When World War I erupted in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States. “The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought as well as in action, must put a curb upon our sentiments as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another,” the President reminded his fellow Americans.
And many of them wanted the United States to stay out of the conflict. Many Americans personally sympathized with Britain and France, over a hundred thousand Americans volunteered for war. American institutions lent large sums to the Allied governments. Irish-Americans, however, did not approve of the support for Britain, they hoped Ireland could finally obtain its independence from a weakened Britain. Most German Americans hoped that the United States would remain neutral, and would not send any war material to the allies.
Help for Belgium
When the news about the “Rape of Belgium” spread, many people were appalled and wanted to help. The German occupiers requisitioned what they needed, although the Belgians suffered hunger and faced starvation unless a lot of food were brought in fast. Herbert Hoover (the later US president), founded the Commission for Relief in Belgium. With private donations and government grants an $11-million-a-month budget came together. It was unprecedented relief effort to feed the entire Belgian nation during the war.
For many German-Americans a hard time began. Most of them didn’t want American arms to be delivered to Europe, they hoped that America would remain neutral, and that their fellow Americans would not turn against them for having German roots. There had been news about growing suspicion against German Canadians now that Canada and Australia, British dominions, fought on Great Britain’s side.
So did Chiara. The newspapers reported about the German victory at Tannenberg. “So General Field Marshal Hindenburg is a national hero”, she thought, “apparently the generals have taken over.” Thank God, America would remain neutral.
Her thoughts wandered to Germany. She had received a short letter from Lottie telling her about Sophie’s death, and Matt being drafted to the front, and that Etienne and Hans were missing. She had not heard from her since. And Chiara had the foreboding that it would be the last one for years.
The picture is from the German Wikipedia, public domain section.