German Red Cross

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German Red Cross
legal form non-profit registered association
founding January 25, 1921 in Bamberg
founder Joachim von Winterfeldt-Menkin
Seat Berlin , Germany ( coordinates: 52 ° 25 ′ 48 ″  N , 13 ° 17 ′ 22.4 ″  E )
purpose Humanitarian international law , humanitarian aid , social work
Chair Gerda Hasselfeldt , President
Managing directors Christian Reuter, General Secretary
sales 150,581 thousand euros (2019)
Employees 180,309 (December 31, 2019 )
Volunteers 443,334 (December 31, 2019 )
Members 2,785,112 (December 31, 2019 )
German Red Cross - round logo (in the outdated Gill Sans font , currently the "new Helvetica" is used)
" Samaritans " at the DRK Presidium in Berlin-Lichterfelde

The German Red Cross ( DRK ) is the National Red Cross Society in Germany according to the Geneva Agreement and as such part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement with its headquarters in Berlin . The DRK has more than three million members.

As one of the large welfare associations in Germany, the DRK is the leading association for independent welfare .


The German Red Cross acts according to the seven principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement . The principles were adopted by the XX. International Red Cross Conference proclaimed in Vienna in 1965.

The seven principles are:

  • humanity
  • impartiality
  • neutrality
  • independence
  • Voluntariness
  • unit
  • universality

Tasks and self-image

DRK emergency vehicles
DRK nursing home Pieschen in Dresden
DRK hospital bed (around 1900)
Old DRK medical kit K50

Civil and disaster control

The Red Cross participates in civil protection and disaster control in Germany by providing staff from the local readiness groups as well as vehicles and materials. In the event of a disaster, the DRK has committed itself to using all available helpers and all material, not just the vehicles / material allocated by the federal and state governments. In addition to training for purposes such as blood donation and medical security services , training in the Red Cross standby services also includes training that can be assigned to disaster protection, which is divided into comprehensive basic training and special specialist training. The cooperation in disaster control varies from country to country. There are, for example, relief trains that are set up regionally, deployment units that are set up across a district, as well as various rapid action groups, some of which are made up of local personnel only, but also some regionally. However, all of these units can be used nationwide and also internationally in areas near the EU border.

Welfare and social work

The German Red Cross is a recognized umbrella organization for voluntary welfare and, with its facilities, offers and services, is active nationwide in all fields of welfare and social work with both volunteer and full-time workers. In its advocacy function, the DRK represents the interests of the weakest and most vulnerable population groups (most vulnerable) .

Self-claims of the welfare and social work of the DRK

In all fields of welfare and social work, the DRK is obliged, due to its self-image and its principles, to use the funds made available to it in the form of donations or public grants effectively and economically efficiently in welfare care. This requires a permanent adjustment of its structures and processes to current requirements and conditions as well as the development of own concepts that anticipate expected social and societal changes and prepare the DRK for new challenges. The DRK welfare and social work continues the welfare state principle of subsidiarity by - as far as possible - helping people to help themselves and thus promoting independence and responsibility.

Tasks of welfare and social work

The welfare and social work of the DRK implements the tasks that the DRK has set itself in its statutes, namely

  • the prevention and alleviation of human suffering resulting from illness, injury, disability or disadvantage;
  • promoting health, welfare and education;
  • promoting work with children and young people;
  • the dissemination of knowledge about international humanitarian law and about
  • the principles and ideals of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

In addition, the welfare and social work of the DRK works towards achieving the goals of the current DRK strategy “Help people, shape society”.

At the federal level , in close cooperation with the nineteen DRK regional associations and the Association of Sisterhoods of the German Red Cross, all issues relating to social and welfare work of the DRK are analyzed and processed and all related tasks are performed:

  • advocacy at the federal level and towards the EU
  • advising the DRK member associations and qualifying managers and specialists through offers of advanced training
  • the development and acquisition of funds from the budgets of the EU and the federal government as well as third-party and own funds for the financing of permanent tasks and innovative pilot projects
  • the guarantee that all offers of the DRK cooperate with the communities and other institutions, as these are part of the social environment. This also ensures that local resources are used, the need for action is recognized at an early stage and needs-based help is offered.
  • Representation of the DRK in the Federal Association of Independent Welfare Care , in the German Association for Public and Private Welfare and in many other professional associations.

Professionally, welfare and social work is assigned to the youth and welfare sector and is divided into the following areas:

Child, youth and family aid

The child, youth and family aid is part of the welfare and social work of the DRK. The DRK is active in all fields of child, youth and family aid. As an association of voluntary welfare work at the federal level, the DRK is a recognized provider of free youth welfare according to Section 75 of Book VIII of the Social Code . At the federal level, the DRK performs the central tasks in the field of the federal child and youth plan and family support and stimulates technical developments with nationwide model projects.

In child, youth and family aid, the DRK

  • 1,406 day-care centers with 101,012 girls and boys
  • 70 institutions for home education for 2,000 children and adolescents and for approx. 5,000 children and adolescents outpatient support for upbringing
  • 50 pregnancy and family counseling centers, with 70,000 people seeking advice every year
  • Family education offers for 45,000 mothers and fathers every year
  • 200 facilities for youth social work in schools, youth houses, in youth professional help or as street work
Elderly care and health promotion

Care for the elderly and health promotion are part of the welfare and social work of the DRK. At the federal level, care for the elderly and health promotion are strategically developed, technical statements and basic positions are drawn up and evaluated, and the member associations are supported in their implementation.

The DRK unites in elderly care

  • more than 500 inpatient care facilities with around 40,000 places
  • more than 500 outpatient care services
  • 532 home emergency services
  • 370 meal services
  • 35 geriatric care schools
Welfare and social engagement

The basics of welfare, voluntary social work and voluntary services are part of the welfare and social work of the DRK. At the federal level, fundamental issues of welfare work are processed and evaluated at national and European level. In addition, the member associations are advised on recruiting and deploying volunteers.

