The administrative machinery of relief necessarily changed in a variety of details to meet new conditions as the war passed from one phase to another. But in spite of these changes of detail Mr. Hoover's original conception that penetration of the blockade and the Occupation Zones could be accomplished only through the intervention of Americans with authorizations and guarantees from both belligerent groups and under the patronage of powerful neutral governments, remained a fundamental of relief organization through the whole course of the work in Belgium and France. As a result the Commission came to be regarded as a kind of informal state with its own international agreements, its special privileges and immunities from the belligerents, its own flag, and so forth. At the same time the Commission bore the responsibility of constantly giving evidence of the essential purpose of its work and unbroken fidelity to that purpose.

The establishment of this international standing and prestige of the Commission was one of the most important problems of relief. Another was finance, which included the mobilization of public charity, the institution of exchange operations, and the procurement of government subsidies. A third was the provision of supplies and the organization of their oversea transportation from all corners of the globe. This involved the establishment of a network of purchasing organizations embracing all the food-exporting regions of the world, and the acquisition and management of a fleet of cargo ships. A fourth problem was the determination of the needs of the population from time to time, the formulation of a program based on those needs, and the securing of the approval of these programs from the belligerents. All of these functions were performed by the Americans constituting the active personnel of the Commission. A fifth problem concerned the distribution of commodities in Belgium and Northern France. This was accomplished by numerous Belgian committees centralized in accordance with Mr. Hoover's request, in the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation for Belgium, and French committees headed by the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France. The Belgian and French organizations acted independently of each other but each acted jointly with the Commission which was directly represented by American members throughout the occupied territories, Thus, whereas the Commission was solely responsible to the belligerent governments for all external relief activities, i.e., charity, finance, purchase, and transportation, the responsibility of distribution in Belgium was shared with the Comité National, and in Northern France(16) with the Comité Français, the members occupying the same central offices and co-operating fully.

The complex situation in Belgian and French territories under German rule combined with the conditions imposed by the Allies made the work of the administration of the Commission extremely difficult. Absolute neutrality in word and act, vigilance and firmness in guarding the interests of the population, and tact in official relationships were essential to the success of the enterprise. The documents which follow indicate the character of the major emergencies affecting the form of organization in Belgium.

1. First Measures. November 1914

As soon as the preliminary diplomatic guarantees had been secured, the newly formed Commission for Relief in Belgium began to build its oversea organization. On the 25th October 1914 Hoover sent Captain J. F. Lucey and M. K. Shaler to Rotterdam to arrange for the transshipment into Belgium of two cargoes then loading in the Thames. Lucey, after making, with the co-operation of Dr. van Dyke, the American Minister, the necessary arrangements with the Dutch Government,(17) energetically attacked the difficult matter of establishing an efficient system for the movement of supplies. Shaler crossed the frontier into Belgium where the struggles to organize the scattered local committees into a unified body were complicated by the general confusion, lack of communication, and German restrictions on civilian activities. The representatives of the first Belgian committee, M. van den Branden, Mr. W. Hulse, and later M. Hymans, whom the Germans had allowed to cross the Dutch frontier, could give Lucey neither definite information regarding the internal relief organization nor specific recommendations as to where to direct the first food shipments. Information from other sources was abundant but conflicting. Appeals, rumors, orders, suggestions came in showers from local committees, refugees, American consuls in Belgian cities, from the American Legation in Brussels and the Comité Central. Lucey's reports to Hoover, of which Document 24 is a sample, reflect the confusion of these first days and the impatience of an energetic executive entangled in official red tape and a maze of doubtful information. The first food shipment went promptly across the frontier, but serious difficulties beset the line of communication until the Comité National was completely organized and the C.R.B. had set up its own machinery in Belgium.



LUCEY TO HOOVER, describing confused situation in Belgium as reported by local officials, refugees, and others

ROTTERDAM, 29 October 1914

H. C. Hoover, Esq.
Chairman American Commission for Relief in Belgium



Replying to your telegram of this morning, requesting that we advise you character and weekly amount of food supplies, we may say that we shall be unable to do this for a few days. We are sending Mr. Hymans of the Belgian Committee from here to get this information. We have details from Liège and vicinity, as per enclosed copy of statement made by the two deputies of Liège. We are also going to obtain for you all the details as to the number of relief stations and the people. As near as we can ascertain there are approximately four millions of people to be fed. Provisions must be provided whether the people have money or not. For instance, the deputies representing Liège have Frs. 500,000, but are unable to purchase any supplies without permission of the Dutch authorities, and this Government has commandeered all of the flour and wheat in the country, and you can only purchase direct from the Government.

As advised you by wire, we are going to see the Prime Minister this afternoon and arrange to purchase 5,000 tons of flour, agreeing to replace this by shipment from America. We consider the statement of the deputies of Liège sufficiently urgent to send it on to you by telegram, and we are enclosing you confirmation of same herewith. We are keeping the original on file here, and shall be glad to forward same to you if you wish it.

We further attach translation of article appearing in the Dutch press. We thought it would be better to have a statement of this character, as it would immediately bring to us all people who had food supplies for sale as well as transportation facilities.

At the same time we enclose copy of letter received from the Belgian Vice Consul, who made a special call on behalf of Liège, subsequently introducing two deputies from the district. Enclosed also please find copy of memorandum dictated by the writer from Mr. Hymans and Mr. Branden.

We have asked all these gentlemen to give some more complete details and we have only obtained from them this written statement to protect our-selves.

We are convinced, as stated in our telegram, that we have all underestimated the desperate condition of the Belgian people. For instance, Namur had a population of 40,000 people, and we are authorized by two of the gentlemen from the Belgian committee to state that there are only ten houses left. They advise that these people must have clothes and bedding as well as food. This office will gladly undertake to deliver all these supplies to the Belgian people.

The great and urgent necessity is for flour. If we could get about 25,000 tons of flour, we could relieve the immediate necessities. All of these gentlemen advise me that there is a great danger of revolution, particularly in the vicinity of Liège. The people are so hungry and so desperate that the sight of every German incites them, and in their desperate frame of mind, seeing their children and families without food or clothes, they are liable to attack the German soldiers at any moment, which would mean another terrible and useless sacrifice of the Belgian people. The American Commission and the American people can avoid this, and I would urge you to resort to any measures to relieve these districts. Could you not obtain a fast cruiser from the American Government to deliver the first cargo of flour?

We are calling upon the Dutch Minister this afternoon, and if we obtain results we will wire you again this afternoon. We believe that if you could wire that flour is en route, the writer could go into the districts of Liège, Charleroi, Namur, and Dinant, or any member of our Commission could do so, accompanied by the Belgian officials, and satisfy the people and restrain them from resorting to any violence until we can deliver the flour.

We are afraid there will be keen disappointment in Brussels upon return of Mr. Hymans, as he came here anticipating that the 10,000 tons of food supplies would be here, Mr. Francqui having made this report to the Comité at Brussels, and they in turn have distributed this information to the various districts. We again repeat: the necessity of the Belgian people is very great; they are in a desperate frame of mind, and if we are to accomplish anything we must act, and act at once.

