17 thoughts on “HUMANITARIANS AT WAR

  1. Steinacher, a historian and professor of Judaic studies, aims his book Humanitarians at War at the 1944-1950 challenges to the ICRC and its recovery, but it is very much about Jews. It indicts ICRC and Swiss conduct early in the war.–The American Jewish World

  2. [Humanitarians at War] “Gerald Steinacher’s book is a great read. It reminds historians of just how valuable an international comparative research without nationalist bias can be. And more importantly, how narrow-minded government officials and economists have been in pinching dimes when it comes to humanitarian aid and refugee reception. To me personally, humanistic values are a sufficient motivation to help people in need. But for export-dependent small countries, humanitarian policy also represents a real-world brand equity, which can be cynically valued at billions for the Swedish economy. All of this is well documented in Steinacher’s research.” Henrik Arnstad, Aftonbladet (Stockholm, Sweden)

  3. What began as an organization meant to curb the barbarity of warfare has found it difficult to live down its most grievous mistake: cozying up to the Third Reich, remaining silent about the Holocaust and later helping Nazis escape justice. In his last book, “Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice” (2011), historian Gerald Steinacher chronicled one aspect of this shameful era. His newest effort, “Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust,” synthesizes what he and other historians have learned about the ICRC’s conduct during this troublesome period before adding new material on what the organization did next. This more comprehensive account of the ICRC’s actions equips the reader to decide whether the organization truly recovered from its wartime and postwar errors. […] Mr. Steinacher, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an excellent historian with a good nose for archives.- Samuel Moyn, The Wall Street Journal

  4. The aid organisation, whose official name is the International Committee of the Red Cross, failed to speak out against the Holocaust or extend much assistance to Jews trapped in concentration camps across Europe. The Jewish Telegraph

  5. As Steinacher has documented, individual ICRC officials and local ICRC delegations in Europe knowingly held out a helping hand to Hitler’s former henchmen. Their motives varied: some were acting “out of sympathy for individuals”; others had sympathy for the Nazi cause. Whatever the case, the Nazi chapter of the ICRC’s history is a profoundly tainted one, serving as a salutary reminder that even the most pristine of images can be seriously deceptive. Samuel Moyn, Useful Stooges Blog

  6. One of the sorry backstories of World War II is found in what the Red Cross did — or, more precisely, failed to do — during the Holocaust. The pointed question was asked aloud by one survivor in May 1945 — “Where, above all, was the International Red Cross Committee?” — and now it is answered with authority and in compelling detail in “Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust” by Gerald Steinacher (Oxford University Press). Jonathan Kirsch, The Jewish Journal

  7. “In conclusion, Steinacher’s argument would benefit from a more accurate framing of the ICRC’s prewar history and status under international law, as well as a clear statement about the role of antisemitism in the ICRC’s postwar decisions. On the whole, however, Humanitarians at War presents a compelling picture of how the policy of sovereign states and those of a private organization exerted a reciprocal influence on life-and-death decisions about humanitarian aid provision and international law.” Kimberly A. Lowe. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. October, 2017

  8. “Humanitarians at War is a highly welcome addition to the growing literature about humanitarianism and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Based on impressive archival work and careful attention to the secondary literature, the book helps to piece together the puzzle that is the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at a particularly critical moment in its history.” […] Steinacher’s fascinating Humanitarians at War makes for sober, and sometimes depressing, reading. The ICRC received the 1944 Nobel Peace Prize—one of a long line of undeserving recipients.”
    Michael Barnett, Journal of interdisciplinary history (4), 2018

  9. “The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), one of the oldest humanitarian organizations, emerged from World War II with its reputation stained and damaged. Having come under fire for its failure to condemn the Holocaust or extend substantial assistance to Jews trapped in Nazi-occupied Europe, it attempted to improve its tarnished image by launching new aid initiatives in the aftermath of the war. Gerald Steinacher’s first-rate book, Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust (Oxford University Press), examines these issues in minute detail.” Sheldon Kirshner, Times of Israel

  10. “The work is carefully researched with extensive use of archival and secondary sources. In the case of the latter, Steinacher does an admirable job including scholarship from historians and political scientists.” Edward Westermann, German Studies Review 41/2 (2018)

  11. “[Steinacher] successfully positions Humanitarians at War within the existing literature, both teaching us something new and adding a much-needed fresh coat of paint to the edifice Favez built. […] This positioning of a 1940s narrative within this wider discussion over the legitimacy of neutral, impartial humanitarianism is what elevates Steinacher’s work. The result is a book that, in many respects, reads like a sequel to Favez, improving on the original and adding a broader perspective. […] Where the book shines […] is in the depth of analysis Steinacher brings to these topics, and in the thoughtful connections he makes between the ICRC’s wartime mistakes and its peacetime development.”
    James Crossland, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 32, Issue 3, 1 December 2018.

  12. “Steinacher’s well-researched book, Humanitarians at War, is a welcome addition to [the] burgeoning scholarship on Swiss and humanitarian responses to the Holocaust.” Yad Vashem Studies

  13. “Perhaps the greatest victory of this book is its factual impartiality; Steinacher neither excuses the Red Cross for its failures during WWII nor downplays the immense importance of the organization’s contributions to the world in which we all now live. […]
    Steinacher’s new book is easily the most direct, fair, and thorough treatment of this topic to date. This is a book that the armchair historian will enjoy just as much as the one in the ivory towers of academia, an important text that contributes much-needed research and far better-nuanced understandings of the reformation of the ICRC and its contributions to the post Second World War era than any had previously endeavored to write.” Mark Gudgel, Genocide Studies and Prevention

  14. “The author has produced an important and fascinating work … Steinacher has laid before us an impressive portrayal of the activities of the Red Cross during the first half of the twentieth century. The discussion is not merely descriptive in nature; it raises serious questions about the organization’s modes of operation, espeically those of its leadership. It is a welcome addition to the literature on this topic. I am convinced that students, scholars, and other readers will find it compelling.” – Zohar Segev, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

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