Relief for German Children of the Lost Provinces of Germany and Austria records
Held at: German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library [Contact Us]611 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123
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The Philadelphia Committee of the relief effort known in German as "Hilfswerk fuer die deutschen Kinder in den vom Deutschen Reich und Oesterreich abgetrennten Provinzen" existed from approximately December 1925 to early 1929, based on the current records. The Hilfswerk was a project of the German organization Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland (VDA). On letterhead of 1928, the relief effort is rendered in English as: Relief for German Children of the Lost Provinces of Germany and Austria, and the name of the VDA is translated as: Society for the Germans in Foreign Countries.
The VDA was founded in 1881 for the purpose of promoting German language and culture abroad, with a focus on supporting schools and libraries. It was originally called the Allgemeine Deutsche Schulverein (General German School Association), and changed its name to the VDA in 1908. It continues to exist today, using the acronym VDA in combination with the fuller name: Verein für deutsche Kulturbeziehungen im Ausland (Association for German cultural relations abroad).
A Philadelphia Committee letter of 1927 states that German Americans in general had been contributing to the work of the VDA for three years, i.e. since 1924. The present organization is distinct from the organization known as the "American Committee for Relief of German Children" (see Ms. Coll. 32, ephemera and clippings), which worked with the American Friends Service Committee.
The purpose of this VDA relief project, as implied in its name, was to raise money to aid German children in the areas of the former German and Austrian empires now belonging to other nations under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and the Treaty of St. Germain, following the First World War. Promotional materials refer to the precarious cultural (and perhaps also economic) situation of German families, without giving specific details on how the funds are to be used.
From 1926 to 1929 the Philadelphia Committee once a year, in January or February, sponsored the showing of German films provided by VDA representative Robert Treut (1885-1953), and monies raised were donated to the VDA. Treut was based in Dresden; he headed the VDA European Committee for North America. Treut himself had formerly been a school director in an area that became part of newly restored Poland after the war. He traveled often to the United States for the VDA in the mid 1920s to early 1930s, and evidently had a headquarters in New York City.
Until 1928 the Philadelphia Committee of Relief for German Children was chaired by Fritz O. Evers (1886-1963), who was at that time the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. Evers left Philadelphia in January 1929 to become the pastor of the Zion Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Other leading participants in the Philadephia Committee were Herman Heyl and Henry Hoffmann; like Evers, they were both active members of the German Society of Pennsylvania (GSP). The GSP address, at the northwest corner of Marshall and Spring Garden Streets (today known as 611 Spring Garden Street), is used by Hoffmann, chair of the Ticket Committee, in his 1927 record book; and the GSP name and address are given as the office of the Philadelphia Committee on letterhead of 1928. C. R. Walther Thomas, a professor of German, participated in 1928, as head of a School Committee, and architect Eugene A. Stopper, in 1929. Stopper was an active member of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde, and arranged the rental of the Turngemeinde Hall for the event that year. The events in 1926 to 1928 were held at the Metropolitan Opera House. (The latter venue, once known as the Philadelphia Opera House, at Broad and Poplar Streets, was by that time no longer used to stage operas but had become a theater for vaudeville and motion pictures.)
In 1929 the Philadelphia group appears to have discontinued references to the VDA project. In a newspaper announcement the event is promoted simply as a showing of German films brought to America by Dr. Robert Treut, without mention of either the VDA or the relief project. In communications among the organizers and on receipts references are to the "Dr. Treut Committee," and the VDA.
It is unclear whether there is a historical link between the Philadelphia Committee of Relief for German Children and an older German-American relief organization in Philadelphia known as the Hilfsfond (see Ms. Coll. 28, Hilfsfond records), which supported aid to German populations overseas in the aftermath of the war, with a special focus on feeding and assisting children. Herman Heyl and Henry Hoffmann were leading participants in both organizations.
