Champions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross

In This Review

Champions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross

By John F. Hutchinson
Westview Press, 1996
448 pp. $35.00
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The Red Cross has acquired the status of an institution almost beyond reproach, save, perhaps, for those persistent critics who point to its silence about Nazi genocide in World War II. Hutchinson, however, a historian of public health, has no inhibitions about excoriating the Red Cross for serving as an auxiliary to armies rather than an opponent of human conflict. Serving to mobilize civilians in support of war, he contends, the Red Cross contributed to European militarism. Advances in abating the suffering of wounded soldiers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries resulted from general advances in public health and the medical services of armies, not, as the Red Cross' propaganda suggests, the efforts of the organization's members. An exaggerated, curmudgeonly and cranky argument, no doubt, but one that nonetheless serves as a corrective to the standard history.