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Switzerland: was the ICRC infiltrated by Nazis ?

18-09-1996 News Release 96/37

In early August, documents found in the files of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and dating back to the end of the Second World War began to circulate. Some of the allegations they contained were reported by the press; the impression was given that the ICRC had been infiltrated by agents on the Nazi payroll.

These allegations are extremely serious and the ICRC is investigating them with the utmost care. Its archival staff immediately began to look for any record of the persons or acts mentioned. Their research has enabled a dossier to be compiled, which is available from the ICRC's Press Division.

In brief, the initial findings are as follows. Of the 21 people who were purportedly ICRC representatives, according to the US documents, only 16 actually did work for the ICRC. In several cases, ICRC delegates were labelled as " enemy agents " and accused of espionage simply because the US agent had no idea whatsoever of the ICRC's mandate; he was surprised, for instance, that an ICRC delegate passed on technical details about a ship, the SS Canada . The ICRC had, however, received the information from the French government in exile and been requested by it to notify the German authorities that the vessel was being put into service as a hospital ship; the notification was sent in accordance with the Hague Convention No. X.

Similarly, the US agent accused an ICRC delegate of communicating the names and addresses of two prisoners of war. Yet this was normal ICRC practice: the ICRC communicated information about millions of prisoners of war to their States of origin and their relatives.

As yet the ICRC cannot certify that there were no Nazi (or other!) agents in its ranks during the Second World War. It is nevertheless quite clear that the OSS agent misinterpreted activities carried out entirely openly and with the consent or at the request of the Allies, and qualified them wrongly as espionage. The ICRC will contact the team of US research workers currently sifting through the OSS files and give them its replies to these allegations, which must be clarified.