History of IM

The movement, which was eventually named IM (Individuell Människohjälp), is the result of the courage, drive and very strong passion of one young woman.

When IM was founded by Britta Holmström in 1938 it was as a reaction to the oppression, persecutions and widespread violations of human rights at that time. On 1 October, the same day as Hitler’s troops entered Czechoslovakia, she had a vision that compelled her to leave the safety of Sweden and go out and fight for the equal value and rights of all people. The apathy she encountered among the women in a refugee camp became the starting point for the attitude that is still characteristic of IM today: viewing the whole person with all their needs.

Food, medicine and clothing are not enough to strengthen people’s capacity to act and belief in the future. Being seen as an individual, feeling involved and having something meaningful to do are just as significant.

IM was early in its efforts to counteract the repressive and totalitarian ideologies that had grown strong in Europe at that time – Nazism, fascism and Stalinism – and to provide support for the large groups of refugees in Europe during and after the war; and such efforts remain characteristic of IM’s work. To counter the oppression and excluding ideas of the totalitarian ideologies, IM instead emphasised the individual worth of every person. Although IM’s founder was a devout Christian and the organisation’s identity from the outset was based on belief, the purpose of IM’s work has never been to convert people to Christianity. Religious freedom has always been, and still is, a guiding principle within IM.

The courage of a young woman

Britta Holmström was only 27 years old when she laid the foundation for today’s IM by founding what was then called Praghjälpen (Prague Aid) to fight against oppression and persecution.