The Sanitary Iron Curtain: The Relief of Polish and Russian Typhus
The breakdown of the cordon of preventive delousing stations, erected during the German occupation of Russian Poland, fuelled fears that a typhus epidemic was poised to race across Europe. The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva promoted central European sanitary cooperation, and in April 1919 supported the creation of an international commission for combating epidemics. The new International Commission for Epidemic Control and Sanitary Improvement for Southern and Eastern Europe planned a sanitary cordon against typhus in Poland and the Ukraine, as well as assistance to returning prisoners from Russia. Typhus provided the Allies with a pretext for military intervention in Russia, with Winston Churchill denouncing Bolshevism as a German-inspired disease. The distinctive profile of Germany's medical relief contrasted with the agendas of other international agencies. The League of Nations held an international conference in Warsaw on March 20–28, 1922 to tackle Russian typhus. Infectious disease and deaths from famine eventually subsided, and foreign relief teams began to withdraw from the spring of 1922 — with the exception of the Germans.
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