CHAPTER VIII, continued


The preceding documents in this chapter relate only to the protection of native products in the Occupation Zone, i.e., that part of Belgium under the jurisdiction of the German General Government in Brussels. Negotiations of a different character but of equal importance were carried on concurrently regarding the local crops in the Army Zones, which included East and West Flanders (usually referred to as the Belgian Etapes) and Northern France.(260) In the Army Zones, as has been said, the Commission negotiated directly with the army commands wholly outside the channels of diplomacy, and the requisition and distribution of local supplies were carried out by the six separate army commands without a central organization as in Belgium. In general the Commission had satisfactory dealings with the army, whose decisions were prompt and efficiently carried out. The Germans were jealous of their authority and never allowed negotiations to take the form of bargaining. The Commission made the best of this situation, presenting its case and its specific desires informally. Many minor guarantees were merely verbal assurances of competent military authorities to the Commission's representative; others were in the form of army decrees which were always issued as decisions of the Command with no suggestion that they originated in requests from the Commission. Obviously much of the success in these relations depended on the tact and ability of the American representatives in Northern France and in this the Commission was very fortunate. On one or two occasions, notably during the deportations incident,(261) relations were strained, but the influence of the Americans was always sufficient to enable the Commission to discharge its heavy responsibilities without a break.

4. The Belgian Etapes. September-October 1915

Coincidently with its operations in the Occupation Zone of Belgium in 1914 and 1915, the Commission had extended its relief to the Belgian Etapes (East and West Flanders), where it had secured without difficulty from the military authorities an extension of all important guarantees with respect to imported commodities. As has been noted, however, the crop guarantees for the Occupation Zone did not apply to these regions, and when the army command announced its program the British Foreign Office objected and warned Hoover that unless he could secure concessions from the Germans, further imports into the Belgian Etapes would be prohibited. The documents which immediately follow show the negotiations with the army representatives which secured the concessions acceptable to the British.



HOOVER TO CROSBY, regarding the requisitioning of crops in the Belgian Etapes, East and West Flanders

BRUSSELS, 14 September 1915

Oscar T. Crosby, Esq.,
Director, C.R.B., Brussels



I understand that the German authorities in this section are requisitioning the entire harvest and that they are intending to set aside out of the harvest for the civilian population an amount of wheat which will come to 120 grams per capita per diem during the next year and that no provision has been made for the reservation to the population of fodder for their animals. The blockading governments have formally called our attention to this position and informed us that, as they considered it the duty of the occupying army to set aside from the harvest complete provision for the civil population and their animals in the first instance, and that as no provision has been made for animals and only part for humans in this region, they cannot allow us to continue imports into that section. They contend that such imports amount to provisioning the German Army by virtue of replacement of foodstuffs which have been requisitioned from the population. Whether these contentions are right or wrong, the fact stares us in the face that the ravitaillement of this section is in danger of breaking down.

I shall be glad if you would at once take this question up with the German General Staff and represent to them the difficulty we are in and our desire to see this service proceed smoothly on all sides in the interest of the civilian population---represent to them the extreme difficulty of our position standing between such conflicting interests and the hope we have in an accommodation on their part which will enable us to solve this very trying situation.

As a constructive suggestion, I have hopes that I could settle the position if the German authorities would agree to hand over the entire wheat harvest at the cost to them, to the civil population, and if they would make sufficient reservation from the rye, oats, hay, and other fodder crops to support the animals during the winter. Such an arrangement being of course contingent on our securing the undertaking that we will be free from interference in the import of the large amount of foodstuffs which will be necessary to support the population.

I trust you will take this matter up as quickly as possible because our shipments into this section are at once imperiled.

Yours very truly




262) suggesting further reservations of the food and fodder crops in the Belgian Etapes for the local population

BRUSSELS, 14 September 1915


You will please find enclosed two letters from Mr. Hoover, indicating certain very important difficulties which the Commission is in with respect to the Etappen in Flanders and the North of France. The latter is completely explained in Mr. Hoover's letter, but with regard to Flanders I would like to amplify Mr. Hoover's suggestion that the entire wheat harvest in East and West Flanders should be turned over to the civil population and that provision should be made for the animals.

It appears that the whole wheat harvest in the Etappen of East and West Flanders will only amount to about 120,000 tons, while the provision of 120 grams per diem per capita now being reserved to the population will absorb about 70,000 or 80,000 tons. Therefore at best the German authorities will only secure 40,000 or 50,000 tons of wheat. I have no doubt therefore it was the intention to turn it all over, but there is this difference in the German determination and Mr. Hoover's proposal: that his proposal puts an infinitely better color upon the position and gives him a much better footing for negotiation. If the wheat were all turned over, as Mr. Hoover suggests, we would still have to import 100,000 tons of wheat into that section, besides the large amounts of rice, bacon, lard, etc .....

So far as the animal foods are concerned, the present situation is now one perhaps more of fear than of actual distress as to the taking of the fodder. There is no certainty in the minds of the producers whether or not the cattle can be kept through the winter. I believe of course that the German authorities will provide fodder, and it would relieve the whole situation if they would declare a reservation out of the rye, oats, hay, etc., which would protect the animals. It would relieve the fears of the people and also enable us to settle our future.

These suggestions are, I believe, in line with the intentions of the authorities, and if they could be expressed by further decree, they will have secured to the population a quantity of foodstuffs amounting to a considerably greater value than the amount set out for them above by virtue of our imports.

I trust I am not over-insistent if I ask that you raise the matter with the General Staff for their earliest consideration, because, as stated above, we find ourselves in the greatest possible difficulties.

I hold myself quite at your service in the matter of any interview that you may desire in respect of this letter, and remain, dear Count Wengersky,

Yours very truly

(Signed) O. T. CROSBY



PERCY TO HOOVER, stating the position of the British Government relative to the requisitioning of crops in East and West Flanders and Northern France

30 September 1915


Many thanks for your letter of the 24th enclosing copies of your two letters of the 14th to Mr. Crosby about the harvest in the "zone of operations" in East and West Flanders and in Northern France.

As you are aware, we have been able to make definite arrangements with you in regard to the continuation of your work in the zone of occupation in Belgium under civil administration, in view of the undertakings given to you by that administration. We have been able to enter into no such arrangements with regard to the zone of operations in Belgium or with regard to Northern France, and, in the absence of any binding engagements on the part of the German military authorities who control those regions, we are from day to day uncertain whether to allow your importations into them to continue.

As regards the Belgian zone of operations, you have asked that the whole wheat harvest should be handed over to the civil population and that sufficient rye, oats, hay, and other fodder crops should be reserved to support the animals during the winter. This, as you know, is the minimum with which we can be satisfied. If you obtain a binding engagement to this effect, we shall be prepared to arrange for the continuation of your work, but if you cannot inform us on your return from Belgium that the German military authorities have accorded you this measure of justice, I think we shall probably feel obliged to require you to import no more foodstuffs into the area of Belgium under military administration.

As regards Northern France,(263) you have asked for very little---only that the German authorities shall resell to the population for the same price at which it was bought, and in the same currency, an amount of breadstuffs equivalent to one hundred grammes of flour per capita per diem for the next twelve months. I understand the German authorities claim the right to dispose of the harvest on the ground that it has been raised by German labour and German advances of money and seed. This is not a claim to which we could possibly assent. The difference between the occupied areas of France and Belgium is, I understand, that the former are denuded of able-bodied labour, while the latter are not. But in Belgium the German Government have always denied responsibility for the support of the population on the ground that it was not destitute and could pay for imported foodstuffs in the normal way provided such imports were permitted by the Allied Governments. Now, in France the German authorities refuse responsibility on the ground that the population is destitute. Comment is needless---except to add that the Germans have requisitioned labour in these French districts; they have seized the existing resources of the country at Lille and throughout the manufacturing districts; they have subjected the population to all manner of extortions and they deported some months ago a large section of the population whose fields they now take credit to themselves for having tilled.

Neither we, nor the civilized world, when these facts are published, could possibly recognise the claim of the German Army to any portion of the harvest in Northern France. I recognise, however, that the demand you have made, though less than our requirements, is as much as can be expected from an army wholly indifferent to the fate of the population whose territory it occupies. But your modest demand is, I am sure, the very least we could think of accepting, and if it is not immediately complied with we shall have to reconsider our whole attitude towards the provisioning of France.

And I must make clear to you the implications of this demand. No part of the harvest must be made the means of any coercion or any impositions on the population in any shape or form; that inadequate part of the harvest which the Germans guarantee to the population must be delivered to them as their right, and the delivery must be coupled with no conditions on the part of the German Army.

Something is known here of the extortions of all kinds to which the population has been subjected in the past, and in all the sphere of your arrangements with the Germans you must guard against the possibility of any use of such methods in this connection in the future.

Yours sincerely




CROSBY TO C.R.B., LONDON, enclosing a note of a representative of the German military authorities stating the German policy with respect to cereals in the Belgian Etapes

BRUSSELS, 29 September 1915

The Commission for Relief in Belgium, London


Oberlieutenant Schroeder dictated today a note---copy enclosed, French original and English Translation---as setting forth the determination made by the German authorities in respect to cereals in the two Flanders.

In one portion of that territory the commanding officer has issued a somewhat different program, but it is presumed that the one shown in Lieutenant Schroeder's memorandum will be made uniform throughout the territory in question.

We are now taking steps to see that the amount of wheat and rye for the bread supply, indicated in the first paragraph of Lieutenant Schroeder's memorandum, will get into the hands of the Provincial Committees so that it may be counted upon as a part of the general stock to be distributed by the Provincial Committees.

It will be seen that there is some doubt as to the exact amount of wheat as compared to the amount of rye that will thus be supplied by German authorities. Lieutenant Schroeder explains that the whole of the wheat crop in the two Flanders will be absorbed by the 120-gram ration and that the present intention is to supply the remainder of the required amount, which will be in the neighborhood of 20,000 tons for the year's program, from other sources. If, however, at any time through accident it will be impossible to deliver wheat, then rye would be furnished instead. For the purpose of our calculations we think it will be satisfactory to assume that these 120 grams of wheat or rye may be figured as all wheat, leaving 200 grams of wheat per capita to be supplied by importation.

The amount of oats per head per day for cattle was not definitely indicated by Lieutenant Schroeder.

Concerning the wheat situation in the North of France, Major von Kessler has telephoned to Count Wengersky that he is confident that on his return from Poland a satisfactory adjustment will be made concerning the method of payment to be required of the French population for their 100-gram ration which will be left to them. Nothing absolutely definite, however, has been done in the matter. Meanwhile considerable deliveries have been made, the matter of payment to be later determined.

