The Nazis came to power in 1933. They took control of everyone and everything, including the German Red Cross – which, according to the Geneva Convention, is strictly speaking required to remain impartial. The Nazis subverted the organisation, which had around 1.4 million members at the time. They thrust themselves into leadership positions and excluded Jewish members from the German Red Cross.
Robert Grawitz was the “SS Reichsarzt” – the chief medical officer of the SS. In 1936, he became deputy president of the German Red Cross, advancing to executive president a year later. Among other things, he was one of those responsible for subjecting concentration camp inmates to medical experiments. He drilled the members of the Red Cross and systematically prepared them for deployment in war. The red cross flag hanging next to the swastika became an everyday sight, and friendly morning greetings were replaced by a brisk “Heil Hitler!” Race theory became part of the training.
In 1939, the Nazi regime launched the Second World War. During the war, around 600,000 Red Cross volunteers, nurses and doctors cared for wounded soldiers and civilians, patched them up and nursed them – both in Germany and on the various fronts. Their involvement often saved lives. That was especially true for victims of the bombing campaign and of their support for refugees.
In 1944, the International Committee of the Red Cross was awarded another Nobel Peace Prize for its humanitarian work during the war – the third in its eighty-odd year history.
“Although we achieved great things during the war, we must not be blind to the inglorious chapters of our history and have to address them critically.” The view of the management of the Red Cross Museum.
Fotos: © Rotkreuz Museum