CHAPTER II, continued

8. Responsibilities and Duties Of the Commission Redefined. February-December 1916

Not long after the establishment of the Department of Inspection and Control it became apparent to members of the Commission that the part they had been forced to play under the new arrangement did not have the full approval of some of the officials of the Belgian organization. Document 53 and those that follow show what happened when Hoover suggested the possibility of turning over to the Belgians the responsibility that had been borne by the Americans.



HOOVER TO PAGE, Suggesting that the time may have arrived for turning over to the C.N. all the functions of the C.R.B.

LONDON, 24 February 1916


I have recently had several conferences with my American associates in regard to the general situation of Belgian relief work, and we have together reached the conclusion that the time has arrived when the Allied Governments should consider whether it is not possible for them to transfer to a Belgian organization the guarantees and responsibilities which we have thus far carried and enable us to withdraw from the work without thereby entailing any hardship or suffering upon the Belgian civil population; the presence of the leading spirits in the Comité National in London seems to offer an appropriate moment for raising the question.

As you will remember, the Commission for Relief in Belgium was initiated in your office on October 4th, 1914, to meet a very critical emergency and supply food to the Belgian civil population. At that time the country was in a terribly disorganized and demoralized condition. The occupied territory was entirely deprived of the ordinary facilities for transportation, communication and travel, and the Belgians could not hope to effect an adequate organization for themselves. It was, therefore, essential that some neutral agency, possessed of liberty of movement and freedom from the severe measures imposed upon a conquered people should undertake the initial work and bring order out of the reigning chaos.

Thanks to the devoted services of a large corps of American volunteers and to our diplomatic representatives, we were able to build up an organization which has grown steadily in efficiency, and have been able to meet the conditions imposed by the Allied Governments and carry out the guarantees which we have assumed from time to time.

Conditions of life in Belgium have materially improved since the beginning of our work, and the Belgians themselves now enjoy a larger liberty of movement than at any time since the war began, and as their freedom of movement has increased they have taken a larger share in the work and in the relations with the German authorities. When the work began, it was, of course, utterly out of the question to expect the Belgians to create and perfect the necessary organization; now that it has been perfected---so far as seems possible under the abnormal conditions which exist---there would seem to be no inherent reason to prevent the Belgians from assuming entire control of the work and carrying it on. This would enable the members of the Commission to bring their activities to a close, with the assurance that the Belgian people, in whom they take so friendly an interest, would not suffer by the cessation of their labors, and it would at the same time leave us free, individually and collectively, to turn our efforts in other directions where there is need for our activities and such abilities as we may possess.

I know that it is unnecessary for me to tell you that neither I nor my associates would for one moment consider the step I have proposed were it to involve the cessation of the work which has gone on so far. We have considered for some time, however, that the original and imperative need for our continued efforts no longer exists, and in August last I proposed to the Comité National an arrangement by which they could take over the entire work. Yielding to their urgent request at that time I consented to continue, but it now seems to me that an occasion has arisen when we may again broach the subject without fear of endangering the relief of the Belgian people.

I attach hereto, for your information, copy of the memorandum which was drawn up at the time by the Comité National.

The work of the Commission has consisted of two parts: (1) The purchase, shipment, and distribution of food under conditions that ensure the carrying out of the guarantees given by the several belligerent governments. (2) The financial management of the work.

Our original appeal for help made throughout the world was met by the most generous response, but it soon became evident that the task was far too great for private philanthropy alone; it was necessary to secure financial aid on so large a scale that nothing less than the most generous governmental assistance could provide for our work. Subsequently, several governments granted subsidies, and financial arrangements were made which have met our requirements and which must continue to meet all requirements for the work so long as it may be necessary.

The carrying out of the guarantees and the necessary negotiations with the several governments regarding the food distribution can, I conceive, be done by the Belgians. While the relief of the occupied French territory does not primarily concern the Belgians, no doubt this work could also be included under the Comité National.

As for the financial responsibility, I can at any moment make an accounting to every government that has contributed to the funds of the Commission and make such disposal of remaining funds as each government may desire. I shall make the same disposal of funds contributed by private organizations.

It may interest you to know that we have received from all sources over £20,000,000 up to date.

Since the name of the "Commission for Relief in Belgium" is bound up with the financial responsibility which my associates and I have assumed, we should expect to dissolve the Commission upon our withdrawal and should also expect that the work in future be carried on by the Comité National; in other words, the affairs of the Commission for Relief in Belgium will be completely liquidated and it will cease to exist.

I would, therefore, be grateful if you would present this matter to the interested governments and ascertain whether they would be prepared to transfer the guarantees and responsibilities to the Comité National in such a manner as to ensure the continued feeding of and relief of the Belgian civil population, so that my associates and I may conscientiously withdraw from the great work in which we have been privileged to play a part during the past sixteen months.

Yours faithfully




FRANCQUI TO PAGE, asserting the absolute dependence of relief on the continuance of the C.R.B.

LONDON, 26 February 1916

To His Excellency the Honorable Walter Hines Page American Ambassador, London


Mr. Hoover presented to me yesterday evening a copy of the letter which he addressed to Your Excellency on the 24th inst. In this communication Mr. Hoover expresses the wish to dissolve the Commission for Relief in Belgium, for which he suggested substituting the Comité National of Belgium.

Your Excellency, who has, for the last eighteen months, given your kind support to the humanitarian work undertaken by the Commission for Relief in Belgium, knows better than anyone with what disinterestedness, what devotion, your compatriots have come to the aid of the Belgian population. You know also that without the active leadership of Mr. Hoover it would have been absolutely impossible for us to continue the provisioning and assistance of the Belgians; also you will not be astonished when I insist, not only in my own personal name, but also in the name of my colleagues and in that of all my fellow-countrymen, that Your Excellency should use your kind influence on Mr. Hoover that he should abandon the idea set out in his letter of the 24th inst.

The harmony which has never ceased to exist between the C.R.B. and the organization that I direct in Belgium is today too intimate to allow of any blow being struck at either without the risk of destroying the whole organization of both. Also I feel obliged to inform Your Excellency that it would be impossible for me to continue for one moment without the co-operation of Mr. Hoover to carry on the work which he and I have assumed.

I also wish to inform Your Excellency that the sole object for which the C.R.B. and the Comité National were created was for the provisioning and secours of the Belgian population, and I would add that Mr. Hoover and I have always seen that the organizations over which we preside have not exceeded their privileges and have abstained entirely and scrupulously from any action of political significance of any kind.

In the name of the Belgian population I repeat to Your Excellency all the grateful feelings for the inestimable services you have been kind enough to render.

I beg to remain, etc., etc., etc.

