Everything began on the dawn of World War I when on August 6, 1914, H.R.H. Madame Grande Duchesse Marie-Adélaïde launched an impassioned appeal to the generosity of the Luxembourgish people. She said that they should be prepared to give their patronage to a humanitarian organization provided under article 11 of the First Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, a convention ratified by the Chamber of Deputies in 1907.
The president of the Chamber of Deputies
The president of the Council of State
The mayor of the city of Luxembourg.
The head of the army
The director of the Laboratory of Bacteriology
The government advisor in charge of the national allied countries and women combatants
Representatives from the main religions
The court marshal
They signed before a notary the constitutive act of the Luxembourg Red Cross. From October 1914, they received the acknowledgement of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Mayrisches, always conscious of not being locked into legal or symbolic acts, helped push this new society to launch its first challenge to suffering, death, and despair. To this end, they transformed their own home in Dudelange, now known as the Casino de l’Arbed (given as a donation to the Luxembourg Red Cross in 2007), into a war hospital. From this base, the Red Cross devoted themselves from 1914 to 1918 to bringing help, both material and morale, to the many injured and prisoners of the war who had to pass through our country.
When peace returned, people were unanimous in hoping never to have to resort to another war and the founders of the Luxembourg Red Cross saw the need to broaden their scope to peace missions, aiming to become an efficient instrument in the fight against the social evils of the time in the areas of health and welfare. This step was essential in developing the Luxembourg Red Cross in that it led to the passing of the law of August 16, 1923, which conferred a legal personality to our society and approved its statutes. Between 1921 and 1928, it was established that the objective of the Red Cross was peace.
The Luxembourg Red Cross’ affiliation with the League of Societies of the Red Cross, known as the International Federation of Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent since 1991, also took place in 1921. The law of 1923 laid the groundwork for the Red Cross to branch out to all municipalities in our country. It still provides the foundation from which the activities of the Red Cross have multiplied and are still multiplying to tackle as many issues and areas of human distress and suffering as possible.
Between 1928 and 1940, the social action of the Red Cross evolved, beginning a stage of great achievement around two central ideas: protecting mother and child and training district nurses required for implementing preventive healthcare. If during this period our organisation experienced a number of tangible results, we also suffered some setbacks. It is important to remember the difficulties that were encountered during the construction of the Maternity Charlotte, or during 1933 when the financial resources of our society were drying up following an economic crisis, a crisis which specifically demanded our organisation to expand its care to the victims of this crisis. When our organisation was able to lay the foundations for a new expansion, through a guaranteed loan by the state and a government-authorized lottery in 1934, World War II broke out.
For the Luxembourgish, this war began with the population in the south of the country evacuating towards France. Through an office that was created in 1940 in Montpelier, France, the Luxembourg Red Cross firstly took care of refugees, students, and clergymen chased by the occupying forces, followed by the Jews and other nationals who escaped the grips of the invaders. Their activities, financed in part by a generous donation of 500,000 French Francs by the American Red Cross, were carried out in the field and in collaboration with the High Commission for Refugees in France established by our governments in exile.
After the turmoil of 1940-1945, the Luxembourg Red Cross, hit hard by the war, had to refocus and rebuild its activities. The reorientation was essentially articulated by three main ideas:
The adaptation of past activities to current needs and the implementation of new services to meet the needs of modern society
The creation of a system of fundraising through the introduction of the Red Cross’ annual ‘Fortnight of Donations’ initiative
The need to put in place an administrative service which would assure the continuity and regularity of health and social services
Thereby a range of services was established.