AS soon as the war was declared and millions of men marched forward intent upon killing, hundreds of men and women immediately took up the problem of helping the soldiers, the wounded and the prisoners and of caring for those left behind by the men who had gone to the front.
The first war charity to come under my observation was the American Red Cross. Two units containing three doctors and about twelve nurses, each, were sent to Germany by the American National Red Cross. Before their arrival I took up with the German authorities the questions as to whether these would be accepted and where they would be placed. The German authorities accepted the units and at first decided to send one to each front. The young man assigned to the West front was Goldschmidt Rothschild, one of the last descendants of the great Frankfort family of Rothschild. He had been attached to the German Embassy in London before the war. The one assigned to the unit for the East front was Count Helie de Talleyrand. Both of these young men spoke English perfectly and were chosen for that reason, and both have many friends in England and America.
Talleyrand was of a branch of the celebrated Talleyrand family and possessed German citizenship. During the Napoleonic’ era the great Talleyrand married one of his nephews to a Princess of Courland who, with her sister, was joint heiress of the principality of Sagan in Germany. The share of the other sister was bought by the sister who married young Talleyrand, and the descendant of that union became princes of Sagan and held the Italian title of Duke de Dino and the French title of Duke de Valençay.
Some of the descendants of this nephew of the great Talleyrand d remained in Germany, and this young Talleyrand, as assigned to the Red Cross unit, belonged to that branch. Others settled in France, and among these was the last older of the title and the Duke de Dino, who married, successively, two Americans, Miss Curtis and Mrs. Sampson. It was a custom in this family that the holder o the principal title, that of the Prince of Sagan, allowed the next two members in succession to bear the titles of Duke de Dino and Duke de Valancay. Before the last Prince of Sagan died in France, his son Helie married the American, Anna Gould, who had divorced the Count Castellane. On the death of his father and in accordance with the statutes of the House of Sagan the members of the family who were German citizens held a family council and, with the approval of the Emperor of Germany passed over the succession from Anna Gould’s husband o her son, so that her son has now the right to the title and not his father, but the son must become a German citizen at his majority.
The younger brother of the husband of Anna Gould bears the title of Duke de Valençay and is the divorced husband f the daughter of Levi P. Morton, formerly Vice-President of the United States. This young Talley-rand to whom I have referred and who was assigned to the Amer can Red Cross unit, although he was a German by nationality, did not wish to fight in this war against France in which country he had so many friends and relations and, therefore, this assignment to the American Red Cross was most welcome to him.
On the arrival of the American doctors and nurses in Berlin, it as decided to send both units to the East front and to put one in the small Silesian town of Gleiwitz and the other in the neighbouring town of Kosel. Count Talleyrand went with these two units, Goldschmidt Rothschild being attached to the Prussian Legation in Munich.
We had a reception in the Embassy for these doctors and nurses which was attended by Prince Hatzfeld, Duke of Trachenberg, who was head of the German Red Cross, and other Germans interested in this line of work. The Gleiwitz and Kosel units remained in these towns for about a year until the American Red Cross withdrew its units from Europe.
At about the time of the withdrawal of these units, I had heard much of the sufferings of German prisoners in Russia. I had many conversation with Zimmermann of the German Foreign Office and Prince Hatzfeld on this question, as well as with Prince Max of Baden, the heir presumptive to the throne of that country; and I finally arranged that such of these American doctors and nurses as volunteered should be sent to Russia to do what they could for the German prisoners of war there. Nine doctors and thirty-eight nurses volunteered. They were given a great reception in Berlin, the German authorities placed a large credit in the hands of this mission, and, after I had obtained through our State Department the consent of the Russian Government for the admission of the mission, it started from Berlin for Petrograd. The German authorities and the Germans, as a whole, were very much pleased with this arrangement. Officers of the Prussian army were present at the departure of the trains and gave flowers to all the nurses. It is very unfortunate that after their arrival in Russia this mission was hampered in every way, and had the greatest difficulty in obtaining permission to do any work at all. Many of them, however, managed to get in positions where they assisted the German prisoners. For instance, in one town where there were about five thousand Germans who had been sent one of our doctors managed to get appointed physician and, aided by several of the American able to do a great work for the German population. of our nurses managed to get as far as Siberia and others were scattered through the Russian Empire.