In the area of ​​voluntary services, the DRK provides:

  • around 11,500 places in the voluntary social year
  • around 2,800 places in the federal voluntary service
  • around 430 places in the international voluntary services

Get involved in welfare and social work

  • more than 20,000 people volunteer, mainly for children, for refugees, for the elderly and people in social or personal emergencies.
  • They provide voluntary help, for example by getting involved in day care, visiting services or clothing stores,
  • Welcoming refugees and helping them to find their way in everyday life,
  • Offer gymnastics, dancing, yoga, water aerobics and day trips and thus reach over 300,000 people per week,
  • Accompany people in their last phase of life,
  • Caring for people with dementia in groups or at home,
  • relieve young parents through babysitting services,
  • support educationally disadvantaged young people as sponsors in the transition from school to work and
  • Lead self-help groups.
Migration, intercultural opening and inclusion

Services and offers in the field of migration, intercultural opening and inclusion are part of the welfare and social work of the DRK. At the federal level, the DRK works for and with socially disadvantaged people, people with disabilities and people with a migration background in order to promote equal opportunities and the appreciation of diversity and individuality.

The DRK also addresses people with a migration background:

  • diverse integration projects on site,
  • Measures for the intercultural opening of the association are implemented at more than 65 locations,
  • In more than 150 counseling centers for migrants, refugees and returnees, more than 30,000 counseling sessions took place every year.

The DRK offers people with disabilities:

  • 172 dormitories and shared apartments with around 5,300 places,
  • 35 family support services that advise around 8,500 disabled people and their families
  • 28 workshops for disabled people with around 11,300 places as well
  • 27 day care centers for people with a particularly high need for support with around 550 places,
  • 32 care associations that look after around 1,300 people
  • almost nationwide transport services.

For people in personal and social emergency the DRK has:

  • 230 clothes shops and 600 clothes distribution points,
  • 50 furniture distribution points,
  • 100 emergency shelters and homes for homeless people.
Youth Red Cross

The Youth Red Cross is the self-responsible youth association in the German Red Cross and

  • has around 110,000 members aged 6 to 27 in around 5,500 groups nationwide
  • maintains school medical services at more than 2,500 schools
  • is committed to health, social justice, peace, international understanding and environmental protection


The Association of Sisterhoods (VdS) is responsible for all questions relating to occupational health and child care and their training in the DRK. Major sponsors of hospital societies are, for example, the DRK Sisterhood of the Bavarian Red Cross, the DRK Sisterhood Berlin and the DRK regional associations of Rhineland-Palatinate, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia.

DRK tracing service

Logo of the DRK tracing service. Today, the Munich location is responsible nationwide for the search service in the context of World War II and international searches.

In May 1945, when the Second World War ended and the Third Reich collapsed in the Flensburg suburb of Mürwik , the Wehrmacht officers Helmut Schelsky and Kurt Wagner , who had reached Flensburg with their troops from East Prussia across the Baltic Sea , founded a tracing service there in the Fördestadt. They teamed up with Joachim Leusch from the maritime transport control center of the Marine-OK Ost and two employees from the refugee control center in Kiel and opened a "DRK, refugee aid organization, investigation service, central search card index" in Grosse Strasse . - The DRK tracing service was created at a time when the DRK was dissolved by the occupying powers. It was not until 1952 that the DRK was reassigned to the League of Red Cross Societies .

In September 1945 the Flensburg tracing service was relocated to Hamburg. In June 1945, a tracing service was also set up in Munich. The Hamburg and Munich tracing service were merged in 1950 in the DRK tracing service for the Federal Republic. In those years the Müchnen tracing service was located in Wagmüllerstraße, a cross street to Prinzregentenstraße , at the height of the building complex that was being built for the Luftgau Süd. Kurt Wagner headed the DRK tracing service from 1946 to 1976.

An urgent task of the DRK tracing service was to bring bombed out, missing, abducted, displaced people back to their families or to find homes for orphans. The tracing service also prepared reports on the fate of missing German soldiers in World War II, in which the course of the war in the area and at the time of their disappearance was described. At the end of 1957 these missing persons picture lists went to print, which finally comprised 199 volumes (187 of them with 1.4 million names and over 900,000 pictures). There were also 26 volumes on civilians missing. Fate can still be clarified today through the gradual opening and release of archives of the eastern states. We work continuously with the German Office (WASt) . In 1955, the Association of Returnees, Prisoners of War and Members of Missing Persons in Germany took over an image collection of 45,000 missing people .

From September 13, 1948 to 1963, a tracing service liaison office was set up at the radio station RIAS in cooperation with the German Red Cross, refugee relief organization, investigation service, central tracing file (later DRK tracing service). Almost 100,000 reports were sent by the NWDR and RIAS, which enabled over 7,000 people to be brought together.

Over the years until today, the DRK tracing service, which is the oldest and largest of its kind in Germany, has helped in millions of cases. Since it was founded, the tracing service has brought together more than 16 million people, clarified more than 500,000 children's fates and informed around 600,000 people worldwide about the whereabouts of relatives in conflicts and disasters.

The headquarters of the DRK tracing service (tracing service control center, directorate of the official information office (D / AAB)) is today located at the General Secretariat of the German Red Cross in Berlin. The processing of search queries from all over the world and other issues related to the task is - depending on the area of ​​responsibility - carried out in the two branch offices (DRK Tracing Service Hamburg and DRK Tracing Service Munich) in cooperation with the DRK regional and district associations. The current spectrum of the DRK tracing service essentially comprises the task areas of deployment in cases of major damage and disaster, investigations, family reunification, departures as well as the help and advice service for relatives, missing and injured persons.

