Rebuilding, reunification and remembrance
13 November, 2016
As we take time today to remember those who have fought and died in conflict, we invite you to look back at Wilton Park’s peacebuilding role in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.
The act of remembrance forms a vital part of learning – taking time to reassess negatives in order to construct positives. At the White House, the home of Wilton Park until 1951, this happened in both a physical and intellectual way, as a former PoW camp became a place of integration and learning.
Three hundred German PoWs were selected from camps near London to attend ‘re-education’ classes promoting the re-institution of democratic processes within Germany. All those chosen were volunteers, ranging from privates to generals, from convinced anti-Nazi’s to those more sympathetic towards the NSDAP. Academic in its processes, all ‘students’ would attend lectures on politics, economics, and current affairs – amongst other subjects.
From these tutorials, 250 attendees returned to Germany, helping to rebuild the country’s ‘good name’ that “lies deeply buried under the millions of corpses and under the shattered structure of Europe”*, whilst the other 50 took up a pseudo-missionary role, working in other PoW camps and passing on the lessons they had learned to prisoners there.
In 1947, to help deal with the plight of famine at home, German civilians were also brought to Wilton Park.
Sir Heinz Koeppler, Wilton Park’s Warden and founder was the great architect of this transitionary phase. ‘The Professor King’ believed that whilst re-education was the essential task of Wilton Park, its wider aim was rebirth and reunification, forged in realistic and open discussion about post-war Europe.
Today, on Remembrance Sunday, we remember the reasons why as a United Kingdom we must continue to search for this prophetic peace.
*Richard Mayne, “In Victory, Magnanimity, in Peace, Goodwill – A History of Wilton Park”
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