Thursday, 16 August 2007

1956 - Henrik Beer's involvement in the Hungarian operation

Hungarian refugees crossing into Austria-1956

1956 was a pivotal year in post war history. It marked the end of a global system which had endured more or less unchanged since 1919, and it set a pattern which was to continue until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years later. The crushing of the Hungarian uprising showed that the USSR was determined to force its role as a world power.
This shift in global politics saw the Red Cross movement involved in man made disasters: hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Congo, Hungary, the Indian sub-continent, and an expanded Israel and Vietnam.

Henrik Beer was to be a crucial player in his role as Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross. On the morning of 27 October 1956, Radio Budapest reported that fighting had broken out and the Hungarian Red Cross were seeking medical supplies. The ICRC responded quickly and by early the next day succeeded in getting a Swiss relief plane with medical supplies and delegates, and continued this shuttle service until the airport was closed on 1 November The League of Red Cross Societies set up an office in Vienna's Hotel Wandl, opposite the Austrian Red Cross.

Henrik Beer was the League's chief delegate and worked night and day during the rapidly evolving first stage. The Hungarian operation fell into two phases. First there was the brief, but bloody,period of fighting. Second there was a massive exodus of refugees from the country into Austria and Yugoslavia. Thirty thousands tonnes of medical supplies,food, fuel and household supplies were sent regularly by road and Danube barges, into Hungary. Henrik Beer played a pivotal role in coordinating the League's relief operation (Thanks to Beyond Conflict The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 1919-1994. Reid and Gilbo. IFRC 1997)

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