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Re-building Europe

Origin of the text
Olivier Bertrand: Breaking down barriers 1945-1975, 30 years of voluntary service for peace with Service Civil International.
Paris (2008)

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Re-building Europe and initiating a new development

The pioneers

Some of the SCI old hands, who had been involved in pre-war activities, played a major role in structuring the movement and in organizing and leading the workcamps. Unfortunately, they were no longer alive when this work was undertaken, but their names should be remembered and they are referred to in some of the following memories :

With the expansion of activities and the development of institutions, these pioneers were joined by young volunteers who were given similar responsibilities at an early stage. The first ones, whose memories follow, were Dorothy Abbott/Guiborat and Nelly Forget, whose memories appear in chapter 4. They participated for a long period in different workcamps in Continental Europe, immediately after the war, under very hard conditions. With this experience, they were asked to assist in the organization of the movement in Europe and at the international level. During a second stage, they became long-term volunteers, one of them in North Africa, the other in Asia (memories follow in the respective chapters). Many of those who contributed to this work also had the opportunity to work in Europe, but for a short period and their main investment was elsewhere. This is why their entire story will appear in subsequent chapters.

In several instances, volunteers of this first generation had done other voluntary work before joining SCI. When they participated in their first workcamp, a number of the volunteers from this generation wanted to come out of their isolation, related to their location, their family background and, above all, to the travel limitations resulting from the war. Many of them had a direct experience of war and of violence, which was a motivation to participate in a concrete action for peace. And they usually had been living under difficult conditions, which prepared them for the hard work which was expecting (expected of) them in the workcamps.

Memories of European leaders and volunteers in the `60s and `70s :

East-West workcamps

As mentioned by Dorothy Guiborat, East-West workcamps were a major concern for SCI, but also for the Coordination Committee and particularly for Arthur Gillette, as a volunteer and later as a Unesco staff member. Other memories of these camps may be found in the text from Valli Chari/Seshan, Devinder das Chopra and from Max Hildesheim.

See also special section on East-West on this website.

Working with conscientious objectors and immigrants

lthough the international experience of the next volunteers has been limited, their memories are reproduced here because they were involved in experiences which have been very significant, especially for the French branch:




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