Yours very truly



The German authorities have promised to supply 120 grams of wheat per capita of inhabitant per day. In those regions where there is no wheat, they will, if possible, have it sent there, or they will supply instead 120 grams of rye.

Oats and Hay---Oats and hay have been seized by the German authorities, but producers may take therefrom for their needs up to . . . kilos per head of cattle for the year. Other foods for cattle, as for instance, maize, barley, etc., are free, can be disposed of according to desire, and can be sold, but not outside the limit of the Etapes. Maximum prices have been fixed.

The potato crop has not been seized at all, but it is forbidden to export potatoes outside the limits of the Etapes.




CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF, FOURTH ARMY, TO THE COMMISSION, stating the regulations which had been put into force concerning the harvest in Flanders

GHENT, 7 October 1915

The Commission for Relief in Belgium, Brussels


Referring to our correspondence and conferences, the Inspection of Etapes informs you of the regulations which it has made regarding the harvest in the Flanders.

It has been agreed that the whole of the wheat crop of the territory shall be liberated for the civil population.

The entire wheat crop has been estimated to amount to about 40,000 tons.

In order to give the civil population for one year 120 grams of wheat per capita and per day, a round 70,000 tons will be required. Efforts will be made to bring the round 30,000 tons lacking from other territories. Where this is not possible the missing quantity will be supplied from Belgian rye.

If a commune produces less than it needs for itself, another locality which has a surplus at its disposal, will be instructed to supply the quantity lacking to the first commune. Deliveries will be made for periods of three months.

The quantities left to the Communes may be collected by the local members of the Comité National and stored in the magazines of the C.R.B.

What is left of the rye crop will be requisitioned by the German military authorities against cash payment at high prices, 24 marks (30 francs) per 100 kgs.

All wheat and rye seed, as well as all other crops raised here, will be left to the communes.

The oat and hay crops have been requisitioned. One and one-half kg. per head of cattle per day will be left the farmers for their own use. Owners of horses can purchase from the farmers at a fixed maximum price.

Other fodder materials as maize, barley, straw, second hay crop, bran, mangel-wurzels, turnips, and other greens have been liberated, but may not be exported from the Etapes zone. All pasturage, without restriction, has likewise been left to the inhabitants. The same applies to the potato crop.

Maximum prices have been fixed.

On behalf of the Etappen-Inspection

The Chief of the General Staff

(Signed) OSTERTAG,




Extract of letter,
HOOVER TO PERCY, stating the decisions of the German General Staff relative to requisitioning crops in the Belgian Etapes and enclosing a memorandum of agreement between the General Staff and the C.R.B. dated the 7th October 1915

LONDON, 11 October 1915

Lord Eustace Percy
Foreign Office, London



I beg to send you herewith copy of a letter which was settled between ourselves and the Chief of the General Staff in this section of the German Army. In the net this amounts to the following:

You will see that the German Army purchases the oats and all the rye---what the quantity is I do not know, but from all our advices it is not very large. They also take a certain amount of hay, but they leave a prior supply of fodder for the producers and for others, with the intention, I presume, that a sufficiency of fodder should be left in the country for country animals. All the root crops and all the wheat are left over to the civil population and what is more, as a sort of substitution for purchase of the rye and oats, they have undertaken to guarantee a supply of wheat to the population amounting to 120 grams per diem per capita, which will necessitate their finding from outside sources something like 30,000 tons of wheat, with the reservation that if they cannot get the wheat they may supply rye instead.

The above arrangements appear to me to be on the whole satisfactory in these unsatisfactory times, and they are on the whole better than the arrangements made in the Occupation Zone and represent the absolute maximum which we are able to obtain. I trust this will be satisfactory to you, and that we may, besides the usual food, also import fodder into that area for the town animals .....

Yours faithfully




Extract of letter,
PERCY TO HONNOLD, authorizing the C.R.B. to proceed with the feeding of the Belgian Etapes

21 October 1915


With reference to Mr. Hoover's letters of the 11th and 15th instant, I am now directed to inform the Commission as follows:

We will not ask the Commission to make any further demands in regard to the disposal of the native crops in the "Etappengebiet" in Belgium, though we are not of course satisfied with the concessions made by the German administration and cannot possibly admit the justice of the German claim to the whole or portions of the rye, oats, and hay crop. But, while not asking you to make any further demands, we take note of the undertakings made by the German administration and shall expect them to be strictly observed .....

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yours sincerely



5. Northern France. August-November 1915

The circumstances under which the Commission extended its activities to Northern France have been shown in the documents of chapter vi. In the agreement under which that relief was conducted the military authorities specifically reserved all rights with respect to local products in the Army Zones, which included the Belgian Etapes. The Germans announced their intention, however, of returning a percentage of the local crops to the civil population. It was the task of the Commission, therefore, to bring the Germans to return as high a percentage as possible. As in the original negotiations respecting relief in Northern France, the French Government declined to give the Commission strong support,(264) direct or indirect, in the discussions respecting the local crops of 1915. These were initiated and concluded by Hoover and the officers of the Commission in Brussels and at Charleville.

Hoover, when in Belgium in July 1915, had made a visit to German Headquarters at Charleville, where Professor Vernon Kellogg was then stationed as chief representative of the Commission for Northern France. In discussions with Major von Kessler of the General Staff Hoover brought up the question of the French crop. Von Kessler repeated to him the policy of the army command to requisition the entire harvest, but at the same time assured him that plans were in hand to turn back to the civil population a portion of the harvest of both bread-making cereals and potatoes on the condition that the Commission continue to import a supplementary supply of other commodities to complete a ration. After Hoover's departure Mr. Crosby and Professor Kellogg continued the negotiations at Headquarters, and, as the following documents show, finally secured an order from the General Intendant of the German Army on the 23rd August(265) providing for the delivery to the population of the occupied French districts of 100 grams of flour per day and per person from the German stocks. This ration was to be issued by the officers assigned to work with the American delegates, and the stocks, when once distributed, were to enjoy the same protection as the foods imported by the Commission. In order to permit the French committees to secure a sufficient amount of currency to pay for this ration of indigenous flour, the Germans agreed to pay in currency for a proportion of the crop requisitioned.

The supplementary order, providing for the distribution of potatoes to the population, was issued by the General Intendant of the Army on the 3d September. This provided for the distribution of 200 grams per day per person for six months under practically the same conditions as obtained in the case of the deliveries of flour.



Extract of letter,
KELLOGG TO CROSBY, respecting the disposition of the 1915 crop in the North of France

CHARLEVILLE, 5 August 1915

Commission for Relief in Belgium, Brussels


. . . . . . . . . . ..


The actual disposition of the new crop of wheat raised in the occupied French territory rests, of course, in the hands of the German military authorities, and the relation of the Commission to this disposition concerns itself only with the possible change in need of imported supplies as determined by what portion, if any, of the crop may be put by the German authorities at the disposal of the French population.

At the present moment, all that can be reported touching this matter is that the German authorities have declared an intention to put an amount of this crop in the hands of the French population sufficient to supply 100 grams of flour per diem per capita. This amount is to be used to establish an increase in the daily bread ration and will thus not lessen the amount of flour necessary to be provided the French people through the Commission.

We are not yet fully informed as to the details of the conditions under which the German authorities expect to put this flour (or wheat) into the hands of the French population, but understand that it is proposed to have the wheat milled in Germany at 82 per cent and distributed to the people through the hands of the Commission.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(Signed) V. L. KELLOGG



Extracts of letters,
KELLOGG TO CROSBY, relating to the crop in Northern France

CIIARLEVILLE, 6 August 1915

Commission for Relief in Belgium, Brussels

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

To refer again to the matter of the crop: the prices of 22 for the wheat and 30 for the flour are in francs (not marks as suggested in Brussels). The price of 30 francs for the flour is based on an estimate (probably an outside one) of the actual cost of the milling and double transportation. Two objections are urged against the plan of leaving the French share of the crop with the people: (a) difficulties of milling in France, especially in the district south of Valenciennes; (b) difficulty of preventing possible requisitions by changing and moving bodies of troops of quantities of wheat or flour in the hands of the population, whereas as flour in the holy C.R.B. magazines all such danger is avoided.

As to whether the French people buy the 100 grams allowed them or not, it is simply up to them; the Germans don't care .....

CHARLEVILLE, 7 August 1915

.... In the matter of the crop there is more to tell you than I can now write. A few important points are, however:

In the cases in which the French communes have already paid the German authorities for seed, cultivation, or harvesting work, they [the communes] will be paid back this money---and in addition receive 20 per cent of the crop price in money.

The French may have their share of the crop in flour milled in Germany or in wheat which they may mill themselves. It seems already arranged that communes in Valenciennes and Montmédy, for example, where there are milling facilities, will take their share in wheat. The German authorities leave it quite to the French communes to decide whether to buy any of the crop or not, and whether to take flour or wheat. They may pay in marks or town bons, and these town bons received by the German authorities in France will be used by them to pay for labor, supplies, etc., in France. The Germans wish to establish this money as the general circulating medium in the country, gradually separating if possible the two kinds of money, i.e., paper marks and French town bons.

The German authorities recognize that there will be a constant abstraction of the wheat in a small way by the peasants from the fields, during the threshing, etc., but are not going to worry much about it.

"You cannot muzzle the threshing ox," or words to that effect.

Faithfully yours

(Signed) V. L. KELLOGG



between VON SCHOELER AND THE COMMISSION, regarding bread cereals, whereby the Germans agree to issue 100 grams of flour per capita per day from the native stocks and the Commission 150 grams of imported flour

23 August 1915


Proceedings of the Meeting of 16 August 1915. Article 4

1. Beginning at latest on September 11th, there is to be put at the disposal of the population of the occupied French territory the indigenous crop:

At the desire of the Communes, per capita per day at the rate of 100 grams of flour.

2. Assuming this, the Spanish-American Commission has declared itself willing to supply in addition thereto a supplementary ration of 150 grams of flour per day per capita (at least).

3. The population therefore receives per capita per diem 250 grams of flour or about 345 grams of bread. Considering the shortage of other foodstuffs this ration is not deemed too large.

4. The distribution will be made either as corn, where the possibility of milling by the population exists, or, if this is not the case, as flour.

5. With a view to economy in the use of the rye-stock, the flour distributed will be wheat flour, or whole wheat.

6. The distribution is to be based on the statistics made by the Begleitoffizier of the C.R.B. delegates. The quantities thus computed are to be assigned to the Communes, whenever possible, for one month in advance, under the control of these officers.

