Between 1914 and 1918 several hundred thousand ‘enemy aliens’ were interned by the belligerent nations of the First World War, and many more civilians were trapped behind enemy lines in their own countries. This article looks at the efforts made by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other relief agencies to alleviate the plight of non-combatants held in internment camps. It also examines the dilemmas faced by neutral inspection teams, and asks why the ICRC in particular failed in its attempts to secure equal and humane treatment for civilian prisoners. The conclusion briefly considers the longer-term impact of these developments in the light of the even greater challenges facing the ICRC in the 1920s and beyond.
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