Autograph letter signed by E. Venizelos requesting humanitarian aid from an eminent American diplomat

Letter of E. Venizelos -from our collection (Lausanne)

As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, we are honored to present to you a historical document of our collection from those dark days for Hellenism. It is an autographed full-page letter of Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), signed on October 24, 1922. With this letter, E. Venizelos requests humanitarian aid from an eminent American diplomat. The style of his writing reflects the criticality of the situation and the necessity of sending help urgently. The recipient, John Hays Hammond (1855-1936), was a successful American engineer, diplomat, philanthropist and close friend of President William Howard Taft. Hammond was appointed US ambassador special and chairman of the Coal Commission in 1922.

“My dear Mr. Hammond,

I still retain very pleasant memories of out meeting in California, and of your courtesy and kindness to us.

Since I have left America, a great disaster has come over my country, resulting in the expulsion of a million Christians from Asia Minor and Thrace, who are now threatened with starvation and death under the very eyes of a Europe too worn-out by the convulsions of the last ten years to cast more than an apathetic glance on the appalling sufferings caused by the mistakes of its diplomatists. In the papers I have read accounts of the truly magnificent spontaneity with which the American people are coming forward with offers of help in their crisis. America has once more shown her real Christian principles in what is primarily a humanitarian cause, and, as a Greek, I cannot but express my gratitude for the spirit that has been shown.

I am taking the liberty of writing to you to ask you to use your wide influence on behalf of the innocent victims of this disaster, and should I like to point out that it is not only money that is needed, but assistance in the organisation of the relief; for Greece has been so exhausted by her recent adventures that she has neither the financial nor administrative resources to cope with the overwhelming problem of accommodating a surplus population amounting to one-fifth of the number of inhabitants within her borders.

Please accept the expression of my gratitude and cordial thanks for anything you may be able to do for us.

Believe me to be, Very sincerely Yours,

E. K. Venizelos”

Eleftherios venizelos (left) and John Hays Hammond (right)

Greek statesman Eleftherios K. Venizelos was an eminent leader of the Liberal Party and elected a total of seven times as Prime Minister of Greece, serving from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1933. Venizelos had such profound influence on the internal and external affairs of Greece that he is credited with being “the maker of modern Greece.” In World War I, Venizelos brought Greece on the side of the Allies, which expanded the Greek borders but also brought him into conflict with the Greek monarchy, causing the National Schism. Despite his achievements, he was defeated in the 1920 General Election, which contributed to the eventual Greek defeat in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–22). In his subsequent periods in office Venizelos succeeded in restoring normal relations with Greece’s neighbors and expanded his constitutional and economical reforms.

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