International Non-Governmental Organizations: The Red Cross


Figure 1.--The Red Cross at first was primarily an organization which supported soldiers and POWs in time of war. The Red Cross after World War I increasingly developed humanitarian and disaster relief programs. Junior Red Cross (JRC) boys and girls of Greece in 1930 sent a great quantity of currants to the JRC children in the United States. JRC groups in Atlanta baked cookies, containing the currants, and sent them to the drought regions. Here children in a one-room rural school are enjoying them.

The first mon-religious international organization was the Red Cross (1864). The Red Cross was created to alleviate human suffering and to promote public health. J.H. Dunnat in Switzerland played a key role in the founding of the Red Cross. The Red Cross was founded in Switzerland because of its neutral status. The symbol of the Red Cross became appropriately a red cross, the reverse of the Swiss flag. Self-governing Red Cross societies were formed in member countries. Clara Barton helped found the American Red Cross (1881). The governing body of the Red Cross is the International Committee for the Red Cross. From the very begnning the Red Cross asked individual countries to organize national chapters. The Red Cross for the most part is supported by volunary contributions. This was complicated by the appearance of Communiust countries where the state and Party controlled economoc activity as well as varying attitiudes toward charity in different countries. The Red Cross is the premier charitable organization to deal with natural disasters and the impact of war on civilans and soldiers. The Red Cross provided invaluable servives during World sar I and World War II in Europe. In the Pacific, the Japanese refused to cooperate. The Japanese chapter was founded (1887) and Japan even hosted the 15th International Conference of the Red Cross (1934). But the Japanese militaty ordered its soldiers not to surrender and treated Allied POWs horribly. The Red Cross has played critical roles in numeous natural disasters. Its ability is limited, however, in developing countries without infrastructure. Here the Red Cross have to rely on member countries able to rapidly deploy disaster assistance which largely meand the United States. There have been some serious problems with the Red Cross. The German chapter was taking over by the NAZIs and thus tagently involved in the Holocaust. The International Committee has in recent years been politicized especally by Muslim countries.

Founding

The first mon-religious international organization was the Red Cross (1864). The Red Cross was created to alleviate human suffering and to promote public health. J.H. Dunnat in Switzerland played a key role in the founding of the Red Cross. Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman who became a social activist, witnessed the Battle of Solferino during the Franco-Austrian War (1859). He published a book Un Souvenir de Solferino addressing the need to protect the sick and wounded during combat. The impetus for what became the Internationa Red Cross came from Switzerland a few years after the Franco-Austrian War. A Swiss Army general, Switzerland did not participate in the Franco-Austrian War, but its German and French population was deeply disturbed by the carnage and loss of life. The Société genevoise d'utilité publique (Geneva Public Welfare Society) established a committee of five Swiss citizens to pursue the ideas in Durant's book (1863). The committe called for an international meeting. Sixteen nations attended the meeting and adopted a series of resolutions including the internatuinally recognized Red Cross symbol--the reverse of the Swiss flag (1863). The Red Cross was founded in Switzerland because of its neutral status. The symbol of the Red Cross became appropriately a red cross, the reverse of the Swiss flag.

History

The Red Cross is the premier charitable organization to deal with natural disasters and the impact of war on civilans and soldiers. The Red Cross provided invaluable servives during World War I. The assisted both soldiers and POWs. Again in World War II they assisted both soldiers and POWs, at least in Europe. The Red Cross in the Pacific provided few services to POWs and civilian internees. The Red Cross has played critical roles in numeous natural disasters. Its ability is limited, however, in developing countries without infrastructure. Here the Red Cross have to rely on member countries able to rapidly deploy disaster assistance which largely meand the United States. There have been some serious problems with the Red Cross. The German chapter was taking over by the NAZIs and thus tagently involved in the Holocaust. The International Committee has in recent years been politicized especally by Muslim countries.

Funding

The Red Cross for the most part is supported by volutnary contributions. This was complicated by the appearance of Communiust countries where the state and Party controlled economic activity as well as varing attitiudes toward charity in different countries.

International Committee

The governing body of the Red Cross is the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Junior Auxileries

The Red Cross was formed as an adult group, but from an early sdtahe there was an interest among youth as well as an interest to involve young people. National Red Cross socities in Europe began offering junior membership in the 1880s. American youth participated in fund raising activities.

