The International Committee of the Red Cross

Nobel Peace Prize 1944

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.