This Day in History

On Dec. 10, 1917, the International Committee of the Red Cross received the Nobel Peace Prize. This came after zero Nobel prizes were awarded for a period of three years. In a resolute stance against violence at the onset of the gruesome World War I campaign, the Nobel Committee determined that no worthy candidates existed for peace prize nomination.

However, at the close of the war in 1917, Professor Louis Renault nominated the International Committee of the Red Cross to receive the award. Renault was a past Nobel Prize winner, who received the honor in 1906, due to the part he played in extending the Geneva Convention to cover maritime warfare. He was also the president of the French contingent of the Red Cross at the time. During the pre-nomination process, Renault collaborated with Nobel Committee Secretary Ragnvald Moe. The Swiss government also nominated the Red Cross separately, since the Red Cross had operated in Geneva, Switzerland, during the war.

Praised for Creating the International POW Agency

During the nomination process, the Swiss and Renault spoke highly of the Red Cross' efforts to establish its International Prisoner-of-War Agency. The Prisoner-of-War Agency offered relief to those captured by enemy forces during World War I. The POA Agency helped establish communications between the captured soldiers and their families during the campaign and offered other vital services.

The Red Cross was also lauded for its work to give safe passage to wounded warriors back to their families at home through Switzerland, which retained its neutrality during the war. Hundreds of volunteers were mobilized by the Red Cross both in Geneva and on the battlefield. They interviewed hospital officials and military commanders to track down information on specific prisoners and wounded soldiers, and they sent over 800,000 letters to the families of soldiers.

Not the First Time the Red Cross Was Awarded Peace Prize

The Red Cross was honored by the Nobel Committee before 1917, and it would be honored again, for its valuable humanitarian efforts. The first Nobel Peace prize was actually given to the founder of the Red Cross, a Swiss man named Henry Dunant, in 1901. The Red Cross received the Nobel Peace prize again in 1944 and 1963.