The aftermath of the First World War left Germany in dire straits. A lot of men came home from the war badly wounded.
For many of them, wheel chairs and carrying chairs became everyday necessities.
In January 1919, the victorious powers drew up the Treaty of Versailles. One stipulation was the radical demilitarisation of Germany. The regional Red Cross associations were pitched into an identity crisis. Their main job to date had been to train their members to provide medical services in war. And now? The women quickly found new tasks. They devoted themselves to welfare work. But the men had lost their bearings. It took the rapid increase in road traffic, and rising numbers of accidents, for them to find a new mission. They became involved in the civil ambulance and emergency service. The Red Cross declared the road rescue services to be its “main current task”.
The various German Red Cross organisations sought to adopt a clear position with unified representation. In 1921, representatives of the regional associations established a new umbrella organisation: the German Red Cross.
After the war, Germany was hit by hyperinflation. Just imagine: in 1923, a cup of coffee cost around 7,000 marks, a theatre ticket would later set you back by a thousand million. But above all, the middle classes lost their wealth, often saved up over generations. Donations to the German Red Cross dried up. The organisation was barely able to fund its welfare work, despite a rise in the number of people needing help. Because more and more homeless people, old folk and children, but also war invalids and surviving dependants, now depended on Red Cross support.
The economic deprivation of the late 1920s is thought to have driven the rapid rise of the Nazis. But that’s a story for the next stop.
Fotos: © Dagmar Trüpschuch