(Signed) E. FRANCQUI




GREY to VILLALOBAR, declining to accept certain German proposals and asserting that Hoover is the only person directly and personally responsible to the British Government for the whole relief work both inside and outside of Belgium

28 February 1916


I have the honour to enclose in the form of a memorandum, my reply to the propositions emanating from the German authorities in Belgium, which you, together with Baron Lambert and Monsieur Francqui, were good enough to present to me on February 24th.

I am anxious that you should realise the gratitude and appreciation with which His Majesty's Government regard the services which you, in concert with your United States and Netherlands colleagues, have rendered to the population in Belgium in protecting and furthering the work of relief. Your action in coming to London at, I fear, great inconvenience to yourself, in order to represent the needs of this work, is in accordance with all I have learnt of your interest and energy in this matter.

I regret, therefore, the more sincerely that I should be obliged to demur absolutely to so many points in the arrangement which you have striven so hard to obtain. These are, however, matters of principle, on which it is impossible for His Majesty's Government to accept any compromise. Compromise would indeed be incompatible with their duty alike to their own and to the Belgian people, and I can only trust that you, representing in your official capacity a great neutral nation, as you represent in your private capacity a work of charity in which the British people feel so keen an interest, will be able to secure action on the part of the German authorities more in accordance with the rights of nations and the duties of humanity than those conditionally promised in Baron von der Lancken's letter of February 16th.

I am transmitting a copy of this letter to the United States and Spanish Ambassadors and the Netherlands Minister at this capital, to whom, with yourself and your colleagues at Brussels, His Majesty's Government look as intermediaries in this work, as well as to the Belgian Minister, who is so nearly interested, and to Mr. Hoover, with whom I am obliged to deal in close co-operation in all such matters, he being, in his capacity as head of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the only person directly and personally responsible for the manner in which the whole work, both inside and outside Belgium, is carried on. If I may express one further hope, it is that all parties concerned in this matter, realising the impossibility of holding personally responsible either the diplomatic representatives of neutral Powers or the citizens of a noble and unhappy country under foreign domination, will take into full account the heavy burden of responsibility resting on this great neutral Commission and will in every possible way lighten that burden by making its responsibility as easy to discharge as possible.

(Signed) E. GREY



GREY TO PAGE, declaring the C.R.B. to be the only organization capable of assuming responsibility for relief activities both inside and outside of Belgium and that the C.R.B. must continue its functions or the relief cease

13 March 1916


I have carefully considered your letter of February 25th enclosing a letter from Mr. Hoover, regarding the possibility of the retirement of the American Commission from the direction of the relief work in Belgium.

I quite appreciate the desire of the Commission to divest themselves of the burden entailed by this work, which they have borne for so long, but I must state clearly that His Majesty's Government can only allow the work of relief to continue if the entire responsibility for it both inside and outside Belgium is borne by neutrals who, having complete freedom to come and go, and having no official position limiting their personal liability, can in fact be held responsible for the carrying out of the various conditions upon which His Majesty's Government have insisted. The American Commission is the only organisation which fulfils these requirements, and His Majesty's Government therefore feel obliged to insist that either the whole work should cease or the American Commission shall continue to direct it as heretofore.

I shall be glad if you will convey these observations to Mr. Hoover, and ask him to reconsider his views in the light of these contributions.

Believe me, my dear Ambassador,

Yours sincerely

(Signed) E. GREY



GREY TO PAGE, giving assurance of continued co-operation between the British Government and the Commission

16 May 1916


In your private note of March 23d last you were good enough to send me a copy of a letter from Mr. Hoover stating that the Commission for Relief in Belgium would be willing to continue their work of relieving the civil population of Belgium. In the last paragraph of his letter Mr. Hoover observes that it is hopeless to carry on this work without the daily co-operation of various departments and agencies of His Majesty's Government, and he says that, in agreeing to continue, it is on the clear understanding that this co-operation shall continue also.

I think that the Commission may perhaps desire to receive some assurance from His Majesty's Government on this point, and I therefore beg that you will be so good as to make it clear to Mr. Hoover and those associated with him in this great humanitarian work that it is the desire and intention of His Majesty's Government that various public departments connected with the work should co-operate with the Commission in the closest possible way.

I am happy to be able to say that the Commission continue to enjoy the complete confidence of His Majesty's Government, and I should like to add my own personal tribute to the admirable organisation which they have evolved , and to the tireless energy of all its members, who are so devotedly carrying out their difficult task.

Yours sincerely

(Signed) E. GREY



PERCY TO HOOVER, reviewing the origin of Belgian relief and the C.R.B. reiterating the sole responsibility of the C.R.B., and by implication declining to accept reorganization proposals originating in Belgium

15 July 1916


I have received your letter of June 30th, and have submitted it to my superiors for consideration. Leaving for separate treatment the various points raised in the first part of your letter, I am now directed to make to you the following observations on the question of the Organisation of the relief work in Belgium itself. (The Relief work in Northern France has been the subject of a separate memorandum.)

In view of Monsieur Francqui's memorandum, it is desirable to set out again clearly the conditions and expectations of His Majesty's Government. You will remember that when the first application was received from various Belgians for permits to import foodstuffs into Belgium in the months of September and October 1914, His Majesty's Government laid it down as an absolute rule that no such imports could be countenanced or permitted unless the foodstuffs were imported as the property, and distributed under the direction and control, of neutrals. Thereupon the services of the American Ambassador were enlisted, and His Majesty's Government, on the recommendation of Dr. Page, recognised the "American Relief Committee" and its successor the "Commission for Relief in Belgium" as suitable to undertake this sole responsibility. His Majesty's Government have continued to give undivided support to your organisation since that time. The various Belgian committees subsequently developed into the Comité National and its branches and this organisation with its members has shown admirable devotion and powers of organisation in developing the work. Unfortunately, all these gentlemen and their organisation are subject to the control of the enemies of the Allies, and, in spite of the high confidence which they enjoy, it is therefore utterly impossible for His Majesty's Government to reply upon them to bear the responsibilities for the conduct of the relief work in Belgium which you, not they, have assumed toward us. But His Majesty's Government have relied and do rely upon them, as Allies of this country possessing the same interests as this country, to give every help to the Commission for Relief in Belgium in its task, so far as the German authorities will allow them to do so, and it is obvious that upon them must rest the detailed labour of distribution. It seems scarcely necessary to repeat to you the various stipulations to this effect in the notes addressed from time to time by His Majesty's Government to the American and Spanish Ambassadors; but in this connection you should bear in mind particularly the notes addressed by Sir Edward Grey to the American Ambassador on June 17th, 1915, to the Marquis de Villalobar on February 28th, 1915, and to the American Ambassador on March 13th, 1916. In these notes it is repeatedly set out that the whole foundation and condition upon which these imports are to continue is that the undivided responsibility for the importation and distribution of the foodstuffs and money should rest solely upon the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the members of which, as neutrals, have freedom to come and go, and, having no official position limiting their personal liability, can in effect be held responsible for carrying out the various conditions upon which His Majesty's Government have been obliged to insist.

