Arnold Meyer to Jane Addams, March 28, 1920

deutscher Ferienkinder
Stampfenbachstrasse 69

ZURICH, en 28th March 1920

Dear Madam,

We are delighted to hear of your warm sympathy and your keen desire to help the populations of central Europe. We beg to draw your kind attention to the work, in which we are engaged for providing holidays in Switzerland for underfed German children and request your valuable assistance. We urgently need help of this kind, as it is no longer possible to expect money from Germany on account of the low rate of exchange. The Swiss have therefore, being the next neighbors, combined with the Germans here to carry on this work.

In consequence of the low rate of exchange all imported provisions are so dear in Germany as to be [improvable?] for most families, it is hardly possible to obtain enough money to keep the children alive; there is a particular shortage of milk. Even where there is enough for babies, there is not enough for hundreds of thousands of badly nourished children who cannot regain strength without it. In addition there is not enough fat to be had anywhere.

The number of young patients in the hospitals is continually growing. There is such a shortage of space that the children have to lie three in a bed; there is never enough linen.

Consumption above all carries off many [citizens?], as it has assumed many fresh and serious forms; so do rickets, diarrhea and similar diseases.

There are of course health homes in Germany too, but they cannot procure the necessary food; the children may perhaps just exist, but they cannot get well again. It is a slow form of death to which all [these] children are exposed -- a whole generation is dying out.

If conditions are not yet quite so bad as in Vienna this is due to the better [organization] and greater forethought; but in many places things are becoming very nearly as bad as there. [page 2]

A very great source of help is the system of providing temporary homes for children in Switzerland, as we have done since 1917. Last year about 13000 children came from Germany to Switzerland. When they arrive, they look wretched and half starved, but when they leave after six or, recently, eight weeks, the look quite healthy and strong again.

Up till now we have always been able to find generous people who [would] take the children into their homes for nothing; sometimes we had to pay a small maintenance charge. Others [were] provided for in groups in hotels. Sick children are sent to Arosa, Davos, [Torino]. Of late the amount of free accomodation available has diminished, as the same people have been called upon for years now for this object. There are also a great many Austrian children to provide for, so that we need more [money] to pay for homes for German children, and expenses for conveying them here and giving them food on the way and continually growing.

No end is yet in sight to the present state of affairs in Germany. At the moment they are only growing worse. The establishment of communal kitchens for providing large numbers of people with food is perhaps more important, but for many residence in Switzerland is the best or even the only remedy.

We shall be extremely grateful to you, if you will help us in this noble work of international charity. We beg you to inform wide circles of the distress prevailing in Germany. Miss Beveridge from America and Miss Hobhouse the English social worker. The Swiss professors Ernst of Heidelberg and Abderhalden of Halle, the Germans professors Rubner and Langstein of Berlin -- and we, who are always seeing the children as they arrive here, are witnesses to the sad condition of affairs. Miss Else Spiller of [Kilchberg] (bei Zurich) who mentioned you to us can give any information concerning our work.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. Dr. Arnold Meyer 
President of [illegible], Hilfstelle