National Geographic : 1969 Jul
Switzerland, Europe's High-rise Republic famous expatriates. On Spiegelgasse stands the gray stucco house where Lenin lived; the Odeon Cafe nearer the river has enshrined the table where James Joyce sipped coffee while he worked on Ulysses. Up the hill, at the University of Zurich, Einstein took his Ph.D. and later lectured. Walking through Niederdorf's avant garde crowds, I would often wonder if a future Einstein or Lenin was there, waiting for his time. Red Cross Born of Battle French-speaking Geneva is Switzerland's wide window on the world; nearly a third of its people are foreigners. Since the 16th cen tury, when thousands of English, Italians, and Spanish Protestants fleeing the Inquisition were welcomed here, Geneva has been called the "city of refuge." Later came the Huguenots, and in our own century the homeless of two world wars. Now adays, when droves of summer tourists mill through the lakeside Jardin Anglais and del egates to countless conventions clog the cafes along Quai du Mont Blanc, it's difficult to spot a real Genevois. The independent Republic of Geneva joined the Confederation in 1815, blending traditions of tolerance with Swiss neutrality. And in 1863 a Geneva man, Henri Dunant, shocked by the suffering and dying at the Battle of Solferino four years before, organized the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide relief for wounded soldiers. Later its scope was broadened to include civilian casualties and prisoners of war. National chapters of the Red Cross were formed to cope with earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters. Switzerland's own national chapter in recent years has helped resettle a new wave of refugees-citizens of mountainous Tibet, flown to this Alpine Stairway to the sky: Climbers toil up the 13,776-foot Rimpfischhorn. One pauses to contemplate the abyss below. Behind them rears 14,690-foot Matterhorn, first scaled in 1865 and now conquered by some 2,500 guide-led tourists each year. Still ready to help-though their aid is rarely needed in this age of helicopters-a St. Bernard dog and his trainer, an Augus tinian monk, keep watch atop Great St. Bernard Pass. Most travelers today use the tunnel under the pass, opened in 1964. land to escape the Chinese Communists.* ICRC headquarters is a former luxury hotel above Lake Geneva. I was impressed by the calm that prevailed there despite a growing crisis. Just off the lobby a conference room had been converted into an "action center." With a minimum of talk men worked at desks under a large map of Nigeria and Biafra. I caught Charles Ammann, Director of the Re lief Department, when he hung up his phone. "That call was from your AID people. They offered us trucks," said Monsieur Ammann. "Biafra is probably the biggest tragedy since World War II-thousands are dying every day. We have some 8,000,000 Swiss francs pledged, and more than 170 volunteers. But we're having problems over safe passage...." The phone again. It was Rome. An Italian Red Cross plane was arriving in Geneva to morrow with a load of medicine. The task force was taking shape. In an adjacent building sprightly Lizette Reymond showed me the archives of the ICRC's Central Tracing Agency. "We have more than 15 million names, *See "Little Tibet in Switzerland," by Laura Pilarski, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, November 1968. KODACHROMES © N.G.S .