The search for missing persons from the Second World War is to be discontinued in 2023, as the need to clarify the fate of missing persons from the war is increasingly dwindling.

Dissemination work

It is an obligation of the DRK to ensure that knowledge about international humanitarian law , in particular the Geneva Conventions with their additional protocols and the principles and ideals of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, is disseminated. This obligation arises from:

The district and state associations appoint convention officers to carry out this task . The DRK has a specialist committee on international humanitarian law , which performs the function of the German committee on international humanitarian law . Further means of dissemination work are legal conferences on topics of international humanitarian law, training courses (e.g. DRK summer course in international humanitarian law) and publications (e.g. CD-ROM manual dissemination work). The cooperation is u. a. conducted with the Institute for Peacekeeping Law and International Humanitarian Law .

The actor Ludwig Trepte has been supporting the dissemination work of the German Red Cross in particular since August 2018.

International aid

According to the principle of universality, every national society is obliged to offer help in emergencies to sister societies as well as it can. The international aid is coordinated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) ( International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement ) in cases of natural disasters or by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in cases of wars and conflicts. Both organizations are based in Geneva.

On-site cooperation always takes place in close coordination with the respective national company and - through this - the local state institutions. A system of trained disaster delegates who immediately get their own picture of the situation after damage occurs ensures that aid is networked around the world and optimally tailored to the needs of the country concerned within a few hours and days after the disaster.

When it comes to foreign aid, the DRK is one of the most efficient national organizations in the world. It employs an average of 150 people in the headquarters and in around 50 locations all over the world. Aid is provided as prevention, in the acute phase and in reconstruction, as well as in long-term aid and development projects. As a means of helping people to help themselves, the DRK offers services in particular to establish and strengthen local disaster control structures. In the acute phase, the DRK specializes in supplying practically all the materials required, in the mass treatment of water, disease prevention through sanitary facilities and medical aid. In so-called Emergency Response Units (ERU), all the necessary materials are kept in easy-to-transport packaging and can be used within 24 hours. In the logistics center in Berlin-Schönefeld, for example, material is stored for the construction of an entire hospital, which is designed for the medical care of up to 250,000 people, for its next use. The DRK has also specialized in rebuilding after extreme destruction. After disasters like the tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan and similar events, the goal is not only to restore homes, schools and health infrastructure as quickly as possible. It is just as important that the people affected by the disaster are directly involved in the reconstruction in order to give them and their surviving family members a new perspective in life.

At the end of 2009, the DRK officially declared the reconstruction work after the damage caused by the devastating tsunami in South Asia in December 2004 to be over. All donations received, amounting to over 135 million euros, were fully implemented.

Structure and structure

The DRK is a federally structured member association with far-reaching legal independence of the subdivisions. The legal holder of the name and the symbol "German Red Cross" is the DRK e. V. (Federal Association). The federal statutes regulate membership and the resulting rights and obligations in the DRK.

The second level are the regional associations and the association of sororities. The district associations and sororities are found in the third organizational level. The most direct connection to the base of the DRK, the needy people, the volunteers and the members, is established through the local associations. The personal memberships (approx. 4 million members) exist at the level of the local or district associations.

legal form

The German Red Cross e. V. (Federal Association) is a registered association . The seat of the General Secretariat has been Berlin since the 1990 decision on the relocation . The recognition that is valid today as a national Red Cross Society was issued by the Federal Government on March 6, 1991 and on May 1, 1991 by the ICRC after German reunification and the accession of the regional associations of the former DRK of the GDR .

The member associations of the DRK, with the exception of the Bavarian Red Cross (BRK), are also registered associations. The same applies to their direct member associations. Spin-offs of fields of activity - for example blood donation services, emergency services , nursing homes and hospitals - from the associations were carried out in the form of non-profit limited liability companies. However, the owners are still the DRK associations. An exception is the Bavarian Red Cross , which was granted the status of a public corporation in 1921 and after the Second World War on July 27, 1945 . The BRK is organized as a whole in a corporation under public law; the district and district associations therefore have no legal independence from the regional association. The State Association of Hesse, which was initially also a public corporation, has since abandoned this status and adopted that of a registered association.

The DRK is a corporation under private law and its international umbrella organization is referred to as a non-governmental organization , but the DRK performs the tasks of the National Red Cross Society in Germany as prescribed by international law . It is a mixture of a private and a state organization.

On December 5, 2008, the German Bundestag passed the law on the German Red Cross and other voluntary aid societies within the meaning of the Geneva Red Cross Agreement ( DRK law ); With the announcement in the Federal Law Gazette, this law has been in force since December 11, 2008. It replaces a DRK law dating from 1937, which was outdated in most respects.

The DRK law describes the function of the German Red Cross as the “National Society of the Red Cross in the Federal Republic of Germany and a voluntary aid company of the German authorities in the humanitarian field” and defines the statutory duties that the DRK has to fulfill nationwide. The assignment of further tasks by federal or state law remains expressly possible. Finally, the law ensures the protection of the symbol of the Red Cross and gives the DRK the right to use this symbol. It is also important that a further paragraph regulates the legal status and tasks of the Johanniter Accident Aid and the Malteser Aid Service, which are also national aid organizations under the Geneva Conventions. In contrast to the comprehensive legal status of the DRK in the humanitarian field, the tasks of JUH and MHD according to the law are limited to the authorization to support the medical service of the Bundeswehr. The exemption of the DRK from court fees, which was often controversial in the past, as it had resulted from the old DRK law, has now finally been removed; the new DRK law no longer has any comparable regulation.

Member associations

Member associations of the DRK e. V. are the 19 regional associations:

and the

  • Association of sororities of the German Red Cross (VdS)

The regional associations are in turn around 480 district associations, while the VdS consists of 31 DRK sororities.


