Pursuit of an 'Unparalleled Opportunity'
The American YMCA and Prisoner of War Diplomacy among the Central Power Nations
during World War I, 1914-1923.
by Kenneth Steuer

Key Figures

YMCA Secretaries

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Edgar MacNaughten (1882-1933)

See also:
Chap. 07, p6
See also:
Chap. 12, p22
See also:
Chap. 13, p12
See also:
Chap. 16, p22
American Senior Secretary in Austria-Hungary during World War I, MacNaughten began Red Triangle service as a Navy Work Secretary in 1904 at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. In 1906, he became a Field Secretary in New York. In response to the International Committee's appeal, he traveled to Vienna in the Summer of 1916 to supervise the War Prisoners' Aid (WPA) program in the Dual Monarchy, replacing Christian Phildius as the Senior Secretary. He supervised WPA operations in Austrian and Hungarian prison camps from the Central Office in the imperial capital. In October 1917, before the United States declared war against Austria-Hungary, MacNaughten left the Dual Monarchy, although the imperial government attempted to persuade him to remain and maintain POW relief operations. He was replaced by Max Wilhelmi, a World's Alliance secretary for the duration of the war. MacNaughten went to Bern, Switzerland, where he set up the YMCA Press to publish Russian books for POW's in Germany. He hired a staff of twenty-five Russian authors to write and translate books into Russian. MacNaughten then went to France to conduct war work for the American Expeditionary Force, serving with the 42nd Division in Lorraine. In 1918, he transferred to London where he became the Senior American Navy Secretary Overseas. MacNaughten then traveled to Vladivostok in 1920 to conduct WPA service for Central Power POW's trapped in Siberia. In 1921, the YMCA reassigned him to Germany where he supervised Russian Work as the new Senior Secretary. From his headquarters in Berlin, MacNaughten provided relief to Russian POW's, students, and refugees. MacNaughten traveled to the Ukraine in 1923 as the Secretary of the Student Friendship Fund, a program designed to provide assistance to students and professors, for two years. He made two more trips to the Ukraine between 1927 and 1929. In 1927, MacNaughten took over the Russian Work in Paris; he supervised the Russian Correspondence School, the Russian Student Christian Movement, and the Russian Religious Press. He also cooperated closely with the Russian Theological Academy to promote the education of Orthodox priests.

Theophil Mann

A German pastor, Reverend Mann was a leader in the German Christian Student Movement (GCSM). He attended the World's Student Christian Federation conference in Tokyo in April 1907 as a German delegate and visited a student center at Okayama. In March 1912, John R. Mott visited Germany and worked with Mann and Friedrich-Wilhelm Siegmund-Schültze to develop student centers and assign a secretary to work with foreign students. During World War I, Mann joined Johann Grote to work as a War Prisoners' Aid Secretary among Allied POW's in Germany under the direction of Conrad Hoffman. In June 1916, Mann and other leaders of the GCSM met with Mott to discuss the development of student missions during the war. Mann and Siegmund-Schültze urged Mott in early 1919 to visit Germany to heal the open wounds that emerged between the American and German Associations as a result of the war. Mott accepted the invitation and met with German YMCA leaders in May 1920. Although the meetings were tense, Mott persuaded most of the German leaders that his intentions during the war were pure and the visit helped reestablish a working relationship between the two organizations.

Crown Princess Margaret Victoria of Sweden (1882-1920)

See also:
Chap. 04, p25
Born Margaret of Connaught, she was the daughter of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and Princess Luise Margarete of Prussia, and granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Margaret was one of the most eligible women in Europe when she married Prince Gustaf of Sweden, future heir to the Swedish throne, in June 1905. When the war broke out in Europe in August 1914, Margaret became an important link between the royalty of the Allied and Central Powers. While the Swedish court was pro-German, Margaret worked strenuously on behalf of Allied prisoners of war and established a welfare system to improve their lot. She coordinated her activities with YMCA War Prisoners Aid Field Secretaries and funneled resources to POW's. She died in May 1920 due to complications from a sudden illness.

