July 21, 2017
The Red Cross and the Holocaust – Samuel Moyn
In Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust, historian Gerald Steinacher chronicles how an organization meant to curb the barbarity of warfare 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.
The book rightly lays most of the blame on Switzerland’s Carl Jacob Burckhardt, who was second in command and made major decisions regarding relations with Adolf Hitler’s government. Burckhardt harbored a traditional anti-Semitism and such hatred of communism that he regarded German Nazism as a bulwark of civilization. In the 1930s Burckhardt was given an inspection tour of the German concentration camp of Dachau and officially lauded the commandant “for his discipline and decency.”
After Germany’s defeat, Burckhardt opposed the Nuremberg trials, labeling them “Jewish revenge.” After the Holocaust, the ICRC – by then helmed by Burckhardt – abetted the flight of Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele by providing them with travel papers. The writer teaches law and history at Yale. (Wall St. Journal)