The communities of the German Red Cross represent the voluntary basis of the aid organization. Most of the active members of the DRK are organized in them.

Are considered communities

There are also numerous other forms of voluntary work outside of the Red Cross communities in the German Red Cross. For example, these are working groups and self-help groups for patients or volunteer work in the home emergency or rescue service.


The DRK is a member of the Aktion Mensch social lottery .


The services of the DRK are provided in the non-material area by 400,000 volunteers and in the area of ​​refinanced services by 140,000 employees. The DRK has a federal structure: All 520 district associations, the regional associations and the federal association are legally independent, but work with statutes that enable controls and, in special cases, interventions at the respective upper level. For this reason there is no summarized balance sheet from which all important figures can be recognized immediately. From a certain level of sales revenue, the breakdown is required to be checked by the auditor. The annual financial statements must in any case be submitted to the supervisory association (state or federal association). Due to the legal publication requirements, the balance sheets of the DRK GmbH, including the blood donation services, can be viewed directly in the electronic Federal Gazette .

The turnover of the blood donation services is around 500 million euros (see Federal Gazette), the turnover achieved by the DRK rescue services is more than 700 million euros nationwide. Total sales are estimated at around EUR 4.5 billion.

The financing of the DRK's services can be roughly presented as follows:

Financing of the ideal area

The ideational tasks include, for example, provisions for disaster control, the training of volunteers and the coordination of voluntary work, the work of the Youth Red Cross with 100,000 young members, equipment for volunteer work, disaster relief operations at home and abroad, projects for people in special emergency situations that is not covered by government welfare. For this purpose, the DRK receives membership fees from its four million members at the level of the district and local associations. In addition, donations are raised for this ideational work and, in particular, earmarked for direct aid in global catastrophes, for example. Funds are also made available here by the federal and state governments for special tasks such as special vehicles for disaster control.

The DRK general secretariat in Berlin was awarded the DZI donation seal for its economical and statutory use of donations .

Refinanced services

Refinanced services are understood to mean all services that result from the Social Security Code and from any other exchange of services. These include health care services, nursing services, facilities for children and young people, facilities and services for people with disabilities, social counseling centers, emergency rescue and ensuring the blood supply. These services are financed by service fees (contributions and care rates) and public grants or state subsidies. They come from health insurance companies, long-term care insurance companies, the service users themselves - for example first aid training - and the federal government, the federal states and municipalities. The same rules apply to all private and non-profit providers. For special projects - for example for people with disabilities - grants can also be requested from the social lotteries. The subdivisions of the DRK are, like all non-profit organizations, exempt from income taxes .


Curt von Pfuel , chairman of the Central Committee of the German Red Cross Associations during the First World War
General von Pfuel (1849–1936)

Development until 1921

The battle of Solferino on June 24, 1859, with Henry Dunant as the father of the idea, is generally considered to be the origin of the international Red Cross movement .

As early as 1859, the then Grand Duchess Luise of Baden founded the Baden Women's Association (see: Women's Association ) as a forerunner of the Red Cross sororities .

In the federal states of the German Reich, Red Cross communities were initially founded relatively independently of one another, mostly under different names. On November 12, 1863, the Württemberg Medical Association was founded as the first National Red Cross Society in what would later become the Reich, followed by the Association for the Care of Wounded Warriors in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg in January 1864 . In the beginning, a large part of the work of the Red Cross was mainly carried out by women ( Patriotic Women's Association ).

In Saxony, for example, after the war of 1866, the Sorbian merchant wife Marie Simon, under the protection of Princess Carola, founded the association of Albertine women (named after Carola's husband, Prince Albert), which later gradually assumed the name of the Red Cross Sisters. When the official renaming took place is unclear, since the names also appear in parallel. In addition to the main concern of the association, the care of wounded soldiers, the sisters were also active in civilian nursing .

As an umbrella organization, twelve regional associations founded the Central Committee of German Associations for the Care of Wounded and Sick Warriors in the Field on April 20, 1869 , which was named Central Committee of German Associations of the Red Cross from December 1879 and had its seat in Berlin.

Under the umbrella of the Red Cross, the Deutscher Kriegerbund founded additional voluntary so-called medical columns , of which more than 900 existed in 1900. In response to a request from Bayreuth around 1910, the Central Committee gave the information that social democratic sentiments were incompatible with membership of the Voluntary Medical Corps.

Chairman of the Central Committee during the First World War was General Curt Pfuel .

The DRK in the Weimar Republic

On January 25, 1921, the German Red Cross was founded in Bamberg under its first President Joachim von Winterfeldt-Menkin , as a registered, legally responsible association under civil law and umbrella organization of the respective state associations (men's and women's associations) of the Red Cross, whose independence through the merger was only marginally affected.

The reorganization of the German Red Cross societies had become necessary in order to counter numerous attacks from outside and internal organizational problems with a concept of organizational unity. In particular, the Versailles Peace Treaty of June 28, 1919 plunged the German Red Cross associations into a serious crisis.

The disarmament of Germany and the demilitarization of public life endangered the existence of large parts of the organizations whose main task up to now has been the organized military preparation for military medical service. The statutes of 1921 attempted to take these problems into account and to give the German Red Cross an international and predominantly peace-oriented basis of legitimation. In addition it says in general in paragraph 2:

"The German Red Cross is a member of the international community of the Red Cross and, as such, is active in all areas of work, the purpose of which is to prevent, combat and alleviate health, economic and moral hardship". After a list of mainly charitable and welfare-oriented peace tasks, the last point is the welfare of the wounded, whereby the international connection as a national Red Cross society was emphasized here in relation to § 25 of the League of Nations Act.