If there is any statement which you wish to publish in the Dutch press, please forward same and we will have it attended to.

Yours faithfully,

(Signed) J. F. LUCEY
The American Commission for Relief in Belgium



FRANCQUI TO HOOVER, describing food, financial, and other difficulties in Belgium

BRUSSELS, 26 October 1914


On returning here I found the situation much more grave than at my departure. Liège, Namur, Charleroi are absolutely without flour. At Brussels we can scarcely finish the week, and we shall be under the necessity of distributing only 100 grams of flour per inhabitant.

All this shows you the gravity of the situation and the urgency there is, consequently, that there should be sent to Rotterdam as much foodstuffs as possible.

As agreed between us, Mr. van den Branden, delegate of the American committee in Brussels, is leaving today for Rotterdam. This gentleman speaks English very well and he will go to Holland to place himself at the disposal of Captain Lucey. Mr. Hulse, an American engineer whom you know, is leaving at the same time as Mr. van den Branden to install the latter at Rotterdam and inform us in Brussels as to all things necessary as regards the organization of our revictualing work.

At the time of their departure I wired you as follows:

Whitlock entirely in accord regarding your telegram. He is cabling to Washington to centralize all funds and to confide them to you through U.S. Embassy, London. Monthly needs Belgian population, minimum 60,000 grains, 15,000 maize, 3,000 tons rice and dried peas. Have still flour for four days.

Telegraph at once to Hulse care Consulate of U.S. at Rotterdam:

First, if 10,000 tons purchased London during my stay are or will be sent.

Second, what other quantities of foodstuffs you have purchased and when you hope they will arrive in Rotterdam.

Third, say if you have ordered grain in America; if not, do so at once.

Believe it would be good for Page inform English Government that working capital of hundred thousand pounds altogether insufficient. It would be good not to mention to Foreign Office the hundred thousand pounds that I received from Belgian Minister, and that I transferred to you. Tell also Carton de Wiart make new effort with Government to obtain help in money in same proportions as English Government. Send immediately Lucey to organize general depot at Rotterdam with Hulse. Good wishes.

This telegram is, I believe, very clear in itself. As I told you at the opening of this letter we have in the country only a few thousand sacks of wheat. After that there is nothing, either in the country or in the warehouses. It is therefore necessary that our population should be completely revictualed from the exterior if we do not wish to die of hunger.

In normal times there are in Belgium nearly 8,000,000 people to feed. Therefore, in mentioning 60,000 tons of wheat as being indispensable for the country you will see that I estimate less than 300 grams of wheat per inhabitant and per diem, which gives a little less than 200 grams of flour per person. This quantity is evidently insufficient, but account must be taken of the 15,000 tons of maize which I have also asked for. With this maize we will make flour which we will mix with the wheaten flour, which will thus bring up the daily ration per person to nearly 300 grams.

In my telegram I asked you several questions relative to all the orders which you have placed, whether in London or America.

As regards the orders in London, I of course only refer to the 10,000 tons which you ordered during my stay in London. It is for us of the highest importance that we should know if Mr. Page and yourself have succeeded in persuading Sir Edward Grey that it is indispensable to allow you to dispatch these supplies at once.

As regards American orders, I thought it well to ask you if you had placed these orders. It is, in fact, necessary to have three or four weeks before we can hope to receive the first consignments, and, by reason of the precarious situation in which we are placed, no time should be lost.

Another question which it is also important to settle at once is that of money. The purchase abroad of 60,000 tons of wheat, 15,000 tons of maize, and 3,000 tons of rice and dried peas, will necessitate the immobilization of £800,000 to £1,000,000. This supply for one month will always be maintained in our warehouses or in transit, and its value, i.e., £800,000 to £l,000,000, will, in fact, be a revolving fund which is indispensable for the proper operating of our relief organization.

Now, we have in all and for all the £100,000 which the British Government has placed at the disposal of our Ambassador, as well as the £100,000 which I obtained from the Belgian Government and which I had transferred to your credit. There is therefore lacking £600,000 to £800,000.

It was after having made this little calculation that I thought well of notifying you by cable that it would be a good thing to tell the British Government that the £100,000 which they gave us were absolutely insufficient.

I also asked you in my telegram to speak of all this to Mr. Carton de Wiart, who, I believe, knows the French Ambassador in London, in order that he should remind the latter of the promise which he had made to Baron Lambert, to cause his government to intervene in this question of revictualing the Belgian populations, who have been already so much tried.

There is, lastly, another point which we have not succeeded in solving here. It is as to how we are going to transfer to London, in order to enable you to make new purchases, the money which we shall receive here against part of the supplies which we import into Belgium, thanks to yourselves.

The German Government forbids us---all banks and individuals---to export the smallest coin into no matter what country with which they are at war.

On the other hand, by reason of the complete stoppage of business, it is impossible to buy exchange here, either on Holland or America, or on any other neutral country.

We shall perhaps find in the banks assets of £500,000 to £600,000 in America, in Holland, in Spain, and in Italy, but that will hardly enable us to live more than several weeks.

For my part, I do not see any possibility of solving this problem except by effecting a loan in London, it being understood that we should deposit with the Banque Nationale de Belgique at Brussels all the money which we may receive here in payment for supplies imported.

I am notifying the Belgian Government of this special situation by a letter of which you will find copy attached.

If you wish to write me, do so by the intermediary of Captain Lucey or of the American Consulate at Rotterdam, who will then send your mail by one or other of the men who bring the correspondence of the Minister of the United States here.

You might leave your letters open, in order that Mr. Hulse or any other of your compatriots at Rotterdam may acquaint themselves with their contents and thus arrive at a knowledge of our desiderata.

On the other hand, I believe that you will do well to communicate what I write you to Mr. Carton de Wiart, who is, as you know, the brother of our Minister of Justice, and who can---I do not doubt---second your efforts by intervening with the Belgian Government.

By all that I have written you will see that the mission which your good heart has caused you to accept is very complicated. I was able, during my short stay in London, to see how high were your sentiments of humanity and for this reason it is with the greatest confidence that I face with yourself the very difficult task which we have undertaken.

On returning to Brussels, I found a letter from my son who, after many difficulties, succeeded in reaching one of my friends in Holland, with whom he is today staying. Thanks a thousand times, my dear Hoover, for all that you have done in helping me to find him again.

Your very grateful

(Signed) E. FRANCQUI



Immediately after the conferences in London with Hoover on the 18th and 19th October Francqui had returned to Brussels to expand the organization of the Brussels Comité Central to embrace all of Belgium. The scheme of organization covered the whole country by means of committees and subcommittees. Belgium was divided into ten areas more or less corresponding to the provincial divisions and eleven provincial committees were established, an extra committee having jurisdiction over the city of Brussels apart from the province of Brabant in which this city is situated. Under each provincial committee were grouped regional committees and, finally, under these, communal committees. The provincial committees had considerable autonomy, but on each was a representative of the Comité National whose headquarters were in Brussels.



HOOVER TO FRANCQUI, outlining the relation of the C.R.B. Rotterdam office to the offices in London and Brussels, the methods of accounting, and the relief campaign inaugurated in America

LONDON, 14 November 1914

Emile Francqui, Esq., Brussels


It seems desirable that we should get a little more system in the relations of this office and the Rotterdam office with the head committee in Brussels.

