Skip to main content

Darius A. Davis papers

Identifier: Y.USA.57


The bulk of the papers date from Davis's work during World War II in prisoner-of-war camps, mainly in Europe but also in the Far East. They reflect the efforts of Davis and the War Prisoners' Aid to check on the conditions of camps and to provide services for prisoners. There are numerous reports by War Prisoners' Aid workers on the conditions of camps, addressing issues of health, food, discipline, shelter, and morale. There are also reports and inventories of the various supplies that the YMCA was sending to the camps, including athletic equipment, musical instruments, games, and books. The latter was of special concern because of the difficulty of obtaining books in the many different languages of the prisoners, including Polish, Russian, and a variety of other Eastern European languages, as well as English and French. In addition to books, many other study materials were sent and used in an extensive education program which allowed prisoners to earn degrees and certification in academic and vocational courses.

Other materials in the collection relate to the efforts of the YMCA to educate the American public on its program for prisoners. These include pamphlets explaining the educational and recreational materials provided to the soldiers and also instructing how relatives could send letters and parcels. Others provide information about war prison life. A number of radio scripts used by Davis to publicize the prisoner-of-war program are included. There are also reports containing excerpts of prisoner letters thanking the YMCA for the services they provided. There are a few news articles outlining prisoner work and mentioning Davis.

Some of the materials dating from the 1943-1946 period relate to post-war planning by the YMCA. Included in these materials in "Preliminary Report of Past War Problems" Report on the European Area" (July 1943), which is a detailed analysis of the conditions of the civilian populations of war-torn countries and the potential for YMCA work in these areas.

Also included is one folder of World War I-era correspondence. This material consists of letters from "Mission Militaire Tchecoslavaque" to Davis concerning the "Medaille Revolutionnaire Tchecoslovaque" while Davis was stationed in the Foyers due Soldat in Paris.

A number of Davis's addresses are in these records, including "Serving Youth across the Centuries," which summarizes the first 100 years of YMCA work, and "Forty Years of Emergency Service with the YMCA in Europe," (1949), which reviews Davis's war relief work.

There are also a number of folders that contain letters from Davis and his wife, Maud (who were both living in Geneva, Switzerland at the time) to their daughter, Shirley, who was then a student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. The correspondence is mostly personal in nature, talking about day-to-day life and activities, as well as reflections on politics and YMCA work that Davis was pursuing.


  • 1917-1975
  • Majority of material found within ( 1930s - 1940s)


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


Darius Alton Davis (1883-1970) graduated from Syracuse University in 1907 and immediately went to work for the YMCA as director of religious activities in Washington, D.C. In 1910 he began international work for the Y as the general secretary in Turkey, where he organized war relief work during the Balkan Wars. In 1915 he went to work for the Y's International Committee working with prisoners of war in France, Italy, and Sardinia. In 1917 at the request of General Pershing he worked on establishing 1,600 YMCA huts in France for Allied soldiers.

After World War I Davis continued his international YMCA service in a number of positions. In 1919 the International Committee appointed him senior representative in Europe; his work concentrated on organizing YMCAs in Eastern Europe. From 1925 to 1932 he served as secretary of the National Council of Switzerland. From 1931 to 1949 he served as associate general secretary of the World Alliance of YMCAs. In this position during World War II he worked with the YMCA's War Prisoners' Aid program, which provided religious, educational, and recreational services to prisoners of war in Europe and the Far East. From 1945 to 1949 Davis was the senior representative of the YMCA in Germany, working on service to displaced persons and former prisoners of war. In 1949 he came back to the United States and continued to work on the International Committee staff.

Davis married Maud Merritt in 1907 and the couple had one daughter, Shirley, born in 1913. Syracuse University granted him honorary L. H. D. in 1923. Throughout most of his European work he resided in Geneva, Switzerland.


.4 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)


Papers of Darius Alton Davis, mostly relating to his YMCA career during the 1930s and 1940s, particularly his work with World War II prisoner-of-war camps. The collection also includes personal correspondence between Davis and his wife and their daughter while she was at college.


Additional records related to Davis and his work for the YMCA can be found in the YMCA Biographical Files (Y.USA.12), the Armed Services World War I-Related Records (Y.USA.4-1), and the Records of YMCA International Work in Czechoslovakia (Y.USA.9-2-9) and Bulgaria (Y.USA.9-2-50), all separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Includes material formerly part of the YMCA Biographical Files (Y.USA.12). The 1932-1934 letters to Davis's daughter came as part of a subsequent (2011) accession from Debbie Dietrich-Smith.

Catalog Record ID number: 9973278660001701

An Inventory of his Papers
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Grant Roedl.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area