With this reorientation towards peace work and joining the International League of Red Cross Societies , the German Red Cross was able to establish itself as a welfare organization in the Weimar Republic . At the same time, the traditional task of the military medical service and the related military organizational structure were retained. The demilitarization of the Red Cross propagated after 1918 only took place superficially and could be reversed at any time. The traditionally monarchist-conservative executives in the Red Cross also survived.

The DRK during National Socialism

DRK Presidium in Babelsberg
Carl Eduard Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha , President of the German Red Cross speaks on November 11, 1936 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the DRK
DRK bandage parcel from the Nazi era with the organization's logo at the time

The time of National Socialism in the DRK was characterized by a strong integration with National Socialist organizations and personalities. The synchronization of the DRK began shortly after the so-called seizure of power in 1933. Personnel changes and new legal foundations heralded a change in the self-image of the DRK. On November 29, 1933, a new statute came into force. President Joachim von Winterfeldt-Menkin , who has been in office since 1921, announced his resignation on June 8, 1933, which became effective on November 29. During his presidency, the DRK was accepted as a member of the International Red Cross - and thus, after the First World War, back into the international community. However, Jewish Red Cross members have already been excluded, the Hitler salute introduced and the principle of neutrality largely abandoned. He was succeeded on November 30, 1933 by SA honorary leader Carl-Eduard Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha . His deputy president, the head of the SA medical services, Paul Hocheisen , was appointed commissioner for the synchronization of the DRK by the deputy of the Führer, Rudolf Hess , at the beginning of the Hitler dictatorship . It was also Hocheisen who subsequently carried out the actual official business.

The German Red Cross experienced another decisive change four years later with the appointment of SS- Oberführer Ernst-Robert Grawitz as deputy president. Grawitz, who in his function as Reich SS doctor was largely responsible for the euthanasia crimes and human experiments in National Socialist concentration camps , completely redesigned the German Red Cross in line with the ' Führer principle '. The result was a DRK law that was passed on December 9, 1937 and on the basis of which Grawitz was appointed managing president by the DRK patron, Adolf Hitler . With the new statutes of December 24th of the same year, the DRK bound itself even more closely to the 'Führer', the state and the NSDAP . The new centralized organizational structure with the Presidium at the top also made it possible for the DRK to become even more effective for mobilization , which has become one of the most important tasks of the aid organization since the creation of the Wehrmacht in 1935.

Even before the statutes and the law on the German Red Cross were changed, the Presidium in Berlin was redesigned by means of a house directive; In addition to the main adjudicatory office, seven other offices were formed:

  • Leadership position (I); Head: Ferdinand Berning
  • Personnel Office (II); Direction Ferdinand Berning, Erich Kahle, Hermann Müller
  • Liaison office to the Reichsfrauenführer (III); Head: Gertrud Scholtz-Klink
  • Administrative Office (IV); Head: Oswald Pohl u. a.
  • Press and Advertising Office (V); Head: Otto Reiners
  • Office of Sororities (VI); Head: Otto Stahl
  • Foreign Service Office (VII); Head: Walther Georg Hartmann
  • Office S: The special commissioner in the war (since the beginning of the war in 1939); Head: Felix Grüneisen

In addition to the close relationship with the party, by 1938 at the latest, a strong, albeit largely informal, connection to the SS became apparent, which was particularly noticeable in the overlapping of personnel in leading positions in both organizations. Of the 29 members of the entire DRK leadership, 18 were high-ranking SS leaders. In addition to the Reich doctor SS Ernst-Robert Grawitz, the then head of administration SS, Oswald Pohl , to whom the concentration camps were subordinate from 1942 , found a sideline as authorized representative for all property matters of the DRK . In this function, Pohl was able to approve loans amounting to millions for the SS: DRK funds that were raised through the SS-Spargemeinschaft e. V. flowed to the SS, among other things, for the establishment of commercial enterprises.

On April 26, 1945, Soviet troops occupied the DRK main camp and the DRK presidium in Babelsberg . At this point in time, the SS leadership had already fled. Ernst-Robert Grawitz had blown himself up with his family in his apartment three days earlier. The rest of the DRK leadership set up a temporary committee and tried to get the organization to continue with the Allies . Heinrich Himmler's personal physician , Karl Gebhardt , later claimed at the Nuremberg Medical Trial that he had served as President of the German Red Cross in the last days of the Second World War; this was refuted after Gebhardt's death. He was, despite this protection allegation of war crimes and crimes against humanity on August 20, 1947 sentenced to train and hanged on June 2, 1948th

The DRK after 1945

The DRK was dissolved on September 19, 1945 in the Soviet and in the French occupation zone on January 3, 1946. In the American occupation zone (today the northern part of Baden-Württemberg , Bremen , Hesse and Bavaria ), on the other hand, the DRK was able to continue to work in its previous legal form of a corporation under public law , while in the British zone and later also in the French zone DRK state associations were newly founded as registered associations . An exception was initially the Saar area , where the previous DRK continued its work under the name Saarland Medical and Emergency Service (SSHD). The German Red Cross in the Federal Republic of Germany V. as a federal association was re-established on February 4, 1950 in Koblenz. On February 26, 1951, it was recognized by the German federal government as the national Red Cross Society of the Federal Republic of Germany. This recognition was revised in a letter dated September 27, 1956, due to the establishment of the Bundeswehr . Recognition by the ICRC took place on June 26, 1952.

The Saarland medical and emergency service was determined by the inclusion of the Saarland in the Federal Republic of Germany as a State Association Saarland again part of the German Red Cross.

In Germany there are currently (as of 2018) more than three million members (active / promoting) and employees working for the Red Cross.