It is our feeling that it is entirely impossible to conduct the Rotterdam office from Brussels as communications are so slow between these two points whereas we are in hourly communication, in other words, that the Rotterdam office should be a branch of the London Commission. We are consigning all food to this Rotterdam office, and we desire to have in the Rotterdam office an accountant, experienced in English accounts, if possible selected by your committee. We propose that the books should be subject to monthly audit by Messrs. Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths and Company. We also need at the Rotterdam office a representative of the Brussels committee who should be a substantial business man, who will remain there at all times and put himself generally at the disposal of the head of this office, whom we should select. I should suggest that all cheques on the Rotterdam accounts should be signed jointly by the accountant and the head of our organization at Rotterdam. This Rotterdam office is practically a warehousing and forwarding business, and it is their duty to forward foodstuffs sent to them to any portion of Belgium that is designated to them. This allocation as to where foodstuffs have to be sent must absolutely rest with you in Brussels; but we would suggest to you that as the stuff is consigned to the American Minister at the various points in Belgium it would serve as a matter of protection as well as one of system, if when these allocation orders are made out Mr. Whitlock should be asked to put his "O.K." on them, as obviously the shipments cannot go forward except in his name. This approval signed on these allocation orders would be the final court of appeal so far as our Rotterdam office is concerned, that when they have complied with these allocation orders their duty has been done. I do not know whether this will be placing an unnecessarily large amount of detail on Mr. Whitlock, but I feel that in view of the political situation and the clearness with which this will define matters so far as our end of the business is concerned it is a labor which he will be willing to undertake.

It will be the endeavor of the Rotterdam office to send information to Brussels as to the materials which they have in hand and what they expect to receive at given dates, and, so far as we can anticipate it, something as to the character of the contents of the cargoes, in order that these allocations may be made out and the arrangements for the delivery and transportation into Belgium can be greatly expedited if the Rotterdam office has the allocations in hand in anticipation of the arrival of the foodstuffs.

We realize the great difficulties you must have to contend with in communications between various points of the provinces and Brussels, and we have the feeling that if a corps of our Americans can be recruited (in which we are now actively engaged) so that some of these gentlemen may be established as guardians at different centers, these communications will thereby be facilitated, as they can possibly move more freely through the country than your own countrymen.

We are receiving people here from Belgium pressing us to do special services for special towns, and the Rotterdam office is simply flooded with them. It is therefore necessary that all of the communes should be advised that all allocations of the foodstuffs which we handle will be made only on orders signed as above (if you agree that this is the proper system). Large consignments will now be arriving with considerable frequency, and the earlier some such system as this can be devised the better.

In engaging Messrs. Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths and Company to take charge of the accounts of this office we have instructed them to consider that this is a cargo business and that every shipment of material into Rotterdam shall be accompanied from here by a statement as to the cost thus far, and the Rotterdam office will add their charges and redistribute it in cutting up the cargoes so that their consignments will show the final cost. There has been some delay in getting this done as you cannot appreciate the pressure under which we have been working here. The difficulty primarily arises over the question of gift food, and I propose that we should determine the value of this food at as near the market price as we can, and that we enter on our books the purchase of this food for that sum and as a contra in our books we will enter the sum as a gift to this Commission from the donors of the food. By this system all foodstuffs arriving in Belgium will be given a cash value comparable to the market price and our books will show large subscriptions from various societies and organizations. I may mention that while the above seems simple it is by no means so. For instance, yesterday at three o'clock we received advice that a gift steamer from Nova Scotia had left Dover at 10 o'clock in the morning for Rotterdam; the bill of lading and the contents of the vessel were in London and we had not known until that morning that we should succeed in getting the ship diverted direct to Rotterdam. Therefore the Rotterdam office at the present moment is totally ignorant as to either the contents or the value of the cargo. Furthermore this cargo is made up of some 400 items of different kinds of things, having all been presented, and it is with the greatest difficulty that we shall be able to assess them at all. However, in developing a business which is going to run into a million pounds a month it is going to require some patience on the part of everybody.

I wish to add one word more as to the letter I wrote the other day on the subject of the purpose to which we have set aside the £600,000. It will greatly further our efforts and back up our campaign if you gentlemen will also take the strong attitude that this money has been provided only for transportation purposes, and with this in view it is an imminent necessity that we begin to receive at once some of the £1,000,000 subvention from the Belgian Government. The offer on our part to some score of associations to pay transportation on foodstuffs they would provide has stimulated the presentation of food in the most gratifying manner and is the strongest card which we have yet played.

The following résumé of the position in America may interest you:

We have carried on, with the assistance of practically the whole of the American press, an enormous propaganda on the subject of the Belgian people. We have cabled to all associations of whom we could hear, stimulating them as to position. We have cabled to the governors of every state asking them to see that such an association was set up in their territory and we have so far the following results:

The Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco, at the instance of my wife, who happened to be there, have collected money with which they have purchased actual foodstuffs to the amount of 5,000 tons and have chartered the ship "Camino" which sails November 30th for Rotterdam.

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce are in progress with the provision of a cargo, and as friends of ours were raising a fund in the state of Idaho we have asked these people to combine to ensure a large ship full.

In the state of Oregon we have a good friend at work but at present can report no definite results.

In the state of Kansas, ex-Governor Stubbs has inaugurated an active campaign for the collection of foodstuffs and is organizing an efficient committee for taking the matter in hand.

In the state of Iowa Mr. Chamberlain is organizing a complete cargo of maize, which is the chief product of that state.

In the state of Minnesota Mr. Edgar, the editor of a trade journal called the Northwestern Miller, has got the millers in the northern part of the Mississippi Valley all hard at work, and he assures us that he will secure at least 9,000 tons of flour and is making the first shipment from Philadelphia about the end of November.

The Philadelphia Belgian Belief Committee in co-operation with the Ladies Home Journal (for which paper we obtained an autograph letter from the Queen of the Belgians to further the appeal) have already despatched on the 11th November to us the S.S. "Thelma" carrying 2,900 tons of cereals.

The Rockefeller Foundation has despatched the S.S. "Massapequa" carrying 4,000 tons on November 4th, and we have bought a cargo of 4,000 tons which is being shipped on the S.S. "Terschelling" which sailed from New York on the 11th November.

The people of Nova Scotia have already landed in Rotterdam the steamer "Tremorvah" carrying about 2,100 tons of foodstuffs and a lot of clothes. They have now despatched the S.S. "Bankadra" which sailed from Halifax on the 13th instant with 3,000 tons.

The people of Ottawa, Canada, are despatching approximately 4,000 tons at an early date.

The New York Relief Committee are presumably despatching a cargo at an early date, and we have organizations getting on definitely in Spain, Italy, British Columbia, North Carolina, Maine, and Virginia.

We have opened an office in New York and have advised the American public generally that our New York office will undertake the free transportation of foodstuffs into Belgium.

We are taking some steamers on time charter for regular trips across the Atlantic, and we are expecting to supplement the irregular supplies of gift food by purchases to keep these steamers employed.