Stocks once distributed come under the same guarantee of protection as the other provisions imported by the C.R.B. The distribution of the rations is to be attended to by the Communes, but will be superintended by the Begleitoffizier.

Closest co-operation between the Etappen Intendanten and the Begleitoffizier is required.

7. Payment is to be based on the requisitioning price. Thus the Communes in receipt of goods will have to pay for each 100 kilograms of flour (f.o.b.) 30 francs or 24 marks.

8. Payment is to be made in currency. City bonds, etc., are only to be accepted in cases of absolute need, and only in so far as they fulfil the conditions especially prescribed for the case. Wherever possible, payment should be accepted as service of the Communes. This means of settlement is to be preferred.

Should a Commune have absolutely no means of payment, the further distribution of goods to that Commune should be subject to the decision of the General Intendant.

9. In those parts of the country where the C.R.B. cannot deliver for military reasons, the whole ration of 250 grams of flour is to be supplied from the indigenous stocks.

Payment to be made as per parts 7 and 8.

General Intendant of the Field Army




by GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, respecting the distribution of the potato crop in Northern France

3 September 1915


The needs of the civil populations are primarily to be covered from the potato crops gathered in the occupied French zone. The remaining quantities are then to be applied to the provisioning of the troops. Seed potatoes will be assigned later on either from the Belgian or the domestic crops.

A. Requirements of the population.

1. The requirements are to be reckoned at 200 grams per capita per diem. The numbers of the population established for the provisioning with bread cereals are to be taken as a basis of reckoning.

2. To begin with the requirements are to be definitely assured for six months from the date of the harvest.

3. The assignments to the communes of quantities thus made available will be controlled by the officers in charge of the provisioning of the civil population (Begleitoffizier to C.R.B. delegates), if possible for one month in advance.

Stocks once thus assigned are subject to the same protective measures as goods imported by the C.R.B.

4. In the amounts to be assigned are to be taken into account such quantities as may be obtained by members of the communes from gardens and similar lands.

5. The value of the assigned quantities is accounted for on the following basis:

a) If a receipt is given for the delivery of the potato crop the quantities assigned to the population are to be deducted thereon. If delivery is made from other communal districts, the amounts and the names of the communes to which they have been brought are to appear on the former's receipts.

b) Payment has to be made for such potatoes delivered to the communes as are grown on leased ground.

Where it is possible, the value of the potatoes delivered to the communes should be set off against manual labor received from the communes.

In the matter of price, the requisitioning price of 10 francs per 100 kilos is to be taken as a basis. If the population receives for the feeding of stock, such potatoes as are not fit for human consumption matter for individual arrangements with the army in occupation---the estimate of price is to be determined by the army, taking as a basis the aforementioned requisitioning price for edible potatoes.

6. Loading, unloading, and the necessary land transport, is, as far as possible, to be entrusted to the interested communes.

B. Requirements for the provisioning of the troops.

1. The remaining quantities are wholly available for the provisioning of the troops.

2. An estimate is to be made of the period during which the army could be provisioned with these stocks of potatoes.

3. Should the available quantity according to this estimate be insufficient to last from the time of harvest over the winter months, until about the middle of March in the coming year, the stocks in the country are first of all to be reserved over the winter months during which there is danger of frost in the transporting of potatoes by train.

Shortages are first of all to be covered from Belgian stocks. Requests to be addressed to the Etappen Intendantur of the Fourth Army and further to the Army Intendantur with the General Government in Belgium. Home stocks are only to be made use of in case Belgium cannot supply.

C. Delivery of seed potatoes for spring sowing.

Further orders will follow for the delivery of seed potatoes.





HOOVER TO CROSBY, regarding the requisitioning of crops in Northern France

BRUSSELS, 14 September 1915



I am glad to be able to tell you that we have settled arrangements for a monthly subsidy from institutions in France to cover the cost of this ravitaillement up to an expenditure of 14 (fourteen) million francs a month. Owing however, to the fall in exchange, it will require great economy on our part to get through with this sum.

There are one or two pledges which I have given in connection with this monthly subsidy which I must set out to you. You will recollect that the original arrangements for the ravitaillement of this region were all to expire with the arrival of the new harvest, it being assumed that the country would itself produce enough for the civil population. In taking up the continuation after harvest, we have been met with great opposition to our application for blockade permits from the governments involved, those governments contending: "that the civil population has the first right to the harvest and that only the surplus, left after the entire requirements of the civilians are satisfied can be lawfully taken by the German authorities, and the harvest in Northern France is ample for the requirements of the civil population. If any part of the requirements of the population is taken by the German authorities, then any imports by the Relief Commission amount to a replacement of foodstuffs taken by the German Army and thus in effect the Relief Commission is supplying the German Army."

We do not ourselves ever enter into discussion of the right or wrong of such contentions, our one desire being to be of relief service and to effect arrangements which permit us to do so. I have replied that, by virtue of cultivation by the Germans, by advances in money and seed, the German Army has an interest itself in the harvest.

Furthermore, I have repeated the assurance which you have made to me that while the German authorities were going to requisition the entire harvest, they had given you positive assurance that they would resell without profit an amount of breadstuffs equal to 100 grams of flour per capita per diem and that this arrangement was conditional upon the Relief Commission making up the ration to 250 grams per diem and the continuation of our other large supplies of rice, lard, and bacon.

On my presenting these assurances to the English and French Governments they of course objected that the contribution of 100 grams was an entirely insufficient proportion of the total harvest and among other things demanded to know in what sort of currency the harvest was going to be paid for, and what sort of currency should be accepted by the German authorities for the flour resold. And upon my raising the question to you as to whether the requisition receipts would be accepted for the purchase of the flour, you out, as I have had implicit confidence in the assurances of the German authorities that enough of the purchase price would be given in francs or marks to pay the 100 grams of flour with the same paper, and I might repeat that I have received much the same assurance on my visit to Charleville at an earlier date.

Now, in order to get the right and resources for us to continue, I have given my own word that these undertakings will be carried out, as I have had implicit confidence in the assurances of the German authorities. I hear now, however, that there is a great lack of uniformity in the matter of payment as treated by the different army corps and that in certain districts marks and francs are being demanded from the population in payment of the 100-gram ration, while, I understand, no such payments had ever been made in such currency for the harvest.

I trust that you will take this matter up at once with the General Staff and see that they will interest themselves in straightening it out. The matter is one of most serious importance to the whole of this relief work, because it is cutting through belligerent lines, and in carrying on relations with belligerent governments, who can make no direct undertakings, the whole foundation rests on our being able to maintain good face with both belligerents in every assurance which I gave on either side.

Yours very truly




Extract of letter,
WHITNEY TO POLAND, regarding methods of the German Army in delivering local supplies to the French civil population

CHARLEVILLE, 9 November 1915


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

All goes well in re the German flour question. Instructions have been given every officer, including Rumelin at Longwy, to deliver the 100 grams of German flour per capita, whether or not there is the money to pay for it. Here in Charleville the Germans are dealing with the district headquarters---turning over to the French syndicate the flour to the credit of the district and letting the syndicate do the apportioning, etc., as between regions and communes.

This is simple and practical, and an effort will be made to put the same plan into effect in the other districts. Meantime, however, there is to be no withholding of German flour from the people anywhere---such are the orders---pending a decision as to the detailed method of payment.





North of France-Native Crop-Issue of Flour
by German Authorities

After an interview with Count Wengersky, Dr. Kellogg announces that the General Headquarters has decided for the entire Northern France that the 120 grams of wheat, equivalent to 100 grams of flour per capita per day shall be issued to the entire community and in order to avoid trouble in those cases where the people have but small amount of money, same may be paid for in Quartermaster's bonds, with which they paid for the crop seized.


6. The Harvest of 1916. February-September 1916

Early in 1916 political pressure from representatives in Paris of the occupied regions of Northern France, supplemented perhaps by British influence, caused the French Government to take a more active interest than it had previously shown in the disposition of the local products of the German Army Zones. Through the medium of the British Foreign Office, the French confidentially requested the Commission to attempt to secure from the Germans the reservation of the entire harvest in French territory, but failing this, as was likely in view of German participation in making the crop, the Commission was asked to secure the reservation of as much of the harvest as possible---at least a guaranteed minimum per capita regardless of the amount of the local harvest. In contrast to these private instructions the British Foreign Office, in the name of the Allied Governments, notified the Commission and the German Government through Ambassador Page that unless the principle be established that all products of the soil in the Army Zones be reserved for the civil population, all relief operations would be ended. This ultimatum precipitated a first class crisis for the Commission. Negotiations between the Commission and the British and German Governments on the question of relief to Poland(267) had just broken down to the accompaniment of recriminatory broadsides from London and Berlin leaving both even less inclined to compromise than usual. Hoover's first efforts to approach the German authorities through diplomatic channels resulted merely in showing that nothing could be accomplished by that route. The prestige and influence of the Commission as the neutral protector of the people in the Army Zones was the only support on which Hoover could rely in the negotiations which he undertook in Berlin in August 1916. Fortunately for the hard-pressed people of the occupied districts he succeeded in what appeared to be a hopeless task, and on the 26th August the High Command made an agreement with the Commission putting into effect the provisions which reconciled the Allied demand, that the entire local crop be reserved, with the Germans' valid claim to ownership of part of the crop through their participation in its production. This incident illustrates particularly well the unique standing of the Commission in its relations with the belligerents and its responsibilities as guardian of nine million French and Belgians.



VON KESSLER TO C.R.B., BRUSSELS OFFICE, stating that the German Army will deliver 100 grams of flour per capita to French civil population until the next harvest

15 February 1916

To the Central Office of the Commission for Relief in Belgium for the Occupied Territory in North France:

The promised delivery of 100 grams of flour per head per day to the population of the occupied French territory will be continued until the next harvest, provided the Commission for Relief in Belgium continue to deliver the 150 grams of flour per head per day promised by it.

By order

Major in the General Staff
General Staff Officer with the Commissariat
General of the Field Army



HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, explaining the situation in Northern France in reference to the production and protection of native foodstuffs

LONDON, 18 March 1916

Louis Chevrillon, Esq., Paris


With regard to your letter of the 15th instant, you will, I think, find a considerable amount of the material which you want in the documents I sent you last evening. You will bear in mind that there is a volume of correspondence in our Brussels office and in the various American Embassies which we have not in this office. I will endeavor on my trip to Belgium to get some further material from Brussels, although except with the permission of the German censor this is impossible. A part of agreements with the Germans consists in settling decrees with them, and their issue constitutes for us an agreement.