Prince Maximilian Alexander Friedrich Wilhelm of Baden (1867-1929)

See also:
Chap. 06, p24
See also:
Chap. 07, p5
See also:
Chap. 12, p6
See also:
Chap. 13, p20
A German statesman, Maximilian was the heir apparent to the grand ducal throne of Baden. During World War I, he worked strenuously to improve the conditions of Allied prisoners of war in Germany and German POW's in Russia. He strongly supported the American YMCA and the establishment and expansion of the War Prisoners' Aid program and served as the chairman of the German National WPA. With the failure of Ludendorff's Spring Offensive of 1918, the Kaiser sought to negotiate an armistice with the Allies. Wilhelm II appointed Maximilian imperial Chancellor on 3 October 1918 to replace Graf Georg von Hertling to save Germany from disaster. Maximilian contacted Woodrow Wilson and announced that Germany accepted the Fourteen Points as the basis for a peace. He also liberalized the German constitution and called on Wilhelm II to abdicate. With the outbreak of revolution across Germany and the collapse of the German government, Max resigned from the chancellorship on 9 November 1918 and renounced his throne when his father, Grand Duke Friedrich II, abdicated on 22 November.

D. R. McBride

When the American YMCA issued a call for volunteers for post-war War Prisoners Aid service at Oxford University during the Summer of 1920, McBride was one of fifteen American Rhodes Scholars who responded. McBride supported relief work for Russian and Central Power prisoners of war during the repatriation process in the Baltic region. He served on board transport ships carrying former POW's and refugees between Stettin, Germany and Narva, Estonia, Riga, Latvia, and Björkö, Finland.

David McConaughy (1860-1946)

A pioneer American YMCA missionary in India, McConaughy became the General Secretary of the Harrisburg Association in Pennsylvania in 1880. To deal with debt problems at the Philadelphia Association, McConaughy became the General Secretary of that organization in 1882. The International Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1889 and the International Committee decided to establish new Associations overseas and place secretaries in the foreign mission field. Luther Wishard recruited McConaughy to become the General Secretary of the Madras Association in India, a project funded by John Wannamaker. McConaughy overcame British suspicions and instituted the American YMCA four-fold program in Madras; he was successful in increasing the Association's non-Christian membership. McConaughy worked hard to establish a National Committee of YMCA's in India and the First Indian National Convention was held in 1891. The delegates elected a National Council and chose McConaughy to serve as the General Secretary of the national organization. McConaughy, while still supervising the Madras Association, was successful in fostering new Associations across the sub-continent. He also published a new journal called The Young Men of India. McConaughy called on the International Committee to send more American secretaries to serve in India, but tensions emerged between the International Committee and the Indian National Council regarding control over the placement of these secretaries. In 1901, McConaughy saw the construction of the YMCA building in Madras. McConaughy's wife organized the King's Daughters Circle, which became the first Young Women's Christian Association in the east. After his wife had a serious accident, McConaughy left India in 1902 with John R. Mott, who had visited India as part of a world tour. Returning to the United States, McConaughy helped found the World Stewardship Council, a major Protestant missionary society. He became Chairman of the organization in 1937.

Howard E. Merrill

This American YMCA secretary conducted Russian war work during World War I. Merrill provided relief support for Russian soldiers and members of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Archangel until 1919. In November 1920, he went to Germany to work as a War Prisoners Aid Secretary for Russian prisoners of war. He served in eight prison camps in Bavaria, Württemberg, and Brandenburg. With the repatriation of Russian POW's, he transferred to the Russian Department in February 1921 to provide welfare services to Russian refugees.

Konrad Meyer

A Swiss YMCA secretary, Meyer volunteered to provide relief services to Allied prisoners of war in Bulgaria as a World's Alliance War Prisoners Aid Secretary. He was one of five World's Alliance workers supervised by Ernst Sartorius. Meyer also worked for Bulgarian prisoners of war incarcerated in Salonika, Greece immediately after the war.

Herr Meyer

Director of the National Committee of the German YMCA's, Meyer became the secretary of the War Prisoners' Aid Committee of the German YMCA when the organization was established in May 1915. This committee undertook the initial relief work for Allied POW's in German prison camps, which included the distribution of books and other types of assistance. The German YMCA provided the committee a headquarters in Berlin. Meyer attended the opening of the YMCA hall at Göttingen in April 1915, the first Association building constructed in a POW camp. In April 1916, Meyer attended the WPA Conference convened by Archibald Harte. At this meeting, the committee adopted a series of policies which made the German organization the most efficient in providing relief operations for prisoners of war.

