Nov. 11, 2018 commemorated 100 years since the end of World War I. Generally referred to as the first “total war,” WWI blurred the boundaries between front and home front, forever changing the face of modern warfare. By its end, the “Great War” was one of the deadliest armed conflicts in history, with the toll of civilian and military casualties reaching 40 million. In its aftermath, the rise of social and political movements in many countries supported suffrage and political activism by minority groups, but also caused a radicalization of nationalist movements. This led to totalitarian regimes in several countries, as well as changes in political configurations on the world stage. Today, representations, reactions and responses to WWI are found in art, film, literature and theatre throughout the 20th century and all over the world.

University of Toledo brought scholars from various disciplines and institutions to discuss and critically examine cultural representations and memories of WWI.

Barbara Floyd, Professor Emerita of Library Administration, spoke on “Savior of Belgium.”

Brand Whitlock began his career as a reporter. He moved to Toledo from Urbana, Ohio, to work for the Toledo Blade and, in 1891, went to work for the Chicago Herald. There he became active in Progressive-era politics working for Illinois Governor John Altgeld. In 1896, Altgeld’s political career ended when he pardoned the Haymarket Square rioters.  Whitlock returned to Toledo after Altgeld’s reelection defeat, and became a supporter of Toledo’s Progressive mayor, Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones. After Jones’s death, Whitlock ran for mayor and was elected in 1906, serving four terms. In 1914, Whitlock was appointed minister to Belgium by President Woodrow Wilson.  When World War I broke out, Germany occupied Belgium and blockaded all ports, and the people of the country faced extreme hardship.  Whitlock was the only foreign minister to remain in the country, and oversaw the distribution of food sent by the Commission for Relief in Belgium, saving thousands from starvation. Whitlock reluctantly left Belgium when the United States declared war on Germany. In 1915, as the relief effort was getting underway, the school children of Belgium wrote letters of thanks to the people of the United States, which were sent to Whitlock.

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