As to the general question of the protection of native foodstuffs in Northern France on the same basis as the occupied territory in Belgium, there are two or three points worth bearing in mind: First, as Northern France is wholly within the Operations Zone there is no definite form of civil government, but simply the decentralization of six different armies, whose control of the civil population is quite independent of each other, and who are never disposed to act in concert except by way of recommendation from the General Staff, which they do or do not carry out in detail as they see fit. This makes constant agitation on our part necessary. I think the French Foreign Office should recognize that it is utterly impossible that any kind of measures controlling the native food supply could be set up in the actual Operations Zone of the army to be controlled by neutrals, in the same way as is possible under the civil government in Belgium.

As to the requisitioning of French wheat, when I am in Brussels I will endeavor to get some further details. This affair in fact falls into four classes: first, land planted by the Germans and harvested by themselves; second, abandoned land for which they hired French workpeople on the basis of advancing them seed and animals for a share of the crop; third, sections where they advanced seed and ploughed the land with their steam ploughs, giving the peasant a right by virtue of some labor and land ownership, to a share of the crop; fourth, cases where the peasants raised their own crops without any relations with the Germans. All these involved different relations, and if you take it that the whole harvest was requisitioned the conditions of requisition vary with the various classes. The stuff is mostly paid for with requisition "bons," and some money has passed---how much I am unable to say.

I should like to make one observation on this whole question, which I think you should bring home to the French Foreign Office. I visited Paris in July last and in company with you called on Mr. Humbert and stated to him plainly that we were enormously concerned for the French harvest; that we were endeavoring to negotiate the situation to the best of our abilities and that we wished the views of the French Government as to its attitude and on this question as affecting continued ravitaillement and their requirements in the matter. We were unable to get any view whatever and gained the impression that nobody cared. We were compelled to take up the question with the Germans without the strong support which I was solicitous to obtain, and we did the best we could under the circumstances.

Yours faithfully




HOOVER TO VON KESSLER, stating the difficulties of finding sufficient foodstuffs for Northern France, broaching the plan for importing milk herds and asking that all native foods be reserved for the people

LONDON, 1 April 1916

Major von Kessler, Generalquartiermeister,
Grosses Hauptquartier


There is one matter in connection with the ravitaillement of Northern France in which it appears to me a new situation has gradually developed and which I would like to raise with you, in the hope that you can, as always heretofore, find some solution of a favorable nature. This is the question of the remaining native food supplies in the country in the shape of cattle, milk, butter, chickens, eggs, rabbits, etc.

The native supplies have undoubtedly diminished to a very low ebb and while it is our impression that they are not, in actual amount of food, of very great importance from a military point of view, they have become of great importance to the civilian population as the final margin on which they can eke out an existence by way of supplement to the ration which we are able to import.

The great limitations placed upon our import through the inability to secure adequate transportation and the many shortages in the world's markets make it wholly unfeasible for us to supply a sufficient amount of food to keep these people going, unless they can get something more out of the country.

The present situation with regard to these supplies is the outgrowth of the length of the period of occupation which has gone far beyond a period which any of us would have anticipated and this time element has thus created a new situation which, it seems to me, warrants reconsideration of the whole situation in this particular.

Requisitions to an amount which at one time represented only the surplus have through the decrease in supplies generally now amounted to almost the whole of certain articles.

I recognize that the matter is only of indirect interest to us, but one must consider the matter as a whole, and furthermore I am extremely keen to avoid any possible criticism as to our operations degenerating into a replacement through imports, such as milk, of the native supplies absorbed by the occupying army.

It is obvious that the local supplies of meat are down to a point far under the necessities of the population, yet there are some cattle, pigs, sheep, rabbits, and chickens in the country. It is physically almost impossible to import a sufficient amount of bacon and lard from overseas or fresh meat from Belgium or Holland to maintain anything like normal fat and protein necessities, and the continuous absorption of meat by the troops aggravates the situation to a degree which it seems now impossible to compass.

Also I understand that milk and butter from native cattle are requisitioned and purchased for the troops. The local milk supply is now far under that required for the children and infirm. We have tried hard to secure by import a sufficiency to maintain these classes, but the demand on the world's milk supplies makes it hopeless, even had we sufficient transport, to do more than we have already done, and even with the local milk and butter these supplies are far below the needs of the people.

We wish to make an effort to remedy this to some extent by the establishment of milk herds on behalf of the most necessitous communes through the importation of cows from Belgium or Holland, but this effort would come to but little result unless the milk supply already in the country could go to the civil population.

I recognize fully the stupendous difficulties arising out of any attempt to reserve such native food supplies to the population during military occupation, but if requisition were abandoned and if the purchase of native food supplies were limited to the occasional purchases by soldiers from local sources, it would be all that any practical person could assume would be possible.

I am fully aware that the requisition and purchase of native food supplies by the occupying army is entirely proper and a usual proceeding, but in view of the critical difficulties with which their whole provisioning is surrounded at the present time and the very little hope which we could have to adequately provision the population without reserving to them the margin of native supplies, I do hope that the matter could be considered by the authorities and some favorable action taken.

Altogether no one has a higher appreciation than myself of the efforts which the German authorities have made in the ravitaillement of this population under the difficult circumstances under which they are compelled to operate and this further concession on their part would, I believe, have not only great practical value, but would have considerable sentimental usefulness, and I am fully aware that the latter question is not foreign to the mind of the German authorities.

Yours faithfully




Extract of letter,
CHEVRILLON TO HONNOLD, describing the stiffening of the French attitude with respect to native products in the Army Zones, and enclosing a letter to the French Foreign Office on the same subject

PARIS, 13 June 1916

W. L. Honnold, Esq.
Commission for Relief in Belgium, London


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..


I am advised from the Foreign Office that the French Government intends to take measures in order that the Commission should obtain from the Germans the full French crop for the benefit of the French civil population. I am, at once, setting all the influence I can in motion to oppose this, as I know perfectly well that no weapon can be put into your hands to obtain this from the Germans unless it be more suffering for the unfortunate populations under German rule, and I do not believe that the Germans accept this unless the French Government goes to the length of actually stopping all relief. I believe I am right in this, but would like to have your views. I may say here that the telegram of Mr. Gerard concerning Poland(268) has had the effect of stiffening the French attitude, because the Foreign Office wrongly believed that the Germans have made concessions to the representations of Sir Edward Grey. They therefore consider that a strong attitude is the proper line to take and that the Germans will also give in in Northern France if we threaten stoppage of relief unless they allow the full French crop for French needs. I would be glad to have your views on this.

Yours faithfully


Enclosed please find copy of a letter to the Foreign Office. I was advised yesterday that we were to be instructed to obtain the total French crop for French needs and I at once wrote the enclosed letter which I hope Mr. Hoover and yourself will approve.

PARIS, 13 June 1916

Monsieur Kammerer, Consul-Général de France,
Chef-Adjoint an Cabinet du Ministre des Affaires Etrangères Paris


Following our conversation of last Sunday in respect of the protection of the French crops in Northern France, I deem, since the question has again been raised, that it is important to determine certain points.

In the first place, the occasion for the decision taken to insist on the protection of the totality of the harvest was the telegram from the Ambassador, Mr. Gerard, in Berlin, to Ambassador Page, in London, on the 1st June 1916, à propos of the revictualing of Poland. This telegram would have seemed to convey the impression that Germany yielded to certain conditions imposed by the British Government. The following is an historical account of the negotiations of which the telegram in question speaks:

Since last year, the Commission has been following up the progress of the famine in Poland and, in the month of December, they despatched a delegate to that country, Mr. Caspar Whitney, whose report concluded in the urgency of the revictualment. Conditions were discussed in Berlin by Mr. Whitney and the representative of the Rockefeller Foundation, and about the end of February Mr. Page presented to Sir Edward a project which he tried hard to get accepted by Germany. This proposal was rejected and the matter of the ravitaillement of Poland was temporarily abandoned. The subject was again taken up in England in May, and on the 13th Sir Edward Grey published the text of the proposal which had been submitted to him and declared that the British Government was in accord with all the points in this proposal, but demanded the following assurances (see The Times of the 13th May 1916):

1. The project should be applied to the whole of Poland.

2. The occupation army should not be fed.

3. The exportation of potatoes should be forbidden, excepting by the assent of the Commission.

4. German boats should be manned by neutral crews.

5. The Commission should only furnish a supplementary ration to that which the enemy could supply.

6. The Commission should be absolutely free.

7. The German and Austro-Hungarian Governments should engage themselves to revictual the populations of Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro.

According to the telegram of the 1st June from Ambassador Gerard, Germany rejects the stipulations 1, 2, and 7. She accepts stipulation No. 3, and the other issues were already covered by the first proposition.

It is not, therefore, quite right to consider Ambassador Gerard's telegram as an acceptation without reserve as to the conditions imposed by the British Government.

In so far as Northern France is concerned I believe it to be of importance to state precisely the action of the Commission. In order to judge the situation, it is primarily essential to consider the fact that Belgium is under a civil government with an occupying army not exceeding 50,000 men, whilst the North of France is occupied by combatant armies representing over a million men. In the first case, the Commission can negotiate with an established government which has every reason for showing itself to be well disposed vis-à-vis the populations; in the other case, the Commission defends French interests against the combatant armies who enjoy almost complete autonomy.

In March 1915, Mr. Hoover came to Paris with the object of organizing the ravitaillement in Northern France, and to take instructions from the French Government which he did not succeed in obtaining. The Commission then did its best and succeeded in that Northern France might retain approximately one-third of the total harvest. Having only as sanction for imposing its demands on the Germans a threat of famine, it did not deem it proper to undertake a responsibility which is not within the province of a neutral commission devoting itself to a philanthropic work.

Considering the German participation in the agricultural work in Northern France, it seems at first sight certain that we will not obtain the totality of the harvest for the civil populations; further, each time we exact a new concession from the Germans, we always knock up against the German argument of the food blockade which serves them as a pretext in refusing to discuss the obligation by the occupying authorities to feed the people. My feeling is that, despite the desire which one may have to increase the proportion of the harvest set aside for the alimentation of the civil population, the proportion which we have today, representing 7,500 tons of wheat monthly (viz., 90,000 tons per annum), does not fall far short of the maximum which we could obtain; and, in these circumstances, I ask you kindly to consider that the only weapon in our possession is a menace to interrupt the ravitaillement, commencing to enforce same.