We have organized a Women's Division of the American Commission in New York and have the co-operation of all of the women's clubs and societies in the United States, and tomorrow they are issuing an appeal to all of these club members to get on pushing food into the hands of the local organizations.

In our London office we are conducting three commissions: i.e., the American Commission, the Spanish Commission, and the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation; and we expect to have the Italian Commission launched next week. We combine representatives of all of these commissions into the general organization which we style simply "The Commission for Relief in Belgium," which is dealing with all of the minor points of international complexity.

We have secured the assistance of the two largest shipping firms in England, and they have agreed to handle the whole of our shipping problems for absolutely no cost whatever for commissions or agency charges or anything of that nature, and they have placed one of their most expert men in our office and at our elbow. In like manner we have secured the voluntary services of one of the largest food firms dealing on the Baltic, who are giving us their services on exactly the same terms. We have thought it much better that we should not only take the expert advice and the responsible management of such agencies as this but also it affords some measure of protection to us which might not exist if we endeavored by our own individual effort to arrange such matters as charters and food purchases. These gentlemen have taken the greatest possible interest in the work which we are endeavoring to do and are giving us the most extraordinary services. As an indication of such services you will realize that under the terms of the London Shipping, Food, and Insurance Exchanges these people cannot operate without charging commissions, but they are in this case making subscriptions to our funds of amounts equivalent to such commissions.

In order to save time and trouble I am sending a copy of this letter to Minister van Dyke and to Minister Whitlock and also to Captain Lucey.

Yours faithfully

(Signed) H. C. HOOVER


2. The C.R.B. in Belgium. November 1914---January 1915

The Commission was represented at the start in Belgium by Mr. Hugh Gibson, Secretary of the American Legation, by Mr. Daniel Heineman, Mr. Millard K. Shaler, and Mr. W. Hulse, American engineers. These gentlemen initiated the Commission's work and collaborated with the directors of the Belgian organization. In order to see for himself the exact conditions in Belgium and to hasten the organization of the Brussels office, Mr. Hoover decided, at the end of November, 1914, to visit Belgium. While in Brussels he went thoroughly into the problems of administration and wrote the following memorandum as a basis of further action.



General scheme of the organization of the C.R.B. in Belgium as devised in December 1914

BRUSSELS, December 1914

1. The Central Office will be located in Brussels, under the active management of the Belgian members of this committee.

2. As the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation will control its work through ten subcommittees or Comités Provinciaux, each covering a province of Belgium (one province, Brabant, is subdivided for two committees) having its own president and working organization, the C.R.B. proposes to station an authorized delegate in each province (two in Brabant) and at the point where the principal office of the Comité Provincial with its president is located. The Comité National will also station a delegate or two delegates, as case may require, at the same office in the province, who will represent the central organization at Brussels.

3. The delegate of the C.R.B., the delegate of the Comité National, and the President of the Comité Provincial will form the three principals for the affairs of the relief work in the province (see table 1).

4. The business of the delegate of the C.R.B. is to attend to the reception of all merchandise shipped by the C.R.B. into his district, to control same, and to transfer same to the Comité Provincial under the conditions and in the manner to be specified.

5. As it has been clearly stipulated that the grain or other merchandise introduced into Belgium by the C.R.B. is under the responsibility of their Excellencies the Ministers of Spain and of the United States, who, with their colleagues, form the principal factors of the C.R.B., it is essential that the merchandise remain the property of the C.R.B. until the same be distributed to the communes.

6. In consequence of this, the C.R.B. sells none of its merchandise until it be handed over to the communes, and retains full and complete power to dispose of same until the merchandise be placed in the hands of the communes.

As it is, however, impossible for the C.R.B. to create for all of Belgium a sufficiently large organization for handling in all its details the work of storage, milling, short-distance shipments, delivery to communes, etc., all of which is necessary before the merchandise can finally be delivered to the communes, it is proposed that the organization of the Comité Provincial should carry out this work, and that the merchandise be transferred to them (not the ownership or control) for so doing on their order of disposition.

Payment to the C.R.B. must also be guaranteed for its full value by the Comité National before the merchandise can be released to the Comité Provincial by the delegate of the C.R.B. To accomplish such guarantee, the Comité Provincial (with each order for release and disposition addressed to the delegate of the C.R.B.) must place in the hands of the delegate of the Comité National the full value in cash or equivalent of the merchandise specified on the order. The delegate of the Comité National thereupon notifies the delegate of the C.R.B. that the guarantees have been acquitted by signing the order of disposition of the Comité Provincial.

The signature of the delegate of the Comité National (not Provincial) on such an order is understood to be an assurance of payment to the C.R.B. when the merchandise shall have been safely turned over to the communes.

The final payment must then be effected against a receipt signed by the C.R.B.

The signature of the delegate of the Comité National is also a notice that the latter are satisfied with the arrangements for milling, storage, or distribution called for by the Comité Provincial.

All expenses for transportation, milling, storage, insurance, personnel, etc., are to be borne by the Comité Provincial.

The latter Comité will also provide, at their expense, the necessary storehouses.

It is understood that, in spite of the fact that the merchandise has been entrusted for handling to the Provincial Committee, it is still the property of the C.R.B., and the delegate of the C.R.B. is still responsible for its safety until the same is delivered to the communes.

For this reason, it is expressly required that all orders for disposition by the Comité Provincial for milling, transportation, storage, or delivery for distribution, shall be countersigned by the delegate of the C.R.B., and that all of such orders shall expressly state that the material is the property of the C.R.B., and that no order is valid without such signature.

The Comités Provinciaux designate the mills within their provinces where the grinding is to be done; but in some provinces, such as Limbourg and Luxembourg, there are no adequate milling facilities, and flour will have to be delivered them (not grain), utilizing other mills and special means of transport. This milling and transportation will be arranged for by the Central Office of the C.R.B. in conjunction with the Central Office of the Comité National at Brussels; the delegate of the C.R.B. and the delegate of the Comité National and the Provincial President work exactly as described above (omitting milling) for the province in question.

Any transportation matters regarding arrangements with German authorities should be immediately referred to Brussels.

In spite of the fact that the Comité Provincial executes the work, the delegate of the C.R.B. must have complete records as to materials received, delivered to mills, condition of stocks, and distribution to communes, and report weekly thereon as well as upon condition of received merchandise, the difficulties of working, and the effectiveness of the Comité National.

The German authorities have guaranteed that all merchandise introduced by the C.R.B. and distributed by the Comité National for the civil population of Belgium shall not be seized by the German military. To facilitate same, placards have been signed by the German authorities prohibiting the seizure of merchandise identified by these placards. Such placards will be provided by the Brussels office of the C.R.B., and it shall be the duty of the delegate of the C.R.B. to see that all storehouses, mills, or merchandise in transit are properly protected by such placards, taking always receipts for them, keeping trace of them, and seeing same are used honestly and without misrepresentation. In this particular matter, viz. the issuing and using of placards, the delegates of the Comité National and the presidents of the Comités Provinciaux will be held equally responsible, but no placard may be issued without the consent of the delegate of the C.R.B.

Proper military passes for the delegates of the C.R.B. will be provided at the Central Office, Brussels.

