. as yet, we have no cases to report of an employee being taken to germany. when the cards indicated a person worked for the crb were not respected, the delegates could and did make individual interventions. again, richardson had to do something. he lad to speak with the german officials personally to allow 33 belgians, whose service began just around when the policy was coming into the effect of the
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deportations. the germans saw this as too smooth, that this is too convenient. so these cards were not going to be respected. richardson took this critique to heart and got the 33 to come back. he said, we need to make sure weir not abusing these cards. we need to use them rightly. so they don't ignore them. making these hard decisions about who goes and who stays rests on the shoulders of the americans who went over there to work on food and now work on something much larger. the delegates, through diaries and letters and reports they sent back, report on the arbitrary nature of the laborists. germans were under, quote, pressure to meet quotas. the americans were an important source of american. hoover himself reported to the united states secretary of state about the actions and found the policy reprehensible himself, but noted the open action for us as such would jeopardize other protections which we can give
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the belgian people further relief. the deportation scheme ended in february of 1917, just as tensions between the united states and germany over the warfare were coming to the head, leading to the end of the crb's american component. with the entry into the war, the american interses ended their r the crb and the spanish and dutch took over. some men that served can be here in the hoover library. men like pate would spend the rest of their lives serving in humanitarian capacities around the world. hoover and his colleagues would travel europe to assess food capabilities during world war ii. pate, as i said, went to become the first director of unicef, holding the position until his death in january of 1965. these men were products of their age, young and inquisitive about
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the world, but they saw firsthand the toll war can take on civilians and worked then and later to bring some seform of protection. they made hard decisions but kept their eyes open to not only the sceptical around them but the abuses they felt powerless to confront. when the americans left the crb service, those who served went from being adventurouadventurou americans to seasoned humanitarians. ready for action if called upon by the u.s. or world circumstances. their work with the crb established the united states and its citizens as leaders in humanitarian power. the history of the american delegates of the crb is a history of american action in the war that, to quote, tried to use a hooveral alternative on the world stage during the 20th century. thank you very much. [ applause ]
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>> should be good. and i'm on. good. again, thanks to matt for organizing this. it's a pleasure to come back here. i've been coming for ten years now, off and on, and i should confess that i'm a european historian. i fit a little uneasily with the others in the group. i'm the imposter. i got interested in the crb when i was doing a book on belgian women who worked for british intelligence as spies. there are these interesting belgian intelligence agencies
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operating, as well as underground newspapers and stuff jeff talks about in his book. i picked up gibson's book, the secretary of american litigation in brussels, because i wanted to see what he had to say about the women i was looking at. i ran across the story of the crb while reading his book. i kind of filed it away and decided, i'm going to check that out. ten years later, i'm still collecting material on this and working on it. in the autumn of 1915, a small crime wave began in belgium. it continued until the end of the war. german-occupying authorities arrested several dozen people and sentenced them to short prison stays. three to eight days, typically. for the crime of potato smuggling. men, women, children, young and old, rich and poor, the belgium population conceived of a number
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of plans for obtaining and transporting potatoes to feed their families. they also smuggled things like butter, but potatoes were the most common things to be smuggled. a typical condemnation for this behavior, and these are some of the posters that said, you are absolutely forbidden not to carry potatoes in other parts of the belgian territory. a typical condemnation reads as thus. a woman of 30 years old was sentenced for two days in prison for non-authorized potatoepotat. in such a world, where possessing a small quantity of potatoes, and a very, very small amount, a bag of potatoes and she's in prison for two days. in this kind of a world, where you have a forbidden item and it could land you in prison, food dominated daily life.