I do not know whether you will gain a clear idea of the lamentable situation in Northern France today, and to what degree of misery the population is reduced. To increase their hardships would be to incur the responsibility of an increase in mortality which I cannot describe precisely but which would certainly be considerable in view of the fact that the statistics for the month of March show that under existing conditions and through insufficient alimentation the rate of mortality in Lille has risen from 17 to 40/1,000.

I believed it to be indispensable to expose to you the above-mentioned observations in order to clearly demonstrate the eventual consequences of a new intervention. The Commission is entirely disposed to re-commence negotiations on the basis which it will suit the Government to formulate, but should plainly refuse to undertake the carrying out of a sanction which would compromise the existence of the populations of whom it has charge.

Very cordially yours





PERCY TO HOOVER, enclosing a note from the French Government giving directions for negotiating with the Germans concerning the reservation of the crop in Northern France

8 July 1916

Very Confidential


You have received a copy of a letter dated July 7th which has been addressed to the patrons of the Commission here about the coming harvest in Belgium and Northern France.

I enclose for your private information a note prepared by the French Government for your confidential guidance in these negotiations. I should like to see you about this whole question some time, but meanwhile you will understand the private character of this note which is for your own eye and not for communication to anyone else.

Yours sincerely



A. It appears indispensable to lay down the principle that the entire harvest in French territory must be left at the disposal of the population. This request will probably be rejected, and the negotiating party should take note of the refusal as an abuse of power which he cannot withstand.

B. Admitting this hypothesis, the negotiating party should then consider the facts and find a practical solution. He will request that at least a part (one-half or a third) of the crops grown on French soil from German seed and with the assistance of German labor, be reserved for the population to whom the soil belongs.

This request must be rigidly upheld. It seems difficult, however, to make of it the object for a threat to break off the ravitaillement which is the supreme reason for discussion.

C. On the other hand, if the request formulated in the preceding paragraph is rejected, the negotiating party should insist that the portion of the crops of French invaded territory obtained without any assistance on the part of the Germans, be left in its entirety at the disposal of the French population.

D. Further, since it is impossible to know precisely the quantity of grain that will be produced without German participation, the undertaking outlined in paragraph C should have for an indispensable complement an agreement entered into by the German Government to assure a minimum amount of grain per capita and per month to the French population, whatever be the quantity of grain produced by the crops which are purely French.

A similar undertaking was approved of last year by the German Government, but without including the corollary agreement as to the final disposal of the crops. On this occasion it would be expedient to link the two questions. Moreover, it would be necessary to increase the percentage of grain thus assured per capita and per day, taking into account the facts assembled for this purpose through the efforts of the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

E. The conditions enumerated in paragraphs C and D must be considered as sine qua non, on pain of seeing the Germans exploit at will French territory, in violation of the rights of individuals and thus bring about in the interest of their own food supply an increase in the ravitaillement already so difficult to achieve.

The negotiator should therefore be authorized to declare that he declines all responsibility as to the continuance of the ravitaillement, if the conditions C and D are rejected, the Allied Governments appearing to be resolved in such an event to remind Germany of the obligations incumbent upon her, in conformity with international rights and usage in respect of the feeding of the populations in occupied territories.

July 1916




LORD ROBERT CECIL TO PAGE, stating the British Government's insistence that the whole harvest and all products of the soil in Belgium and French territory under German occupation be reserved for the civil population

7 July 1916


The Allied Governments have been carefully considering the question of the disposal of the harvest in the regions of Belgium and Northern France under German occupation where the Commission for Relief in Belgium is carrying on its work.

The Allied Governments feel obliged to demand that throughout the whole of this territory the same principles shall be established and observed as are now recognised in the zone of Belgium under civil administration, namely, that the whole harvest and all produce of the soil whatsoever in Belgium and in Northern France shall be reserved in their entirety for the civil population.

The details as to the precise measures necessary to collect, control, and distribute the native crops may be settled by the Relief Commission, but the arrangements finally made must carry out the principle stated above, which the Allied Governments regard as an absolute condition of the continuance of the work of the Commission.

Yours very sincerely




HOOVER TO GERARD, requesting the Ambassador to take up with the German authorities the reservation of the crop in the Army Zones of Belgium and Northern France

LONDON, 11 July 1916


By this mail Dr. Page will be forwarding you a despatch from the British Government, dated 7th July 1916, in which the Allied Governments demand that the whole produce of the soil in Belgium and Northern France shall be reserved entirely for the civil population. This demand does not relate to the Occupation Zone in Belgium, but only to the Etappengebiet in Belgium and to the occupied area in Northern France. These two areas are under the direct control of the German Army, therefore are under the General Staff and as before we have to rely upon you and your own individual exertions with the Staff in this matter, as Mr. Whitlock is powerless to intervene outside the Occupation Zone. I also enclose a memorandum which has been handed to me on the normal production of the area actually occupied by the German Army in Northern France.

The problems raised in this demand are not so simple as they might appear on the face, especially with regard to Northern France. In this area the Germans have themselves taken over and cultivated large areas of which they may justly claim the results and furthermore they have established all kinds of relations with the peasants, in the provision of seeds, additional labor, horses, etc., and have therefore established themselves some sort of a right in further areas. Moreover, any scheme under which the harvest should be physically taken over by the relief organization in this area is almost unthinkable from a practical point of view. Therefore, it would appear to me that the basis of discussion should take the form of the German authorities furnishing to you an estimate of the harvest of various commodities and the proportion which they consider has been raised by the result of their exertions and it will be necessary for our people to have a discussion on the whole question as to what basis can be arrived at which will enable Mr. Page to satisfy the Allied Governments.

With regard to the Etappen in Belgium, the problems are simpler in that, as I understand, the German Army have taken no part in planting, or otherwise in the production of the harvest. Furthermore, the arrangement we had last year, by which the German authorities took over the entire harvest of breadstuffs and in turn furnished our local committees with a definite monthly quota, did not work out very fortunately for either side, as the Germans found themselves practically powerless to collect the harvest from the stubborn peasants and it would seem that this area should be discussed on some new footing of more practical order. In any event, if you would be good enough to take the matter up with the German Government and impress upon them that we are having the usual time to defend the Relief and that we shall be able to save it in these regions only by close co-operation from them, it will undoubtedly contribute to arriving at a satisfactory understanding.

I shall go into Belgium in the course of the next ten or fourteen days and would like to be advised by you as to whether I should go to Berlin to take up the matter there or whether I should intervene directly with the General Staff at Charleville. At least it will have prepared the way for detailed discussion if you are so good as to take up the matter with the authorities at Berlin in advance and thus give them some time for consideration.

Yours faithfully




GERARD TO HELFFERICH, forwarding the statement of the British Government with Hoover's suggestions as a basis for negotiations

BERLIN, 18 July 1916

His Excellency, Dr. Helfferich,
Imperial Secretary of State for the Interior and Vice Chancellor, etc.


Our Ambassador in London has received a letter from the British Government, of which a copy follows. I have also received a letter from Mr. Herbert Hoover, stating that he will come to Berlin to confer with whoever has charge of this matter or would go to Charleville to confer with the officers of the General Staff there. I spoke of this matter yesterday to His Excellency Herr von Jagow and, if you remember, he called you on the telephone and then informed me that you would be very glad to confer with Mr. Hoover on the matter.

As I understand it, the demand now made by the Allied Governments does not relate to the occupation area in Belgium, but to that territory known as the Etappengebiet and to all of the occupied area in Northern France. These two areas are, I believe, under the direct control of the General Staff.

I understand, of course, that in Northern France the German Army of Occupation has taken over and cultivated large areas and has further furnished seeds, additional labor, horses, etc., to the peasants.

Possibly the discussion should take the form of the German authorities furnishing to Mr. Hoover and to me an estimate of the harvest of the various grains and the proportion of these which they consider has been raised as the result of the work of the German Army or by its assistance. This refers to the occupied territory in Northern France.

With regard to the Etappengebiet in Belgium, I understand that the problem there is simpler, because the German Army has taken no part in planting or otherwise producing the harvest. In this area the arrangement made last year, by which the German authorities took over the entire harvest of breadstuffs in this territory and in turn agreed to furnish the local committees with a definite monthly amount of grain or meal did not work out well in practice for either side, owing to the difficulty which the Germans had in collecting the harvest from the peasants and therefore it would seem that for the coming harvest year some new arrangement for this Etappengebiet should be discussed. Of course, the Commission for the Relief in Belgium is very anxious that the relief should go on and that the importation of food should not be stopped by the Allies, and therefore hopes that some arrangement can be arrived at, satisfactory to all parties.

I am simply setting out these facts in this letter in order that your assistants may be considering the matter before the arrival of Mr. Hoover. I am telegraphing Mr. Hoover that you will take up the matter with him, and I think he will be in Berlin in about two weeks.

I understand that the normal production of the occupied area of Northern France is about as follows:

Wheat 950,000 tons
Rye 82,000 tons
Barley 60,000 tons
Oats 720,000 tons
Potatoes 750,000 tons

Yours very sincerely




DR. HELFFERICH TO GERARD, concerning the crop of the Belgian Etapes and Northern France and referring Hoover to German General Staff for further negotiations

BERLIN, 25 July 1916


I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your esteemed letter dated July 18th, to which you were kind enough to append the Note of the English Foreign Office under date of July 7th addressed to the American Ambassador at London. The question of supplying the territory of Northern France occupied by German troops and of the lines of communication in Belgium concerns the chief military authorities in the first place. To the latter I have therefore transmitted Your Excellency's communication and inquired where, according to their idea, the conference desired by Mr. Hoover should most expediently be arranged. Immediately upon receipt of a reply, I shall hasten to inform Your Excellency of the same.

I take pleasure in availing myself of this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the assurances of my highest esteem.





from KELLOGG: "Fighting Starvation in Belgium,(
269)" pp. 58-65 describing conferences in Berlin in August 1916 between Hoover and German Military authorities concerning the reservation of the 1916 crop in the Army Zones for the local population and concerning the import of Holland produce into the North of France

On August 3d Mr. Hoover and I started for Berlin. On the same train we found Baron von der Lancken, chief of the political department of General von Bissing's Government, and Dr. Rieth, of his staff, both of whom had shown themselves friendly to the Dutch imports matter. From them we learned that there was to be a great conference in Berlin, and that three important Great Headquarters, officers, two of whom we knew to be friendly to our requests in the matter of the French native crop, were also on their way to Berlin. We felt, therefore, less alone in our struggle to help save the lives of 600,000 children of Northern France. These men would aid us!