The specific authority of the C.R.B. delegate who is responsible only to the C.R.B. is therefore:

1. Absolute charge of merchandise from time of its receipt from Rotterdam until its distribution to the communes. Shall guard and protect same from seizure by use of placards provided, and shall visé all orders of the Comité Provincial for its disposal to mills, distribution, storage, or communes until the time when the same shall have been distributed to the communes.

2. Shall be responsible for the placards.

3. Shall sign all bills of lading or waybills in the name of the ministers for release of the merchandise.

4. Shall carefully check up arrived merchandise so as to assure himself that all merchandise shipped has come to hand. In case of shortage, a claim should be immediately deposited with the shipping officials with whom he has had to deal, and a copy of this claim sent immediately to the C.R.B. in Brussels.

5. Shall, with the delegate of the Comité National, control the general operation of the work of the Comité Provincial, and shall intervene at any step, even to the extent of prohibiting merchandise to be moved, if at any time the responsibilities of the ministers are not being properly guarded.

6. It is explained that storehouses and storekeepers are to be provided for the C.R.B. by the Central Committee for merchandise which cannot be taken over immediately by it, but merchandise stored in these storehouses is solely under the guard and supervision of the delegate of the C.R.B.

7. The delegate of the C.R.B. must, on the receipt of merchandise, inform immediately the C.R.B. in Brussels of: (i) The quantity and description of merchandise received, with information as to whether it arrived in good condition or not. (ii) Whether claims were made against shippers for shortages, bad condition of merchandise, etc. (iii) The disposal of merchandise arrived, as to whether it was taken over immediately by the Central Committee or whether it was placed in the storehouse under the control of the C.R.B.; this information must be given with all details, especially:

(a) quantities delivered; (b) to whom delivered; (c) name of office of Central Committee which has given order for deliveries; (d) dates of delivery; (e) quantities taken into stock; (f) total quantities in stock at moment. Communications with Brussels will be assured by means of a special messenger, who will pass periodically with automobile to take up and deliver letters.

8. All merchandise received must be registered in his stock account as received, whether it goes directly into his storehouse or not. Supposing that a consignment arrives to be turned over, on the order of the Central Committee delegate, directly to the mills without passing through the storehouse, this consignment must be supposed to have entered into the storehouse and to have been distributed to the mills. In other words, the books of the delegate of the C.R.B. must show all goods received, and at the same time all distribution of goods to the mills or communes. It is necessary, in making this inscription in the books, to make note of the numbers, date, quantities, and persons signing the orders of distribution.

9. In case of merchandise being shipped to the delegates of the C.R.B. to be later transferred to another, the first-named delegate must handle the merchandise just as if it had been consigned for his section, inscribing it as received and as shipped farther to another section. Any bills of lading or railway receipts which may be necessary must be made out and sent forward in the same way as shown in the instructions entitled "Bills of Lading" or "Railway Consignments," as the case may be. For example:

Suppose that 20,000 sacks of grain be forwarded to Louvain to be ground into flour, with the intention of sending the flour forward to Arlon, the delegate of the Louvain section must see to it that the Louvain mills receive the grain, grind it into flour, and reship it to Arlon. He must, furthermore, receive on his books the grain into stock, issue it on his books to the mills from his stock, and make note of all expenses incurred.

When the grain has been ground into flour, he must check up all the bills of the mills as to quantities, the understanding being that for 100 parts of grain received the mills should deliver 90 parts of flour. He has nothing to do with the payment of these bills; these latter should be sent to the C.R.B. in Brussels, with his signature on each bill, showing that he has found it to be correct, if such is the case.

In case of dispute, he should attempt to come to an understanding with the mill; should he not succeed, he must refer the settlement to the C.R.B., Brussels.

The approved bills sent to Brussels will be settled by Brussels. He should then attend to the shipping of the flour to its final destination (Arlon), and should forward to the C.R.B., Brussels, the railway receipts, or, if need be, the copy of the bills of lading.

He must notify the C.R.B. in Brussels in time, so that the latter may arrange with the authorities for the necessary freight accommodation.

10. The delegates of the C.R.B. should read up carefully the whole of the organization as set forth in the present, so as to fully understand the principles on which the note is based.


Fig. 2. Note, 22 October 1914, Francqui to Hoover



FRANCQUI TO HOOVER, Stating the need of a C.R.B. office in Brussels and of 20 to 25 American delegates, and discussing finances, Rockefeller Foundation visit, etc.

BRUSSELS, 8 December 1914


I duly received the copy of the two letters which you sent from Flushing to the Brussels office of the C.R.B.

When the Plan you conceived will be carried out, I think that the organization of your offices and ours will be complete. As a matter of fact I am more and more convinced that as soon as the Brussels office of the C.R.B. has from 20 to 25 Americans at its disposal, so as to be able to send two to each province, everything will go on without a hitch.

I was glad to hear that you were able to negotiate with the Dutch Government and to obtain from them 10,000 tons of wheat. That will remove our great anxiety with regard to the provisioning of our country from the 5th to the 25th December, after which date you hope to receive regular supplies from abroad.

With reference to the financial question, I hope you have been able to persuade the Minister Berryer to place at your disposal £500,000 monthly for the purpose of renewing your floating capital. As soon as we are informed of the payments made you by the Belgian Government, we shall not fail, as agreed, to remit the countervalue in Belgian money to the Credit Communal which will distribute same to the various communes of the country. In this manner we shall obtain two results: first of all we shall be able to procure the funds necessary for future purchases, and in the second place to satisfy the needs of the poor people.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I visited the country to the east of Antwerp, Brussels, Mons, accompanied by the members of the Rockefeller Foundation. These gentlemen were much impressed by what they saw and asked to be allowed to examine certain stricken districts more closely. For this purpose Mr. Rose will go to stay at Malines, Mr. Bicknell to Louvain, and Mr. James to Liège.

I think that the representatives of the Rockefeller Foundation will remain another eight days in the country, and will then return to England, where you will have an opportunity of seeing them. Then they will tell you, better than they were able to tell me, the impression made on them by their visit, and what they intend continuing to do.

I was indeed sorry not to be able to see you again before your hurried departure. I regret it all the more as I should have liked to tell you once more how very much I appreciate your endeavors and those of your fellow-countrymen to help us. All the Belgians should be eternally grateful to you.


(Signed) E. FRANCQUI



At the end of December 1914, Hoover was again in Brussels, where with his Belgian and American associates he threshed out the new administrative difficulties that had arisen. The result was a clarification of the complementary functions of the Comité National and the Commission and a reinforcement of the latter's Belgian organization.(18) Troublesome problems of administrative co-ordination arose as the burdens and obligations of the relief organization increased, but there was no fundamental change in the relationship of the co-operating bodies in Belgium until 1917, when the United States declared war and the Americans in Belgium were recalled.



WHITLOCK TO HOOVER, referring to the success of the reorganization, and the gratitude of the Belgian people as demonstrated on New Year's Day

BRUSSELS, 13 January 1915


I cannot resist the impulse to write and thank you first for the splendid work you did during your last visit here, the results of which have ever since been so marked in our work. It has all gone on smoothly and I have to thank you for the hours of quiet and days of peace that have resulted from your labors. May the gods reward you.

