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Date: 21.08.2017

When Thieves Fall Out (1917)

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Personal relationships, human frailty, including jealousy, and the lure of making even more from the rich pickings, motivated a greed which could well have back-fired in many different ways. Rumblings at Westminster tended to be muted in the early stages of the war, but by more and more MPs voiced their concerns about the Relief programme.

They asked questions about the total value in Belgium of the foodstuffs imported by the Neutral Relief Commission another name for the CRB and the amount of contributions made by the United States, by other neutrals, by the British Empire and by other allied governments.

Lard was of particular interest because glycerine for high explosives could be extracted from it. Statistics were produced to show that in November , 67 metric tons had been imported into Belgium and Northern France; in October this had risen to over 6, metric tons.

Percy consequently threatened to ban the import of rice until the Germans handed over an equivalent amount from their own stock. In March Lord Percy wrote another detailed and worrying letter to Hoover. Between November and January , British sources claimed that seven boatloads of coffee, rice, beans, flour and oil nuts, some 4, tons in total had reached Germany through Holland.

There is a further aspect to this that appears to have been scrupulously ignored. Belgians knew that the system was being abused by their own countrymen. The CSNA conceded in their Report on general operations in that imported foodstuffs were not being exclusively sold in their appointed shops or being distinctively identified as relief produce, [8] which had been part of the basic agreement.

In other words, his focus was limited to Belgians who were ignoring the rules and selling or reselling food to the Germans. Later in the same debate he was asked if he knew the exact amount of proceeds from the sale of foodstuffs in Belgium. This was simply ridiculous. Time after time valid questions were answered with weak assurances or avoidance. Did assurances mean anything?

He knew what was happening. The Foreign Office had evidence of the German appropriations, of railway trucks rolling from Holland to Germany, of the disappearance of food stocks, but of course admitted nothing. How could it, given the complicity of the Secret Elite?

There was a stock reply. And the Germans continued to feed their army and their civil population from the well-stocked nest that was occupied Belgium. By that time the system had been more or less established and the Belgians felt that too much praise had been heaped on the Americans while their immense efforts often went unrecognised.

A bitter battle of wills developed with Hoover and his right hand man, Hugh Gibson in one corner and Francqui and the Comite National in the other. It never bodes well when thieves fall out. It was no less than a global scam. The stakes were enormous. They wanted their fair share. Hoover had admitted to Whitlock in August that the CRB had accumulated a vast profit running into millions of dollars. He claimed to have suggested to Francqui that it should be used after the war to fund a scholarship for Belgian boys in American Universities and vice-versa.

In private, the name-calling was slanderous. When the squabbling was reduced to basics, it was all about money, power and control. Aloys van de Vyvere, the Belgian finance minister said that he would not finally discharge the claim until the government in exile returned to Brussels and could verify the data. Herbert Hoover was outraged.

His organisation was, in his view, answerable to no government and in a petulant memorandum to Walter Page, which he expected the Ambassador to sign, [22] he asserted that he had no legal liability to the Belgian government and the charitable gifts given to his organisation were his to dispose of as he saw fit.

Their arrogance was unrestrained. Both agencies, the CRB and the Comite National behaved like mobsters goading, name-calling and threatening dire consequences as they struggled to assert their domination over the same territory.

But it was Hoover who had the protection of big brother. The Foreign Office laid down the law.

When Thieves Fall Out (1917) - IMDb

Sir Edward Grey, recently ennobled as Lord Grey, ordained that the CRB must have undivided responsibility not just for the importation of food, but its distribution and use of the money raised from sales. Francqui ordered the Prosecuteurs du Roi to stop sending information to the CRB about charges brought against Belgian citizens for violating food regulations.

Such reports had to be sent directly to his offices, and any request for information was to be routed through the CNSA.

From August onwards, he entirely suppressed important cases and adjusted and amended official figures so that no-one could accurately measure the extent of Belgian malpractice in selling food to Germany. It may seem petty today but Ambassador Page in London was offended. He demanded that the message be clearly understood: Hoover won but Francqui was not cowed.

He had to accept the British decision to back Hoover, but in doing so revealed his own ace card. Such an expose would have blown away more than Herbert Hoover. Unfortunately the promised book never saw the light of day. The quarrel was glossed over in a barely disguised stand-off, but relationships remained strained. Thus the flow of food to Germany was protected, and the Secret Elite made clear their confidence in Herbert Hoover.

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Meanwhile, the real war continued. Nash, Herbert Hoover, The Humanitarian p. Kittredge, The history of the Commission for the Relief in Belgium, , p.