Making the trip to the German capital without uncomfortable incident, thanks to our special military passes, we arrived at nine o'clock the next morning, and, by chance, met at once, in the lobby of the Hotel Esplanade, one of the Great Headquarters' officers, Hauptmann Graf W[engersky], through whom all Commission affairs were always first taken up when we had dealings with the General Staff. He greeted us with some haste and said that he had to rush off at once to an important conference on our affairs. He was wholly uncommunicative about the scope and character of the meeting, but informed us that General X------, Acting Quartermaster General of the German army, wished us to take tea with him at the hotel at four o'clock. We understood that this was to be an important tea-drinking!

In our need for support we went to see Ambassador Gerard. He had never failed in his energetic support whenever the Commission needed help at the Berlin Court. He gave us advice which, at the moment, was disheartening, but turned out to be wise counsel. It was that we should steer clear of invoking official governmental assistance in this affair, but should make the fight simply on the basis of the Commission's standing and influence, and keep international politics out of it as far as possible. The Germans knew that all we were struggling for was the good of the imprisoned people of Belgium and France, and that we were playing the game honestly. He believed that the Commission could fight this fight best alone. His words were at least an encouraging assurance to us of the Commission's extraordinary international position.

Promptly at four we found the three officers from the Great Headquarters, the third being Major von K[essler], a man of great capacity, under whose immediate supervision rested all affairs connected with the feeding of the civil population in the occupied territory. He had always handled Commission matters with intelligence and prompt decision, and usually with sympathetic understanding. We had known Count W[engersky] and Major von K[essler] ever since the beginning of the work, but it was our first meeting with General X------, whose office was one of high importance, only second in importance, indeed, in the German army, to the Chief of Staff of the Field Armies, a position at that time filled by General von Falkenhayn. General X----- is an enormous burly man and makes an impression of brutal strength. He drank whisky instead of tea.

As we sat down, Major von K[essler], with characteristic promptness and in a few words, gave us news of the great conference. It was startling news and most of it bad. The conference was one of important representatives of the General Staff, the General Government of Belgium, the Foreign Office, the Department of the Interior, and of all other departments immediately interested in the handling of the civil populations in all occupied territories. It had apparently already definitely decided that we could import no Dutch foodstuffs, and that no further allocation of the French native crop could be made to the civil population. But these were only incidents in a larger question taken up by it, which was that of the Commission's being allowed to continue its work at all! Just as the famous meeting with Mr. Lloyd George on January 21, 1915 ---arranged primarily for a discussion of certain phases of the Commission's activities---revealed the strength of the feeling in England against the relief work as a whole, so this Berlin visit of ours, to take up simply two special points in our work, revealed itself as coincident with a crisis in the Commission's history, determined by the crystallisation of the German opposition to the work.

Major von K[essler] said that things looked very bad for us. Extremely violent speeches had been made against the work, and only two or three men had ventured to speak in favour of it. These were, however, men of influence, and represented important parts of the Government, notably the Foreign Office and Interior. But the Reventlow jingoes were in the saddle. A special cause of bitterness was a public despatch from the British Foreign Minister which had just been published in all the German papers, demanding that the German authorities turn over to the civil populations in the French, Polish, and Serbian occupied territories (as had already been done in Belgium) the entirety of the native products of these territories. The bellicose speakers in the conference demanded that the German Government answer this despatch at once with a curt refusal and a statement that, as the British blockade was responsible for the food deprivations of the Belgians and French, the ravitaillement should be abolished, the people allowed to starve, and the Allied governments be held responsible for their starvation. These men declared that Germany could not for one moment accept the position that England should dictate its attitude and action toward the occupied territories, and that the only position Germany could take henceforth was to throw the population on the shoulders of England, which could open its blockade or let the Belgians and French starve, just as it was trying to let the Germans starve.

The feeling all over Germany was high, and the conference seemed likely to end the Commission's work then and there. Just one ray of light came to us in this dark hour. During our depressing conversation with the Headquarters officers, a remark was made by one of them to the effect that if the request for a larger allocation of the native products to the civil population had come simply from the Commission, something might have been done, but with England demanding it----"No, a thousand times No."

This was our cue. We repudiated England! What England demanded was its affair. Let the Germans fight it out with England. What the Commission pleaded for was its own affair---the affair of saving the lives of human beings; of keeping body and soul together for ten million people, known to the world as Belgians and French, but known to the Commission as human beings, men, women, and children, especially children, crying for food!

As we were not allowed to attend the conference we had to work outside. We argued with the Great Headquarters men. We urged on the representatives of General von Bissing's Belgian Government the consequence to the population for whose lives this Government was responsible, and on the representatives of the Foreign Office and Department of the Interior the consequences of the position of Germany before the world if German action should cause the terrible tragedy which the abolishment of the ravitaillement would certainly entail. We argued here and pleaded there. And it all had to be done before that fateful conference of the day's length should dissolve.

The long story must be cut short. We succeeded! The Commission was allowed to continue its work. And even more. Just three weeks later we signed an agreement with the General Staff by which twice the proportion of the coming crops of Northern France was reserved for the people as had been reserved of the previous crop. And still later---unfortunately much later, but still better than not at all--- a little fresh meat and butter and cheese from Holland began to be eaten by the protein- and fat-hungry people of Northern France.

The conference broke up with the Reventlow gang sullen and angry, but accepting, as all Germans do accept, the will of the higher command. Mr. Hoover returned to England to continue negotiations with London. I went back to Brussels and the Great Headquarters to hasten the formulation and signature of the agreements. The crisis was past.



HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, describing the difficulty of the negotiations with the Germans and the harmful effect on the negotiations of the shipment of supplies into Northern France via Switzerland

LONDON, 12 August 1916



I have been in Belgium and Berlin, endeavoring to come to an arrangement with regard to the English demands in this particular.

It has proven an extremely difficult and disagreeable negotiation in every particular, and difficulties and disagreeableness have been materially increased and the whole position jeopardized by the continued action of the French Government in giving permission to ship through Switzerland.(270) The Germans are sufficiently convinced that threats from the English side are of no permanent consequence; that assurances of ours that the ravitaillement cannot be carried on except through us are futile; and, generally, I feel that we can scarcely be blamed if, in the face of the action of the shipping of stuff through Switzerland, we fail altogether.

Mr. Honnold has explained to me the reasons, but it seems to me hardly fair to us, in the midst of a negotiation of this kind, that we should be placed in the position we have been. The German authorities apparently received constant assurances that the French Government is not in sympathy with the restrictions imposed by the British; that in the end they would not be insisted upon, and they have evidence of this by the opening up of new channels through Switzerland.

I do not think that anyone could be more solicitous for the welfare of human beings than our group have been for the welfare of the people of Northern France and, despite all that may be said by committees, and all the theoretical reports that may be written by professors, the population is alive today and in good health. It is true that we would like to have a larger supply of food, more money, and more ships, and that thereby life should become much more endurable to these people under most difficult circumstances, but it does not appear to me to be fair to us to ask us to continue in this work without our being considered the absolute pivot on which the whole ravitaillement hangs, and that no other channel should be opened to the North of France in any shape or form without our previous approval. We have no desire for a monopoly. We have encouraged in every manner every stream of foodstuff into Northern France, but unless we can control these streams, it seems absolutely hopeless to expect us to protect the people from the military authorities. Therefore, I think we must insist that we shall not continue this work, unless prior to any arrangement whatever as to the French Government's approval to the introduction of foodstuffs into Northern France, such proposal shall have received our confirmation. I shall be much surprised if the action with regard to Switzerland does not cost us 100,000 tons of wheat out of the native products.

Yours faithfully




of a conference and agreement, between MAJOR VON KESSLER AND KELLOGG of the C.R.B., regarding reservations of food in Northern France and the Belgian Etapes and increase in rations to the civil population

BRUSSELS, 26 August 1916

Major von Kessler declared it to be the intention of the German authorities to increase, from October 1st, 1916, the ration of flour and potatoes of the civil population of the North of France and the Belgian Etappen to 200 grams of flour and 400 grams of potatoes per person per day, this being an increase over the flour ration at present provided of 100 per cent, and over the potato ration of 100 per cent.

Major von Kessler further declared it to be the intention of the German authorities to continue to reserve to the civil population the garden fruit and vegetables and to make certain other reservations to the civil population of poultry, eggs, pigs, rabbits, etc., as will help to ensure a supply of fresh meat to the people.

Director Kellogg declared it to be the intention of the Commission for Relief in Belgium to continue the ravitaillement of the North of France and the Belgian Etappen along the lines of the present ravitaillement but with certain changes in the amounts of flour and other foodstuffs in order to make the whole ration, German and C.R.B. combined, the most advantageous one from the point of view of the nutrition of the people.

The increase in the German ration of flour, for example, would allow the C.R.B. flour ration to be somewhat reduced, and the money and tonnage thereby saved devoted to the increase in the amounts of certain other foodstuffs provided, as bacon and lard, dried peas and beans, etc., and especially to the obtaining and providing, if possible, of fresh or preserved meats.

Director Kellogg also declared it to be the intention of the C.R.B. to endeavor to obtain an increase in its funds devoted to the ravitaillement of the North of France in order to meet the additional needs of the people for the coming winter.

These declarations are hereby accepted as the basis of an agreement between the German General Staff of the Great Headquarters and the Commission for Relief in Belgium as to the conditions of the further ravitaillement of the civil population of the North of France and the Belgian Etappen, that is, from October 1st, 1916, until later agreement.


(Signed) V. L. KELLOGG



HOOVER TO PERCY, describing the increase over the preceding year of local produce available for civilian population as result of the new agreement with the German military authorities

LONDON, 4 September 1916


Please find enclosed herewith a note from Dr. Kellogg from Rotterdam, on the subject of the new German agreement with regard to Northern France and the Etapes [Belgian].

I am pleased to tell you that the agreement applies to the whole of the Etapes as well as to Northern France and this represents a substantial improvement over the position to which I was afraid we might have to retreat.

As the agreement now stands, it represents at our estimate of the population, a total amount of wheat for Northern France of 192,000 tons, or an increase over last year of 96,000. Assuming that the harvest is somewhere about 450,000 tons, this represents about 43 per cent of the total harvest, as against our estimate of 30 per cent raised actually by the hands of the peasants.

