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ICRC in WW II: the Central Agency for Prisoners of War

02-02-2005

As in the first world war, one of the ICRC's first steps after hostilities broke out in 1939 was to establish a clearing house for information on prisoners.

   

©ICRC/Ref. hist-1816/2 
 
World War II. The Central Prisoners of War Agency in Geneva. 
     

During the Second World War, the Central Agency for Prisoners of War occupied a large building in Geneva. As the conflict wore on, additional offices were set up in other buildings, mainly hotels. Altogether, 27 branch offices were opened.

In April 1945, the ICRC had a total staff of 3,921, 2,585 of whom were working for the Agency. The ICRC registered prisoners of war and communicated essential information about them to their families by using " capture cards " and " individual id entity cards " . The Agency also undertook to forward prisoners'correspondence.

In total, in six years, the Agency filled in around 25 million of these " individual identity cards " and passed on some 120 million messages, carrying news to and from prisoners of war and their families.