International Committee of the Red Cross

Facts

International Committee of the Red Cross portrait.jpg

International Committee of the Red Cross

Comité international de la Croix Rouge (International Committee of the Red Cross)
The Nobel Peace Prize 1944

Founded: 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland

Residence at the time of the award: Geneva, Switzerland

Prize motivation: "for the great work it has performed during the war on behalf of humanity."

The International Committee of the Red Cross received the Nobel Prize one year later, in 1945.

Prize share: 1/1

Also awarded: The Nobel Peace Prize 1917,The Nobel Peace Prize 1963

Work

1917 prize: Protecting and helping soldiers and civilians wounded in war

The International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in 1863 on the initiative of the Swiss Henry Dunant, Peace Prize laureate in 1901. It consisted - and still consists - exclusively of Swiss nationals. In the following year, the first Geneva Convention was adopted, “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field”.

The organization's symbol, the red cross on a white background, was to protect both friend and enemy. In the years that followed, more and more states joined and set up national committees. The leadership exercised by the Swiss Red Cross committee won broad recognition, although it had no international mandate.

In 1906 the Geneva Convention was extended to apply also to war at sea. When World War I broke out in 1914, the International Committee of the Red Cross faced a huge task. It not only upheld the principles of the Geneva Convention, but also undertook to protect the interests of prisoners of war.

1944 prize: The staunchest supporter of prisoners of war

When World War II ended, the International Committee of the Red Cross received the Nobel Prize for Peace for the second time. The main reason given was its work on behalf of prisoners of war. In accordance with the Geneva Convention of 1929, the Red Cross had during the war years established contacts between prisoners of war and their families, sent parcels of clothes, medicine and food, inspected prison camps, and organized prisoner exchanges.

The Nobel Committee was not aware that the Red Cross was fully informed of the Nazi extermination of Jews. This was not known until the 1980s. It then emerged that in 1942 the organization had adopted a resolution to keep silent. It feared that publication of the atrocities might trigger reprisals against prisoners of war or provoke military action against neutral Switzerland. It was also afraid that the cooperation between the ICRC and the Swiss government might collapse. The Red Cross has since expressed regret for this suppression of the facts.

1963 prize: Peace prize laureate for the third time

The International Committee of the Red Cross was declared the winner of the peace prize both in 1917 and in 1944. The main reason was its efforts during the two World Wars.

In 1963, it was 100 years since the Peace Prize laureate in 1901, Henri Dunant, founded the Red Cross. On the occasion of the centenary, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wished to call attention to the importance of the organization in the global community. It also wished to reward the organization's work since World War II, but this time the Swiss Red Cross Committee shared the honor with the League of Red Cross Societies. Together, the two organizations made up what is now known as the International Red Cross.

The Nobel Committee paid tribute to the International Committee of the Red Cross in particular for its work on the revised Geneva Convention of 1949 and its work during the conflicts in Hungary, Algeria, the Congo and Tibet.

Copyright © The Norwegian Nobel Institute

To cite this section
MLA style: The Staunchest Supporter of Prisoners of War. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2022. Sun. 23 Jan 2022. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1944/red-cross/facts/>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.