With regard to the Etapes, it represents on our estimate of the population a total of 148,000 tons and an increase over last year of 74,000 tons, amounting on our estimates to fully two and a half times the native harvest. In other words, something more of the French crop has been obtained for distribution in the Etapes. Altogether, if we estimate the Etapes harvest at about 60,000 and the total in the Etapes and Northern France at 510,000 these arrangements represent roughly 66 per cent of the entire harvest and, as nearly as our estimates go, to about 170 per cent of the cereals actually raised by the hands of the peasants. In total, the population should receive from this source for Northern France and the Etapes approximately 340,000 tons of cereals during the next twelve months, or an increase of 160,000 tons. At present prices the total represents a value of over £6,800,000 of value.

In the matter of potatoes, the arrangements seem to me to be very satisfactory, as the Etapes are amalgamated with Northern France in this particular and if should cover practically all the potatoes which they will be able to extract from the peasants.

I shall probably not have the actual contract in hand for another week.

Altogether, I think that we can congratulate ourselves on so satisfactory a consummation.

Yours faithfully




HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, with regard to the new agreement with the Germans and the manner in which it is to be made public

LONDON, 4 September 1916


I enclose herewith copy of a telegram which came through from Brussels, together with a note from Dr. Kellogg, from Rotterdam, setting out in general, the terms of the agreement between the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the German Staff à propos of Northern France. This agreement also covers the Etappengebiet in Belgium. I shall be able to send you the text of the original agreement in the course of the next week or two.

One important condition of this arrangement is, you will notice, that there shall be no attempt to put it over the Germans by the Allied Governments in this matter. The British Government is willing enough to suppress any exultation and I hope you will explain the seriousness of the matter from our point of view to Mr. Marjorie. It is certain enough that the agreement is the result of pressure and it is undesirable at this stage to rub it in.

Two hundred grams of flour is equal to 242 grams of wheat per diem, and upon the 2,200,000 people in Northern France and the 1,700,000 in the Etappengebiet means 340,000 tons of wheat from the Germans during the next twelve months. The crop of cereals in the Etape last year was not over 70,000 tons, and according to the Germans the crop in Northern France does not exceed 450,000 tons; so that, if this is true, we have certainly obtained a great deal more than the harvest raised actually at the hands of the peasant population. In any event, this wheat has a value of over £6,800,000 at present prices, so that I think we may take a great deal of satisfaction out of the agreement.

In order to give a ration of 400 grams of bread to the people in Northern France and the Etape, it means that we shall have to import approximately 8,000 tons for the North of France and 6,100 tons for the Etape. The harvest of potatoes in Northern France is certainly not equal to 400 grams per diem, and by making the agreement over the whole area including the Etape the probabilities are that the native production about covers the whole 400 grams and gives us reasonable security for its delivery during the year. I am anxious to hear from you as to the confirmation of the French Government of the memorandum which was submitted to them and also the memorandum with regard to accounting.

Yours faithfully




HOOVER TO VON KESSLER, confirming the Allied acceptance of the agreement between the C.R.B. and German General Headquarters

BRUSSELS, 19 September 1916


I am glad to confirm to you, as I have already stated verbally to Count Wengersky, that the Allied Governments have agreed with the Commission for Relief in Belgium to accept the arrangement settled between yourself and Doctor Kellogg on August 26th, and they have facilitated our securing a considerable increase of resources on the basis of this arrangement. We now have available an increase of between seven and eight million francs per month---in addition to the twenty millions previously; and furthermore have an indeterminate sum at our disposal to pay for fresh meat, cheese, and butter if they can be secured from Holland.

We are also replacing the saving on imported wheat in the Etappen by increasing the other supplies to this section.

I wish to express my personal appreciation of the spirit of cooperation shown by the German authorities with us in so adequately augmenting the much needed supplies to the French people and the Belgians in the Etappen.

With kind regards, I am

Yours faithfully




Extract of letter,
HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, regarding a promised increase in the French subsidy and its relation to the recent agreement regarding the harvest in the North of France

LONDON, 28 September 1916

Monsieur L. Chevrillon, Paris


We are of course pretty anxious about the French subsidy. I found when arriving in Belgium that the potato crop in the North of France and the Belgian Etapes had proved very much less than the Germans had anticipated and probably will only furnish 60 per cent of the quantity which they have pledged themselves to find. Also the grain crop has not realized on harvest what they anticipated. Altogether the bargain was one which we could not have gotten through if we had been a month later with it. They were therefore very restive under the contract, and Kellogg and all our people were insistent that we must confirm the agreement and give them no time or loophole for escape, I therefore did so in the terms of the letter which I sent you yesterday. You will see that I have just acted on your suggestion that we could consider the arrangement with the French Government as settled so far as any action on our part was concerned, and I am now very anxious over the situation. Furthermore, we are pledging ourselves to the larger imports and our finances will be in trouble pretty soon.

We secured a thousand sheep in Holland and shipped them into Northern France as a first installment, and the gratitude of the people is beyond description, as this was the first meat any of them had tasted in five months.

We are still negotiating with the Germans with regard to the Dutch foodstuffs, and Kellogg is rather confident that we shall get a permit for the importation of at least 5,000 sheep a month and some other products from Holland.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yours faithfully



7. The Harvests of 1917 and 1918

When the time came to take up with the German General Staff the question of the disposition of the harvest of 1917, the American representatives of the Commission had been withdrawn from the occupied territories. In June 1917 at the request of C.R.B. headquarters in London, Mr. Baetens, the Commission's representative in Brussels, the Comité Français, and the new Comité Hispano-Néerlandais raised the question with the military authorities. Count Wengersky did not challenge the general principle established by Hoover's negotiations the previous year. He stated, however, that the Allied offensive in the Somme region in 1916 (the Battle of the Somme) and the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line in February 1917 had greatly reduced the producing area of French territory in German control and that therefore it would be impossible to furnish as large a ration from local produce as in 1916. The ration eventually authorized was 150 grams per capita per day.



LONDON TO BRUSSELS OFFICE OF COMMISSION, suggesting that it is time to begin negotiations with Army Headquarters concerning the disposition of 1917 crop in Northern France and in Flanders

LONDON, 9 June 1917

We beg to suggest that it is time to begin negotiations with Headquarters at Charleville, concerning the disposition of the French native crop of 1917. We presume that this matter will be handled by the Comité Neutre pour la Protection du Ravitaillement and that this agreement will read from the General Staff to them.

You have in your files, we believe, a copy of the agreement entered into between Dr. Kellogg and Major von Kessler in 1916 and we suggest that this be followed as nearly as possible. Please keep us advised of the progress of these negotiations.



POLAND TO BAETENS, representative of the Commission in Brussels, pointing out the importance of securing the necessary undertakings from the Germans for the 1917 crop in the Occupation Zone in Belgium

LONDON, 3 July 1917


.... we know that everyone in Belgium has been working hard on the matter of the new agreements for the following harvest concerning the issue to the civil population of wheat and potatoes in Northern France and the Etapes.

While I am sure it is quite unnecessary to urge upon you the importance of having this question settled right away, we must tell you that there are certain political considerations here which make it gravely necessary that we have an undertaking from the Germans, along essentially the lines of last year, covering these distributions, and I beg that you will present this view to the Patron Ministers and do everything possible to get the information to us at the earliest date.

Yours faithfully

(Signed) W. B. POLAND
Director for Europe



GERMAN GENERAL GOVERNMENT IN BELGIUM TO COMITÉ HISPANO-NÉERLANDAIS, stating that the General Staff had agreed to reserve the total crop of the Army Zones for the civil population and to supply a ration of 150 grams per capita per day

BRUSSELS, 30 July 1917

To the Comité Hispano-Néerlandais, Brussels

I have the honor to advise the Comité Hispano-Néerlandais that, according to telegraphic communication from Count Wengersky, the total crop of bread grains, rye and wheat, in the occupied territories of Northern France and the Flanders Etape will be reserved to the civil population.

As the crop will be less important than that of last year it will be necessary to bring the flour ration down to 150 grams per day beginning September 1st.

Concerning the potato crop, nothing definite can yet be stated. Count Wengersky hopes, however, to be able to fix the ration at 200 grams per head per day.

(Signed) RIETH



In August 1918 representatives of the relief organizations began discussions with the representatives of the German General Staff relative to the disposition of the harvest of this year in the Army Zones. Because of the decline in the production of the soil and for other causes Count Wengersky declared that a further reduction in the daily ration to 75 grams would be necessary. This program, officially confirmed on the 13th September, was never carried out, for the military events of the next few weeks ended German control in both Northern France and Belgium. As has been shown in chapter iii, the Commission had prepared for the new situation and was able, therefore, with the termination of hostilities to increase its imports to the amount necessary to carry the people of the recovered regions through the winter and spring and until the Belgian and French authorities were in a position to take over the responsibilities discharged by the Commission during the years of enemy occupation.



271) relative to the prospects of the harvest of 1918 and the measures adopted to increase the food supply in the Army Zones

CHARLEVILLE, 2 September 1918


In regard to our various oral discussions and your letter of August 8th I would like to communicate to you below some data concerning the disposition of the crop of the previous year and the prospects for the coming agricultural year.

The harvest of the year 1916-17 afforded a yield of about 140,000 tons of bread grains. Of this the amount of about 12,000 tons has been reserved for seed for new cultivation for the year 1917-18. It appears therefore that 128,000 tons of bread grains, or 97 per cent milling, 124,000 tons of flour, were available. We distributed to the inhabitants 132,800 tons of flour so that, in order to attain this figure, 8,800 tons of flour of German production were added to the crop harvested here.

With the yield you must take into account that with the complete lack of artificial fertilizer in the occupied territory and the proportionately slight possibilities of having natural fertilizer the fertility of the arable ground is naturally declining greatly. We are therefore following the policy, so far as is possible, of tilling only the fields capable still of producing, so that no unnecessary waste of seed is entailed; hence the result also that the arable areas are constantly diminishing. In the harvest year of 1917-18 there occurred consequently again a decrease in the arable areas of 55,000 hectares, and the crop will be proportionately smaller; exact figures for the harvest 1917-18 are naturally not yet available; I have, however, endeavored to obtain from the agricultural experts as exact a figure for the yield as possible and can say that the crop will not exceed a yield of 110,000 tons. We must reserve from this amount at least 10,000 tons as seed for the coming agricultural year; if we, therefore, in the coming year reckon an average per capita per day of 75 grams of flour, the German Government will again be obliged most probably to contribute about 5,000 tons of flour from German stocks as additional supply for the civil population. You see, therefore, my dear M. Langenbergh, that an increase in the supplementary flour portions cannot be considered. According to information from the Commissary General there can be no estimate as yet whether it will be possible in the first months, perhaps, to allow an increase in the flour portion to 100 grams; if this should perhaps prove possible I would wish most particularly to emphasize that in the later months a reduction to less than 75 grams would have to be made, since, as mentioned, even the portion of 75 grams involves a contribution from German resources.