Having regard to these duties which His Majesty's Government consider are imposed on the Commission for Relief in Belgium, there would seem to be in Belgium a lack of real appreciation of the conditions which have been laid down by His Majesty's Government and of the constant vigilance which is necessary to carry them out. It may therefore be worth while to review these conditions, with the suggestion that this communication should be forwarded not only to the Comité National but to each of the provincial and other subsidiary committees for their information and guidance.

a) The Commission for Relief in Belgium should transport into Belgium the quantities and classes of foodstuffs fixed by the Allied Governments, and these foodstuffs must remain the property of the Commission for Relief in Belgium until they are delivered by the Communal Committees to the final consumer---that is, all foodstuffs in warehouses, whether provincial, regional, or communal, shall remain the property of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and all such warehouses shall be administered under their authority and control---as in no other manner can His Majesty's Government conceive that there can be adequate protection for the large stocks of food accumulated in Belgium.

b) The Commission for Relief in Belgium must maintain in Belgium an entirely independent organisation, with its own directors and managers responsible directly to its Chairman in London, and with a sufficient staff to ensure adequate representation throughout Belgium. This is the independent duty of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, although His Majesty's Government have no doubt as to the loyal co-operation of the Comité National in matters of detailed distribution.

c) The Commission for Relief in Belgium with the assistance of the Comité National must see to it that the guarantees entered into by the German authorities are strictly adhered to in all their aspects.

d) As His Majesty's Government indirectly, and many British subjects directly, contribute large sums to the support of the work, they must insist that it is the duty of the Commission for Relief in Belgium to satisfy itself independently that all the foodstuffs imported and acquired are distributed with justice and equality over the entire civil population, and that at all times, inside as well as outside Belgium, proper expenditure is made of these moneys and of all sums realised from the sale of foodstuffs in Belgium. "Ravitaillement" and "secours" are interdependent parts of the same operation. Your responsibilities extend to both, because the German guarantees extend to both, and there can and must be no separation between the two.

e) Apart from these entirely independent functions it would appear to His Majesty's Government that the Belgian in Belgium should be glad to have the co-operation of the Americans in all phases of the relief work. A memorandum of agreement between the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the Comité National, dated July 20th, 1915, submitted to His Majesty's Government, appeared to provide a basis of amicable understanding between the two organisations, that is, in general, that the Commission for Relief in Belgium should maintain an independent organisation in Belgium responsible to its Chairman, that members of the American organisation should be active members of the Executive Committees of the Comité National, that representatives of the staff of the Commission for Relief in Belgium should be actual members of the executive provincial committees, that all questions of broad internal policy were to be settled between the two organisations, and that the accountants of the Commission for Relief in Belgium should audit the accounts of the Comité National.

Since this memorandum of agreement was adopted it appears that two additions have been made to the scheme of joint organisation in order to guarantee the proper efficient working of the entire organisation: (1) The establishment of Bureaux Statistiques in order to supply from time to time data with regard to the food distributed; and (2) The establishment of a Department of Inspection and Control under the joint direction of representatives of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the Comité National.

His Majesty's Government must request that any opposition arising as to the executions of the functions of these two Bureaux be promptly reported by the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

Generally they must insist that the infractions of guarantees which come to the knowledge of the Commission for Relief in Belgium or the Comité National should either at once be taken up directly with the local German authorities or, if no remedy be found, that they shall be reported at regular intervals to the American and Spanish Ministers in Brussels who have so long acted as trustees for the guarantees, so as to afford them a proper basis for intervention with the German authorities on the working of the guarantees and to enable them to give their assurances to His Majesty's Government. While there are undoubted advantages in centralising these complaints of infractions through the Chairman of the Comité National to the Ministers or through the chairmen of the provincial committees to the local German authorities, it is essential that the American Director of the Commission or his representatives should be in agreement as regards all such presentations, so that the Commission for Relief in Belgium can independently assure His Majesty's Government that such infractions have been duly taken up and remedy found.

In conclusion we wish to make it entirely clear that this insistence on your independent duties of administration and control is no reflection upon the efficiency or good will of the Belgian organisation, in which the Allied Governments have entire confidence. The sole object of His Majesty's Government, which can only be secured in the manner above outlined, is to maintain the distinctively neutral character of this work, which alone enables neutral opinion to be enlisted wholeheartedly and energetically in its support, and to relieve the Belgians themselves of responsibilities which, in their present circumstances, could only compromise such liberty of action as they still enjoy and endanger their safety.

Yours sincerely




GREY TO PAGE, setting forth a precise definition of the C.R.B. in relief of Belgium

20 October 1916


I have carefully considered Your Excellency's request, made, I understand, on behalf of Mr. Whitlock, for a precise definition of the responsibilities of the Commission for Relief in Belgium with regard to the distribution of foodstuffs and monies arising therefrom in the occupied areas of Belgium and Northern France. Although these responsibilities have been set out from time to time during the last two years in communications addressed to Your Excellency and to the Commission, I will endeavor to review the matter for Mr. Whitlock's guidance in the light not only of the original engagements but also of experience gained during these two years of operation. I will on this occasion confine myself to the questions arising in the occupied portions of Belgium leaving for separate treatment the arrangements with regard to the occupied portions of Northern France.

(2) Your Excellency will remember that when the first applications were received from various Belgians for permits to import foodstuffs into Belgium in the months of September and October, 1914, His Majesty's Government laid it down as an absolute rule that no such imports could be introduced or permitted unless the foodstuffs were imported and properly distributed by and under the direction and control of neutrals, and for many reasons Americans were marked out as the neutrals best able to undertake the task in a manner satisfactory both to His Majesty's Government and the Belgian Government. The services of Your Excellency were enlisted, and through the good offices of the United States Government, the approval of the German Government in Berlin was secured for the importation and distribution of foodstuffs under the conditions laid down.

