By Jason Clingerman
On January 7, 1919, the same day the Christmas Uprising started in Montenegro, members of the American National Red Cross (ANRC) arrived in Montenegro to provide relief to civilians after World War I and the Austro-Hungarian occupation of the country. This relief effort was known as the Commission to Montenegro. This commission was part of a larger effort known as the Balkan Commission to provide post-war relief to the various Balkan states.
While the majority of the records of the Commission to Montenegro can be found at the Hoover Institution, some papers of the Commission to Montenegro can be found in our holdings at Archives II as a result of the 2009 donation of records by the American Red Cross Hazel Braugh Records Center and Archives. These papers, which include reports, correspondence, and personnel lists, can be found in the series “Records Relating to Civilian War Relief, 1919-1996” (ARC Identifier 5928005).
Reports from Montenegro prior to the arrival of ANRC personnel indicated that there was a large need for food, clothing, and medical assistance. However, a February 20, 1919 memorandum from these papers by Major E. G. Dexter, Director of the Commission to Montenegro, noted that while the Austrians had destroyed some infrastructure in their withdrawal from the territory, there seemed to be little devastation to the country as a result of the war or occupation. There seemed to be no serious food shortages or displacement of people. However, Dexter did express some concern as to scarcity of clothing. Dexter’s comments in this memorandum stand in contrast to the reports of civilian distress which led to the Commission’s creation. Nonetheless, the Commission found a way to help Montenegrins in need by providing medical assistance and distributing food and clothing.
Photographs of ANRC work in Montenegro at the time can be found in the series “Photographs, ca. 1920-ca. 1923” (ARC Identifier 5757274) created by the ANRC Department of Public Information (Paris). Specifically, the following two file units contain photo albums documenting Junior Red Cross (JRC) relief work in Montenegro:
- Junior American Red Cross, Album No. 2, Montenegro, ca. 1921 – ca. 1921 (ARC Identifier 6002392)
- Junior American Red Cross Album No. 41, March 26, 1921, Montenegro’s Magic Palace, Prepared by Department of Public Information, American Red Cross, Paris, 1921 – 1921 (ARC Identifier 6002393)
For more information regarding the work of the Commission to Montenegro, come to our research room and read through the Commission’s papers found in ARC Identifier 5928005 or look at the photographs found in ARC Identifier 5757274. These records provide insight into one of the many relief efforts ANRC commissioned after World War I.