A new movie called War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg, opens this Christmas. The film is set during World War I, what actress Emily Watson vividly describes as the useless slaughter of so many young men. (see her interview with Jen Dalton of WKRC News)
Millions perished from the advanced weaponry unleashed in the world’s first global war. But that was not the only threat facing France, Belgium and other countries caught in the conflict.
With the chaos of fighting came the disruption of food supplies. Hunger and famine are the companions of war. Millions more people in Europe would have perished had not humanitarian aid come to the rescue.
France was among the countries where the suffering was immense. Herbert Hoover, who organized World War I relief, wrote “the free world had little comprehension of the suffering of France during almost four years of continuous war. When the curtain was raised at the armistice, there came into view destroyed cities, homes and farms. A belt of once fertile land on both sides of the trench lines was so torn that it required years for restoration.”
The Commission that provided relief to Belgium during the war also provided aid to more than two million people in Northern France. This meant food for malnourished children, expectant mothers and other vulnerable people on whom hunger could inflict the most damage.
For when a child is malnourished the damage, both physical and mental, is irreversible. This child malnutrition is widespread in many countries today including Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Sudan, Chad and others.
During World War I, aid had to be rushed to save children from potentially deadly malnutrition. Generosity and compassion were more powerful in the end than the evil death machines of World War I.
It was the Red Cross providing meals to school children in France or helping the wounded. Or on the individual level, a woman in Cincinnati, Ohio who, instead of buying flowers for a deceased friend’s grave, decided to donate the money to the Belgian Relief Commission. Even a couple dollars fed a child for months, and saved their life during the hunger of World War I.
There are many stories of tragedy and triumph in World War I. The film War Horse depicts the challenges people faced during this ever-tumultuous period in history, one that changed the world. And to this day, the pursuit of world peace, longed for by the Lost Generation of World War I, continues.