Geneva's Museum to the Pity of War

Ann Hills on an institution dedicated to the history of the Red Crescent and Cross and a humanitarian approach to war.

The Battle of Solferino was fought in June 1859 as part of the struggle to liberate Italy. Three days later Henri Dunant, a businessman from Geneva, came to the scene and found soldiers dying from their wounds due to lack of medical attention. He returned home 'determined to do everything possible to organise relief of the wounded' and that determination led him to found the Red Cross movement which is now represented in 148 countries.

In Geneva, the Red Cross has recently opened an international museum near to its headquarters facing the Palais des Nations. The inspiration of this ambitious showcase was Luarent Marti, a 59-year-old seasoned Red Cross worker, who is now the museum's first director.

'I'd been a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross for twenty years, but each time I came back I was amazed that in Europe few people knew the real mission of the Red Cross, as in the exchange of prisoners of war. I first wrote about a museum in 1976, and in 1980 we really began getting money from sponsors. They ranged from Rolex watches to Sheikh Ahmed Yamani'.

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