A Year with ASF in Dachau

I’m Roy Scivyer, I come from St Albans and the Living by Giving Trust have helped to support my work with Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste e.V (Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, or ASF for short). Thanks to their support, I have had a year in which I have seen my preconceptions of Europe’s past, present and future change dramatically.

ASF is a German charity set up in the wake of the Second World War originally to give young Germans the chance to perform small acts of atonement in lands affected by Nazi crimes. ASF now supports over 250 volunteers in thirteen countries in projects ranging from working in residential care homes to supporting economic migrants. In the 1980s ASF began to offer young people from outside Germany the opportunity to come and work in Concentration Camp Memorial Sites and German Jewish communities, in order to foster an atmosphere of cultural exchange.

I was given the opportunity to work with the Protestant Church of Reconciliation at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, just outside Munich. I originally came to Dachau (which is also a beautiful Bavarian town) with the hope of learning something about German culture and how Germans deal with the past, as well as dealing with the legacy of one of history’s most notorious crimes..

My main work in Dachau has been giving tours of the memorial site, which as we mainly have groups in German was quite a learning curve! It has been a humbling experience taking young Germans, some only thirteen years old, round the memorial site and in a way explaining their history to them. How do you explain the Nazi persecution of minorities to someone? It is a question that I still find hard to answer. I talk about how people were dehumanised, how the concentration camp system developed and thrived, though I still cannot answer why. All groups are different. Some groups are tired and simply want to go home, others ask questions and test my still limited German!

While in Dachau I have also had the pleasure of coordinating the Remembrance Book for the Prisoners of Dachau Concentration Camp, which gives people the chance to research the life of a former prisoner and produce a four page biography to be inserted into the book. Over 150 have so far been written, and a corresponding exhibition and brochure, Names Instead of Numbers, has also led to international success. Over the course of the year I have coordinated the display of the exhibition in the United States of America for the first time, and it is my hope that by the time I leave there will be dates booked well into 2012, including the first displays in Canada.

All the work I have done in Dachau has been accompanied by a number of other smaller events, such as meetings with survivors from countries in the former Soviet Union, which have made me think beyond this history. We learn about the Nazi persecutions not only in order to remember the victims and their names, but so that we may understand the present as well. I have lost count how many intercultural associations and youth exchanges there are here, and ASF is often found working alongside them. Germany is not only geographically the centre of Europe, but also politically as well. I have been shocked to find out just how many Russian speakers there are in Munich and Germany, as well as how many Poles. In April I attended an event run by a number of Munich residents affected by the Chernobyl disaster in 1985. Europe is no longer something ‘across the English Channel’ for me, but a complex and wonderful multicultural mix, and one which I can no longer ignore.

ASF gives young people the chance to really engage with what it means to be a European. Its original purpose remains vital to its work, especially given European society is still marked by what happened over two thirds of a century ago, though today it is helping us to see life in a globalised society not as something to overcome but as something to treasure and nurture. For that I am grateful to the Living by Giving Trust for their financial support for this extremely worthwhile cause.

First Birthday Event

We are very excited to reach a year of our charity Living by Giving Trust, especially as we have been able to support so many different projects in just one year.

Amongst the various undertakings we have been able to support, in 2010 we sponsored a child to travel with the Glanfield Children’s Group and in 2011 we gave some financial support to CA helpers and also provided some funding to support the gap year work of Roy Scivyer in Dachau. If you would like to support us in fundraising for future projects like this, please join us for our “First Birthday Celebration” on 22nd October 2011 in London.

Since we haven’t had much of a summer this year, the event will have a summer theme and will include music from The Bikini Beach Band, a raffle, a cash bar, food, and much more, and will take place at the famous St Bride’s Foundation in the City of London, close to the historic area of Fleet Street and the famous St Paul’s Cathedral. Book your tickets before 1st October 2011 and they will cost just £15 each.

You can purchase tickets online here: http://www.bmycharity.com/1stBirthday

Become part of our team!

Next month the Living by Giving Trust is proud to celebrate a year of registered charitable status! Our first cycle of projects (2010 – 2013) will be associated with the young and our theme is: ‘Living By Giving… Young People New Experiences’, more details of which will be published here soon.

As we grow as a charity in the UK we would like to set up a small fundraising committee of like-minded people to help us in our fundraising goals. If you would like to be a part of our fundraising committee, please email Dail Maudsley at Dail@livingbygivingtrust.com.