The collection contains the records of the Philadelphia Committee of Relief for German Children of the Lost Provinces of Germany and Austria (Hilfswerk fuer die deutschen Kinder in den vom Deutschen Reich und Oesterreich abgetrennten Provinzen), a relief effort led by the German organization Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland (VDA). Included are financial records, correspondence, clippings, and ephemera related to four German cultural events held in Philadelphia once a year in 1926 to 1929, with proceeds donated to the VDA. The events featured the showing of films about Germany and German culture that had been provided by Robert Treut, of the VDA. For each year the records include either a letter or a newspaper clipping announcing the event and documenting what films were shown.
The event of 1927 is particularly well documented, in an artfully produced formal report of Henry Hoffmann as chair of the Ticket Committee, including two newspaper clippings reporting on the event. The film shown that year, entitled "Das Herz Europas" (The Heart of Europe), depicted an American student's travels through Germany. (Treut had presided over the showing of the same film a few months earlier in New York City, as reported by the New York Times, November 22, 1926.) It was a silent film, presented with piano accompaniment. The evening included addresses by pastor Fritz O. Evers and by Robert Treut. The local German-American choral group Gesangverein Harmonie (Harmonie Singing Society) performed. Hoffmann's report includes financial records and lists of those who purchased tickets.
In 1928 there are two items by C. R. Walther Thomas, as chair of the School Committee (Schulwerbeausschuss), a body that is not mentioned in the other years. These items show that free tickets were provided for German-American high school and college students in Philadelphia, with the aim of acquainting these young people with aspects of their German cultural heritage; and that donations were solicited on that basis.
The collection also includes three items of ephemera pertaining more generally to the fundraising activity in the United States of Robert Treut, representing the VDA. One of these is a brochure that reflects the New York milieu of the American operation, listing Rudolf Cronau, a prominent German-American writer and illustrator, as a committee member there.
- German Americans--Societies, etc
- Germans--United States
- World War, 1914-1918--Civilian relief
- World War, 1914-1918--Territorial questions
- German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Violet Lutz
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from the Max Kade Foundation, as part of the grant project "Retrieval and Cataloging of the German-American Experience, 1918-1960."
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the German Society of Pennsylvania with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
The event, featuring Robert Treut, was held at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, on 23 February; the film was entitled "Deutschland, wie es heute aussieht" (Germany as it looks today).
The event, featuring Robert Treut, was held at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, on February 14; the film was entitled "Das Herz Europas" (Heart of Europe).
The event, featuring Robert Treut, was held at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, on 28 February; the film was entitled "O du mein Heimatland" (O you, my homeland)
The event, sponsored by Robert Treut, was held at the hall of the Philadephia Turngemeinde (Broad Street and Columbia Avenue), on 22 January; two films were shown, entitled "Deutschland 1928" (Germany 1928) and "Wie's daheim einst war" (How it once was at home)
1 item, 3 leaves. In English. Includes agreement, dated 2 Januar 1929, between Stopper, on behalf of Dr. Treut (committee), and the Philadelphia Turngemeinde, for rental of the Turngemeinde Hall, for the film showing, and receipt from the Turngemeinde, dated 10 November 1928, for the moving picture operator
1 item, 1 leaf. Concerns expenses for the film evening. On letterhead of the Lutheran Seamen's & Immigrant Mission of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
1 item, 1 leaf. Acknowledges receipt of a check for a meal related to Dr. Treut's visit. On letterhead of Alfredo's Theatre Cafe, 413 Girard Avenue
1 leaf. Thanks Heyl for receipt of $704.50 for the needy, proceeds of the film evening in Philadelphia, with mention of Dr. Treut's gratitude for the support of his activities
10 items, 10 leaves. Includes receipt from the Philadelphia Gazette Publishing Co., with a newspaper clipping of the announcement for the film evening
Three items relating to the fundraising of Robert Treut, as a representative of the Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland. The address of Treut's office is given as 93 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY.