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

Appendix 19b

YMCA Prisoner of War Department: Items of Interest and Progress

image Robert L. Ewing, the Senior American WPA Secretary in Britain and member of the original Flying Squadron sent to Europe early in 1915, wrote this four-page pamphlet about War Prisoners' Aid activities as of July 1916. This work was the first issue of a planned monthly publication. Ewing provides a summary of the social work of the one Swedish and four American secretaries operating in Germany on behalf of British prisoners of war. Included is an outline of the types of work under way (religious, education, arts and handicrafts, athletics and music, stereopticon lectures, evangelistic meetings, and inquiries regarding missing men) and where Association work was started (Crossen-an-der-Oder, Danzig, Döberitz, Dyrotz, Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, Giessen, Göttingen, Münster, Ruhleben, Schneidemühl, Senne, and Worms). The pamphlet also highlights War Prisoners' Aid work for German prisoners of war in Great Britain and in France.1

An interesting side note to this pamphlet is Ewing's request that the information contained is limited solely to private circulation, clearly stated on the first page of the pamphlet. Ewing warns, "We specifically request that the information be treated as strictly confidential, and under no circumstances it be allowed to be published." The English National Young Men's Christian Association was very concerned about the release of information that the Association was providing relief work for German prisoners of war and its impact on national fund-raising efforts. This was a delicate issue, especially since the YMCA sought financial aid to help British prisoners languishing in German prison camps and used the pamphlet to solicit funds. Ewing carefully explains that the Association will only funds for German prisoners in Britain which are so designated by donors and that all money designated for WPA for British POW's would be distributed by Red Triangle secretaries in Germany. The concern about turning away potential patrons was not limited to England. The American YMCA in New York warned its readers of Millions of Men Now Under Arms that the information contained regarding soldier work and prisoner of war relief was strictly confidential.

Appendices to Chapter 19:
Appendix 19a:
Appendix 19b:
YMCA Prisoner of War Department: Items of Interest and Progress


Note 1: R.L. Ewing. Young Men's Christian Association, Prisoners of War Department, Items of Interest and Progress, May 1st, 1916. London, England: St. Clement's Press, 1916. Armed Services Records Box 53, Folder: "Prisoner of War Work in Germany-1914-1915," Kautz Family YMCA Archives, Minneapolis, MN. back