Station: [13] A place for humanitarian decision-making

This is the original desk used by Rudolf Seiters. A politician and member of the Christian Democratic Union party, he served as President of the German Red Cross from 2003 until the end of 2017. As Federal Minister for Special Affairs, he led the 1989 negotiations with East Germany. These ultimately resulted in the East German citizens who had sought refuge in the Prague embassy being allowed to leave for West Germany.

Rudolf Seiters accompanied the West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to the Prague embassy on the 30th of September 1989. He stood next to Genscher on the balcony of the Palais Lobkowitz when the foreign secretary made his announcement about being allowed to leave – which was drowned out by the cheering of the crowd.  

“They were euphoric, relieved and delighted about their new freedom, it was unprecedented”, said Rudolf Seiters.

Later, he recalled the experience: the grey tents with the red cross in front of the embassy, the workers passing out hot soup and warm clothing to the refugees. It was what prompted him to become involved in the German Red Cross in the first place. 

The desk was purchased in Coblenz in 1950, the year the German Red Cross was re-founded. Since then, a lot of presidents have guided the DRK’s destiny from that desk. With Gerda Hasselfeldt, who has been president of the organisation since 2017, a new desk found its way into the General Secretariat. 
Rudolf Seiters presented this historic piece to the museum. The picture of the Brandenburg Gate, which once graced the wall of his office, is on permanent loan. 
As to the General Secretariat: following the reunification of the two German states, the two Red Cross Societies of West and former East Germany also merged, in November 1990. The two General Secretariats, which had been based in Bonn and Dresden respectively, moved to Berlin shortly after the beginning of the new millennium. Since then, they’ve been under the same roof in the Lichterfelde district of Berlin.


Foto: © Dagmar Trüpschuch