(3) His Majesty's Government, upon the recommendation of Your Excellency, at that time recognised the American Relief Committee under Mr. Hoover, and later on, its successor, the Commission for Relief in Belgium, as suitable to undertake this responsibility. It was agreed that the Commission should act under the patronage and protection of Your Excellency in London and of the United States Minister in Brussels, and shortly afterwards the Spanish Ambassador in London and the Spanish Minister in Brussels, the United States Ambassadors in Berlin and in Paris, the United States Minister at The Hague, and the Netherlands Minister at Le Havre were induced to extend their patronage and protection to the Commission. His Majesty's Government were informed by the Belgian representatives that they would co-operate fully and loyally with the Commission for Relief in Belgium and would assist them in the distribution of foodstuffs and relief. At a later stage, we were informed that for this purpose the various Belgian Committees had been grouped into a unified organisation known as the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation, and His Majesty's Government assumed that the organisation thus formed was to be regarded simply as a distribution agency of the Commission for Relief. I wish at this point to state, generally and distinctly, that His Majesty's Government see no reason to alter their original attitude that the whole foundation and condition upon which the imports can continue is that the undivided responsibility for the importation of foodstuffs, the control over their distribution, and the allocation of the monies arising therefrom shall be vested solely in the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

(4) I will endeavor to set out in even more detail the reasons why His Majesty's Government find it necessary to insist on this relationship and responsibility, but I wish first to make it quite clear that this insistence is in no sense a reflection upon the Belgian gentlemen so nobly engaged in the relief of their countrymen. His Majesty's Government fully appreciate the devotion and ability which the personnel of the Comité National has shewn under circumstances of the most extraordinary difficulty. They are convinced that the structure of the Communal, Regional, Provincial, Special, and National Committees is essential to the detailed distribution of the relief. Unfortunately all these gentlemen and their organisation and property are subject to the control of enemies of the Allies and, despite the high confidence they enjoy, it is not only impossible for His Majesty's Government to rely upon them to bear the responsibilities assumed towards the Allies by the Commission for Relief, but also contrary to the interests of their Belgian fellow-countrymen that they should attempt to do so. His Majesty's Government have relied and do rely upon them to appreciate the anomalous situation and peculiar necessities of the time. Having, as they are known to have, the best interests of their countrymen at heart, they will assuredly be willing to renounce for the time being those independent functions to which their abilities and nationality would otherwise entitle them, and devote their energies to the loyal assistance of the neutral Commission in its onerous task.

(5) It seems obvious that only a neutral organisation under the powerful protection which the Commission for Relief in Belgium enjoys, could have been or can be in a position to make agreements of a binding character with belligerent governments and officials, and to secure the fulfilment of those agreements. Such agreements made either with the approval of the Patron Ministers or by them on behalf of the Commission must be supported, not only by the influence of the neutral governments involved, but also by public opinion in belligerent as well as neutral countries. Such agreements, if made on behalf of a Belgian committee under present political conditions, would have no such support, either from neutral governments or public opinion, and His Majesty's Government cannot therefore accept any substitution of the Comité National for the Commission for Relief in Belgium in such agreements.

(6) His Majesty's Government do not conceive that the vast quantities of money and foodstuffs required can be protected in overseas transport and internal distribution unless they are the absolute property and under the absolute control and administration of such a body of neutrals; and the responsibility of this body must extend to the maintenance of a distributing organisation of such character as shall in itself minimise the possibility of leakage.

(7) Again, the neutral membership of the Commission, in Belgium, gives it a freedom of movement and action, an independence from political and personal pressure, and consequently an ability on the part of its members to control and direct administration, which no Belgian could today assume in the occupied territory. And it is only through a daily participation in and control over the administration by such neutrals that the Patron Ministers will be able to give the assurances to the various Governments involved as to the daily compliance of the various parties with the undertakings on which the work of relief is founded.

(8) Beyond this, again, it is a fact inherent in any military government imposed on territories occupied by force of arms, that there can be no expectation of rigid justice and fidelity in the distribution of relief, whether of food or money, unless the administration of the whole work is participated in at every point and absolutely controlled by an independent neutral body such as the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

(9) The Commission for Relief in Belgium has submitted to His Majesty's Government from time to time, for their approval, various memoranda settled by them with the Comité National as to their mutual relations, to which we have been compelled to take some exceptions. With regard to our views generally upon these arrangements, I think it is desirable to lay down the following principles to which all such arrangements must conform:

a) The Commission must maintain in Belgium an entirely independent organisation, composed of responsible and capable Directors and Managers, responsible directly to the Chairman of the Commission and numerous enough to secure the adequate representation of the Commission and the execution of its duties throughout Belgium. Whilst in a general way the Comité National and its component sub-committees must of necessity bear the labour of the detailed distribution, both it and its component committees must act as the agent of and on behalf of the Commission. The cooperation of the Comité National with the Commission in this particular would seem to have been obtained by the arrangements entered into, by which all matters of general policy should be settled in conference between the two organisations, while joint consideration in matters of administration should be secured by the Commission maintaining several neutral members upon the Executive Committees of the Comité National and upon the Executives of the Provincial and Special Committees. It obviously follows that all administrative decisions must be made by these Executive Committees and that the views of the Commission's representatives thereon must be given the weight which their great responsibilities demand.

b) The Commission for Relief in Belgium must itself purchase the foodstuffs and transport them into Belgium within the quantities fixed by the Allied Governments, and these foodstuffs must remain the absolute property of the Commission until they are delivered by the Communal Committees, to the final consumer, i.e., all foodstuffs in warehouses, whether Provincial, Regional, or Communal, must remain the property of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and all such warehouses, in and out of Belgium, are to be designated as the property of the Commission and to be administered under its name and authority by its own officers or by the Comité National as its administrative agents, for in no other manner do His Majesty's Government believe that adequate protection can be secured for the large stocks of food accumulated in Belgium. Moreover, as large quantities of foodstuffs are sold in Belgium and the monies realised therefrom are applied to the department of "Secours," His Majesty's Government require that the responsibility of the Commission for Relief in Belgium shall, in the same manner and for similar reasons, extend to the handling of these monies no less than to the distribution of food, the various branches of the Comité National acting in this matter also as agents of the Commission in its name and with its full knowledge and consent.

c) Apart from these arrangements for the administration and protection of foodstuffs and money, His Majesty's Government must insist on the general and independent responsibility of the Commission to see that such form of organisation and distribution shall be maintained as will secure that all foodstuffs and relief shall be distributed and administered with justice and equity and shall reach their destination with the minimum possible risk of leakage. As a necessary condition of the continuance of imports, the Commission either directly or through its Patron Ministers, must be able to certify that the agreements and undertakings made on all sides, providing for the non-interference of all authorities with the collection and distribution of foodstuffs and monies arising therefrom, are carried out in good faith, and obviously the Belgian committees will share and co-operate in the enforcement of these guarantees to the fullest extent of their power.

d) In the accomplishment of these objects, His Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to the Bureau of Inspection and Control, which must independently satisfy itself that the whole relief organisation is functioning properly in all the particulars above set out. This bureau must be maintained, either solely under the control of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, or, preferably, jointly in co-operation with the Comité National. And furthermore, the Commission must continue, both in and out of Belgium, the Bureau of Audit, under independent Accountants, who shall from time to time audit the essential accounts of the whole relief organisation; also a Bureau of Statistics, which shall be in a position to supply to the Protecting Ministers adequate data as to the food collection, transport, and distribution.

