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The occupation of the Ruhr (Germany, 1923-1925)

21-01-2005

In the aftermath of the First World War, French and Belgian troops took control of part of Germany. The ICRC sent missions to the area, in the first such action in occupied territories.

In January 1923 French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr coalfields in order to enforce German payment of reparations stemming from the First World War. The Germans, unable to resist militarily, responded with acts of civil disobedience, strikes and riots; in turn, these actions were met with measures of repression by the occupying forces.

At the request of the German Red Cross, the ICRC sent a fact-finding mission to the area in August 1923, to see how the situation affected the population, and to look into the question of people detained or expelled from the occupied territory. It was the first time the ICRC had worked in enemy-occupied territory to take up issues concerning the civilian population.

With the agreement of the occupying forces the ICRC delegates visited 13 places where prisoners – including those taken hostage – were held. Similar missions were carried out in November 1923 and in May 1924, before the occupation ended in the summer of 1925.

While these missions did not result in any direct relief action by the ICRC, they did enable the ICRC and the newly-founded League of Red Cross Societies to launch an appeal for assistance to the German Red Cross which was helping people affected by the disastrous economic situation in the country.