Georg Michaelis (1857-1936)

See also:
Chap. 02, p8
See also:
Chap. 07, p4
Michaelis was a German statesman with strong ties with the German National YMCA. Before World War I, Michaelis became the president of the Deutsche Christliche Studenten Vereinigung (German Christian Student Movement) and supported the American YMCA's plans to conduct welfare relief operations for prisoners of war. Michealis also served as the Undersecretary of State in the imperial government. In July 1917, the Kaiser appointed Michaelis to replace Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg as the new imperial Chancellor. General Erich Ludendorff plotted against Bethmann-Hollweg, accusing him of food shortages and poor morale in the High Seas Fleet, and sought to undermine the political power of the Chancellor's office by replacing Bethmann-Hollweg with an obscure individual. With the appointment of Michaelis, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and Ludendorff became the virtual military dictators of Germany. Michaelis remained in office for only four months, until November 1917, when Graf Georg von Hertling became the new Chancellor.

Carl T. Michel

This American YMCA secretary volunteered to become a War Prisoners Aid Secretary in Germany for Allied prisoners. He arrived in February 1916 and replaced James Sprunger, who was seriously ill with influenza, as a Field Secretary in the XVIII Army Corps, based in Frankfurt-am-Main. Michel withdrew from Germany with most of the American WPA Secretaries in February 1917 when the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the Reich.

Edward Millard

Director of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Millard established the first YMCA in Austria-Hungary. Millard helped found the Association of Christian Youths in 1873 in Vienna. The organization was small in size, composed of Protestants, and activities consisted of Sunday lectures and Bible classes in rented rooms. Millard established and maintained a correspondence with Charles Fermaud, President of the Central International Committee in Geneva, and urged the World's Alliance to promote the Association movement in the Dual Monarchy. In 1883, Fermaud visited Vienna and met with Millard to encourage the expansion of the YMCA in Austria. Despite, this initial World's Alliance support, the organization did not begin to expand in size until the 1890's.

Douglas Miller

An American Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Miller was one of fifteen students who volunteered to serve Russian and Central Power prisoners of war during the repatriation process in the Baltic region during the Summer of 1920. Miller worked at ports in Stettin in Germany and in Narva, Estonia, Riga, Latvia, and Björkö, Finland and on transport ships plying between these ports.

Francis Miller

A leader in the Christian Student Movement and an American Rhodes Scholar studying at Oxford University, Miller responded to Joseph J. Somerville's telegram requesting volunteers to serve Russian and Central Power prisoners in the repatriation process in the Baltic region during the Summer of 1920. Miller led fifteen Rhodes Scholars who provided relief services at ports and on ships carrying former prisoners of war and refugees between Germany and Estonia, Latvia, and Finland.

Trainer P. Miller

This American YMCA secretary assisted Paul B. Anderson in organizing the Association Headquarters for Russian Work in Berlin in post-war Germany. The welfare program for Russian refugees, students, and intelligentsia was in full operation by October 1920.

Fritz Mockert

A German youth leader, Mockert first met John R. Mott at a student conference at Keswick, England in 1894. Together with French leaders, they discussed the possibility of transforming the student volunteer movement into a world-wide Christian student movement. These discussions marked the beginning of the World's Student Christian Federation, which was officially organized at Vadstena, Sweden in 1895.

Henry J. Moeller

An American YMCA secretary, Moeller volunteered for War Prisoners' Aid service in Austria-Hungary during World War I. Originally assigned to the Dual Monarchy in November 1916, Moeller does not appear in the Field Secretary reports, although he may have served in the WPA Office in Vienna in an administrative capacity.

