Herbert Hoover realised that vindictive human nature played into the hands of his Secret Elite masters in Europe [1] but dared not cross the line of open criticism. To assure his  backers that matters in Germany were critical, he requested a detailed breakdown of food production and health statistics from the Ebert government in Berlin. As head of the Belgian Relief Fund, he had previously had reason to doubt the veracity of official German statements. Indeed he had frequently used them to his own advantage. Who better than Hoover could manipulate exaggerated crises to force governments to rush to action which suited his intentions? Who better to frame stories for the press so that funds flowed into his so-called relief administration? The narrative of his behaviour in Belgium has already been covered by previous blogs. [2] Sufficient to relate here that Herbert Hoover understood how to manipulate governments, but he had to be certain of the facts when dealing with the agents of the Secret Elite in Britain; men whose agenda was at that time, at odds with Woodrow Wilson. Consequently, in December 1918, Hoover sent his own experienced officials to check the impact of the strict blockade on the German public. According to their findings, which were subsequently relayed to Washington, the truth was appalling. Absolutely shocking.

The carcass of a horse which had been cut apart in the street to feed the local people.

Vernon Kellogg [3] reported that whereas Germany’s grain production in 1913-1914 was 30,200,000 tons, in 1917-18 it had fallen to 16,600,000 tons. Bread rationing had been cut to less than 1,800 calories per day; meat and fats had fallen from 3,300,000 tons to less than 1,000,000. The health statistics described a nation in crisis. The birth rate in Berlin had decreased from 6.1 per thousand of the population to less than 1.0, while the death rate had risen from 13.5 per thousand to 19.6. Child mortality had increased by 30 per cent, whereas in Britain it actually decreased, [4] and in adults over 70 the rise was 33 per cent. One third of all children suffered from malnutrition, crime was rampant, demoralised soldiers were reported to be plundering farms, industry was virtually at a standstill and unemployment was enormous. [5] Kellogg’s report stated that starvation had beset the lower-income groups in the major cities; that there were 800 deaths each day from starvation or disease caused by starvation. Food shortage was reportedly worse than before the armistice had been signed. Hoover concluded that the continuation of the food blockade was a crime against women and children and a blot on Western civilisation. It suited him to do so. How ironic, given that Britain and the Allies had apparently gone to war to save civilisation.

Hoover’s conclusion may appear to demonstrate his supposed humanitarian instincts, but records from the United States [6] exemplify his grossly unlikeable qualities, his dishonesty, his conceit and, as in Belgium, his preoccupation with money. Hoover wanted overall control in his business dealings and spent November and December 1918 corresponding with President Wilson, his minder, Colonel Edward Mandell House and secretary of state Robert Lansing on that very issue. The British were particularly sensitive to any move which allowed America to take the lead in bringing relief to the civilian population in Europe, [7] and Hoover was frustrated in his bid to be the sole arbiter for food supply. He penned a memo for the President, which Wilson sent to the Supreme War Council, advocating that a Director General of Relief be created [8] to purchase and sell food to ‘enemy populations’. On one point Wilson was insistent. Given the political necessity of American control of American resources, the Director General had to be an American. [9] He had but one American in mind.

Hoover Food Administrator, in a cartoon by J.N. Darling of the Des Moines Register

Herbert Hoover had alerted Washington to the need for a source of working capital and temporary advances to start initial purchases in Belgium, Poland, Serbia, Yugoslavia and Bohemia. He desperately wanted to get his hands on cash. On 1 December, Hoover telegrammed Wilson from Paris suggesting that $5,000,000 of working capital could be sourced from Wilson’s Presidential Fund and ‘I could later supplement this by dividends to you from the Sugar Equalisation Board and might avoid appropriations and consequent discussions [in Congress] altogether’. He wanted to operate a secret slush fund. Hoover’s impertinence was underlined by a final request: ‘would it be possible to settle this before your departure [to Europe]?’ [10] In response, the president, ‘very much regretted that the terms of appropriation for National Security and Defence would not justify’ such action. [11] Incredible. Hoover presumed himself so secure in his appointment that he could suggest a secret and financially inappropriate action to the President of the United States, who, in turn, merely regretted that he could not break the rules. Which was the master and which the servant?

On December 10, 1918 a Conference on European Relief was held in London. Hoover led the U.S. delegation. He spelled out the American position in a manner which brooked no dissent. Given that the world food surplus was predicated on the American peoples’ voluntary acceptance of continued rationing, they would not countenance either price control or the distribution of American foodstuffs organised by anyone other than their own government. He warned that any attempt by Allied buying agencies to interfere with direct trading between the United States and neutral governments would bring an end to co-operation. He proposed to construct a system similar to that which had been devised for Belgian Relief with separate departments for purchase, transportation, finance, statistics and other aid. [12]

A Hunger Map of Europe dated 1 December, 1918

What remains unacceptable is the fact that the world in general was starved of the truth about conditions in Germany. The map above which was printed by the US Food Administration in December 1918, specifically for American children, refused to identify the real food crisis in Germany. [13] Hoover and the American government knew the facts of the matter, as did the Secret Elite in London, but with a General Election pending in Britain, and Germany by no means yet crushed, the situation there was deemed ‘unclassified’. How convenient.

