The Red Cross in Time of War

On August 22, 1864, the twelve nations attending the Geneva Convention adopted an agreement advocating for the non-partisan care of the sick and wounded in times of war, and recognition of the neutrality of medical personnel. The “Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick of Armies in the Field” was the brainchild of Swiss humanitarian Jean-Henri Dunant, and in honor of his nationality, a reverse image of the Swiss flag—a red cross in a field of white—was chosen to adorn doctors’ and nurses’ uniforms, and to mark hospitals and medical supplies. For his efforts in establishing the International Red Cross, Dunant was honored with the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

xx1990_2834_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library holds a number of rare photograph albums, books, periodicals, sheet-music covers, and other ephemeral items that document the humanitarian efforts of the Red Cross. During the South African War (1899–1902), Red Cross volunteer nurses played an important role in tending to the sick and wounded during the siege by the Boers of the British forces in the township of Ladysmith.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

XC2011_08_2_353_000

XC2011_08_2_353_058

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Medical personnel of the International Red Cross were also active during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), tending to the sick and wounded without regard to nationality.

XC2010_08_1_551_000

XC2010_08_1_551_384e

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

A Photographic Record of the Russo-Japanese War, published in 1905, also lauded the heroic efforts of the International Red Cross and female supporters on the home front in alleviating the suffering of both Russian and Japanese combatants.

XC2009_10_20_26_000

XC2009_10_20_26_044

XC2009_10_20_26_048

XC2009_10_20_26_093

XC2009_10_20_26_042

XC2009_10_20_26_174

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Doctors and nurses from the International Red Cross and the American Red Cross—the latter founded by Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons in 1881—also served in the First World War (1914–1918).

XC2014_08_18_13_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca

While the Red Cross maintained its neutrality status during the Great War, the belligerents on both sides attempted to use attacks on hospitals and nurses for propaganda purposes. The English nurse Edith Cavall served as the matron of a Brussels clinic that was taken over by the Red Cross when the war broke out. Cavall was arrested and tried by a German military court-martial for helping to smuggle more than 175 British and French soldiers, and Belgian civilians likely to be conscripted, out of German-occupied territory. Despite numerous calls for a pardon, the German High Command considered her Geneva Convention protections forfeited by her own testimony, and she was judged guilty of treason and executed by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915. Her execution prompted a British propaganda campaign against German “barbarism” and inspired thousands of women to sign up as nurses.

XB1992_1408_1_049.jpg

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

French wartime propaganda also capitalized on alleged German atrocities such as the bombing of Red Cross hospitals, and the murder of Red Cross personnel by the German soldiers. The Wolfsonian–FIU Library possesses two rare mechanical works designed to show German disdain for the Geneva Convention and the neutrality of the Red Cross.

WC2003_2_16_8_5_000

WC2003_2_16_8_5_000a

WC2003_2_16_8_6_000

WC2003_2_16_8_6_000a

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gift

Propaganda postcards also depicted “Hun” soldiers as being so desperately hungry that they killed and ate Red Cross dogs trained to locate wounded soldiers on the front lines.

XC2015_01_4_8_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca

During the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson made appeals on behalf of the Red Cross.

XC2002_11_8_118_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Patriotic American magazines, books, postcards, and sheet-music covers all promoted the image of the angelic Red Cross nurse.

XC2015_05_9_3_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca

XC2006_09_5_33_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

XC2012_03_9_019

XC2012_03_9_032

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

XC2007_08_5_2_017

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Pamela K. Harer

XC2014_10_3_001

XC2014_10_11_001

XC2014_10_14_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca

Other American posters used the bravery of Red Cross nurses serving on front lines to encourage the public to support the war effort by purchasing war bonds.

2001_13_4.jpg

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Elizabeth Loomis Norton and Richard M. Norton

During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1918) and the Italo-Ethiopian War (1935–1936), the Red Cross emblem was used in propaganda pieces denouncing the “barbarous” atrocities of the enemy, while lauding the humanity of their own side.

TD1990_72_37_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

 

84_2_417_4_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

During the Second World War (1939–1945), the nurses and emblem of the Red Cross were prominently displayed in American wartime magazines and broadsides.

XC2005_03_8_16_024.jpg

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Judith Berson-Levinson Collection

XC1993_104_000-1

~ by "The Chief" on August 22, 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: