German Red Cross urged to admit Nazi entanglement | News | DW | 15.01.2021
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German Red Cross urged to admit Nazi entanglement

The German Red Cross' close involvement in Hitler's Nazi regime should be officially admitted, historians and medics have said. One historian called the German Red Cross an "SS-riddled" ambulance corps.

Two women wearing Red Cross armbands in 1941

The Red Cross needs to come clean about its involvement with the Nazi regime

Between 1933 and 1945, the German Red Cross was closely complicit in Hitler's murderous regime, according to historians and medics on the eve of a university conference.

Ahead of online lectures to be hosted in Erlangen in northern Bavaria on Saturday, co-organizer Horst Seithe called the Red Cross' post-war German organization (DRK) — now sworn to neutrality — to officially admit its wartime guilt on January 25, when it marks 100 years since its founding in the Bavarian city of Bamberg back in 1921.

The coming days would show whether the DRK would "use this chance or let it lapse," said Seithe, a Nuremberg pediatrician and co-author of a 2001 book entitled "Das Deutsche Rote Kreuz im Dritten Reich" (The German Red Cross in the Third Reich).

Cited by Germany's Protestant EPD news agency, Seithe on Friday accused the German DRK, currently with some 3 million members, of perpetrating for decades the legend of being "a humanitarian organization in inhumane times."

From Hitler's power seizure in 1933, it adopted his leadership principle and by 1940 among the DRK upper echelons 86% were members of the Nazi party, he said.

Seithe told EPD that the DRK became implicated in euthanasia, the murder of patients, the Holocaust and annihilation warfare.

'SS-riddled'

Kassel history professor Hubertus Büschel, scheduled to lecture on Duke Charles Edward of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha, the DRK's wartime president, told EPD that by 1935 the charity was an "SS-riddled ambulance corps" — referring to Hitler's notorious paramilitary units.

Büschel, author of a Charles Edward biography, said diaries and photo albums were evidence of Nazi pervasiveness, racism, arrogance and contempt for humanity.

But such sources, Büschel said, also testified "to despair, doubt, resistance or vehement adherence to the idea of wanting to keep people alive and help them, regardless of their origin."

Hitler used duke as British-origin conduit

In 2015, the northern Bavarian newspaper Frankenpost cited new historical findings that Hitler used Surrey-born Duke Carl Eduard of what became the House of Windsor to conduct secret diplomacy with Britain.

Saturday's lectures hosted by the Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg were also set to span topics including Red Cross nurses in German concentration camps, cooperation with Heinrich Himmler's SS and then-DRK deputy president Dr. Ernst Grawitz, another SS commander and infamous medic.

Neutral, humane, says present-day Red Cross

Germany's present-day Red Cross, comprising more than 4,500 local groups and 32 affiliated institutions and governed via 2008 German law, declares itself a neutral and humane entity that rescues people and "stands by the poor and needy, and watches over international humanitarian law — in Germany and around the world."

ipj/sms (epd, dpa)

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