One says "To a long lasting friendship." Another says "Thank you for letting me know about this man." These quotes are drawn from the guest book of the "American Friendship: Herbert Hoover and Poland" exhibit that is now traveling throughout Poland. Many are learning of the relationship between Hoover and Poland for the first time; as one American visitor said, "Very humbling and inspiring. I have learned more here about Herbert Hoover than was ever taught in school in America. It makes me proud and sets a standard to rise to. God bless you."
This year, as Americans are celebrating their Independence Day, Poles will be honoring the memory of their great American friend Herbert Hoover. "American Friendship," which has drawn huge crowds in each of the cities it has visited (Warsaw, Lodz, and Poznan), opens next in Krakow on July 4. After its tour in Poland is concluded with a stop in Wroclaw, it will be shown in the Herbert Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion at Stanford University during 2006. Museums and exhibition galleries in Chicago, New York, and California have also expressed interest in hosting the exhibition.
Also, as a result of this exhibition, Polish authorities have decided to reconstruct the monument that once stood in Warsaw honoring Herbert Hoover and the United States. Additionally, a memorial plaque honoring Herbert Hoover was unveiled in a central plaza of the city of Poznan. For the Poles, knowledge of Hoover's efforts to aid them during and after the First World War and then again in the trying times during and after World War II was suppressed for many decades. As a Polish exhibition viewer said, "Thank you for the unveiling of another chapter in our history distorted by the communists. Please bring us more...testimonies to fill the gaps of our history."
For decades, Hoover was to the Poles and to millions of Europeans a symbol of faith, charity, and compassion, helping where there had been no hope and life seemed unbearable. The exhibition, containing many photographs and documents from the Hoover Institution Archives, illustrates Herbert Hoover's commitment to the survival and the well-being of Poland throughout his life as a private citizen, statesman, president, and, above all, dedicated humanitarian.
During and after World War I, Hoover directed the largest relief operation ever mounted in Europe, during which millions of Europeans were saved from starvation and death. In the first months of 1919, tens of thousands of rail cars full of U.S. food left Gdansk on their way to other Polish cities. Within six months, more than $50 million worth of food had been delivered. In 1919 alone, the program fed more than 1.5 million children. After 1920, Hoover increased that number to 2 million and expanded the number of kitchens to ten thousand. For almost four years following the war, half a billion meals were fed to the hungry and starving of Poland.
During World War II, Hoover led another organization, the Commission for Polish Relief, which again alleviated the sufferings of hundreds of thousands of Polish people. After the war, in 1946, Hoover visited Poland and drafted yet another relief plan. For the next thirty years Poles benefited from that assistance.
The Warsaw exhibition and accompanying catalog were made possible by a generous gift from the Taube Family Foundation. The exhibition in the other cities in Poland is possible due to generous gifts from Henrietta Fankhauser and from the American Embassy in Warsaw.