And then I wish to thank you for sending Captain Lucey here. He is a remarkable man. He directs the whole organization now with the ease that a corporal manoeuvers his squad, though the comparison is not at all favorable to him since he is a sort of Field Marshal. I have grown to have not only an unbounded admiration but a sincere affection for him. He is pure gold all the way through, and the day God made him, He must have been in a good mood and had plenty of material at hand.

I am sorry you were not here on that New Year's Day for something very beautiful occurred. Spontaneously, quietly, all day long, a, stream of Belgians poured into the Legation leaving cards and signing names in a little book that Baron Lambert provided. Over three thousand in all, to express their thanks for what America has done, all sorts and conditions of men, from noblemen whose cards bore high titles, down to the poorest woman from the slums, who had carefully written her name on a bit of pasteboard, the edges of which still showed the traces of the scissors. It was very touching, very moving, and I want you to know of it, for you have done so much more than any of us to help them.

Nobody need tell me any more that self-interest is the great power that moves men, or that there is no gratitude in the world. Surely in this wonderful work, this best of human qualities has brilliantly shone forth.

Will you make my compliments to Mrs. Hoover and believe me, Your ever devoted friend




A. N. CONNETT TO AMERICAN DELEGATES IN BELGIUM, instructing them as to their functions in the distribution of relief supplies

BRUSSELS, 5 February 1915

To the Provincial Delegates in Belgium


In order to clear up certain points, the following instructions, prepared by the undersigned, have been submitted to the Comité Exécutif of the Comité National, and approved by it, as well as by our Minister, Brand Whitlock.

1. It has been proved that the abandonment of the use of the American flag has had disadvantageous results for the operations of the C.R.B. In consequence the flag may henceforth be fixed on all warehouses containing supplies imported by the C.R.B. The automobiles belonging to the C.R.B., or hired by it, can carry the flag on the condition of its removal when the machine no longer is in the service of the C.R.B. Thus, for example, when in the service of the Comité National, or on a pleasure trip, or on any other use not related to the work of the C.R.B., the American flag may not be used.

2. The local delegates should make sure that the supplies are distributed equally in the whole of their province. For this reason, these delegates should be authorized to make investigations of the methods adopted by the provincial, regional, or communal committees. When difficulties are encountered from the point of view of the distribution, or when abuses are proved, the delegate in question is requested to examine the facts, in agreement with the provincial committee, and to order, in accord with that committee, the measures to be taken to overcome the said difficulties or remedy the abuses. In case an agreement cannot be reached, the provincial delegate should refer the matter to the Central Office at Brussels, which, with the Comité National, will decide in the last analysis. The delegates should do everything to avoid such an appeal, but they cannot in any case accept deviations from our general principle that the distribution is for all without favor to anyone, whether in the distribution of food or of secours. The competent delegate is invited and should assist at the meetings of the provincial delegates.

3. The delegates are earnestly requested not to uselessly increase the difficult and often ungrateful task of those who are charged with the distribution. If it should happen that the explanations they ask, in consequence of the right which permits them to control certain operations, are not furnished, it would seem that within the limits of their powers it would be easy for the delegates to demonstrate that this control constitutes an absolute obligation for them, by virtue of the conventions concluded between the interested Powers, who have granted the authorization for the importation of food. In addition, a moral obligation rests upon us from the fact that a part of the resources is derived from gifts; consequently we are in a measure the empowered representatives of the donors. When the time comes for a definite settlement of accounts, the C.R.B. will be held responsible by the generous donors for every kilo of food and for every dollar distributed.

4. The delegates are requested not to affix their signature either on proclamations or on posters; such publications should come from the official committee and should be signed by the head of that committee. However, a full agreement between the delegate and the committee should precede any publication of documents relating to all matters such as those referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3, within the jurisdiction of the competent delegates.

In conclusion, the delegates should easily see from the present instructions that their rôle is that of an adviser and not of an administrator. They can and ought to protest against every measure contrary to the arrangements made by the C.R.B. They have full powers of investigation of the methods adopted and the means chosen to apply them.

I am convinced that it is unnecessary to add that, while they should fulfil their functions with all firmness, they ought also to show themselves tolerant and courteous in their attitude toward our collaborators who are occupied in an arduous task.

Truly yours

Director, Brussels Office

P.S.---The Comité National has forwarded to its delegates, for their governance, a translation of the present letter.


3. The C.R.B. and the German General Government. February-March 1915

In the first four months of relief work the Germans had been extremely liberal in granting passes and allowing general freedom of movement of Americans. As the work of the Commission grew in volume and importance the attitude of the Governor-General became less accommodating. The change was due in part to the fear that this neutral body was becoming too powerful in territory where, theoretically at least, German rule was absolute, and in part to disapproval of the enthusiasm with which the Belgian people greeted the Americans wherever they went on their tours of inspection. Whatever the cause, the German tendency to deny the Americans reasonable freedom of movement raised a serious issue, for without that freedom, the Commission could not discharge its responsibility of guaranteeing the proper distribution of relief.

Though the Imperial German Foreign Office, in December 1914, had given Ambassador Gerard the assurance that all passports required by the representatives of the Commission in Belgium would be issued, the passport authorities in Belgium, early in 1915, were very clearly violating the spirit of this understanding. The delays, which sometimes ran to weeks, had the effect of greatly curtailing the effectiveness of the American service. The Germans were no more moved by knowledge of this than by the complaints of the Commission's representatives.

When he was in Berlin in early February 1915 (19) Hoover made special representation to the Imperial Government and received assurance that all necessary passports would be granted immediately upon application made by the Commission and endorsed by the American Minister. Notwithstanding this, upon his return through Brussels about the 10th February, Hoover found the attitude of the General Government more disquieting than ever.



20) urging the necessity of greater freedom of movement for C.R.B. delegates in order to forestall military suspicion and opposition to the relief

BRUSSELS, 12 February 1915

To His Excellency, Baron von Bissing
Governor-General in Belgium, Brussels


In the representations which I made to Your Excellency last evening with regard to giving a larger measure of freedom of movement to the men engaged in the work of alimentation and more expedition and liberality in the issuing of passes, and Your Excellency's reply which I took to mean that Your Excellency felt that our people have already too much freedom of movement, I am afraid that I did not lay sufficient emphasis on the important phase of this work and the gravity of the situation which arises.

If Your Excellency will recollect when this work was initiated the English Government strongly objected to the introduction of foodstuffs into Belgium from neutral states, on the ground that it was relieving the Germans from the duty of themselves feeding the Belgians, as the Germans would themselves have to deplete their own stores of foodstuffs to prevent the Belgians from starving; that, therefore, this service was a great military advantage to the Germans and a great military disadvantage to the English.

It was only on the strongest pressure that the American Ambassador in London and the American Minister in Brussels were able to secure the assent of the English Government to their proposal, and it was only on condition that these gentlemen, with the approval of the American Government, guarantee the undertaking of the German Government that these foodstuffs should reach the civil population only; moreover, the English Government finally consented on the stipulation that such machinery be set up in the shape of an organization as would satisfactorily demonstrate that these guarantees would be carried out.

