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A Swedish Samaritan in Central Europe? Asta Nielsson’ Relief Mission to Budapest from WWI to WWII

Referentin: PD Dr. habil. Friederike Kind-Kovács
03/12/2023 - 12:00
ASEEES Conference, Philadelphia

Description of the event

The proposed talk explores the child relief mission of Asta Nielsson, a hardly known Swedish humanitarian, in Budapest, starting in the aftermath of WWI. While most food relief was provided by the American Relief Administration, far less we know about Swedish relief work. Uncovering everyday traces of Nielsson’s relief work in Budapest’s slums, relief facilities and emerging welfare institutions, the talk demonstrates the great diversity of Swedish relief. Nielsson’s mission ranged from organizing large deliveries of shoes and clothing, enabling extensive medical donations to children’s hospitals, the implementation of week-long children’s holidays and “fattening cures”, to sick children’s recovery in child sanatoria and the organization of children’s trains to Sweden. Through the story of Asta Nielsson the talk engages with the institutional relief work of Rädda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children) and the Swedish Red Cross. As Asta Nielssson returned to Budapest in 1944 to join Raoul Wallenberg in rescuing Jewish children but kept providing relief to Budapest’s children in the post-WWII period, the talk offers a diachronic analysis of Swedish child relief from the post-WWI to the post-WWII period. By engaging with the transnational dimension of relief the talk seeks to uncover the internalized hierarchies and power dynamics that are always inherent in humanitarian work, and which were heavily played out in relief missions to starving and suffering Central Europe. In doing so, the paper attempts to scrutinize the colonizing elements of Western humanitarianism to Central and Eastern Europe.

The conference programme may be found here.

Bildnachweis: Rickety Children from Budapest (next to Asta Nielsson) [Ankolkóros budapesti gyermekek (next to Asta Nielsson)],” Friss Ujság, 1921. július (26. évfolyam, 142-168. szám)1921-07-19 / 157. szám

Friss Ujság, 1921