The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and ’71 marked the first time both countries adhered to the 1864 Geneva Conventions for the “the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field”. On both the Prussian and French sides, male and female volunteers from the national Red Cross societies tended the wounded soldiers.
The Red Cross societies of neutral countries, like the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Portugal, also helped to care for the many casualties.
Just three days after the beginning of the war, the International Committee of the Red Cross set up the first neutral clinic for the wounded in Basel. Attached to it was a “Correspondence and Detection Office”, where the warring countries could exchange POW lists. Every day, around 700 letters between captured soldiers and their families were forwarded.
We have a number of exhibits from this period on display here. At the bottom left of the showcase, you can see a handkerchief with a map of the war zone. It belonged to a German soldier who was wounded and admitted to a neutral Dutch clinic in Düsseldorf. The soldier gave the handkerchief to one of his doctors as a thank you for his treatment.
As we promised downstairs in the foyer, here’s another wheeled stretcher. Even before the First World War, this was the main patient transport “vehicle” used to take the wounded from the battlefield to the military hospitals.
Foto 1: © Rotkreuz Museum
Foto 2,3: © Dagmar Trüpschuch