DRK in the GDR

The German Red Cross of the GDR was founded on October 23, 1952. On November 9, 1954, it was recognized as a national Red Cross Society by the ICRC and a little later was accepted into the League of Red Cross Societies. The central committee and the presidium as the governing bodies had their seat in Dresden . Its most important tasks were the disaster and civil protection , the dissemination work, the implementation of the rescue service in the form of the rapid medical aid (SMH) and health education. In the area of ​​civil protection, the DRK was subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. Other fields of activity were care and care for the elderly, blood donation, tracing services and water, mountain and mine rescue services. The president of the DRK of the GDR from its establishment until 1981 was the military doctor Werner Ludwig .

ID: Friend of the DRK of the GDR

In addition to the tasks that arose directly or indirectly from its activities as a national society of the Red Cross, the DRK in the GDR also performed those of a mass organization . Like residential areas, every larger company had a basic DRK organization, of which there were around 14,000 nationwide. City district, district and district committees existed as additional organizational levels above the basic organizations. DRK work was regarded as a “social activity”, it was valued as equal to professional work and one was partly paid for training and time off work. The number of adult members was around 650,000 in the mid-1980s.

There was also the form of the supportive circle of friends for non-members, who could support the work of the organization with a small monthly fee.

At the beginning of the membership there was free training to become a health worker ( first aid ), and those who wanted could also attend a course for home nursing. The assignments took place at theater and concert performances, major events especially in sports, hospitals, nursing homes or the DRK train station service. A small amount of compensation was paid. The DRK of the GDR had its own magazine (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) . Albert Schweitzer was a role model , but also the tradition of the working-class Samaritans .

The following personalities were President of the German Red Cross of the GDR:

Period president
1952-1981 Werner Ludwig
1981-1986 Siegfried Akkermann
1987-1989 Gerhard Rehwald
1989-1990 Karl-Heinz Borgwardt
1990 Christoph Brückner

German-German Red Cross talks and reunification

Red Cross contacts between the two Red Cross societies have been ongoing. Shortly after the founding of the DRK of the GDR, its President Werner Ludwig sought contact with his West German colleague, the DRK President Heinrich Weitz, and suggested cooperation between the two German Red Cross organizations. A first meeting took place on July 7, 1954. Initially, a cooperation in the area of ​​the tracing service could be agreed. Between 1954 and 1957 there were around 20 meetings between the two societies.

DRK helper at Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station, Berlin (Image: Federal Archives)

Despite the construction of the wall , the contact did not break, even if it became more difficult. The Red Cross of both states was involved in consultations to implement the pass agreement and to facilitate family reunification. The GDR's DRK did not fail to denigrate , for example, the West German Red Cross leadership under President Hans Ritter von Lex and his vice-president, Walter Bargatzky . But despite the significant cooling of the German-German Red Cross talks, further meetings took place at a high level. In many cases, the International Red Cross Conferences also offered opportunities to exchange ideas between the two societies.

There has been a youth exchange between the two youth organizations since the early 1980s. A first group from the GDR was able to take part in the international first aid tournament in Hamburg in 1984 .

The fall of the wall brought about great changes for both societies. The incumbent Red Cross Presidents, Botho Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein on the West German side and Christoph Brückner on the East German side since April 7, 1990 , worked confidently and in a forward-looking manner towards a new, all-German Red Cross organization.

With the agreement on the establishment of the unity of the DRK of November 8, 1990 and the resolution of the general assembly on October 6, 1990 to dissolve the DRK of the GDR on December 31, 1990, its history as the umbrella organization of the Red Cross organizations in the GDR ended; the previously newly founded DRK regional associations in Berlin (East), Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia remained in place. At a joint federal assembly of the DRK on November 9, 1990, these new regional associations were accepted into the German Red Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany with effect from January 1, 1991.

President of the DRC

Gerda Hasselfeldt, President of the German Red Cross since 2017
Period president
1921-1933 Joachim von Winterfeldt-Menkin
1933-1945 Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
1950-1952 Otto Gessler
1952-1961 Heinrich Weitz
1961-1967 Hans Ritter von Lex
1967-1982 Walter Bargatzky
1982-1994 Botho Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein
1994-2003 Knut Ipsen
2003-2017 Rudolf Seiters
since 2017 Gerda Hasselfeldt

General Secretaries of the German Red Cross


Until the end of the Second World War

Period Secretary General
1887-1903 Otto Liebner
1903-1920 Ludwig Kimmle
1920-1921 Thode
1921-1924 Paul Draudt
1924-1934 Wolfram Freiherr von Rotenhan
1935-1945 Ernst-Robert Grawitz ("Executive President")

General Secretaries of the Red Cross in the GDR

Period Secretary General
1953-1954 Friedrich Mehlmack
1954-1960 Hans Schwöbel
1960-1966 Waldemar Röhricht
1966-1990 Johannes stallion
1990 Karl-Heinz Borgwardt

General Secretaries of the DRK in the FRG

Period Secretary General
1950-1957 Walther Georg Hartmann
1958-1976 Anton Schlögel
1976-1984 Hans-Jürgen Schilling
1984-1990 Hermann Schmitz-Wenzel
1990-2001 Johann Wilhelm Römer
2001-2002 Hans-Jürgen Schilling
2003-2014 Clemens Graf von Waldburg-Zeil
since 2015 Christian Reuter


The main point of criticism of the German Red Cross after the Second World War is that the very strong federal structure makes it much more difficult to control and steer from top to bottom. This regularly favors scandals in subdivisions, for example the "blood bag scandal" (1999) at a blood donation service, where corrupt executives bought overpriced medical products or the illicit work in the rescue service uncovered by the district newspaper Syke 2006 and Monitor 2007. On the other hand, the federal structure also has advantages because the structure can be better adapted to local conditions.