Joachim von Moltke

A count and Danish Ambassador to Germany, Greve von Moltke was responsible for Allied interests in the German Empire during World War I. Graf von Moltke was active in the Danish YMCA and attended a number of World's Alliance conferences as a Danish representatives, including the Thirteenth World's Conference in London (the Jubilee Conference) in 1894, the Fifteenth World's Conference in Christiana in 1902, and the Eighteenth World's Conference in Edinburgh in 1913. He first met John R. Mott in 1898 in Copenhagen when Mott was taking a tour of Europe on behalf of the World's Student Christian Federation. They became good friends and Mott visited von Moltke in Denmark in July 1916 during one of the American General Secretary's wartime trips to Europe. Graf von Moltke became an honorary member of the German YMCA War Prisoners' Aid Committee in April 1916, an organization set up by Archibald C. Harte in Berlin. This committee supervised War Prisoners Aid (WPA) operations in Germany and became the model for WPA relief service organizations in other countries. Von Moltke also served as the Chairman of the Danish Committee for War Prisoners' Aid of the Young Men's Christian Associations, which was responsible for supporting WPA work among the belligerent nations.

Charles L. Moore

An American YMCA secretary, Moore volunteered to serve as a War Prisoners Aid Secretary for Russian prisoners of war in post-war Germany. By November 1920, Moore conducted POW relief operations at nine prison camps in Prussian Saxony, Anhalt, Hesse-Nassau, and Saxony. Moore continued WPA work in Germany until the Association closed down operations in November 1921 with the departure of most of the Russian prisoners.

Hermann Morgenthaler

This Swiss secretary arrived in Austria-Hungary in August 1917 to assume War Prisoners' Aid operations for the World's Alliance, replacing the American WPA Secretaries who left the Dual Monarchy. The World's Alliance assigned Morgenthaler to Bohemia where he resumed POW relief operations in Eger and Heinrichsgrün and established a new program at Plan (one of the few prison camps that American WPA Secretaries had not set up operations during their tenure). Morgenthaler left the Dual Monarchy in January 1918 and was replaced by another Swiss secretary, Heinrich Thommen.

Richard Cary Morse (1841-1926)

See also:
Chap. 01, p10
Nephew of Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, Morse became the leader of the American YMCA Movement during the last half of the 19th century. In 1867, Morse graduated from the Princeton and Union theological seminaries. While an ordained Presbyterian clergyman, he never accepted a call as a minister. Morse became the editor of the Atlantic Monthlyin 1869. He joined the staff of the International Committee of the North American YMCA in New York in 1869 and was elected General Secretary in 1871. When he took this position, there were only four branches of the Association in the United States. Under his leadership, the movement grew to over 2,000 Associations by the time he retired in 1915. Morse represented the American Y at World's Committee deliberations. John R. Mott succeeded Morse as the leader of the American YMCA, but Morse remained active, serving as the Consulting General Secretary.

John Raleigh Mott (1865-1955)

See also:
Chap. 01, p1
See also:
Chap. 02, p7
See also:
Chap. 07, p11
See also:
Chap. 12, p13
See also:
Chap. 15, p36
See also:
Chap. 16, p18
See also:
Chap. 19, p20
Leader of the American YMCA during World War I and the interwar years, Mott initially focused on student welfare work and personified the mission of 'evangelizing the world in this generation' by the end of the 19th century. He served as a student secretary in the International Committee of the North American YMCA from 1888 to 1915 and became the General Secretary of the International Committee from 1915 to 1931. He strongly advocated student relief work around the world as the General Secretary of the World's Student Christian Federation from 1895 to 1928. Mott traveled to Europe late in 1914 to determine how the American YMCA could best serve the needs of war victims and determined that assistance to the prisoners of war of all nations was a program that supported American neutrality. He promoted the development of the War Prisoners' Aid (WPA) service in conjunction with the World's Alliance of YMCA's in Geneva. After the United States entered the war in April 1917, Mott mobilized the American YMCA to provide relief services to soldiers at home and overseas. By the end of the conflict, the American YMCA dispatched over 20,000 secretaries to assist American and Allied soldiers around the world. After the war, Mott became the chairman of the International Missionary Council in 1921 and General Secretary of the World's Committee of the World's Alliance of YMCA's in 1926. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifetime of service to young men in 1946.

Heinrich A. Münger

This Swiss YMCA secretary volunteered for War Prisoners' Aid (WPA) service in Austria-Hungary in June 1916 and worked at the prison camps at Dunaszerdahley, Munger, and Nagymegyer in Hungary. He helped maintain WPA operations during the transition between the departure of the American workers and the arrival of neutral secretaries in the Dual Monarchy.