Behind the apparent Allied unity, old suspicions, jealousies and fears bristled with self-interest. Comrades in arms found themselves following subtly different agendas as politicians in Britain, France and the United States sought to assert their primacy on the world stage. [14] Wilson’s Fourteen Points, like the fabled siren, had attracted the Germans to the belief that the final settlement of the disastrous war would be based on the concept of a better, fairer world. What naivety. The British, French and Italian representatives, appointed to translate the armistice into a peace settlement, were preoccupied with selfish and vindictive priorities, with imperial designs which would enfeeble their once dangerous foe with revenge-laden economic burdens and financial ruin.[15]

Nor had they accepted Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Britain would never accept the second point on ‘Freedom of the Seas’. This was an outright denial of the Royal Navy’s God-given right to stop and board ships anywhere in the world. Point three called for the removal of trade barriers, an idea which would have ruined the imperial preference championed by many in Lloyd George’s coalition government. In addition, no less than seven of the Fourteen Points dealt with ‘self-determination’ and ‘autonomous development’ which flew in the face of the carve-up which was about to unfold at Versailles. Did Wilson imagine that his European allies would stand aside and deny themselves the spoils of war which they considered theirs by right of victory?

Louis-Lucien Klotz, French Finance minister

The French, on whose land the most ferocious battles had been fought, focused on redrawing the boundaries of Germany without regard to nationality or historic allegiance. So much for the fabled Fourteen Points. They were also fixated on reparations, financial compensation for the physical damage which had ruined more than a quarter of France’s productive capacity and 40,000 square miles of devastated cities, towns, villages and farmland. [16] It was presented as justified payback, even though it was the Allies who had forced Germany into war. Time and again, the French minister of finance, Louis-Lucien Klotz, refused to contemplate an end to the blockade until the money, credits and gold which remained inside the German treasury were handed over to the Allies. They would not allow the Germans to spend their money on food. Klotz repeatedly justified his stance by asking why Germany should be allowed to use her gold and assets to pay for food in preference to other debts. [17] Keynes described Klotz in particularly cruel terms as ‘a short, plump, heavy-moustached Jew … with unsteady roving eye … who tried to hold up food shipments to a starving Germany’. [18] He was the butt of many a deprecating joke. Woodrow Wilson wrote of ‘Klotz on the brain’. [19] For as long as it suited, the Secret Elite cast France, its president Clemenceau and Klotz, the minister of finance, as villains of the piece. The impression given was that the French were to blame for starving Germany, not Britain.

The U.S. State Department knew otherwise. Even before the details of the armistice were made public, Secretary Lansing was in possession of an assessment of the Allied objectives which showed considerable prescience. The Americans anticipated that the U.S. and Britain would become ‘logical and vigorous’ competitors for the world’s colonial and Far Eastern trades [20] while France would remain comparatively dependent on American imports. They correctly forecast that the blockade would continue for an indefinite period because the Allies wanted to be in a position to limit German supplies to the minimum of self-sufficiency, and crucially, to delay for as long as possible the re-establishment of Germany’s export trade. Their assessment was that peace negotiations would also be prolonged so that the British could re-establish their domestic and foreign trade well in advance of Germany and neutral countries alike. [21] They were correct on all counts.

Reality in the streets of a famished Germany, where food shops had to be guarded by the military.

Here, in a nutshell, was one of the Secret Elite’s other objectives. Domination of world trade. They were prepared to buy the time for the recovery of their dislocated industries and reassert their pre-war primacy in international trade at the cost of the prolonged agony of the German people. Every move made to provide food to Europe had to wait until one committee or another granted its approval. What mattered was the agenda set by the Secret Elite and the old world order still considered itself superior to the brash, overbearing Americans whose colossal power had been demonstrated to the whole world. But change was in the air.

[1] Herbert Hoover, An American Epic 2, p. 318.
[2] Commission for Relief in Belgium, in particular, blogs posted from 18 September, 2015 to 25 November, 2015.
[3] Kellogg spent two years (1915 -1916) in Brussels as director of Hoover’s Commission for the Relief of Belgium. He was a loyal servant to Herbert Hoover.
[4] http://www.bclm.co.uk/ww1/childhood-in-ww1/49.htm
[5] Herbert Hoover, An American Epic 2, p. 320.
[6] FRUS vol. 2. Papers relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference 1919.
[7] Ibid., pp. 636-7, House to Lansing, 27 November 1918.
[8] Ibid., House to Wilson, 28 Nov. 1918.
[9] Ibid., p.639.
[10] Ibid., Hoover to Wilson, 1 December 1918, p. 645.
[11] Ibid., Wilson to Hoover, 5 December 1918, p. 648.
[12] FRUS vol. 2. Papers relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference 1919, pp. 649-653.
[13] Map taken from the digital ecology collection, University of Wisconsin Digital collection. see, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/07/31/history_of_famine_in_europe_after_wwi_a_hunger_map_of_europe_for_american_kids.html
[14] Vincent, The Politics of Hunger, pp. 60-61.
[15] Roy Hattersley, David Lloyd George, The Great Outsider, p. 490.
[16] Ibid., pp. 492-3.
[17] Hoover, An American Epic vol.2. pp. 323-4.
[18] J.M. Keynes, Dr. Melchior, Two Memoirs, p. 61.
[19] FRUS, vol 13, p. 205.
[20] FRUS, U.S. Department of State/Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, 1919, Paris Peace Conference – The Blockade and regulation of Trade, p. 729.
[21] Ibid., p. 731.