During the three-month battle of Shanghai in 1937, volunteers of the Red Swastika Society were a ubiquitous sight, present wherever their help was needed. At hospitals, nurses and doctors of the society did their utmost to alleviate the suffering caused by modern weapons, and in the city’s ports its volunteers were instrumental in helping civilians fleeing the mayhem.
Obviously, the Red Swastika Society was modeled on the Red Cross, using the ancient Buddhist swastika as its symbol. While the hooks of the society’s swastika were pointing leftwards, unlike the Nazi swastika with hooks pointing to the right, the similar imagery was obvious in the 1930s, even though it was less controversial than it would have been later on, once the full extent of the horrors under Hitler became well-known.
This article reproduces a small selection of the huge output of photos left behind by American photographer Malcolm Rosholt. They are brought with the kind permission of Historical Photographs of China, a project based at the University of Bristol. All photos are courtesy of Historical Photographs of China, Mei-fei Elrick and Tess Johnson. Clicking on the captions will take you to the photos on the website of Historical Photographs of China.