It was for this primary reason that "The Commission for Relief in Belgium" was founded and that a number of American volunteers were recruited to undertake the work. It was stipulated that in order to carry out the work without any question of doubt as to the ultimate destination of the foodstuffs, this transportation and delivery should be under the members of this Commission.

It was also found that in order to secure the equitable distribution of the food throughout Belgium the members of the Commission had to take certain administrative duties but in any event the primary raison d'être lies in the guarantees which were given the English Government.

Time and again misrepresentations have been made to the English Government by ill-willed persons (and even in America) as to the attitude of the German officials in Belgium and it has only been by the explanation of the detailed supervision of our members and the completeness of our records, which show the destination of every sack of wheat which comes into Belgium, that we were able to keep open the road of these foodstuffs through the British fleet, and Your Excellency can scarcely realize the slenderness of the thread of sentiment which enables us to keep this stream of foodstuffs flowing into Belgium.

The constant assurances of the American Minister in Brussels based upon personal assurances of the various delegates and their accords, have been necessary and thus far sufficient to allay the various movements antagonistic to the continuation of this work.

We have now been engaged upon this work for nearly four months; there have been issued at one time or another a good many passes to the people engaged in this work, and I do not think that Your Excellency could point to a single instance where these passes when issued to bona fide representatives have been misused or that a single criticism can be made as to the scrupulous care with which all our relations have been carried out.

In order to obtain the character of men whose devotion to humanitarian efforts is such that they can be depended upon from every point of view we have had to operate the whole of this work with volunteers because we could not secure for a monetary payment men of the character of those now engaged in this labor. I therefore put it up to Your Excellency that this body of men are worthy of the fullest confidence and that they are gentlemen who would scorn the imputation of espionage or other improper conduct on their part. Dependent as we are on volunteers there is necessarily more recruiting and departure of new men than would be necessary in a commercial organization.

Inasmuch as the whole body of men engaged upon the arduous labor of handling 90,000,000 kilos of foodstuffs per month are volunteers, it is hopeless for me to induce these men to remain or to secure new men if they are to be made subject to the whims of every local "Kommandantur"; and on the other hand we cannot take the responsibility of the necessary assurances to the American public who subscribe so generously, and to other interested governments, unless we have men of this character and unless we are able to carry on our daily work of supervision, inspection, and accounts with the necessary freedom of movement.

Although I feel deeply the responsibility, I am compelled to assure Your Excellency that unless we can establish a basis of confidential and friendly relations and trust from the German authorities, we shall be compelled to withdraw and the flow of the stream of foodstuffs into Belgium from outside countries must necessarily cease.

We feel that while our service is personally beneficial to the Belgian civil population it is nevertheless of the utmost importance to the Germans from every point of view.

I do not wish to ask for anything which cannot be properly given under the circumstances, but it does seem to me that it would be possible and entirely reasonable to detail some member of the German pass bureau, who could devote himself to our necessities, and who should have instructions to treat our applications on a very liberal and expeditious basis; that passes should be issued to certain members of our inspection staff to move throughout the occupation zone, to others to move freely through the special provinces where they are assigned and to go to and from Brussels; and to others, transportation service to move freely over the Holland frontier. In the manner which I described last night by which the American Minister should himself approve every application for passes, we should have given further assurances to Your Excellency of the character of the men whom we have associated with us.

I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the expression of my high consideration.




VON BISSING TO HEINEMAN (FOR HOOVER), stating the regulations and limitations laid down for the American delegates

BRUSSELS, 20 February 1915


I am sorry that I am unable to reply directly to Mr. Hoover's letter of February 13, as he is now in London.

I therefore address my answer to you with the request that you inform Mr. Hoover of its contents.

In the first place I desire to emphasize that I also share your opinion that, in view of the great importance and difficulty of the undertaking originated by you, there is need of a "firm basis of confidence, of friendly and confidential co-operation between the German authorities and yourself."

This confidence I am conscious of having fully shown you hitherto in every respect, and I gladly take the opportunity to assure you that in the future also I shall gladly support you, in your beneficent and humanitarian endeavors. I shall do this as far as possible and especially as far as it accords with the principle, which I consider irrefutable, that I shall continue to hold in my own hands the control in all branches of the administration of the country entrusted to me.

After having now heard the report of the gentlemen entrusted by me to confer with you and to learn your wishes, I submit to you herewith the decisions which I have reached:

In accordance with the fact mutually agreed to in yesterday's conferences, that in all respects the organization of the undertaking had, from the beginning and now has, as its object the establishment of a storehouse in each province under the control of the American Commission with the Belgian Comité National as the distributing agency within the provinces (seven governments besides Ghent), I desire:

1. That henceforth there shall be no alteration in this fundamental arrangement.

2. I desire further:

a) That the number of gentlemen in the active service of both Commissions (Belgian and American) be restricted as much as possible.

b) That the frequent changes in the personnel, which cannot be of advantage to the undertaking in view of its importance and difficulty, be discontinued as far as feasible.

c) That only in quite special exceptional cases "donors" be admitted.

All these are requests which you yourself, I was glad to note, admit and whose fulfilment you had distinctly in mind as in harmony with our own wishes.

3. Strict adherence must be kept to the agreement that the gentlemen traveling to Holland shall pass the frontier exclusively at Putte, and also that they communicate their presence (in accordance with already established custom, as you declared) to the German authorities (governors, chiefs of the districts, local commanders) .

4. I have noted in accord with your information, that the necessary pneumatic tires and benzine are provided by yourself.

5. I have furthermore noted that at the present time for the Commission for Relief there are:

a) About 30 to 35 gentlemen in the provinces who travel thence to Brussels.

b) About 4 gentlemen stationed in Brussels who desire to make inspection trips to all provinces (for which latter G.G. passes would be required).

c) About 5 or 6 gentlemen traveling between Holland and Belgium, and that this number (totalling about 45), will be reduced to a total of about 25 after April 15.

And that for the Comité National

d) About 4 Belgian gentlemen wish to travel on inspection trips to the whole territory of the General Government, for whom also 4 G.G. passes would be required.

e) And about 10 gentlemen from Brussels for inspection trips to individual provinces.

f) For the gentlemen stationed in the provinces engaged in distributing supplies passes will be assigned by the governors, as explained to you.

Taking as a basis the foregoing numbers stated by you, I will consent to the following:

(1) That in accordance with your wishes the American Minister Mr. Whitlock shall propose for passes those gentlemen desired by him for whose trustworthiness he thereby assumes the responsibility.

That the official or officer ordered from here to the office of the Commission shall hand over these proposals to Section II d. of the General Government.

And that this section permit the issuance of the desired passes by the Passzentrale.

(2) I shall furthermore give the assurance that there shall be no bodily searching of the gentlemen journeying to and from Holland unless in well-founded cases of suspicion such a searching shall be ordered by the General Government itself.

(3) For yourself and Mr. Connett I shall when requested each time, deliver G.G. passes for railway journeys to Ghent, and for the four gentlemen of your Commission stationed in Brussels, as well as the four members of the Executive Committee of the Belgian Comité, similar passes for their inspection trips from Brussels to the provinces.

