Sunday, 25 July 2010

Welcome to the Blog!


This is my attempt to keep people up to date with what I'm doing, and to allow as many people as possible the chance to share in my peace service at Dachau. Whether you knew me at school/university or have found this by chance through interest, you are most welcome.

It has been both funny and slightly embarrassing to tell people my plans over the past year. When people ask, "So what's next after Uni?", they always look at me rather disbelievingly as I answer "Working in a concentration camp. And yourself?". It's not something I have gone into lightly. As a History graduate, I am fascinated by the practical implications of History, and in particular a means of using it to learn lessons and to better understand how a society has arrived where it has.

Germany is the first nation to have undergone a formal process of reconciliation with its past. For the first time people were held to account for their actions during conflict, and other nations saw in defeat a new opportunity for a nation to grow. There were more questions than answers (How do you put a conventional jail term on someone responsible for thousands of peoples' deaths?) but the process of Vergangenheisbewaeltigung, of coming to terms with the past, was overall a healthy one.

One initiative in the post war period was Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, or ARSP, an organisation formed by the Evangelical Church of Germany in 1958. The aim was to send young Germans to nations affected by Nazi crimes, such as the Netherlands and Yugoslavia, in order to rebuild those places destroyed years earlier. This simple act of atonement has led to over 180 volunteers in countries across Europe working in projects to learn about the practical implications of reconciliation and to work towards a non violent way of resolving past conflicts.

By working at Dachau on behalf of ARSP, I hope to become part of this movement for reconciliation. I also hope to discover how Britain can also come to terms with its past. Sixty years of decline on the world stage has left Britain with a rose tinted view of WW2 as the glory days, as well as a national obsession with the war. Just go to any football match and you'll hear theme tunes from every 1960s war film you can imagine. A national dialogue akin to that envisioned in Germany and in post Communist nations would not be a bad idea.

In the next year, perhaps I'll learn something about myself and my own ideas of reconciliation, as well as something of living in a different culture. You're most welcome to come along for the journey...

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