Important Conventions

Two important conventions allowed the Red Cross to play an important role in the two workd wars. Admiration for the Red Cross's work in World War I and neotiations in the inter-War era expanded its role. One conventions involved the sick and wounded. The Red Cross established auxiliary hospitals staffed them Red Cross personnel. The hospitals were neutral and treated anyone caught up in a conflict wherever this was as equal and entitled to humane treatment. It became a widely accepted international expectation that warring nations should treat Red Cross personnel in the appropriate manner and that the hospitals were not legitimate targets. The Red Cross also set up convalescent homes to look after the wounhded needing long term care. The other convention in existence at the time of World war I involved POWs and their treatment. The conventions concerning POWs wee updated (Geneva Convention of 27 July 1929). This convention also extended to civilian internees held by a warring nations. The International Red Cross had attempted to get all nations to agree to legal safeguards for all civilians in an area where war had broken out. Country negotiators were unable to reach agreement and decided to defer agreement on this until 1940. As a result, when Hitler and Stalin launched World War II many civilians had no safe-guarded legal rights. Even worse, Germany and Japan had very strong racist views which affected how they treated POWs and interbnees. The Germans in particular decided on genocide and had no interested in allowing the Red Cross to interceed in Eastern Europe. TheJapanese also refused to cooperate to any extent, alygthough the millions of people whon perished were in part the result of individual and organiztional brutality, incompetence and mismanageement and not any genocidal master plan. The Red Cross never stopped trying to access those who were arrested, deported or sent into forced labour but with little success.

National Societies

Self-governing Red Cross societies were formed in member countries. From the very begnning the Red Cross asked individual countries to organize national chapters. The process began in Europe and was soon adopted in the United States. The Red Cross became the best known humanutarian organization as a result of its work during World War I. It worked with country militaries, POWs, and civilian hmanitarian organizations. The American Red Cross was especially active in preventing mass starvation during an after the War. With the rise of totalitarian states (Communism and Fascist), the character of the Red Cross changed. The Red Cross again played a major role in World War II. This time the United Nations (at the time basically the United ttes) played a civilan humnitarian role. The Red Cross assisted combatant militaries and POWs. German Red Cross was involved in war crimes. War was a major factor in promoting the Red Cross, but gradually public health and natural emergenies became important part of Red Cross work. After World War II when major cinflicts became less important, the military aspect of the Red Cross declines in importance. Many new ntionl societies were formed with the De-Colonization process.

America

Clara Barton helped found the American Red Cross (1881). Some Red Cross staff in the 1890s wanted to organize junior chapters in schools, but there was not much interest at the time. School students on their own engaged in their own activities, both with and without the Red Cross. They worked with disaster relief, fund-raising, and other activities. The Red Cross played an active role in the Spanish merican War (1898-99). Some students got involved in the efforts to provide medical support and comfort to American soldiers and their families. America after the Kaiser resumed unrestricted submarine warfare declared war on Germany (April 1917). There was an outpooring of patriotic feeling as America entered World War I. As part of the effort to support the War, a group of educators and American Red Cross officials developed a plan for a partnership between schools and the Red Cross. President Wilson officially announced the formation of the Junior Red Cross--JRC (September 15, 1917). The President asked American youth, "Is not this perhaps the chance for which you have been looking to give your time and efforts in some measure to meet our national needs ...?" Youth could join the new JRC for only 25-cents a year. The response was overwealming, 8 million students joined the JRC that first year and membership reached 11 million in 1919.