(10) It would appear to His Majesty's Government that there can be nothing in these stipulations with which the Belgians in Belgium should be unwilling to comply. As already emphasised, they represent no reflection upon the efficiency and good will of the Belgian Committees or their membership. The sole object of His Majesty's Government is to maintain intact the distinctively neutral character of this work which alone enables neutral effort abroad to be enlisted energetically and whole-heartedly in its support. This can clearly only be secured in the manner outlined above. Beyond this, it appears to His Majesty's Government that the assumption by the Belgian committees of separate responsibilities towards any of the authorities or any independent action on their part. could only compromise and endanger their members, and I must again repeat that on no other conditions than those laid down above can His Majesty's Government permit food importations into Belgium.

(11) I shall be glad if Your Excellency will communicate the above to the principal members of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and, through your colleagues in Brussels, to the principal members of the Belgian Committees in Belgium, and I shall be glad to receive your assurance that the above principles are fully understood and that the whole organisation is conducted upon these lines.

Believe me, my dear Ambassador,

Yours sincerely




HOOVER TO PERCY, replying to the latter's observation on the violation of German guarantees and his inquiry concerning the working of the Bureau of Inspection and Control

LONDON, 30 June 1916

Lord Eustace Percy,
The Foreign Office, London


I beg to acknowledge your various letters of the 28th and 29th of June. I will, of course, take up in Belgium the many matters which you raise. I do think, however, that I should set out at some length some factors in the position in relation also to your verbal inquiries.

I. In sending you copies of the weekly statement of investigations I was actuated by a desire to place before you the whole internal working of the organization, fully and frankly, hoping to convince you that the inspection and control were carried out rigorously and that consequential irregularities were fully pursued. As I pointed out at that time, 1 did so with fear that the great number of incidents which these documents displayed would give you a wholly distorted view as to the situation in Belgium. If you will bear in mind the many committees and daily transactions in the country and the fineness of the comb which we draw through it, I think you will agree with me that the matters raised can quite well be left to their normal solution. The great number of incidents related may be divided into three categories:

a) A large part of the incidents refer to irregularities in distribution amongst the civil population, which is purely a matter of internal organization, and, while it concerns us as an organization, it does not come into the range of the guarantees.

b) You will note the entire absence of incident in relation to seizure of imported foodstuffs by the Germans.

c) Practically the whole of the incidents of violation revolve around the interpretation of the provisions in the guarantees as to individual purchases and to export of excess early vegetables, with the exception of the fats question, which is under negotiation.

In practically all these incidents at least colorable right may be claimed by the German authorities and we have taken the view that if we put up complaints, while it will be impossible for us to get the return of the actual commodity involved, the steady presentation of a stream of complaints keeps down violation. There is no doubt in our mind as to the desire of the central authorities in Brussels to see the guarantees carried out properly, and it seems to us that it will be sufficient to keep them up to the mark if we report to them all the incidents which occur in the country through the laxity of local administration.

The matters of which you complain will be gone into still further to the best of our ability; but you will, 1 think, recognize that there is a limit to what can be done and that we are certainly protecting 99.9 per cent of the total native food supply of the country at the present moment.

II. In the matter of further information as to the constitution and method of handling the Bureau of Inspection and Control and the pursuit of irregularities to the German authorities, I beg to say the following is the situation:

The Bureau of Inspection and Control was set up early last winter in response to your demands for more rigorous control by the Americans. It was constituted as a joint measure between the C.R.B. and the C.N. to be presided over by an American representing the C.R.B. and a Belgian representing the C.N., both acting under the respective directors. The gentlemen chosen were Messrs. van Gend and Green. Subsidiary bureaus were to be established in each province to be presided over jointly by an American representative of the C.R.B. and a Belgian representative of the C.N. The provincial bureaus were to maintain their own staffs of inspectors and to investigate in great detail the whole of the operations of the communal committees. The Central Bureau of Inspection and Control also has its own independent inspectors in conjunction with the provincial inspectors, who investigate any complaints coming up to the central organization, the idea being that the Central Inspection Bureau overriding the whole, would keep the provincial bureaus stimulated up to efficiency. In working out the details of installation of this organization, a considerable amount of difficulty has been encountered, as one or two of the provincial committees resented it as in some manner a reflection upon their administration; and both Mr. Francqui and Mr. Poland have experienced a great deal of personal difficulty in obtaining its acceptance and loyal support. To the best of my belief the provincial committee of Brabant, which you mentioned, is the only one which has not fallen entirely into line. You will recognize that any organization of this type which is made up of volunteers of all kinds of personalities requires a great deal of care and patience, and the Relief direction in Brussels has succeeded in overcoming all opposition of this character, except, possibly, in the cases. you allude to. I do not think we are warranted in cutting off the entire food supply to this province at present, but no doubt if they do not promptly 'and loyally co-operate at an early date we could, if you insist, do so.

With regard to your inquiries as to whether this bureau covers the question of forced labor, I beg to say that the inspection and control in general embraces both ravitaillement and secours, and under the latter the labor question arises. The Belgian people very naturally consider that in all departments where they are expending money remitted by their own Government, the Americans have no voice. Therefore, Mr. Green's departmental activities have been restricted to the ravitaillement questions; in fact the secours side of the inspection and control is conducted in an entirely separate office. The phases arising out of the Caisse de Prêts, which you mention, are on the secours side and therefore are not within our present province.

Given that irregularities vis-à-vis the guarantees are discovered and investigated, they are, together with the data thereon, referred to Mr. Francqui, who draws up a weekly note in summary, which he presents to the ministers to be presented to the German authorities. Latterly the provincial presidents have been instructed, after consultation with the American representatives, to take up the irregularities arising in the province, in the first instance with the local German Governor, with a view to effecting a quicker solution so that the central establishment shall only need to deal with such issues as cannot locally be settled.

III. As to the Étape, the situation here is very difficult. As you can imagine, in the midst of a fighting army the Germans are not willing to have persons of any nationality circulating freely through the country for fear that they should be the bearers of communications. We took up with the German General Staff on my last visit the question of establishing another American station in this area, and I am in hopes that this can be brought to a speedy fruition. Most of the complaints to which you refer took place in the southwestern section of the Étape, our people having a much freer movement in the half to the north and east.

IV. As to the question about how far the C.R.B. is maintaining an independent control in Belgium, I beg to enclose herewith copy of a memorandum prepared by Mr. Francqui. The Belgian people having built up, under most terrible difficulties, a strong institution in the shape of the Comité National, they have a natural desire that it should be steadily and systematically held to the forefront as a rallying point of Belgian sentiment and solidarity, and that its brilliance should not be diminished by a parallel and too prominent a foreign institution. The most extreme form of such development would be the total elimination of the Americans from Belgium, which 1 do not believe is at all intended. The question as to how far it is necessary for us to maintain an independent organization under independent direction revolves, so far as you are concerned, largely around the question of guarantees. Certain other questions enter into it but lie outside the international phases. At the early stages of the organization in Belgium the Americans performed certain functions outside relief which do not at the present moment loom so large. But as the C.N. has grown in influence and strength within the country and as life has settled down to more or less routine and settled relations with the Germans, this function is not so important as it was at one time.