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whether belgians were resisting the occupying authorities or looking for food for families or working for the food efforts, life revolved around food. it shows up in diaries. every entry practically mentions food. i'd like to illustrate the role that ordinary belgians played in the work that hoover and his men supervised. the thousands of people who made the food distribution possible aren't that visible in the historic record. think about the nitty-gritty details of what it would take to feed millions of people. on a daily basis. to do so, i thought maybe i would use the town that's a medium-sized town. it became a symbol of the war when much of the town was burned by the germans in 1914. as background for this, let me
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talk a little bit about the burning. on the evening of the 25th of august, 1914, the city, which had a population of around 40,000, witnessed serious destruction at the hands of the german invasioners, spurred by civilian snipers. there were fears by germans that civilians would be shooting at them from windows. they panicked and ravaged the town. during the invasion, more than 200 civilians were dead, nearly 1,100 buildings had been torched, and the university library, which was kind of cultural icon in belgium, was a hollow, burned out shell. you can see, this is the main hall of the library. in the case of the latter, accounts described how german soldiers deliberately set fire to the library, further fueling
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anger over senseless destruction. this was very much a part of the propaganda that was directed to the british and to the neutral americans at the time. the entire collection was lost, with a few charred remnants remaining. the idea that germans were not cultured, they didn't believe in civilizati civilization came from this. you can see examples. these are both of louvain. belgium became a helpless female victim in much of the propaganda. like a damsel in distress. you saw one earlier, with the soldier dragging off the young girl. that's how belgium was shown. underneath this that was going out to the rest of the world, the people living in louvain had
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a very serious problem. shelter, food. they had no gas, no electricity. they had 1,100 buildings burned or destroyed. there were homeless families seeking assistance. there was very little food moving because it was an active war area. lack of water. you can imagine what this is like in september. also, many of the fields around the town had been destroyed during the invasion. the things they might have used to help bring in food to the town weren't available. long before americans brought food to the region, belgian local committees organized, trying to get their resources together. as early as the first week in september of 1914, belgium bankers and business people met in brussels to create a central committee. this was under the leadership which jeff mentioned earlier. under this broad umbrella, the
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belgians put together a regional committee. it was a complicated hierarchy. 10 million belgium and french civilians received aid in forms of clothes and food and other services. while i don't want to down play hoover's role in running this logistical organization or the part of the delegates, i want to say there's no way the crb could have done this without the 60,000 belgians who actually did the work of handing bowls of soup to children. or sorting clothing. i don't know if any of you have volunteered at goodwill, but imagine sorting donated clothing and trying to find things that are useful. there was a lot of work involved in the nitty-gritty details of this organization. also, i should mention because of the restrictions on travel in belgium, it was difficult to
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move around the country. there was also multiple languages that were at work. today, belgium had three official languages. there were a lot of dialects at the time. it became important to work with local committees. they needed to know the local environment, and people couldn't just -- belgium people couldn't just move from one end of the country to the other. the americans could do that. they had special permits. the belgians couldn't so they worked locally. louvain was the center of the committee. the headquarters of the region was located -- kind of funny that this is the name -- at the american college at louvain, which had been formed hundreds of years before. that's one of the buildings they were able to use. this is the entrance to the american college. to give a sense of the scope of the work, the region had 339 local committees and a total population of more than 700,000
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people. this is one region. there's a map to give you a sense. this is the province of brabant. brussels had its own organization, the island in the middle of the map. the work was overseen by a la landowner and university professor. the two functioned to run the committee. altogether, just in this province, about 10,000 people worked, and that includes some paid personnel, but mostly volunteers. because of the wartime emergency and the occupation, local authorities were in effect creating a new economy. i think we got a sense of that from the three earlier presentations. nothing was normal, so it was a matter of really trying to start from scratch and figure out how to make things work as normally as possible.
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one of the things they had to figure out was what to do about money. so you see very early in the war, the creation of this kind of temporary script. this is a good example. this one, as you can see, it's handwritten, almost like an i.o.u., that was produced in september of 1914. they were pretty rudimentary at the beginning. as time advanced, they got better. you can see some over here. eventually, printers in belgium made these, and they look more like bank notes later on. that's an example of some of the things they had to create. the other thing they had to figure out is who needed food and who had food. initially in the fall of 1914, there was a mass census.