Bulgaria

Bulgarian was an Ottoman province for several centuries. As a result of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78), Two Bulgarian principalities became independent with only a nonimal relationshop with Ottomn Sultanate. Some organizations appeared for the care of the sick and wounded. It was not for another decade, however, that a fully independent unified Bulgarian nation occurred (1885). Immediately after unification, the Bulgarian Red Cross (BRC) was founded a presided over by Mitropolit Kliment--the highest ranking Orthodox cleric in Bulgaria. The creation of the Red Cross was ratified by a decree of the first Bulgarian prince – Aleksander Batemberg. The BRC was officially recognized by the International Red Cross Committee soon after it was founded. The BRC was active during the Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885-86, assisting in h the exchange of POWS and organizing dressing stations for the wounded, an early implementation of the Geneva Convention Members of the royal family became patrons of the Red Cros. The Bulgarian kings were the supreme patrons, but Queens considered this a importabt part of thir duties, both Queen Eleonora abd Queen Ioanna. The Bulgarian Red Cross played an importnt role in the bginning of Bulgarian social health system, something that was neglected uring the Ottimn period. Hospitals were open in Sofia, Pleven, Haskovo, Burgas, and other cities. The Red Cross established and managed the Red Cross Hospital in Sophia. It modern hospital in the country. A nursing school was established at the hospital (1900). It was for the first and for some time Bulgaria's only nursing school. The BRC trained Samaritans and medical nurses during the wars of the 20th century. The BRC trained nurses not only for its own hospitals, but for private concerns. The BRC participated in international humanitarian crises. Medical teams have been sent to Russia during the Russian-Japanese War (1903-05). It organized a free blood donation system. The BRC gave special attention to children's health, establishing health consulting centers, milk kitchens, summer camps, students’ cafeterias. The BRC played a major role in the campaign against tuberculosis. We do not have much infomtion on th BRC during World War I. We do know that the Bulgarians took many more prisoners than Bulgarians were taken by the ALLies. The treatment of the POWs varies by nationality. The British and French wre treated best, the Russians in between, and the Serbs and Romanians the worse. [Cholakov] The BRC after World War I founded a Youth Red Cross Movement (1921). Loca; BRC units opened sanatoria for children and adults suffering from tuberculosis in Plovdiv, Russe, and other sites. They turned the over to the municipalities. The BRC plyed an important role in disaster relief after the 1928 Earthquake. The BRC helped establish an emergency medical care system (1937). The BRC organized blood donations during World War II. Bulgaria joind the Axis and was a NAZI ally during World War II. It refused, however, to commit its army on the Eastern Front. The BRC organized medical teams which were deployed on the Eastern Front. A Bulgarian source describes hospitals and a sanitary operated by a Central Medical Squad.

England


France


Germany

Germany organized its Red Cross Society (1864). The first head was Dr. Aaron Silverman of the Charité hospital of Berlin. It was a voluntary civil assistance organization. We do not know a great deal about the early German Red Cross. The organization at the time seemns narrowly focused on caring for soldiers in time of war. First Hatzfeldt headed the German Red Cross during World War I. The War imposed huge demands on what was still a relatively new organization. We have little information on the Society's operations. We do know that like other national Red Cross units, they were heavily involved with para-military mediucine, caring for wounded soldiers, and prisoners of war (POWs). The Red Cross was the Royal Family's and the aristocrats' favorite charity. Agter the War during the Weimar period, the German Red Cross acquired a range of civilian responsibilities like disaster relief. The German Red Cross during World War II was a NAZI agenncy. They helped to mislead the International Committee through carefully managed tours. The visit to Terezinstadt was an example.

Japan

The Japanese Red Cross chapter was founded (1887) and Japan even hosted the 15th International Conference of the Red Cross (1934). But the Japanese militaty ordered its soldiers not to surrender and treated Allied POWs and civilian internees horribly during World War II. A JRCS reports that, "The Japanese Red Cross Soociety disptatched 980 medical teams (33,156 personnel) from 1912 to 1945 including World War II." [Yokoyama] The JCRC activities during the War seem almost entirely focused on aiding their soldiers. The SRCS also tells us, "Although there remains little inoformation regarding JRCS activities during World War II, JRCS assisted POWs in exchanging Red Cross Messages (very short letters or telegrams) between POWs and their families working with International Comittee of the Red Cross." [Yokoyama] The messages permitted were very short and infrequent. Our understanding is that the International Committee of the Red Cross attempted to arrange deliveries of Red Cross parcels with food and medecibe to the POWs and civilian internees through the Swedes, but Japan adamantly refused to cooperate despite inadequate food supplies in the camps. And I have not read any thing about Red Cross efforts to ensure proper treatment in the camps. As I am sure you know there was a terribly high mortality rate in the camps and if the War had no ended when it did, the death rate would have been much higher. As it stands now, we have been able to find no indication the JRCS made any efforts to assist these unfortunate people in Japanese custody which is a terrible stain on the record of the organization. My guess is that there were honorable people in the JRCS that did make some efforts, but were blocked by the Army. This would be an important matter to document in the JRCS's history. Apparently the JRCS has no record of any such efforts. The JRCS tells us, "1) outside of Japan (especially Southeast Asia). It is known that Japanese military did not annouce where the POW camps were because the announcement could have lead attacks by enemies. So, no one could reach assistance from outside. JRCS's capacity was so limited that the only thing they could do was to send medical teams. 2) inside of Japan There were many camps in Japan. JRCS and ICRC tried to support POWs. Some camps were visited by ICRC." [Yokoyama]