V. The whole desire of the Americans is simply to serve the Belgians and above all to carry on this service on an amiable footing whereby no possible friction can result, and 1 am anxious to agree with Mr. Francqui in the desirability, from the standpoint above expressed, of entirely subordinating the C.R.B. organization in Belgium to the C.N. and to do so with your full approval. Always bear in mind that this is not a business of personal amour propre; that we do not care an atom what position we occupy in the scheme so long as the Belgian people are fed .

Yours faithfully




PAGE TO WHITLOCK, stating the Ambassador's opinion respecting relations of the C.R.B. and C.N. and protesting against interference with the C.R.B.'s discharge of its responsibilities

LONDON, 23 October 1916

His Excellency, The Honorable Brand Whitlock
American Minister, Brussels


I send you herewith further copies of the Foreign Office note sent you with my dispatch of the 21st instant with regard to the relations of the Commission for Relief and the Belgian committees. I feel that some observations on my part may be of interest to you in the difficult negotiations which may be necessary to straighten out this situation.

We all recognize here the extreme difficulty of the situation which you have to defend in Belgium. There would seem to be a great demand for labor on your part vis-à-vis the authorities without the necessity of troubling the local committees. And I am sure that their lack of perspective does not make matters any easier for you.

Several things are apparent to me with regard to the relief in general: it is unpopular with a large public opinion in the Allied countries on military grounds, and continues its existence against these currents, first, because of the constant assurance that it is an organism of independent neutrals under the patronage of American officials in Europe; second, that any termination of the relief brought about by the action of the Allied Governments would create a storm of adverse public opinion abroad. It is a very delicate thread on which to hang such an organism, and it has only been by the strenuous daily and hourly activity of the Relief Commission itself that these adverse currents are stemmed and the support of public opinion maintained.

In view of the reports which filter out of Belgium daily as to the rigorous subjection of the Belgians to German authority, if it were suggested that the Americans were not the forefront and control of the relief in Belgium itself, the whole thing would break down. The general conception of the relief work is based on the arrangement stipulated at the initial stage by the British Government. This conception has been maintained since the beginning, and any action taken by the Belgians which tends to controvert this will, if it ever gets known, be the death knell of the entire relief.

For eight or nine months the British Government has been filled with anxiety as to whether this was the actual state of the organization, and reports coming out of Belgium through various channels have disclosed to the British Government an attitude of determined independence and assumption of domination by the Belgian committees and the subjection of the Americans. This would have reached a crisis long since but for the activities of Mr. Hoover. In his anxiety, however, to maintain good relations with all his associates he has always minimized these actions as not vitally affecting the main objects of the relief. The action of the Belgian committees in replacing the name of the Commission for Relief in Belgium by that of the Comité National on distributing stations in Belgium, and the tendency of the Comité National to set itself up in agreements with the German authorities as the responsible agency of the work with occasional references to the C.R.B. as an importing body, and its reports which scarcely acknowledge the existence of the C.R.B. or give it studied omission, are all indicative of a set policy. What they may have in their minds I cannot understand. In any event, the protection of the relief abroad and support by our own Government at Washington in holding the German Government to their undertakings, is wholly impossible upon such a basis, entirely aside from the English view of the matter. The Comité National is not the pivot on which the relief revolves in Belgium. If the time ever arrives when we have to appeal to our Government to support the relief organization in Belgium from German interference we shall make a poor showing if the German Government should claim that their relations are acknowledged to be with the Comité National, a Belgian organization subject entirely to German domination.

I do not see why the co-operation and participation of the American gentlemen in the work should be offensive to the amour propre of the Belgians, or why they should hesitate fully and loyally to recognize and welcome such participation.

In view of the fact that the initial support of the American Government in this matter is due to you and that you have remained in Belgium all this time at so great a sacrifice of your own comfort, it seems unfair that you should be called upon to straighten out such a situation as this; and especially that, when all is said and done, this American effort should be represented as a minor contribution.

As to the Americans who are engaged in this work, if they decline from personal reasons to continue the administration they are now carrying on, I for one will feel compelled to advise our Government that if they cannot succeed no group of Americans can ever hope to do so. In this I am confident you will agree with me.

I am informed that a year ago Mr. Hoover found it was utterly impossible to carry on his personal interests and give the time and energy required to this work, and that he has severed all his professional connections, thus stripping himself entirely of his professional income and position. This represents a greater financial sacrifice than has been given by anyone else of any nationality. If, in addition to the great anxieties over outside matters which grow in difficulty every day, he is to be confronted with anxieties from lack of cooperation and deliberate interference in Belgium, it seems to me that it is too much to ask him, or any other American, to go on. It is asking too much of you and me; we cannot be put in a false position by countenancing the growth in Belgium of an organization different from that prescribed by the agreements with the Allied Governments.

I am, my dear colleague,

Very sincerely




LORD ROBERT CECIL TO PAGE, stating that the British Government could not sanction any increase in imports to Belgium or even guarantee continuance of present imports if the Bureau of Inspection and Control were altered

20 October 1916


With reference to my long letter to you of today, I must explain confidentially to you the vital importance attached by us to the Bureau of Inspection and Control in Belgium. It is not too much to say that it is on our knowledge of the detailed working of this Bureau that our whole confidence in the efficiency of the organisation in Belgium is based.

Without this knowledge I should feel wholly unable to recommend to His Majesty's Government any increase in the importations of the Commission or in the subsidies granted to it by the Allied Governments, and any doubt as to its smooth working places me in the gravest position at this moment when increased funds and increased importations are being asked for. I could not in these circumstances even guarantee the continuance of present importations, since my confidence in the absence of leakages of foodstuffs to the Germans would be wholly destroyed.

Believe me, my dear Ambassador,

Yours sincerely





Memorandum of agreement,
C.R.B. AND THE C.N., approved by the British and Belgian Governments, defining the principles and objectives of the co-operative activities of the two organizations

LONDON, 30 December 1916

The Commission for Relief in Belgium ("the Commission") and the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation ("the Comité National") have deemed it advisable to review their respective objectives and the principles of their close and friendly co-operation, and they have, in entire agreement, drafted the present memorandum for that purpose. The arrangements as to the relief of Northern France, being the subject of a separate memorandum with the French Government, are not here considered. and these arrangements are solely matters for settlement between the Commission and the French Government.

