Discussion Questions for Americans in a Splintering Europe: Refugees, Missionaries, and Journalists in World War
1. What would you have done if trapped in Europe with no ready money?
2. Had you witnessed the German treatment of the Belgians, would you as been able to remain a neutral American like President Wilson asked, or side with Belgium and the Allies?
3. As an American journalist, would you have abided by the censorship imposed by the European nations at war or felt compelled to ignore their concerns about secrecy in the name of the public’s right to know?
4. When American journalist E. Alexander Powell interviewed General Hans Matthias von Boehn, commander of German Imperial Army’s Ninth Corps, he claimed to have seen a woman with her hands and feet cut off, a man with twenty-two bayonet wounds on his face, a two-year girl shot by a German cavalryman, and an “old man who was hung from the rafters in his house by his hands and roasted to death by a bonfire being built under him.” Do you think Powell had really seen these things, or repeated unverified rumors just to provoke the general?
5. Do you think Donald C. Thompson’s various ploys to get into the warzone so he could photograph it, such as claiming he was looking for his missing wife or taking money from the Germans to spy on the Allies, then not doing to what he agreed, was a justified means to end, or did he cross an ethical line for a journalist?
6. As an American visitor in Petrograd, had you found yourself on a street where the police began shooting civilians, what would your reaction have been?
7. Do you think Dr. Eugene Hurd, the American who ran Russian field hospital on the front, should have gone through with his threat to quit had his staff not acquiesced to his demand they follow his orders?
8. Ruth Pierce was an anti-Semite who, when confronted by the humanity of detained Jews being deported to Siberia, had great sympathy for their plight. Do you think this is a contradiction or just part of the human experience?
9. In the cities of Van and Urmia, the American missionaries there lived in walled compounds. Was this a way to keep themselves isolated because of their sense of superiority over the local population, or a prudent means of self-protection in a hostile land?
10. Many American missionaries did all they could to aid the Armenian and Assyrian refugees, taking them into their missionary compounds despite the risks to their own lives this presented. What do you think compelled them to take this enormous risk?