Action Reconciliation for Peace Services

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The Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ASF) (or just Action Reconciliation ), especially in English speaking countries under Action Reconciliation / Service For Peace (ARSP) known is a German organization of the peace movement .

The Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste e. V. was founded in 1958 at the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany with the major contribution of Lothar Kreyssig . The organization is particularly well-known for its international volunteer program and the organization of work camps in Western and Eastern Europe .


Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste eV (ASF) organizes peace services and encounter programs in Europe, Israel and the USA. Dealing with the crimes of National Socialism and their consequences has been the motivation and obligation for concrete action in the present for the organization since 1958. Volunteers accompany Holocaust survivors and former forced laborers, support people with disabilities and the socially disadvantaged, and are involved in memorials and organizations against anti-Semitism, racism and right-wing extremism.

Excerpts from the ASF's articles of association

§2 Purpose and working method

  1. 1. The association is an organization that - in taking up and continuing the founding appeal of 1958 - aims at reconciliation with the peoples and groups of people attacked by National Socialist Germany and threatened with annihilation and the development of the ability to peace. The purpose of the association is thus to promote international understanding and education.
  2. In particular, it carries out its tasks through:
a) Short-term and long-term voluntary services at home and abroad in projects to support people with disabilities, the socially disadvantaged, the elderly, in memorials and museums, in research institutions and political initiatives (tax-privileged organizations and corporations);
b) Seminars and educational offers for volunteers, multipliers and an interested public;
c) Help for victims of tyranny through voluntary services, campaigns, appeals for donations or fundraising activities;
d) Informing the public about the goals pursued by the association.

History of the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace


The prehistory of Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste (ASF) begins with the failure of the churches in Germany during the time of National Socialism and with the resistance against the Hitler regime. So part Lothar Kreyssig , founder of Action Reconciliation, the resistance within the Confessing Church . With the support of some like-minded people such as B. Martin Niemöller , Gustav Heinemann and later also Franz von Hammerstein , he addressed the failure of the churches in the post-war period and urged repentance and conversion. 

Appeal to found the Action atonement

In 1954 Lothar Kreyssig tried for the first time at the Kirchentag in Leipzig to find supporters for his reconciliation service. However, his appeal was hardly heard. “The fact that something is right and necessary is not enough for it to be realized in space and time. The hour must be there, ”he later wrote in his unpublished autobiography. From April 26-30, 1958, the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany met alternately in Spandau (West Berlin) and Weissensee (East Berlin). At this point in time, the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany was still an all-German assembly at which the synods from the Federal Republic and the GDR discussed together. In 1958 there was an extremely controversial discussion about the West German military chaplaincy contract and possible nuclear weapons for the Bundeswehr. In this turbulent mood, President Lothar Kreyssig read out the call for the foundation of Action Atonement on the last day of the Synod's negotiations. Numerous synodals signed the call on the same evening.

This appeal was not only an admission of guilt, but also called for concrete consequences. However, this did not work in such a way that the Action atonement offered help, but asked to be allowed to help. This humble attitude, unique in church history, was a rejection of any patronizing functionalization of the atonement. It should signal the willingness to get involved, i.e. to learn in action and in dialogue - because the request is based on conversation, on answering and on new action.

Aktion Sühnezeichen was originally founded as an all-German organization; However, the division of Germany made it impossible to work together. In the two German states, two organizations developed with a common goal but different focuses in practical work.

ARSP in West Germany

The work of the West German ASF began in 1959 in the Netherlands and Norway in the form of construction projects. Other projects soon followed in other countries. Volunteers helped B. in the construction of a synagogue in Villeurbanne and the Reconciliation Church in Taizé in France, in the construction of a kindergarten in Skopje / Yugoslavia, in the installation of an irrigation system in Crete / Greece, in the construction of an international meeting place in the destroyed cathedral of Coventry in Great Britain . Work in Israel began in 1961 after the Eichmann trial was over with a project in a kibbutz. From the mid-1960s, the volunteers' area of ​​activity slowly changed. There were fewer and fewer construction projects and v. a. Projects in memorial, elderly and social work. In the 1980s, further project positions were established in the areas of structural discrimination , work for human rights and neighborhood help. In September 1985, together with the AGDF (Action Group Service for Peace), at the 21st German Evangelical Church Congress in Düsseldorf, the five Düsseldorf peace theses against military deterrence potentials, for a fairer distribution of wealth in the world, for refusal of military service, for Nonviolence.