1. The Commission was founded in October 1914, on the recommendation of American citizens interested in Belgium, by the American and Spanish Ambassadors and Ministers, with their patronage, and the approval of their respective Governments and of the Allied, Belgian and German Governments, to undertake as neutrals the importation and distribution of food supplies and relief to the civil population of the occupied territories of Belgium and Northern France.

2. Under the patronage of the Spanish and American Ministers in Brussels, the Comité Central was founded in Belgium in August 1914, by a number of important Belgian citizens residing in the occupied territory, with the sole view of bringing relief to the Belgian civil population, and in October 1914, this body was transformed into the "Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation."

The Commission and the Comité National resolved, in October 1914, to unite their activities, with a view to assuring more efficiency in the carrying out of their common objectives.

3. (a) The Commission is directly responsible to its patron ambassadors and ministers, and is entirely independent of control or participation of any of the belligerent governments, and of any organization of belligerent subjects, and employs belligerent subjects only at its own appointment.

The Commission maintains its principal offices in England, with branches in America, Holland, Argentina, France, Belgium, Northern France, and elsewhere, as necessity requires. The Chairman is appointed with the approval of the patron ministers, and the personnel of the Commission is appointed by and responsible to the Chairman.

b) The Commission, either through itself or through its patron ministers, has entered into a large number of undertakings with the Allied, Belgian, and German Governments, fixing the conditions under which it operates, and providing for authorization, protection, transport, and distribution of supplies imported into occupied territory, the protection and distribution of indigenous food supplies, and the protection of the operations of relief generally.

The Commission is thus entrusted with the protection of the relief work and with the protection of all the funds and foodstuffs appertaining thereto, and is responsible to the Allied and Belgian Governments for the observance by the Germans of all the guarantees which have been given with respect to both imported and indigenous foodstuffs, as well as to other matters covered by the guarantees affecting the welfare of the population in the occupied territory.

In execution of its responsibilities, the Commission furnishes to its patron ministers regular reports upon any failure of the undertakings with regard to the protection of imported and indigenous foodstuffs and the organization and operation of the relief generally, in order that the patron ministers may be in position to advise the various governments as to the maintenance of the integrity of the guarantees and the undertakings of the Commission.

c) The Commission has the sole administration of all relief activities exterior to the occupied territory, including the mobilization of finance, food supplies, charity, and the protection and transport of foodstuffs.

d) The Commission is responsible to its patrons, to the neutral governments who give it moral and substantial support, and to the Allied and Belgian Governments, not only for the integrity and neutrality of its operations, but also, in conjunction with the Comité National in the occupied territory, for protecting and insuring the distribution of food supplies, and a priority in the application of food supplies and moneys arising from the sale thereof, to the adequate support of the destitute, and it is recognized by all parties that this function is the sole objective for which the Commission was founded, and is the only stimulus upon which it can continue.

e) The Commission has been, and is, financially supported, not only by public charity from the British Empire, the United States, and elsewhere, and also from Belgians abroad, but, as the necessities have grown beyond the resources of public charity, it has been predominantly supported by subsidies from the Belgian Government. The Commission receives the constant and sympathetic assistance of the Allied and Belgian Governments in the provision and transport of food supplies.

The Commission furnishes to its patron ministers full accounts, audited by an approved firm of public accountants, of the whole of its financial operations, and detailed statistical data as to the cost, transport, and distribution of foodstuffs and benevolence, and the Commission undertakes to furnish copies of these reports regularly to the Allied and Belgian Governments, and its financial responsibilities cease with the tendering of such audited accounts.

f) The Commission is generally responsible for conveying to the Allied and Belgian Governments, from time to time, the actual needs of the occupied territory as to the import of foodstuffs, and to determine, in co-operation with the Comité National, the needs of the population; and the Commission undertakes to carry out to the best of its ability the restrictions placed upon it by the British Government as to character, quantity, and methods of distribution and transport of commodities imported.

4. (a) In the course of its operations the Commission has entered into various arrangements with the Comité. National, engaged in detailed distribution, with a view of the discharge of its responsibilities outlined above, and for the furtherance of these objectives the following general principles of relationship between the Commission and the Comité National are here set out as outlined in paragraphs 5 and 6.

b) The Commission maintains an independent organization in Belgium, and, through its Director and his assistants, maintains an intimate co-operation with the Comité National in Brussels, and, by its representatives in the provinces, the same relations to the executives of the provincial committees, and the members of the Commission attend the meetings of the Comité National and participate in their deliberations.

c) The Comité National maintains, through the system of subcommittees, the detailed administrations of the distribution of commodities and relief funds in Belgium. The Comité National has established for that object central offices in Brussels, with branches subordinate to the Comité exécutif in every provincial head town (Comités provinciaux) as well as in every district head town and in every commune (Comités cantonaux et Comités communaux). The Comité National has also organized, in addition to the local branches, a number of special committees with specific objects. The Comité National is managed by a Comité exécutif, whose president is appointed by the Comité National. The staff of the central offices in Brussels is appointed by the President of the Comité exécutif, and is responsible to him. In the provinces the staff is appointed by the president of the provincial, cantonal, and communal committees.

d) The Comité National has been and is financially supported (i) By remittances of the Commission, as outlined in paragraph 6; (ii) By charitable contributions collected among the population in Belgium itself.

5. The general relation between the Commission and the Comité National is one of joint co-operation and collaboration in the general policy and general direction and control of the distribution of commodities and benevolence.

While in general the guardianship of the relief is naturally vested in the Commission, the detailed administration (except transport) is naturally vested in the Comité National, and the general policy is vested jointly in the two Committees, in which each shall have an equal voice, the one appropriate to its larger experience in Belgian life and the actual needs of the population, and the other appropriate to its independence and to its obligations, as set out above, and to its functions in co-ordinating the relief measures inside Belgium to the measures necessitated by physical and political circumstances outside Belgium.

It follows that, from this relationship, no decision as to changes in methods or policy or financial organization shall be made without the mutual agreement of both the Commission and the Comité National, and that any decision taken shall be given prompt and efficient execution, and any abuses discovered shall be promptly remedied by the executives of the Commission and the Comité National.