Poland (1919- )

The Polish Red Cross did not come into existence until the end of World War I. Poland was part of the Tsarist Russian Empire. There may have been some Russian Red Cross activity in Poland. We do not have aby details. Once Poland was estanlished at the end of the War, the Polish Red Cross was founded. The process began only 2 months after the end of the War. The Polish Samaritan Society, a Catholic organization, organized a meeting of all Polish charities that followed the Red Cross principles (January 10, 1919). Helena Paderewska played a najor role in forming the Polish Red Cross Society. A temporary committee of 30 was elected to draft statutes and to proceed with preparations to organize a Polish Red Cross. Dr. Benjamin Reschovsky of Warsaw City Hospital also played a major role in fonding the Polish Red Cross (Polski Czerwony Krzyż--PCK). It was recognized by the International Red Cross (July 24, 1919). The first President was Paweł Sapieha. Poland was experiencing food shortages and was in a desperate condition after the War The United States was conducting a major effort relief effort under the American Relief Administration (ARA). We do not know to what extent if any the PCK was involved. The PCK was involved in the Polish-Soviet War (1920-22). The PCK operated ambulances for the new Polish Army. At the end of the War, he PCK participated in an exchange of Polish and Russian prisoners. The PCK awarded Ekaterina Peshkova the chairwoman of the Assistance to Political Prisoners Organization (Помощь политическим заключенным, Помполит--Pompolit) the order of Polish Red Cross for her participation in the POW exchange. NAZI Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, launching World War II (1939). They dismanteled the Polish state and partioned the country. We assume they sized the facilities of the Polish Red Cross, but have no details. Polish POWs were treatd brutally by both the NAZIs and Soviets. Large numbers were murdered. They had no access to the Red Cross assistance. We believe the Polish Government in Exile in Britain attempted to establish contact, but were denied access by both the NAZIs and Soviets. This only cganged when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and the Soviets were desperate for Western assistance.

Singapore (1949- )

The Singapore Red Cross Society was founded in 1949 and is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The Society has a youth membership of 5,400 in primary and secondary schools. The goals of Singapore Red Cross Youth are to promote and encourage the participation of youth in the work of Red Cross, develop healthy habits of living and develop a sense of social responsibility existing between Red Cross Youth members around the world. Besides performing first aid duties, members participation welfare service projects, home nursing services, fund raising activities, international exchange programmes and a wide range of training programmes.

Soviet Union

The Russian Red Cross was active in Wiorld War I and both the Gernman and Russian treatment of POWs was largely correct. We have not yet been able to find details about the Soviet Red Cross in World War II. Both the German and Soviet treatment of POWs during the War was nothing short of barbaric. Given that the Red Cross of both ciybtries was totally under Sobiet and German political control, it did nothething to amerliorate the horrendous policies of both Governments.

Switzerland

The international Red Cross is located in Geneva. And there it also a national Swiss Red Cross. Neither did much to assist the epic refugee crisis during World War II, especially Jewish refugess even though Switerland's geographic position put it in a place to aid Italian, Austrian, German, and French Jews. many refugee Jews that made it to Switzerland were turned over to the NAZIs by Swiss officials. The primary Red Cross effort during the War was to support the Swiss Army and auxilery services and to aid Allied service men interned in Switerland. And as the Germans did not invade Switerland, this was notva major stress on the organization. The one important program for foreign victims of the War was Kinderhilfe--Child Support. We do not have a good handle on this yet. But we have some basic information. The Swiss provided aid to children affected by World War I, beginning with Belgin children. We are not entirely sure to what extent the Swiss Red Cross was involved. Kinderhilfe appears to have been a program launched in Switerland to aid working-class children (1932). They began an international effort by aiding children harmed by the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). They began aiding children injuurd in World War II (1942). The effort was impaired by the refusal of German and Italian officials to cooperate, although one report suggests there was some assistance to several countries beyond Swiss borders (Belgium, Finland, Luxemboug, the Netherlands, and Poland). We are unsure just what kind of aid was provided to those countries. As Switerland borderd on France, they could aid French children and these are the children who were mostly aided by Kinderhilfe. We do not know how many Jewish children were aided. One report suggestions that injured French children and some Belgian children were cared for in Switerland by the Kinderhilfe. After the War, Kinderhilfe aided children in countries recovering from the war. Aa example is a group of London children (1946).