(4) Your wishes regarding passes for additional passengers will be met as far as possible.

With deep consideration, I am very truly yours





HOOVER TO WHITLOCK, telling of the rumors in England of misuse of relief supplies by Germans, the insistence of the British Government on C.R.B. responsibility for distribution, and the need of more delegates

LONDON, 6 March 1915

His Excellency Brand Whitlock Brussels


I have had a severe drilling this week from the English Government with regard to our whole organization in Belgium. As you can imagine from the international disputes which have been going on with regard to provisioning the civil population, as distinguished from the military population, it seems to have occurred to the English Government to have an investigation as to whether or no we were carrying out our guarantees, and they seem to have made some considerable inquiry in Belgium. The constant lying reports which appear in the English press with regard to our foodstuffs being taken by the Germans or devoted to their requisitions in the operation zone, seem to have combined to put in their minds a great deal of suspicion. In the first instance they wanted to know how many people we had in Belgium superintending this distribution and pointed out that under the later agreement this Commission was, itself, entirely responsible for the distribution and they were not prepared to accept the Comité National or any other organization than this as the responsible controllers. I told them we had about fifty Americans at work, and they were not satisfied that this was an adequate number to control so large a concern. They also pointed out to me that they had made inquiries with regard to Messrs. Heineman and Hulse, who occupy prominent positions in our Belgian organization, and that, while they were prepared to accept our assurance that these gentlemen were Americans and entirely neutral and desirous only of serving the Belgians, nevertheless they had been many years employed by and associated with prominent German concerns and they were not prepared to consent to their having the direction of the distribution in Belgium. I assured them that the direction was in the hands of Mr. Connett, as to whose standing I produced credentials. I assured them that we kept accurate accounts and statistics by which we can show the destination of all of these foodstuffs, and they have asked for particulars in the form of a monthly report. Altogether, I view with a great deal of alarm the situation from the English point of view, as the military party here is gaining ascendancy daily and we cannot afford to allow any lapse in our administration and responsibility upon which they can hang complaints. I am assured that if the knowledge came to them that our staff had been limited to twenty-five members they would at once say that this is absolutely inadequate and they are not satisfied that we are physically able to execute our guarantees. Knowing as I do, the ability and devotion of Messrs. Heineman and Hulse I have obviously made as strong a case as I am capable of. Nevertheless, I am afraid that, in order to serve the Belgian people to the best end, it may be necessary for these gentlemen to show some self-denial in the prominence of their positions.

We, of course, worry on from day to day as best we can, but I think you should be advised of this rather acute situation and I am positive that the return home of a considerable number of our staff without their places being filled, will precipitate the situation, which may be positively disastrous.

Yours faithfully

(Signed) H. C. HOOVER



HOOVER TO GERARD, concerning the extension of relief to Northern France, the need of more American delegates, and advising the Ambassador to approach the German Government for necessary permission

LONDON, 9 March 1915

Relief Commission, Rotterdam

Please send following telegram to Mr. Gerard, Berlin:

Am able to secure subscription considerable sums of money from charitable institutions for feeding French people south of Belgian frontier. In order, however, to secure this money it is necessary for me to create a special department Commission for Relief in Belgium in co-operation with National Committee in Brussels in order that foodstuffs and funds may be handled and accounted for properly. It is also necessary that we should have undertaking from German Government that these foodstuffs will not be interfered with in any manner and that we shall be allowed to place in this territory at least five American members of Commission and shall have right to move about in full superintendence of the work of distribution. I am not allowed to proceed with shipments until I have these guarantees in hand, and as the matter is one of urgent humanitarian interest I trust that you will again lend us your kindly services and that the German Government will meet us in a liberal and prompt manner. We have been notified by Governor-General, Brussels, to reduce our staff in Belgium to twenty-five members by early April and that passes to these gentlemen will only be issued under great restrictions and apparently through the intermediary of Mr. Heineman. We are entirely discouraged by this attitude of local authorities. Do not believe that it can be in line with intention German Government toward us and trust you will take it up with them. Fundamental fact is that in order for us to give proper executive control to distribution of this foodstuff, to properly account to its donors, and above all to give credibility to our assurances to the Allied Governments as to their guarantees, it is absolutely necessary for us to have the right to at least fifty people, to put any such number of staff into Belgium as may be reasonable to meet our own emergencies. Their passes must be issued directly on certificate of Mr. Whitlock and on liberal basis of movement. After four months the Germans cannot point to one single instance of lack of extreme care on the part of this Commission in maintaining an absolutely neutral and honest attitude toward them. The men who have volunteered for this humanitarian service are not engaged in espionage or similar transactions.

Wish you would take the first opportunity of communicating text of this telegram by messenger to Connett, Whitlock.




HOOVER TO WHITLOCK, referring to von Bissing's annoyance over preceding telegram and stressing the delicate situation in England caused by the Governor-General's restrictions on C.R.B. delegates

LONDON, 18 March 1915

His Excellency Brand Whitlock Brussels


On receipt of his Excellency General von Bissing's letter requesting us to reduce our staff of supervisors in Belgium considerably, I telegraphed openly to Ambassador Gerard in Berlin, asking him if he would interest himself in obtaining an amelioration of this condition.

I understand now that this action of mine has created some feeling, either with His Excellency or with His Excellency's staff, that I was endeavoring to go over their heads in this matter.

You will of course recollect that any important phase in this work must be communicated to all the American Ambassadors concerned, as they have the grave responsibility of the guarantees.

This, however, is aside from the point, which is that upon the Government here having obtained knowledge of this limitation, I had a perfect storm about my ears, on the question as to whether or not we are in a position to execute the necessary guarantees which this Government insists on as a condition for allowing these foodstuffs into Belgium, and this matter has been called to Ambassador Page's attention. It is probably impossible for me to make clear to you and the gentlemen in Brussels by what a delicate balance this whole business continues, in view of the complete conviction of the English military authorities that the whole of this effort is to their disadvantage and is profoundly to the advantage of the Germans. My action of telegraphing to Mr. Gerard in this matter thus was to satisfy them here that we were doing everything possible to allay the storm that they had created, and I trust that in doing so I sufficiently satisfied the authorities here, so that we may have again escaped being closed down upon from this end. As you are fully aware, it is our one desire to so conduct this business that it shall have the absolute confidence of both sides, and seeing the very natural antagonism which exists between them, it becomes a mighty difficult job. Our German friends do not always realize how easy it is to plunge us into difficulties with the English---and vice versa.

In addition to such difficulties as to the above, you may appreciate something of what is going on here when I tell you that we are at present £1,400,000 in debt, and the failure to so far reach any basis of finance with the German authorities which can be carried out is itself sufficiently worrying. Not that I object to taking this personal liability on myself, but if I cannot meet it, it simply means that the food supply in Belgium will cease.

I trust that if His Excellency the Governor has been offended with regard to my action, you will interest yourself in giving to him the above explanation and will perhaps endeavor to impress upon him the almost indescribable difficulties which we encounter in this work.

Yours faithfully

(Signed) H. C. HOOVER

Chapter 2, continued (section four)

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