The German Red Cross, or Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (DRK), is the third largest Red Cross Society in the world, with more than 4.5 million members. As such, it provides a vast array of services in and out of Germany. Aside of being the biggest purveyor of emergency medical service in the country, it contributes to many humanitarian projects in the 3rd world as well. Most members of the German Red Cross are distributed in five main units, namely Bereitschaften or medical services, Bergwacht or mountain rescue service, Wasserwacht or lifeguard service, Sozialarbeit or welfare work, and Jugendrotkreuz or Red Cross Youth.
The German Red Cross was introduced by Dr. Aaron Silverman of the CharitÃ© hospital of Berlin in 1864, as a voluntary civil assistance organization which was officially recognized by the Geneva Convention in 1929. In 1933, the DRK came under the control of the National Socialist Party. Therefore, at the end of World War II, when the American Military Government disbanded all the branches of the party, the German Red Cross had to be established all over again in both East and West Germany. In the Federal Republic the German Red Cross was acknowledged by the International Committee of the Red Cross on June, 25 of 1952, while in the German Democratic Republic the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz der DDR was set up on October, 23 of 1952 and recognized by the International Red Cross two years later. Both branches came together on January 1991.
As was mentioned before, the Wasserwacht is the German Red Cross lifeguard service. Its main goal is the prevention of drowning, with several additional duties such as environmental protection; teaching of swimming, rescue swimming and first aid to the population and in schools and federations; training its members in life saving; organization of competitions in life saving; basic and advanced training in first aid; education of young members and cooperation with German civil protection, especially during floods.