As regards the supplying of the population with vegetables, the tilling of the land by the commissaries of which I informed you, has for the past two or three years been carried out to the full extent in the districts of Charleville, Vervins, partially in the district of Hautmont. This cultivation consists in ceding to every inhabitant of the rural districts two ares of land [approximately one-twentieth of an acre] for cultivation; the fields are tilled by the inhabitants, they are provided with signboards and absolutely protected from every kind of requisition. The commissaries see to it that these regulations, which are recognized by all military authorities, are observed. The products of these fields are unreservedly at the disposal of the inhabitants. Thus there has been attained for the inhabitants, in those districts which have already carried out these measures, very abundant provision of vegetables, potatoes, turnips, cabbages, et cetera. Unfortunately, two or three years ago, when I made this proposal some of the districts could not bring themselves to introduce this system of agriculture and as a result the vegetable supply in the northern districts, has up till now been less plentiful than I could have wished.

I have now succeeded in bringing all districts to the Point of desiring to apply this system; however, inasmuch as in previous years work along these lines had not been done, the necessary seed, especially for potatoes, et cetera, is not at the disposal of the districts which are only just beginning the arrangement now, whereas in the case of Charleville, Vervins, and Hautmont (in the two former in abundance, and in the latter sufficiently also) it could, with ease, be reserved from their previous harvests.

I mention also that in the case of the larger cities where the inhabitants individually cannot thus take an active part in farming, the arrangement has been made by which the rural communities take over the cultivation of the land for them.

In your communication concerning the provision of varieties of seed an error has slipped in, in so far as you write that we have collected seeds to the value of 12 million [francs]; this is of course not correct; the procuring of seeds by us largely from Germany amounted to 1 1/2 million marks; we had as our object also the providing of the population as far as possible with seeds for the growing of cabbages and to give these principally to that portion of the districts where the planting of potatoes was not possible. There exists, therefore, the prospect that in this year the population will be provided most abundantly with vegetables. It will naturally be my endeavor to try to obtain for those sections, where the yield of the native fields is not especially good, that potatoes or turnips, from the army stocks, be placed at their disposal.

As soon as the prices for the supplying of the population with grain or flour are stable I will at once communicate them to you so that you may be fully informed on the subject.

I hope that you will perceive from the above that on the part of the German army administration in so far as concerns the commissaries, everything will be done to supply as much as possible to the population.

With the expression of my highest esteem,

Yours very truly





of a meeting of representatives of the German General Staff and the relief organizations relative to the harvest of 1918 and the ration of 1918-19

BRUSSELS, 10 September 1918

Present: Count Wengersky, Captain Schroeder, Messrs. Langenbergh, Baetens, and Van Brée.

The session was opened at 11:00 o'clock.

HARVEST 1918-1919

Regarding the arrangements for the handling of the next harvest in the Etapes and in the territory of Northern France, Count Wengersky confirms the information he gave to Mr. Langenbergh in his letter of September 2 of the current year. He is now able to state that the necessary arrangements have been made so that during the month of October 100 grams of domestic flour per person may be distributed; it is hoped that the same will be true for November. However, since the average ration for the entire year is calculated to be 75 grams daily, it will be necessary in the future to reduce this ration in order to keep the general average of 75 grams. He adds that it is absolutely impossible to do more than that.

As for the question of domestic vegetables, aside from the arrangements which have been made in various army groups by the officers in charge of revictualing to insure supplies to the population by means of native products, he hopes to be able to import for the combined Agglomerations of Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing, and Valenciennes, potatoes to be sent from Germany by way of Nuremonde. Count Wengersky is not yet in a position to state that his measures will succeed.

It has been called to the attention of Count Wengersky that these conditions are quite unfavorable and that it is regrettable that they are less satisfactory than those of last year.

As a matter of fact during 1917-1918 the average daily allotment of domestic flour reached 94.3 grams per person, whereas the average for the next allotment will fall to 75 grams. Besides, last year a minimum of 200 grams of potatoes had been promised whereas this year no promise of this sort has been made.

Count Wengersky points out that a diminution in the production of cereals is inevitable. His letter to Mr. Langenbergh gives the reasons for this.

The arrangements made in regard to the question of potatoes, Count Wengersky points out, are more satisfactory than those of last year. In effect last year rather inconsiderable quantities were actually furnished except in Flanders where the full ration and even far more was distributed. Under the present arrangement the French districts will be better provided for than they were last year. In fact the districts which are under cultivation, as Charleville, St. Quentin, and Vervins, will receive large quantities of potatoes. Likewise in Flanders the ration will exceed 200 grams daily per person. As for Lille and Valenciennes he hopes by means of potatoes from Germany to furnish large supplies to these places.

Count Wengersky has been asked to have the domestic cereals actually used on the ground and not to have German flour substituted for them.

Count Wengersky says that it is impossible to give a formal guarantee in regard to this matter. Indeed the needs of the troops necessitate at times the utilizing of supplies that are on hand, the latter to be replaced by flour coming from Germany. Nevertheless, he is able to give assurances in so far as the regions of Flanders, Lille, and Valenciennes, and a part of Haumont are concerned that the greater part of domestic flour consumed there will come from the domestic harvest.

Count Wengersky has been asked to please send an official letter to the Spanish-Dutch Committee concerning the question of the domestic harvests and to send a similar communication through the V.C.N. to the Comité National, especially regarding the region of Flanders.

And so it is understood that for the month of October, as probably also for the month of November, 100 grams of domestic flour will be delivered. The general ration of flour can thus be increased by 25 grams.

For his part Mr. Langenbergh will ask the C.R.B. to please allow a supply of 175 grams instead of 150 grams of imported flour so as to be able to keep the general ration at 250 grams. The supplement of domestic flour given out during October and November will be lessened upon the materializing of the crops of the second semester, that is, beginning April 1919. Under these conditions there will be furnished to the inhabitants of Northern France and the territory of the Belgian Etapes, during the month of September, a daily ration of 75 grams of domestic flour; during the months of October and, if possible, November, 100 grams; during the months of December, January, and February, 75 grams; and the following six months, about 65 grams.

The Executive Committee of the C.F.

Count Wengersky has been asked what result the letter addressed him by Mr. Langenbergh regarding the meeting of the members of the Executive Committee of the C.F. may have had.

Count Wengersky replies that he is actually in negotiation with headquarters to have the measures confirmed by the Spanish-Dutch Committee and hopes to be able to accomplish it. In the meantime he will arrange to have the passport of Mr. Blondet delivered at the same time as a passport to the delegate from Valenciennes so that these delegates may be able to discuss together the question of revictualing their districts which are contiguous.

Concerning Mr. Labbé the question of his passport is about to be arranged. It will, however, be impossible to obtain a passport for Mrs. Labbé. Mr. Labbé's passport will permit him to live in Brussels for a certain time without, however, allowing him regular weekly trips between Lille and Brussels.

Manufacture of Crackers

Count Wengersky points out that he has undertaken a series of measures in Brussels with the idea of obtaining the resumption of the manufacture of crackers. Although the opposition on the part of the President of the Central Bureau of Harvests may be very strong he hopes to arrive at a solution which will in part be satisfactory to the Committee and which will permit him to make a certain type of "couque scolaire," which is like a cracker.


Count Wengersky points out that he has received very numerous requests to increase the shipments of salt to the territory of Northern France and the Etapes. As he learned on the other hand that the consumption of salt was no longer regulated or limited in Germany he is taking measures with the Reichskommissar to find out if actually the supply of salt in Northern France and the Etapes is still limited to 2,000 tons monthly as was decided at the end of 1917.


Count Wengersky has been asked if it is not possible to take special measures to try to save a part of the stock of the C.R.B. which is in the storehouses of Douai. Count Wengersky says that Rittmeister Neuerbourg is busy with this question and will do his utmost to try to save as much of the merchandise as possible, but he fears, nevertheless, that a large part of the products will be definitely lost.

The session was closed at 12:15.




WENGERSKY TO LANGENBERGH, Stating that the daily ration from local bread grains would be about 75 grams during 1918-19

BRUSSELS, 13 September 1918

To the Spanish-Dutch Committee:

As last year, the total production of the harvest in cereals, rye and wheat, will be reserved for the population this year; after the deduction of the seed necessary for next year, that will permit the distribution of an individual daily ration of about 75 grams of flour.

For the revictualing in potatoes or vegetables, there has been placed at the disposal of all the inhabitants of Northern France a field of 200 square meters which is under the surveillance of the Verpflegungsoffizier (commissary), the output of which is at the disposition of the civil population, free from all requisition. I have secured the necessary seed in a sufficient quantity.

Besides, I am endeavoring to import potatoes from Germany into the northern districts where, in consequence of the lack of seed potatoes, the crop according to the prediction, will be mediocre.




8. Local and Imported Bread Grains. 1914-1918

Apart from the wider issues involved in the protection of local crops, the various agreements and administrative arrangements covered by the preceding documents resulted in saving for the people of the Occupation and Army Zones considerable quantities of food that otherwise would have been lost to them through requisitioning or uncontrolled trading. There is no way of knowing the quantities of potatoes and other local vegetables that were distributed, but it is possible to estimate the bread grains locally produced and rationed. The following table shows the quantities available in the Occupation and Army Zones, respectively, and the amount imported by the C.R.B. in the corresponding years.


(Metric tons)


Locally Produced

C. R. B. Importations b


Occupation Zone a

Army Zones c


1914-15 d ...... ...... ...... 761,481
1915-16 203,366 130,000 333,366 1,021,429
1916-17 162 503 140,000 302,503 540,786
1917-18 164,774 110,000 274,774 725,840
Total 530,643 380,000 910,643 3,049,536 e

a Figures from A. Henry: La Ravitaillement de la Belgique, p. 78.

b Based on the ration and production figures of Count Wengersky of the German General Staff. Wengersky declared that in order to maintain the agreed contribution during 1916-17 considerable German flour had to be used. See Document 385.

c Includes imported flour as well as wheat, rye, barley, and maize. Gay: Statistics, pp. 192-199.

d The 1914 crop partially destroyed and largely requisitioned by the German armies.

e In addition, the C.R.B. Imported 675,513 tons of bread grains during the months following the Armistice.

Chapter 9

Table of Contents