6. (a) The whole of the foodstuffs imported for Belgium shall be charged by the Commission to the Comité National, and shall be sold by the Comité National to the civilian population. The receipts from such sales shall be distributed by the Comité National for benevolent support of the destitute:

(i) As outlined in paragraph 6 (e) (i and ii);

(ii) Such purposes as set out in 6 (e) (iii) ; and for

(iii) Payments on account of commercial exchange; and the Comité National shall liquidate the debts against them from the Commission through the acceptance by the Commission of the detailed accounts of the Belgian Committee of Expenditure upon the items i, ii, and iii set out above, these accounts to be subject to audit by the Commission's accountants. All foodstuffs (any moneys so far as expenditures on items i and ii, is concerned) are the properties of the Commission, the Comité National acting as the legal agents for the Commission in such transactions. As evidence of such ownership and joint administration, all working places of the relief organization in Belgium, and all documents relating thereto, shall bear the mention "Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation," "Commission for Relief in Belgium," and all ration cards, etc., shall be issued with the same mention.

b) For administrative purposes in Belgium the Commission and the Comité National will act through the channel of the existing divisions designated hereafter. In each of these divisions all information in the hands of both committees is open to both; (i) Transport; (ii) Ravitaillement; (iii) Secours; (iv) Inspection and Control; (v) Commercial Exchange; (vi) Accounts and Statistics.

c) Transport---The transport throughout Belgium is managed by the Commission, with the assistance of the Comité National, and commodities are delivered to the local branches of the Comité National, in such proportions as may be determined by the chief executive of the Comité National and of the Commission.

d) Ravitaillement---The chief executive of the Comité National and the Commission in Brussels will, from time to time, determine in consultation:

(i) The nature and quantities of commodities to be imported.

(ii) The provincial distribution of these commodities.

(iii) The methods of milling and rationing, the amount of the rations, and the control of distribution generally.

(iv) Remedies for defects and abuses in detailed distribution organization.

(v) The prices at which imports are transferred by the Commission to the Comité National, by the Comité National to the provincial committees, by the provincial committees to the cantonal and communal committees, and by the latter sold to the public.

(vi) The measures to be taken as to the control of native food supplies and the general policy to be pursued in connection therewith, the Commission and the Comité National being represented in the Wheat Central, and interesting themselves in securing Belgian or neutral participation in the other centrals controlling the various commodities set up by the German authorities.

On their part the presidents of the provincial committees and the representatives of the Commission in the provinces will from time to time determine in consultation:

(1) The regional distribution of the commodities put at the disposal of their provinces.

(2) The measures to be taken as to the control of native food supplies in their provinces.

(3) Remedies for defects and abuses in detailed distribution organization in their provinces.

e) Secours.---Inasmuch as public charity is now entirely inadequate for the support of the destitute, it is the wish of the Allied and Belgian Governments that their support should constitute a first call upon all funds and foodstuffs at the disposal of the Commission and the Comité National, and it is agreed that all foodstuffs or moneys received from the sale of foodstuffs shall be divided into:

(i) Funds or foodstuffs to be applied to the support of the destitute, which shall include the relief measures given at present under Secours Ordinaire and the Fund Chomage, Soupes Scolaires, etc., etc., and such other purely benevolent expenditure as may be determined from time to time as necessary. The chief executives of the Commission and the Comité National shall mutually determine periodically the amount to be set aside for these purposes monthly. They shall also determine monthly the division of this general appropriation between the various branches and subcommittees devoted to benevolent support of the destitute, and the accounts of the Comité National and the Commission are to be adjusted from this point of view. All the organisms subsidized under this heading shall be at all times open to the full investigations of the Commission, and any recommendations made by the Commission shall be mutually considered and determined by the chief executives of the Commission and the Comité National.

(ii) Public charity collected by the Commission shall, as needed, be transferred to the Comité National, whose chief executives, in consultation with the chief executives of the Commission, shall pay such sums out to the various charitable committees in Belgium in such amounts as may be mutually determined from time to time.

(iii) The Commission has no responsibility with regard to the distribution of the remainder of the funds available after the satisfaction of the necessities of the destitute. The Commission will, however, upon receipt of statements of such disbursements under paragraph 6, transmit them in their accounts to the Allied and Belgian Governments.

f) Inspection.---The Central Bureau of Inspection shall be maintained and managed jointly by representatives from the Commission and the Comité National. The existing branch bureau shall be likewise maintained in each of the provinces, managed by joint representatives of the Commission and the provincial committee.

The purpose of these bureaus shall be:

(i) To investigate and report on all infractions of the guarantees. The reports of this division shall be handled jointly by the chief executives of the Commission and the Belgian Committee, and protests presented to the German authorities either by their own representatives or through the protecting ministers.

(ii) The investigation and report on the resales of imported foodstuffs or illicit transactions in native foodstuffs. The abuses so determined shall be at once taken up by the representatives of the Comité National or of the provincial committees on the inspection, and suppressed, either directly or in co-operation with the judicial authorities in the country, and the central and local bureaus shall be kept advised of these actions.

(iii) The inspection of the administrative operations of the various subcommittees throughout the country. The reports as to abuses in these matters shall be handed to the chief executives of the Comité National for action.

All questions arising under any of these heads shall form the subject of regular reports from the Commission to the patron ministers under paragraph 3 (b).

g) Commercial Exchange.---The Allied Governments have granted to the Commission the right to accept payments abroad from private individuals and firms for transmission into Belgium and payment out of the receipts from the sale of foodstuffs. The Comité National will make such payments for the account of the Commission, as outlined in paragraph 6.

h) Accounts and Statistics.---The Comité National is to furnish to the Commission monthly statements of all its accounts, to be audited by the accountants of the Commission, and the Commission and the Comité National are to maintain departments of statistics, and the Commission is to report regularly to the patron ministers the details of food and clothing distribution over the whole country and the distribution of funds for the support of the destitute.

SIGNED(31) of December, one thousand nine hundred and sixteen.

Chairman, Comité Exécutif, Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation

Chairman, Commission for Relief in Belgium

7. The British and Belgian Governments give their complete approval to the principles of joint and friendly co-operation expounded in the present memorandum, and they express their satisfaction with the Commission's and the Comité National's conduct of the relief during the period of over two years during which they have devoted themselves to the service of the Belgian people. The Belgian Government and people welcome all these activities of both the Commission and the Comité National for the protection and security of their people.

Should irreconcilable differences arise between the Commission and the Comité National, no executive action shall be taken on either side until the Allied and Belgian Governments and the patron ministers shall have determined the matter and so advised both committees.


The discussion culminating in the precise statement given above finally determined the position of the Commission. A month later, however, the United States broke off relations with Germany and on the 6th April 1917 America was in the war. These great events made it necessary to replace the Americans in Belgium with nationals of neutral states. Three and a half years' experience had established the technique of relief, and as far as relief distribution was concerned, the succeeding months brought to light no new experience within the invaded territories. A Spanish-Dutch committee was organized to protect the distribution of relief(32) but outside of Belgium the Commission's organization and functions remained unchanged. A C.R.B. office in Brussels under a Belgian director(33) continued to provide contact between the internal and external organizations. When, in the autumn of 1918, the Germans evacuated Belgium, the Commission returned its American delegates to the liberated regions, where they were occupied in assisting the Belgians with their enormous burden of reconstruction.

Chapter 3

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