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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Auguste Rapparde

See also:
Chap. 16, p21
A Swiss World's Committee Secretary, Rapparde was the Treasurer for the World's Alliance during World War I. He was appointed to the Executive Committee of the World's Committee at the Eighteenth World's Conference in Edinburgh in June 1913. The Executive Committee oversaw the daily operations of the World's Alliance during the war. Archibald Harte contacted Rapparde in August 1918 when tensions between the WPA General Secretary and the World's Alliance were at their apex. Harte justified his actions in supervising War Prisoners' Aid operations based on his mandate from the International Committee in New York.

Raymond J. Reitzel

See also:
Chap. 09, p24
Originally a College YMCA Secretary, Reitzel was the General Secretary of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln Association, from September 1912 to January 1913, and the General Secretary of the DePauw University, Greenville, Indiana Association from September 1915 to May 1916. Reitzel volunteered to work with Allied prisoners of war in Austria-Hungary and began War Prisoners Aid (WPA) operations in July 1916. Edgar MacNaughten assigned Reitzel to work in prison camps in Hungary at Zalägerszeg, Ostffiaszonyfa, and Somorja. When most of the American WPA Secretaries left Austria-Hungary in April 1917, due to the severance in diplomatic relations between Washington and Vienna, Reitzel went to Russia to work with Russian troops and Central Power prisoners of war. He was assigned to the Siberian YMCA Headquarters and worked in Siberia from 1918 to 1920.

Julius Richter

A German professor, Richter was a leader in the Protestant missionary movement. He attended a meeting in Oxford in July 1908 and was assigned to the same committee as John R. Mott. This commission addressed the issue of "carrying the Gospel to the world." The commission members elected Mott chair and Richter vice-chairman and the two kept in close contact. Mott visited Richter in Germany several times and invited Richter to attend the Rochester Student Volunteer Movement Quadrennial meeting in January 1910. Richter attended the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in June 1910, as a German delegate. After the war erupted in Europe, he met Mott in Berlin in October 1914, with a number of other German missionary leaders, during Mott's investigation of wartime conditions in Europe. They met again in June 1915 when Mott returned to Germany and held meetings with Dutch and German Association leaders. After the war, Richter was one of four German delegates who attended the Crans Conference in Switzerland in June 1920. This conference served as the planning session for the establishment of the International Missionary Council.

M. B. Rideout

This American YMCA secretary replaced Dr. Walter Lowrie as the Senior Secretary for War Prisoners Aid operations in Italy in November 1916. Rideout supervised Association relief services for Central Power prisoners of war until the end of the war.

Max Rieser

See also:
Chap. 13, p22
This Swiss secretary volunteered for War Prisoners Aid (WPA) service in August 1917 as a World's Alliance Secretary as a replacement for the departed American Red Triangle workers. The World's Alliance sent Rieser to Austria-Hungary where he resumed POW relief operations in Deutsch-Gabel, Reichenberg, and Theresienstadt in Bohemia. He then transferred to Bulgaria in May 1918 to conduct WPA operations for Allied troops in that kingdom. Christian Phildius considered sending Rieser to the Ottoman Empire in February 1918 to supervise WPA operations in Turkey when negotiations with the Turks, regarding YMCA access to war prisoners, appeared close to a final settlement.

Hans O. Rögeberg

This Norwegian YMCA secretary volunteered to serve in Germany as a World's Alliance War Prisoners Aid Secretary during the last year of the war. He arrived in March 1918 and worked in prison camps in the XVIII Army Corps district, based in Frankfurt-am-Main. He was one of the neutral replacement workers for the departed American WPA Secretaries.

G. Rosenkranz

A German factory owner in Barmen, Rosenkranz played a prominent role in the National Committee of the German YMCA during World War I. He attended the World's Alliance Plenary Meeting in London in July 1914 and made an address to the delegates. Rosenkranz became involved in POW relief operations when he became the President of the War Prisoners' Aid Committee of the German National YMCA when Archibald Harte established that organization in May 1915. This committee secured patrons to support War Prisoners Aid (WPA) operations, distributed books to Allied POW's, and provided general assistance to prisoners. In April 1916, Harte called a conference of the German YMCA WPA Committee in Berlin. This meeting resulted in the adoption of policies designed to improve the efficiency and service of WPA activities in the empire. When John R. Mott agreed to participate in the Root Mission to Russia, Rosenkranz sent a letter in August 1917 to the World's Committee criticizing Mott's political actions. He argued that American YMCA aid to Russian soldiers exceeded the World's Alliance 1914 directive which limited Association aid to soldiers from their own countries. Rosenkranz denounced the World's Alliance for failing to restrain Mott and threatened to withdraw the German YMCA from the World's Alliance. This marked the beginning of a potential schism between the American and German Associations. In September 1917, the President of the World's Committee, Paul Des Gouttes, responded to Rosenkranz, declaring that Mott had acted independently and that his actions remained beyond the purview of the World's Alliance. The German protest forced Mott to visit Geneva in April 1918 to explain his activities and mend fences with the World's Alliance, followed by a bitter meeting in Berlin in May 1920 between Mott and the leaders of the German National YMCA.