ASZ in the GDR

The East German Action Reconciliation (ASZ) was unable to send any more volunteers to projects in Western Europe after 1961 due to the construction of the Wall . Since the GDR propagated the myth of the "anti-fascist state" and refused to accept liability for the consequences of National Socialism, the ASZ's projects were initially limited to the GDR area and the internal church area. In 1962, the atonement work began with the construction and development of summer camps in which people from different countries lived and worked together for two to three weeks. This humble and arduous beginning became the foundation of future work. The structures and concepts for the work of Aktion Sühnezeichen in the GDR could be built on this foundation. In 1965 and 1966, groups of volunteers were able to travel to Auschwitz , Majdanek , Stutthof and Groß-Rosen in cooperation with the Magdeburg Catholic Pastoral Office . In 1967 and 1968 further trips to memorial sites in the People's Republic of Poland and in the CSSR failed despite invitations due to the government refusing to give a visa. Only after the introduction of visa-free travel between the GDR and Poland and the CSSR in 1972 were German young people and now also Polish and Czechoslovak volunteers able to participate in summer camps in Poland and assignments in the GDR. In 1979 a group first worked in Buchenwald. In this way some of the summer camps took place outside the church. From 1981 the number of summer camps in these work areas was increased; for example in Buchenwald , Sachsenhausen , Ravensbrück and Mittelbau-Dora . Atonement groups were involved in the maintenance and restoration of Jewish cemeteries in almost all regions of the GDR from this time on. From 1962 to 1992, over 12,000 volunteers took part in the ASZ summer camps.

Reunification until today

After German reunification , the two German organizations were united. The two different forms of voluntary service - long-term voluntary services from ARSP and short-term volunteer services and summer camps from ASZ - were retained. Since the late 1990s, ARSP has been increasing the number of project positions in order to respond to changing demand and new opportunities such as the European Voluntary Service .

On May 27, 2018, the 60th anniversary of the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace was celebrated in a ceremony in the French Friedrichstadtkirche .

Current fields of activity of the Action Reconciliation Peace Services

Long term volunteer services

ARSP currently sends around 180 volunteers per year to countries that have suffered particularly under Nazi rule: Belgium, France, Great Britain, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, the Ukraine, the USA and Belarus. Most of the volunteers are young people between the ages of 18 and 27. Conscientious objectors were able to do their community service abroad as part of this program . In many cases, the voluntary service can also be recognized as a European Voluntary Service or Voluntary Social Year . The volunteers support and accompany survivors of the Shoah and their descendants, work in memorials, take care of the elderly, people with disabilities, socially disadvantaged people and refugees and are involved in district projects and anti-racism initiatives.

Project countries


ARSP has been sending volunteers to Belarus every year since 1992, currently around 5 people. The first summer camps were held in the 1960s. The focus of the volunteer work is on accompanying and supporting Shoah survivors and former Nazi forced laborers as well as children and adults with disabilities, for example in the Minsk History Workshop projects and in the Center for Children's Oncology in Minsk.


Work in Belgium began in 1964 with the reconstruction of a youth home for young people in Ath. ARSP is currently sending eleven volunteers to Belgium. You are involved e.g. B. in facilities for people with disabilities such. B. in the Archengemeinschaft in Brugge / Mourkerke, in social and refugee aid, youth work and in projects for historical and political education, like the one in the Jewish Museum of Belgium . ARSP has had its own country office in Belgium since 2004. In addition to looking after the volunteers, the main task of the office is to maintain contact with the institutions of the European Union and other organizations based in Brussels. In this sense, the Belgian country office has a special position compared to other country offices.


ARSP has been active in France since 1961. The first projects involved helping to build the Church of Reconciliation in Taizé and a synagogue near Lyon. ARSP is currently sending around 17 volunteers to France. You work here e.g. B. with older people, with survivors of the Shoah and their descendants as well as with homeless and socially disadvantaged people and people with disabilities.

Great Britain

ARSP has been working in Great Britain since 1961. In the ruins of Coventry Cathedral , volunteers built an international meeting place for reconciliation. A so-called “Trilateral Program” has been running since 2000, in which Ukrainian, Polish and German volunteers work together. Around twelve volunteers are currently being sent to Great Britain. B. in the Leo Baeck Institute in London or at the Roma Support Group in London.


The work of ARSP in Israel began in 1961. The first volunteers did development work or worked in kibbutzim . Today, ARSP sends around 25 volunteers to Israel every year, who work in various projects with socially disadvantaged and elderly people. Many volunteers also work in historical and political education, for example at the Yad Vashem national memorial in Jerusalem . Many of the volunteers also work on projects with survivors of the Shoah, especially with the aid organization AMCHA . Another building block is the work for Jewish-Arab understanding, for example in the Leo Baeck Center in Haifa. In Jerusalem there is also the international meeting place Beit Ben Yehuda (BBY) with the Israeli country office of the ASF and seminar and guest rooms.

A terrorist attack was carried out on April 26, 1978 on a bus parked in a square in Nablus , in which 34 young volunteers from the Aktion Sühnezeichen were from Germany. After a four-day excursion to northern Israel and a stopover in Nablus, the bus was on its way back to Jerusalem when a young Palestinian threw his self-made pipe bomb, filled with sawed-off nails, into the bus through an open window. The two volunteers, Susanne Zahn and Christoph Gaede, died and five others were seriously injured.


