Emil Abderhalden to Harry Gideon Wells, October 15, 1919


Halle, October 15, 1919

My dear Colleague:

I come to you with an extremely great request. The suffering of our children continually increases. Tuberculosis grows ever worse. Although the general nutrition has improved the children do not recover because they lack the milk that is necessary. So it comes that our tremendous collapse bears heavily on the entire German youth. The continual labor difficulties permit no hope. In order to save what may be saved we have organized a large plan of relief. To me has been assigned the leadership of the project of transporting German children to Switzerland. I have visited Switzerland and my plan is as follows: We shall seek places for our badly undernourished children to live. I have found in Switzerland a hearty cooperation, especially because I myself am a Swiss. The children are to be selected exclusively through official physicians. Recently I took eight hundred children to Switzerland and the investigation by Swiss physicians showed that the highest blood figures were 58 [percent], the lowest 32 [percent] of normal.

A secondary part of the enterprise concerns the scrofulous, rachitic and especially the tuberculous children. A large number of sanatoria have been founded in Davos, Arosa, Tessin, etc. Everything was prepared, physicians were provided and nurses installed and we were ready to take five thousand tuberculous children to Switzerland. Then came the great fall in exchange so that it was entirely impossible to meet the costs and all but three hundred of the children had to remain behind. Our whole plan now faces a catastrophe and everyone is despondent.

I shall be most grateful to you if you could secure in America financial help for these children. Perhaps if it were known that the entire relief work lies in my hands there would be more confidence that only the most needy children would be selected. I would propose that in Switzerland a Swiss American or a purely American committee be formed to which the funds should be transmitted. I would then send children to Switzerland on their advice. I believe it will be better if all official German organizations be eliminated and the funds come in the hands of a Swiss or an American or a mixed committee which necessarily must be located in Switzerland. This committee can then report in an impartial manner its observations to America. I have in America many good friends. In 1915 I was [page 2] made an honorary member of the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia and of the American Association of Immunologists. As the need here is so frightful I shall be very grateful for early help. I should like to use the winter months to send tuberculous children to Davos.

I might add to this that unfortunately in the past the funds available for this work oftentimes have not been used for the right children which has made bad feeling in all countries. I can, however, now guarantee that such a thing will not happen again. I have formed a strong organization in order to avoid every partiality in the selection of children whose condition does not make it necessary that they cared for in Switzerland and send them back. Perhaps it may be possible to issue a call for help in the American press. I, myself, cannot do that personally from here because I well know that even the best intentioned steps can have the most unpleasant results. On this ground I feel that those of us here must remain in the background. Unfortunately this [principle] has not always been practiced in Berlin as you probably know.

With my best respects,

Yours sincerely,

(Signed) E. Abderhalden.