In July 1952, the German Red Cross in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) submitted its application for membership in the League of Red Cross Societies, the federation of national Red Cross societies that composes the bulk of the international Red Cross movement. Their application sparked a heated debate among the American and Soviet delegates, and the Swiss-led International Committee of the Red Cross about the legitimacy of the new Red Cross. In 1954, a similar dispute occurred when the German Red Cross of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) presented their application for membership in the League. The two moments, intimately connected, laid bare the inundation of the work of the international Red Cross by early Cold War rivalries, challenging the movement’s principles of universality and apoliticism. It also revealed divided Germany’s precarious place in the cold war world, as the competing claims of sovereignty made by the FRG and GDR seeped into all aspects of the Germanys’ presence in the international community.
Ryan Heyden, PhD Candidate
Department of History, McMaster University
Ryan Heyden is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at McMaster University, specializing in twentieth-century German history. Ryan’s dissertation examines the reconstitution and activities of the German Red Cross(es), and humanitarianism broadly, in divided Germany after 1945. His research is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies (Free University of Berlin and the German Studies Association). His research is published on both peer reviewed and open-access platforms, such as Zeitgeschichte Online, the Online Atlas for the History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights, and German Studies Review