Disclaimer: This post will read like an essay. I want at least some of my blog to have an educational component, so I pulled from a school paper I wrote. Proost!
Over the course of a week, I had heard from British, French, German, American, and Crotian speakers. I have an odd obsession with mastering different accents so this variation in the different lectures helped to make the course even more fascinating.
I mentioned in one of my previous posts that the International Committee of the Red Cross acted as a life-line in a sense, even beyond the battlefield. I had the opportunity to travel to The Netherlands Red Cross Headquarters, where I learned that the Red Cross offers a free “tracing” service. Representatives of the ICRC work to trace, or locate family members generally of people who were affected by an armed conflict. The term “family member,” however, varies according to the rules of each Red Cross society, so it may include immediate family members in one branch of the organization, or extend to first cousins in another branch. This is especially important in places where an armed conflict existed, as families are often separated in the midst of such an occurrence.
Some of the people that have benefited from this free service include those who have lost family members as a result of the Holocaust. The Netherlands branch of the Red Cross society hosts an impressive library of information regarding people who were held in various concentration camps. Our instructor for this portion of the course described an instance in which two grandchildren of a man who was murdered for supporting the Communist party during World War II, contacted the Red Cross about locating where their grandparent had died. They ultimately wanted to receive closure from this information. Luckily, The Netherlands branch of the Red Cross had the grandparent’s information archived. As a result, this particular tracing instance, the grandchildren not only received closure, but they were also able to locate other family members through the information they received.
My initial reaction was “Wow,” which I was later informed was a very American response. Like many of the other students, this was the first time that I had heard of the tracing service, which in a sense, helps to promote IHL in the aftermath of an armed conflict. One of the questions that I offered to the lecturer concerned the tracing protocol for matters in which family members did not wish to be located. In response, the instructor described an example in which a teenager had escaped the control of his family in Eritrea, but later decided that he wanted to reach out to his parents. The parents, however, had no interest in any type of communication with their son. Because of confidentiality concerns, the Red Cross could neither disclose to the son that they were able to contact his parents, let alone their location.
Later in the day, I was able to interact with my classmates over an Italian Pizza dinner. This was particularly interesting to me because I thought Dutch cuisine would be more appropriate being that we were in The Hague, a Dutch city. I later learned from a couple of the natives, who were also participating in the course, that Dutch cuisine does not really exist aside from soused herring, a pickled fish usually served raw.