Had his mission under Dr. Snoddy been able to carry as originally planned, it would not only have good to the German prisoners of war, but helped a great deal to do away with the bitter feeling entertained by Germans towards Americans. Even ited opportunity given this mission, it undoubtally helped the prisoners.
On arriving in Berlin on their way home to America itz and Kosel, the doctors and nurses of these nits were all awarded the German Red Cross the second class and those who had been in re similarly decorated by the Austro-Hungarian Goverment.
Early in 1915, Mr. Ernest P. Bicknell, who had first come to Germany representing the American Red Cross, returned representing not only that organisation but also the Rockefeller Foundation. With him was Mr. Wickliffe Rose, also of the Rockefeller Foundation; and with these two gentlemen I took up the question of the relief of Poland. Mr. Rose and Mr. Bicknell together visited Poland and saw with their own eyes the necessity for relief. A meeting was held in the Reichstag attended by Prince Hatzfeld of the German Red Cross, Director Guttmann, of the Dresdener Bank, Geheimrat Lewald, of the Imperial Ministry of the Interior, representing the German Government, and many others connected with the government, military and financial interests of Germany.
The Commission for the Relief in Poland, of which I was to be chairman, was organised and included the Spanish Ambassador, His Excellency the Bishop of Posen, the Prince Bishop of Cracow, Jacob H. Schiff of New York, and others. Messrs. Warwick, Greene and Wadsworth were to take up the actual executive work.
In conjunction with Messrs. Rose and Bicknell, I drew up a sort of treaty, having particularly in mind certain difficulties encountered by the American Relief Commission in Belgium. The main point in this treaty was that the German Government agreed not to requisition either food or money within the limits of the territory to be relieved, which territory comprised that part of Poland within German occupation up to within, as I recall it, fifty kilometres of the firing line. The one exception was that a fine might be levied on a community where all the inhabitants had made themselves jointly and severally liable according to the provisions of the Hague Convention. The Rockefeller Foundation on its part agreed to pay all the expenses of the executive work of the commission. This treaty, after being submitted to General Hindenburg and approved by him, was signed by Dr. Lewald, representing the German Government, by Mr. Bicknell, representing the Rockefeller Foundation, and by me, representing the new commission for the relief of Poland.
Work was immediately commenced under this arrangement and, so far as possible, food was purchased in Holland and Denmark, but there was little to be had in these countries. The Allies, however, refused to allow food to enter Germany for the purpose of this commission, and so the matter fell through. Later, when the Allies were willing to permit the food to enter, it was the German Government that refused to reaffirm this treaty and re-fused to agree that the German army of occupation should not requisition food in occupied Poland. Of course, under these circumstances, no one could expect the Allies to consent to the entry of food; because the obvious result would be that the Germans would immediately, following the precedent established by them in Northern France, take all the food produced in the country for their army and the civil population of Germany, and allow the Poles to be fed with food sent in from outside, while perhaps their labour was utilised in the very fields the prod. ucts of which were destined for German consumption.
There is no question that the sufferings of the people of Poland have been very great, and when the history of Poland during the war comes to be written the world will stand aghast at the story of her sufferings. It is a greatpity that these various schemes for relief did not succeed. The Rockefeller Commission, however, up to the time I left Germany did continue to carry on some measure of relief and succeeded in getting in condensed milk, to some extent, for the children of that unfortunate country. These negotiations brought me in contact with a number of Poles resident in Berlin, whom I found most eager to do what they could to relieve the situation. I wish here to express my admiration for the work of the Rockefeller Commission in Europe. Not only were the ideas of the Commission excellent and businesslike but the men selected to carry them into effect were without exception men of high character and possessed of rare executive ability.
As I have said in a previous chapter, I was ridiculed in the American newspapers because I had suggested, in answer to a cable of the League of Mercy, that some work should be done for the prisoners of war. I do not know whether the great work undertaken by Dr. John R. Mott and his associates was suggested by my answer or not; that does not matter. But this work undertaken by the American Y. M. C. A. certainly mattered a great deal to the prisoners of war in Europe. Dr. Mott after serving on the Mexican Commission, has gone to Russia as a member of the Commission to that country.