Ruth Rouse

A British World's Student Christian Federation (WSCF) leader and historian, Rouse first met John R. Mott at the Keswick Student Conference in Britain in 1894. The first idea of a world student Christian organization arose at this meeting, which led to the establishment of the WSCF in Vadstena, Sweden in 1895. Rouse was active in the American Student Volunteer Movement and the intercollegiate Young Women's Christian Association before devoting most of her energies to the WSCF. She traveled to Russia in 1903 to encourage the development of a Christian Student Movement in that country, working with Russian women. In 1904, Mott decided that it was important for the WSCF to have a woman secretary and he selected Rouse for the position. Rouse accompanied Mott on a trip to South Africa in 1906 and they visited the Cape Province, Natal, and the Transvaal. In 1907, Rouse returned to Russia to work with Baron Paul Nicolay and addressed Russian students. At the international planning meeting at Oxford in January 1908, Rouse was named one of the four members of the Continuation Commission I. Rouse traveled with Mott back to Russia in 1909 to promote the development of the Russian Student Christian Movement. She participated at the WSCF Conference in Constantinople in 1911 and saw the expansion of the Student Volunteer Movement to the Balkans, visiting Bulgaria and Serbia, and Muslim lands. The 1913 WSCF Conference at Lake Mohonk, New York and Princeton was the last Federation meeting before World War I. Rouse presented a paper on the religious forces in the universities of the world. In October 1914, Rouse met with Mott and other student movement leaders in London to make plans on how the WSCF could serve all students impartially during the war. In February 1916, Rouse accompanied Mott to the Conference on Christian Work in Latin America in Panama and went on to visit student centers across South America. During the war, Rouse visited twenty-nine countries in Europe and the Americas. Mott met with WSCF officers, including Karl Fries and Rouse, in Paris in March 1919, which marked the first meeting of the leadership in eight years. They developed postwar plans and prepared for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the WSCF for 1920. From April to August 1920, Rouse accompanied Mott on his tour of Europe, including a meeting in Berlin where Mott had to justify his wartime actions, primarily his participation on the Root Mission to Russia. While German WSCF leaders initially called for Mott's resignation, he was able to address many of the Germans' concerns and the meeting marked the beginning of the post-war reconciliation process. Rouse and Mott then proceeded to the WSCF Conference at St. Beatenberg in Switzerland in August 1920. Rouse wrote a number of history books including History of the Ecumenical Movement and The World's Student Christian Federation.

Hermann C. Rutgers

A Dutch student Christian leader, Dr. Rutgers served as the General Secretary of the Dutch Student Christian Movement. He attended the World's Student Christian Federation Conference in Constantinople in 1911 and met John R. Mott. When the war broke out in Europe, Rutgers wrote to Mott detailing the plight of the European missions. In September 1914, Mott sailed for Rotterdam to investigate ways the American YMCA could assist war victims. Mott met Rutgers and found the Dutch leader to be a useful source of information. Rutgers made frequent trips to both Britain and Germany on behalf of the WSCF and Mott agreed to pay for his travel expenses. Mott and Rutgers then proceeded to Berlin where they met with Karl Fries, Christian Phildius, and Pierre de Bennoit to discuss WSCF issues. They met with German Ministry of War officials and took a tour of the prison camp at Döberitz. While in Berlin, Mott and Rutgers met with leaders of the German Student Christian Movement and German missionary societies. In April 1915, Rutgers accompanied Carlisle V. Hibbard to Britain to tour British prisoner of war camps. Hibbard conducted negotiations with the British government, seeking access for American secretaries to conduct War Prisoners' Aid operations. Rutgers was one of two neutral nationals accredited by the Prisoners' Help Committee in Germany to visit German students in British prison camps. His mission was to collect information for German authorities about prison conditions in the British Isles. In December 1915, the German government gave Rutgers permission to visit Allied prisoners of war at Friedrichsfeld. The Dutch Association sent parcels to French POW's at the facility and asked Rutgers to evaluate the situation regarding war prisoner assistance. Accompanied by Pastor Charles Correvon, Rutgers visited the prison camp and concluded that prisoner of war relief would overwhelm the resources of the Dutch YMCA, especially since that Association was conducting relief services for British and Belgian soldiers interned in Holland in addition to the war work provided to mobilized Dutch troops. In June 1916, Rutgers met with Mott in Geneva and they traveled to Germany to confer with German Association, student, and missionary leaders. They had the opportunity to visit the civilian internment camp at Ruhleben. After the war, Rutgers participated in the Student Volunteer Movement Conference in Des Moines, Iowa in January 1920. Mott asked Fries and Rutgers to devise ways to heal wartime wounds and achieve a reconciliation between former enemies in the student field. In May 1920, Mott traveled to Europe and met Rutgers and Ruth Rouse at The Hague. They met with Dutch student leaders and Mott challenged them to explore new opportunities in the new countries of Eastern Europe. When Mott undertook a tour of the Pacific Basin from 1925 to1926, Rutgers met the American General Secretary at Belauan, Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies in March 1926. Rutgers served as Mott's translator during their five-week tour of Sumatra and Java where they met with missionaries and students.

Bryant R. Ryall

The International Committee in New York assigned Ryall to supervise the Russian Work Department in Berlin in November 1920. He supervised Red Triangle secretaries providing relief services to Russian refugees, students, intelligentsia, and prisoners of war stranded in Germany. Part of his assignment included supervision of six American War Prisoners Aid (WPA) secretaries who provided POW relief programs for Russian war prisoners and interned Soviet troops in thirty-nine German prison camps. The prisoner of war welfare program ran its course with the departure of most of the Russian POW's from Germany by November 1921. Ryall continued to serve displaced Russians in Europe in American YMCA service.