Wars


World War I (1914-18)

World War I was the first war in which the Red Cross played a major role. No one had expected a major war in Europe which at the time seemed to be the epitome of civilization and rational thought. The IRC was soon confronted with enormous challenges in dealing with a War which rapidly metastasized into a conflict of unprecesented dimensions and lethality. The IRC even after expanding had to depend on the individual national Red Cross societies. Red Cross nurses from around the world, including the neutral United States, came to Europe to support the medical services of the armed forces of the belligerant European countries. The work was facilitated by the IRC's location in neutral Switzerland. Almost immediately, the IRC established the International Prisoners-of-War (POW) Agency. Soon some 1,200 volunteer and a few Red Cross staff members were working go aid the growing number of POWs. The Red Cross was widely lauded for this effort. During the war the Red Cross POW Agency had seen to the deliveryb of 20 million letters and messages, 1.9 million parcels, and about 18 million Swiss francs in monetary donations to support POWs. The IRC also arrainged for the exchange some 200,000 POWs. The Red Cross amassed a card index with nearly 7 million records (1914-23), each record representing an individual POW or missing person. Through the Red Cross card index, some 2 million POWs were located and able to contact their families.

World War II (1939-45)

The Red Cross played a vital role in World War II as it did in World War I. The national socities offered support to both their country's soldiers as well as civilians harnmed by the fighting or arerial bombardmenht. They also played an important role in assisting prisoners of war. Here there were limits as to what the Red Cross could do. International humanitarian law at the time of World War II included rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war, but not that of the civilian population. The ICRC was therefore able to assist and to a degree protect POWs, but its work for civilians, especially those held in concentration camps was very limited, essentially non-existent. The Red Cross had to work within the confines of both the war and the policies of each beligerant countries. Here the Germans, Japanese, and Soviets placed major limitations on what the Red Cross coud do. The Germans were somewhat cooperative with Western POWs, but not for Polish abnd Soviet POWs. The Soviets and Japanese were destincly uncooperative. The Japanese stole most of the Red Cross packages sentvto thec staving people in their internment camps. Their primary function was to register POWs, faciitate mail, and delivering packages wuth food and clothing. The German Government intent on genocide cooperated to a degree, nostly as concerns Western POWs. The Soviet Union considered POWs to be traitors as they surrendered and provided no support to their men. No only did they not send packages, but many of the POWs after the War were arrested and sentenced to the Gulag.

POWs: The Red Cross after the experience of World War I was better organized to handel the needs of POWs caught upn in a massive war. Unfortunalely, totalitarian regimes had arisen since World War I who were not prepared tob allow the Red Cross to operatec in a humanitarian fashion. Indeed in Germany the Red Cross was cintrilled by the NAZI Party and participared in NAZI attrocities. The NAZIs intentv on genocide and efforts like the Hunger Plan and Geberalplan Ost wanted to allow Polish and Siviet POWs to die. The NAZIs were, however, prepared to allow the Red Cross to operate in its war with Western powers. And cRed Cross parcels delivered to American, British, and French POWs helped siupplement the meager German relations. Without the parcels, the relatively high survival rates would have been much lower. American Red Cross parcels were no only delivered to American POWS, but to those as its alloes as well. A Dutchv reader writea, "What I know about POW;s on farms during World War II I was told by my German cousin who along with his younger brother was "verschickt" from Cologne to a safe rural area in central Germany where they stayed in the house of a farm family. They helped with the cows and other things. He told me that the Yugoslavian POW, who also had a room in the house, received a package from the International Red Cross (sent through Sweden) with shirts, trousers and shoes, most of it made in the United States, good stuff. Other POWs also got Red Cross packages fom America."

Civilian internees


Sources

Cholakov, Rumen. "Prisoners of War in Bulgaria during the First World War," Tripos Examinatiom, Cambridge University (April 2012).

Yokoyama, Mizufumi. Red Cross Information Plaza, Japanese Red Cross Society. E-mail messages, January 22-25 and 29, 2010.








CIH





Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to the Main history page]
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Freedom] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Ideology] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]





Created: 5:26 AM 1/25/2010
Last updated: 11:00 AM 9/17/2017