The Y. M. C. A. organisation headed by Dr. Mott, who was most ably assisted by the Reverend Archibald C. Harte, took up this work, which was financed, I have been told, by the McCormick family of Chicago, Cleve-land H. Dodge, John D. Rockefeller and others. Mr. Harte obtained permission from the German authorities for the erection of meeting halls and for work in German camps. When he had obtained this authorisation from Germany he went to Russia, where he was able to get a similar authorisation.
At first in Russia, I have heard, the prisoners of, war were allowed great liberty and lived unguarded in Siberian villages where they obtained milk, bread, butter, eggs and honey at very reasonable rates. As the war went on they were more and more confined to barracks and there their situation was sad indeed. In the winter season, it is dark at three in the afternoon and remains dark until ten the following morning. Of course, I did not see the Russian prison camps. The work carried on there was similar to that carried on in the German camps by Mr. Harte and his band of devoted assistants.
I was particularly interested in this work because I hoped that the aid given to the German prisoners of war in Russia would help to do away with the great hate and prejudice against Americans in Germany. So I did all I could, not only to forward Mr. Harte’s work, but to suggest and organise the sending of the expedition of nurses and doctors, which I have already described, to the Russian camps.
Of course, Mr. Harte in this work did not attempt to cover all the prison camps in Germany. He did much to help the mental and physical conditions of the prisoners in Ruhleben, the English civilian camp near Berlin. The American Y. M. C. A. built a great hall where religious exercises were held, plays and lectures given, and where prisoners had a good place to read and write in during the day. A library was established in this building.
The work carried on by the Y. M. C. A. may be briefly described as coming under the following heads: religious activities; educational activities; work shops, and gardens; physical exercises and out-door sports; diet kitchens for convalescents; libraries and music, including orchestra, choruses, and so on.
When I left Germany on the breaking of diplomatic relations, a number of these Y. M. C. A. workers left with me.
The German women exhibited notable qualities in war. They engaged in the Red Cross work, including the preparation of supplies and bandages for the hospitals, and the first day of mobilisation saw a number of young girls at every railway station in the country with food and drink for the passing soldiers. At railway junctions and terminals in the large cities, stations were established where these Red Cross workers gave a warm meal to the soldiers passing through. In these terminal stations there were also women workers possessed of sufficient skill to change the dressings of the lightly wounded.
On the Bellevuestrasse, Frau von Ihne, wife of the great architect, founded a home for blinded soldiers. In this home soldiers were taught to make brooms, brushes, baskets, etc.
German women who had country places turned these into homes for the convalescent wounded. But perhaps the most noteworthy was the National Frauendienst or Service for Women, organised the first day of the war. The relief given by the State to the wives and children of soldiers was distributed from stations in Berlin, and in the neighbourhood of each of these stations the Frauen., dienst established an office where women were always in attendance, ready to give help and advice to the soldiers’ wives. There there were card-indexes of all the people within the district and of their needs. At the time I left Germany I believe that there were upwards of seven thousand women engaged in Berlin in social service, in instructing the women in the new art of cooking without milk, eggs or fat and seeing to it that the children had their fair share of milk. It is due to the efforts of these social workers that the rate of infant mortality in Berlin decreased during the war.
A war always causes a great unsettling in business and trade ; people no longer buy as many articles of luxury and the workers engaged in the production of these articles are thrown out of employment. In Germany, the National Women’s Service, acting with the labour ex-changes, did its best to find new positions for those thrown out of work. Women were helped over a period of poverty until they could find new places and were instructed in new trades.
Many women engaged in the work of sending pack-ages containing food and comforts to the soldiers at the front and to the German prisoners of war in other countries.
Through the efforts of the American Association of Commerce and Trade, and the Embassy, a free restaurant was established in Berlin in one of the poorer districts. About two hundred people were fed here daily in a hall decorated with flags and plants. This was continued even after we left Germany.
At Christmas, 1916, Mrs. Gerard and I visited this kitchen with Mr. and Mrs. Wolf and General von Kessel, Commander of the Mark of Brandenburg, and one of his daughters. Presents were distributed to the children and the mothers received an order for goods in one of the department stores. The German Christmas songs were sung and when a little German child offered a prayer for peace, I do not think there was any one present who could refrain from weeping.
Many of the German women of title, princesses, etc., established base hospitals of their own and seemed to manage these hospitals with success.