There are no specific requirements other than being willing to get stuck in, but if you’re also creative and resourceful we definitely want to hear from you!

The Challenge that was 3 Peaks

From Kathryn:

Our challenge wasn’t so much the climbing of the 3 highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales respectively. Ours rather, was the driving in between and more specifically, the route from the car park to the actual base of the mountains. Well, to be fair to ‘Team 3 Peaks’, I should clarify that peak number 1 and peak number 3 – inclusive of routes in and out of car parks – were embarked upon and conquered in ardent style.

It was peak number 2 – we shall call him Mr Scafell – that was determined to show us that the Challenge is indeed no mean feat. We came to learn during our 24-hour stint, like for many other adventurers, thatthis was the peak (or Pike) to make or break you.

Initially though it was Ben Nevis that I had apprehensive forethoughts about. Through the 3 Peaks grape vine, others had let on that as Ben Nevis was the first and the highest peak and in Scotland, it was far more susceptible to adverse and highly changeable weather conditions, especially at the summit. Between you and me, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t metaphorically soiling myself with anticipation and a touch of anxiety.

Leading up to our imminent departure, Wednesday 14th July 2010 – collectively between David, Katy, Lucy, Stephen, myself and our designated driver Andrew – there was of course much excitement and backpacks full of happy thoughts. This is something we’d been preparing for and psyching ourselves up for weeks if not months. A fabulous opportunity to get fit, both physically and mentally; spend copious amounts of money on enough high-tech gear to put Ray Mears to shame; and of course raise money for a good cause. There had been a handful of ‘getting to know you’ dinners and drinks, not to mention many an email and Facebook message about logistics.

Circa 17:30pm: Enter Peak 1. There we were at Fort William, the serene and strikingly scenic base of Ben Nevis. Bellies full of chicken, peanut-butter sandwiches, apples, fruit & nut mix and so on. Blood streams full of Red Bull, rehydration liquids and miscellaneous caffeinated beverages. Backpacks full of energy bars, water bladders, jungle-strength midge repellent and a token camera or two – for photographic evidence when reaching the summit.

…Five hours, a lot of cloud, snow, sheep and a photo or two later; we were reunited with our driver, clean undies, socks and tops and bound for England’s Lake District.

Circa stupid o’clock in the morning: Enter Peak 2. After a 7-hour obstacle course across the boarder (aka a car journey in the thick of some of the most adverse weather I’ve ever experienced in this country), and the most pathetic excuse for a sleep this side of a rave party; we somehow arrived at the car park for Scafell Pike. We played a long game of Hokey Cokey in the car – you put your left foot in (your hiking boot), you put your left foot out (the car), you put your thermals and waterproofs on and shake all about – deliberating over the extreme weather conditions, our safety and our general ability, or lack there of, in climbing the mountain that morning. To cut a long story short, we came, we didn’t really see, we certainly didn’t conquer, and then we left. Without further adieu, we took our half-relieved but half-disappointed selves back on the road and set our sights on Peak 3.

Circa midday: Enter Peak 3. With clear skies, no dislodged trees on roads and very little wind, came an abundance of tour buses, tourists and day-trippers.

We had arrived at Snowdon and it was obvious this was the package holiday destination of mountains. With this though, also came a great enthusiasm from Team 3 Peaks: a yearning from me to reconnect with my walking poles, a yearning from David and Lucy to sport their gaiters again, a yearning from Stephen to show his knees who was boss and a yearning from Katy to do her ablutions on a rocky outcrop, one last time.

…For the second time that day, we successfully navigated and reached the summit of a mountain!

Reunited with our driver for the last time and knowing that our hotel, proper food and indeed celebratory drinks were waiting for us in Chester, we traipsed our last steps, physically and mentally exhausted but with grins the size of the Cheshire Cat. Apologies to the virtuous types out there but the desire there and then to devour a huge steak and murder a cold beer was overwhelming.

Now several weeks on, with 2 peaks (and a ridge) under our belts, I think I can speak for all of Team 3 Peaks in saying that despite both the real and metaphorical highs and lows, we gelled superbly well as a team, we inherently thank all of our supporters and we’re thrilled that we raised as much as we did for the Living By Giving Trust.

Official Peak blogger signing off…
Kathryn