This criticism, as well as the need to keep pace with the generally financed services in the health care system, in nursing and increasingly in the area of ​​the rescue service, was the trigger for a reorganization. Under the title Strategy 2010plus , a new federal statute in March 2009 (entry in the register of associations 11/09) regulates the responsibilities and rights of intervention of the federal, state and district levels and regulates a management system for the overarching implementation of common standards. Further elements of the reorganization are the separation between supervision and executive and the creation of transparency at all levels. The aim is to concentrate on the ideal orientation and the steering ability of the entire association.

2018, the DRC by the jury was Big Brother Awards criticized for cooperation with the Cevisio software and systems GmbH & Co. KG , the software Cevisio QMM for the neighborhood management of refugee centers have developed that completely ignore the fundamental rights refugee and at every Step guard. Laudator Thilo Weichert said: “With this software, movements to and on the premises, food served, medical checks such as X-ray, blood and stool examinations, family relationships, religious and ethnic affiliations and much more are recorded and saved. The data enable total control of the refugees and clearly show the many levels on which privacy can be violated. [...] The software is not only worthy of the award because of the possible data protection violations with it, but above all because of the image of man behind it. Refugees are people, not things. "

Other facilities

See also

Portal: Red Cross  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of the Red Cross


  • Andrea Brinckmann: Constantly changing. The history of the Red Cross in Hamburg from 1864 to 1990 , Edition Temmen , Bremen 2014, ISBN 978-3-8378-2029-4 .
  • Christian Johann [Hrsg.]: DRK law: hand commentary. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2019, ISBN 978-3-8487-1758-3 .
  • Ludwig Kimmle: The German Red Cross - Origin, development and services of the association organizations since the conclusion of the Geneva Convention i. J. 1864 , Volume I. Central Committee of the German Red Cross Associations, Regional Red Cross Associations. Berlin 1910.
  • Heiner Lichtenstein: Adapted and loyal. The Red Cross in the “Third Reich”. Bund-Verlag, Cologne 1988, ISBN 3-7663-0933-1 .
  • Klaus Mittermaier: What is missing ... - The work of the German tracing service. Links Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-86153-256-5 .
  • Birgitt Morgenbrod, Stephanie Merkenich: The German Red Cross under the Nazi dictatorship 1933 to 1945. Verlag Schoeningh, 2008, ISBN 978-3-506-76529-1 .
  • Dieter Riesenberger : The German Red Cross. A story 1864–1990. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2002, ISBN 3-506-77260-0 .
  • Dieter Riesenberger: The German Red Cross, Konrad Adenauer and the prisoner of war problem: the repatriation of German prisoners of war from the Soviet Union (1952–1955) . Donat, Bremen 1994, ISBN 3-924444-82-X .
  • Stefan Schomann: In the sign of humanity: the past and present of the German Red Cross . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-421-04609-3 .
  • Horst Seithe, Frauke Hagemann: The German Red Cross in the Third Reich (1933-1939). With an outline of its history in the Weimar Republic. Mabuse-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-925499-69-5 .
  • Ludger Tewes: The Red Cross Sisters in National Socialism and in the Second World War (1933-1945), in: Red Cross Sisters The Nursing Professionals Humanity The Idea Lives, ed. v. Association of the sororities of the German Red Cross e. V. Verlag Olms Hildesheim 2007, pp. 97-122, ISBN 978-3-487-08467-1 .
  • Ludger Tewes : Red Cross Sisters, their use in the mobile medical service of the Wehrmacht 1939-1945, (= War in History 93) , Verlag Schoeningh, Paderborn 2016, ISBN 978-3-506-78257-1 .
  • Kurt W. Böhme: We are looking for ... The dramatic history of the tracing service. Munich 1970.
  • Christina Wildenauer, Gabriele Rössler: Humanity in the social market - The principles of the Red Cross . Ed .: Christina Wildenauer. VS - Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-15579-1 .