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belgium volunteers went out and asked people. how much food do you have? not everyone reported what they had, which i know will surprise you. they were trying to find out if food was being hoarded. they also did a census of the farmers to find out who might have crops they could use. the census was really important. it helped them supplement what food they were going to get later from outside the country. once they had all this figured out, they gave ration cards to the heads of households in louvain. families could choose two options, flour or bread. if they wanted to bake their own bread, they could do so. a lot of people chose to get the bread prebaked, which is what belgians were used to doing, but they had the option. the head of household received a second card with a fixed amount of what they could purchase at local shops. goods at the shops, lard or
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other fat, beans, peas, cocoa, soap, when it was available, that kind of stuff. the main shop in louvain was in two large shall halls and had 3 years. open six days a week, 14 hours a day. this was a big operation. it's like running a large grocery store. this work, which was setting up these shops and giving ration cards to the population, affected just about everybody in belgium. we heard about the school children feeding and some of the work to help the needy populations, but there was also the basic, let's make sure everybody gets access to food and there's some equity. the other thing that the belgian committees had to take into account is all of the other social welfare tasks that come about when war happens. there are a lot of people who
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are targeted or who are destitu destitute. i want to give you a couple of examples of these. some of them are kind of creative, and it's surprising what they were able to do in wartime. actually, the museum has examples of some of these things, so you'll be able to see them. one of the problems is that certain populations had certain problems. by that, i mean school children were a special group, and there was a lot of interest in that, in making sure children had food. but another group, infants and toddlers, smaller children, they weren't at school. how do you get food to that group? how do you help them? prior to the war in belgium, many toddlers, especially, were fed with either homemade or imported baby food. it was the beginning of the baby food industry. there's a new book that just came out on the history of baby food. really fascinating.
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i recommend it. supplies of this foreign product were cut off during the war. so with the support, they made loans to people to start these different war industries. a factory in brussels was retooled to produce american lillian baby's food. i have no idea who american lillian was, but that was the baby food. during the war, about a million kilos of the baby food was consumed in just this province alone, to give you an example. manufacturers were also worried about nursing mothers. so they created a product which i have no idea what it was, but it was supposed to build up the mothers so they could nurse infants. there's another product called bu belgium curing food, for sick infants. for school children, the biscuit company which still exists
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today, they created a special school biscuit, basically, for students. they're cookies for children. i haven't tried yet the hoover cookies in the shop, but i'm imagining they're something like the scholar biscuits. they even created -- which tells you belgium wasn't as bad off as places like poland during the war -- they also produced dog biscuits. early in the war, they were able to keep pets, which by the end of the war, was less common. another manufacturing product that was developed in the middle of the war to deal with shortages was, i would say, universally hated probably. this is a substitute for coffee. jeff mentioned the coffee shipment that edward bunge was able to get at the beginning of the war. it didn't last long. coffee was a staple in the be
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belgian diet. they thought, maybe they can make a kind of coffee. it was a. and one of the main factories for producing this was in laven and employed 40 people. these are 40 people who then were able to get employment cards when the deportations came so if you can kind of see the links here between your presentations. as the official history sort of riley notes, i'll quote, until the 1916, the demand was quite moderate. the shops still had a little coffee. but mostly the public expressed a real defiance. or one could say an aversion to this ground powder, the color of dirt. and so, i found this kind of hilarious slide actually. this is a brass teapot talking
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to a coffee mill if you can see. and the subject is actually the fact that the germans are requisitioning all of the metals of households and happened in belgium in the war. they went door to door taking doorknobs and kitchen items and the teapot's saying, i know you can't read it, aren't you worried about the requisitioning and lose the top? and the coffee mill says, are you kidding? it's better than the touralein they keep putting through me. it's kind of a funny, funny thing here. ultimately, people overcame their aversion because they wanted a hot drink and as you probably know in world war i the third winner of the war was particularly harsh, fuel was short and so having a hot drink was really important and so this is produced in great quantity in 1918 alone, so just that year,
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they produced almost half a million kilos for consumption. so the problem, though, that the committee faced with not just with toralein but a lot of products, people didn't like what they were actually given and the museum points it out in the new exhibit. there's an aversion to corn meal and canned corn when it's brought in and presented many people say this is animal food. how could you give this to us? and so they have to try to educate people about, you can really eat corn meal. it's not really just for animals because these were key products. lots of cans of corn and had to figure out how to do it and they have to stop them from feeding it to the animals anyway. and, the other problem is that some people would never go to a soup kitchen, regardless of if
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they starve to death in their houses and so, the belgians are sensitive to things like class in their midst and so they have to create other ways of helping the so-called middle class poor. or, what they end up calling this in english is discrete assistance. assistance to people who are wealthy or who have been wealthy who are now suddenly destitute who are too proud to go to a soup kitchen. and so, they do this in the form of lots of different kinds of aid. there are volunteers who visit homes permly and take food. sometimes they hire this class of people to work at the soup kitchens and then they get a free meal because they're working there but because they're dispensing aid it helps with that issue of pride. there's countless other projects, donated clothing, boot workshoping, clinics. the list of different kinds of social welfare programs is --
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numbers about 36 or 37 programs. so it's quite an operation. shops made wooden toys, paper mache puppets. they have subsidized meals in restaurants. just a whole variety of things and here's some examples of -- this is the shop where you could buy things. this is one of the subsidized restaurants where you could get -- you could have like a real restaurant meal but at a cheaper rate so to kind of provide normalcy. the other thing that becomes a real problem for the belgians and several others have alluded to this is that the refugee problem. and as the war progresses, refugees start pouring in to some of the belgian provinces from the war areas, especially the ones along the belgian-french borders and towns that figured out how to feed people now had tens of thousands of refugees flooding in.
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also, the deported workers start coming back. they don't have anything. they're undernourished. some of them are on foot. returned prisoners of war start showing up. and so, really, by the end of the war, this's quite a lot of strain on the system. so, i've only mentioned a fraction of the activities but i hope it gives you a little bit of a window into the day-to-day activities of the work that the crb delegates were supervising under hoover's leadership. and i think that for the delegates who went on to work for the ara, belgium became the model. they thought they could expect going into other countries because the belgian social networks were quite well developed. they put together these committees. they worked well together and they didn't find that necessarily in some of the other countries that they went to. and so, they try to put the belgian mod knell place and
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they'll talk about this. in poland, if we could have some belgian committees it would be great because, you know, that's what they're used to. the last thing i want to mention just to kind of conclude is that there was an important power dynamic in all of this because while the belgians are doing all of this work and generally working well with the american delegates and the delegate have a lot of respect for the belgians, there are still tensions about who controls the purse strings and about this kind of patronizing attitude that tom mentioned. many times the crb delegates talk about the belgians as their children, even adults they talk about as their children. and there's this kind of giver and receiver relationship that's an uneasy one. tracy in his unpublished official history notes that each delegate at this time was in a way the lord of his own province.
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so there really is this sense that the americans are kind of standing above it all. the americans, of course, are billeted in chateau, given rich food, treetded like royalty, thank you gifts. you can see those in the museum. and so, it's kind of heady this work that they're doing. historian bruno identifies this idealism and sense of superiority that kind of develops as the power the feed which i think is a great line. and so, often the crb delegates have to be reminded, you know, look, the belgians are doing a lot of work. you need to show some appreciation and work with them. at one point hoover who does not always get along well and you can read about this in any of the biographies of hoover that you want to, he's taken to task by a british sort of diplomatic intervention. lord writes to hoover and tries
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to explain this. quote, but at the same time, you've got to face and i have no hesitation in personally appealing to you, the fact that your position which has been ano, ma'am mouse from the beginning must be more and more amal gous as time goes by. you came in to rescue the belgian people at a time of collapse. now, we have to negotiate, compromise, respect feelings with which we do not agree or which we even consider absurd and put up with a great deal of that class of seeming ingratitude. i ask you with all confidence to make greater sacrifices to not be drawn into the greatest sacrifice of your position as the advance guard and the symbol of the sense of responsibility of the american people toward europe. so per sy tries to tell hoover, you know, you're damaging america's reputation if you don't give a lit toll the belgian elites, in particular.
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and it's true that by the middle of the war the belgians have a pretty smooth running organization. when america joins the war in 1917, the american delegate vs to leave. and the belgians really take over a lot of the work. they have spanish and dutch neutrals, also, supervising. but it's a much less hands on role than what the americans had and the belgians can kind of function. you know? without all of the supervision. so, to conclude, i hope i've demonstrated that the partnership was vital to the functioning of the food aid program. the outpours of gratitude of belgians during and after the war is evident by gifts an awards. was genuine and hoover became a beloved figure. this is actually the library rebuilt with american money. there's a bust to hoover inside and it's on the herbert hoover plain. th


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