Web links

Commons : German Red Cross  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f Yearbook 2019 . German Red Cross e. V., Berlin, May 22nd, 2020, accessed on May 22nd, 2020 (PDF; 8 MB).
  2. ^ Principle paper of the DRK welfare organization, available at:
  3. ^ Website of the youth and welfare department of the DRK:
  4. Website of the child, youth and family aid of the DRK:
  5. a b c d e DRK yearbook 2015– 365 days of help according to the measure of need, p. 53. Available at: (PDF)
  6. In the various sources, the time is not specified exactly and there is a contradiction whether the time of foundation was shortly before the end of the war or shortly after. See DRK tracing service is 70 years old. 50 million fates in one card index as well as society for Schleswig-Holstein history. DRK tracing service ; Accessed on: April 2, 2018
  7. ^ Notes on the Hamburg Red Cross history , 7th edition, August 2015, p. 3; accessed on: April 2, 2018 (PDF)
  8. State Center for Civic Education Schleswig-Holstein (ed.): Der Untergang 1945 in Flensburg (lecture on January 10, 2012 by Gerhard Paul ), p. 10 .; The US-American Times reported in May 1945 quite unpathetically: "The German Reich died on a sunny morning on May 23rd near the Baltic Sea port of Flensburg, " which referred to Mürwik . See State Center for Civic Education Schleswig-Holstein (ed.): Der Untergang 1945 in Flensburg (lecture on January 10, 2012 by Gerhard Paul ), p. 21.
  9. ^ A b c Society for Schleswig-Holstein History. DRK Tracing Service , accessed on: April 2, 2018
  10. a b c Gerd Simon Chronology Wagner, Kurt (physicist) * June 29 , 1911 , page 7; accessed on: April 2, 2018; or: Mittermaier, Klaus: Is missing ... The work of the German tracing service. Berlin 2002, 20 f.
  11. a b Notes on the Hamburg Red Cross History , 7th edition, August 2015, p. 3; Retrieved on: April 2, 2018
  12. 60 years of tracing service. 2005 , p. 3; Retrieved on: April 2, 2018
  13. a b History of the DRK Tracing Service , accessed on: April 2, 2018
  14. History of ARD: 09/13/1948 - RIAS set up a search service . Accessed April 21, 2018.
  15. ^ WDR: July 30, 1947 - tracing service liaison office founded in Berlin . Accessed April 21, 2018.
  16. Flensburger Tageblatt : DRK Tracing Service: Refugees from Iraq: "If they get us, they'll behead us" , from: April 3, 2017; Retrieved on: April 2, 2018
  17. DRK tracing service is 70 years old. 50 million fates in one card index , accessed on: April 2, 2018
  18. Internet site of the DRK tracing service
  19. ↑ Tracing Service of the DRK has been alleviating human suffering for over 70 years. Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Home Affairs, July 5, 2017, accessed on August 29, 2018 .
  20. In the year 2023: Ministry of the Interior ends the search for missing persons from the Second World War. Berliner Zeitung , July 5, 2017, accessed on August 29, 2018 .
  21. a b Federal statute of the DRK , status 2009 (PDF; 230 kB)
  22. ^ Robert Heinsch; Katja Schöberl: The dissemination work strategy of the German Red Cross. In: Humanitarian International Law - Informationsschriften (HuV-I) 27 (2014), p. 108
  23. ^ DRK Expert Committee on Humanitarian International Law
  24. ^ Heike Spieker: Cooperation between the German Red Cross and the Institute for Peacekeeping Law and Humanitarian International Law. In: Current Armed Conflicts as Challenges to International Humanitarian Law. Berlin, Heidelberg 2011
  25. ^ The foreign aid of the German Red Cross
  26. The DRK's tsunami aid (offline)
  27. ^ Statutes of Aktion Mensch e. V.
  28. ^ Press release from the German Red Cross from 2002 ( memento of October 10, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), last seen on February 13, 2010.
  29. For example Karl-Heinz Boeßenecker: Central associations of the independent welfare organization . In: DRK yearbooks.
  30. Badische Zeitung, November 18, 2012, p. 30, Regio-Medien , ko : Grand Duchess Luise von Baden - The Mother of the Red Cross ; Reference to: Kurt Bickel: Luise von Baden - The forgotten mother of the Red Cross. DRK district association Karlsruhe (ed.). Karlsruhe 2011.
  31. Ludwig Kimmle: The German Red Cross , 1910, page 75 ff, 258 ff.
  32. Bernd Mayer : Bayreuth as it was. Flash lights from the city's history 1850–1950 . 2nd Edition. Gondrom, Bayreuth 1981, p. 67 f .
  33. ^ Daniel-Erasmus Khan: The Red Cross: History of a Humanitarian World Movement . CH Beck, February 28, 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-64713-0 , p. 47.
  34. Columbia University Press - Coordinating War Prisoner Relief: The American YMCA Expands WPA Work in Germany
  35. Columbia University Press - Kurt W. Pfuel
  36. ^ German Red Cross: Leaves of the German Red Cross. Issue 11/12, p. 515, Metzender Verlag, Berlin, 1933.
  37. ^ German Red Cross: General Report of the German Red Cross 1931–1933. Berlin 1934.
  38. Birgitt Morgenbrod, Stephanie Merkenich: The German Red Cross under the Nazi dictatorship 1933 to 1945. Verlag Schoeningh, 2008, ISBN 978-3-506-76529-1 , p. 140.
  39. Markus Wicke: SS and DRK: The Presidium of the German Red Cross in the National Socialist system of rule 1937–1945. Books on Demand, 2002, ISBN 3-8311-4125-8 , pp. 84 ff.
  40. ^ Dieter Riesenberger: The German Red Cross. A story 1864–1990. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2002, p. 378 f.
  41. ^ Birgit Morgenbrod, Stephanie Merkenich: The German Red Cross under Nazi dictatorship 1933-1945. Paderborn 2008, p. 419 ff.
  42. ^ Dieter Riesenberger: The German Red Cross. A story 1864–1990. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2002, p. 380.
  43. ^ Anton Schlögel: Rebuilding the German Red Cross after World War II. German Red Cross, Bonn 1983, p. 108.
  44. "acting president"
  45. ^ A b Dieter Riesenberger: The German Red Cross - A Story 1864-1990. Paderborn 2002, p. 490 ff.
  46. Jürgen Claßen: A sensitive topic: Contacts of a special kind. In: Das Jugendrotkreuz. Themed journal, supplement from Die Rotkreuz-Zeitung 7 / 8-1990. Bonn / Munich 1990, p. 22 f.
  47. ^ A b Dieter Riesenberger: The German Red Cross - A Story 1864-1990. Paderborn 2002, p. 638 ff.
  48. Contract between the German Red Cross of the German Democratic Republic, the DRK regional association Berlin (East), the DRK regional association Brandenburg, the DRK regional association Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the DRK regional association Saxony, the DRK regional association Saxony-Anhalt, the DRK regional association of Thuringia and the German Red Cross in the Federal Republic of Germany on establishing the unity of the German Red Cross. In: German Red Cross (Hrsg.): The future turned: The union of the two German Red Cross societies . Bonn 2000, p. 139 ff.
  49. ^ German Red Cross (ed.): The future turned: The union of the two German Red Cross societies . Bonn 2000.
  50. ^ German Red Cross, General Secretariat (ed.): Two societies - one thought: memories of DRK work in East and West 1945–1990 . Berlin 2006.
  51. ^ DRK Lauterberg, General Secretaries of the DRK ( Memento from December 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  52. ^ Gerhard Müller-Werthmann: Group of humanity. The business of the German Red Cross . With a contribution by Rupert Neudeck u. Werner Wolfsfellner. Hohenheim-Verlag, Hamburg 1985, ISBN 978-3-8147-0040-3 .