Work began in 1959 with the construction of a Frisian holiday complex. Approx. 17 volunteers are currently being sent to the Netherlands. You will work there in historical and political education, e.g. B. in Amsterdam in the Joods Historisch Museum or in the Anne Frank Stichting as well as in peace and anti-racism projects and in the social field.


The work began in 1959 with the construction of a farm building for a home for the disabled in Trastad and the construction of a church in Krokelv (both in Finnmark / Northern Norway) with helpers from East and West Germany. At the moment there are about 19 volunteers in Norway, who are mainly in the work for people with disabilities.


About 16 volunteers are currently working in Poland. They often work in associations for former concentration camp prisoners and also in the international youth meeting place in Oświęcim / Auschwitz and in memorials such as Stutthof near Danzig or Majdanek near Lublin. As in Great Britain, there has been a bilateral program with Ukrainian, Polish and German volunteers since 2009.


Due to the political situation, volunteers did not travel to Moscow and Leningrad / St. Petersburg and worked in a home for the disabled and in the hospital for veterans of the "Great Patriotic War". Other project partners are, for example, the Russian Research and Education Center “Holocaust” and the Russian human rights organization Memorial , in whose Moscow, Perm and St. Petersburg offices a little less than ten ARSP volunteers work.

Czech Republic

In 1993, ARSP was allowed to send volunteers to the Jewish community in Prague for the first time. There are 15 places, e.g. B. in the youth meeting center Theresienstadt as well as other social institutions in the cities of Brno , Budějovice , Olomouc , Ostrava and Prague . The volunteers are also committed to helping people with disabilities, e.g. B. in cooperation with Caritas and Diakonie, as well as in the support of former forced laborers.


Since the beginning of the work in 2004, the main fields of work in Ukraine have been looking after former forced laborers, historical educational work and social work. The volunteers get involved e.g. B. in the Rehabilitation Center in Kyiv and in the Museum of Jewish History and Culture of Bukovina in Chernivtsi. There are currently around six ARSP volunteers in Ukraine.

United States

There are approximately 24 volunteer positions in the United States. In 1968 the first places for volunteers were created at the request of US peace churches that had previously sent volunteers to Germany. Up until 1980, Aktion Sühnezeichen was mainly involved in social justice projects. Community organizing also played a major role in volunteering in the 1980s. Only later was it possible to create collaborations and volunteer positions at Jewish institutions. Today volunteer positions are offered in working with older people, people with disabilities, socially disadvantaged people and in historical-political educational work, e.g. B. in the American Jewish Comitee in New York and at IRTF - The InterReligious Task Force in Cleveland.

International Germany program

After partner organizations suggested volunteer stays in Germany in the 1980s, since 1996 15 to 20 volunteers from the USA, Israel and various European countries have come to Germany for peace service.

Short term volunteer services

Every year around 300 people take part in the around 25 summer camps at home and abroad, and live and work together. All summer camps are run by volunteers. Often these are former long-term volunteers who want to pass on their peace service experience. In the two to three weeks, the volunteers hold z. B. Jewish cemeteries and memorials in the state, work in social institutions and are involved in intercultural projects. In addition, they exchange views on current and historical issues.


Many young and older alumni continue to volunteer for ARSP in regional groups and groups of friends even after their voluntary service. Other volunteers are employed to carry out long-term and short-term voluntary services, and some of them also contribute to public relations and educational work.

public relation

ASF publishes the regularly appearing magazine "zeichen " , which reports the latest from the work of the volunteers and project partners and which is dedicated to a specific topic. With the sermon aids on Israel Sunday , the Ecumenical Decade of Peace and the Memorial Day for the Victims of National Socialism , ARSP aims to convey theological knowledge from the Judeo-Christian dialogue and from the dialogue with Islam into the communities. In addition, ARSP speaks out on current political issues. ASF takes a public position against anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism and racism and emphatically advocates compensation for those persecuted by the National Socialists, interreligious and intercultural dialogue and a just peace. An additional focus of the work of the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace is determined by the annual theme resolved by the general meeting. The two-year theme for 2020 and 2021 is "On The Basis Of Sex And Gender".

Educational work

With events, workshops, seminars and conferences on the topics of remembrance politics and interreligious dialogue, ARSP aims to stimulate social debate.

As a founder, sponsor or cooperation partner, ASF makes a significant contribution to the work of the meeting places






executive Director

Well-known former ARSP volunteers


Web links

Individual evidence

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  3. Anna Reimann: Nazi criminals and Stasi: "We determine who was a Nazi!" In: Spiegel Online . January 26, 2006, accessed June 9, 2018 .
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  5. International meeting place Beit Ben Yehuda (BBY)
  6. The bomb and the question of “why?” In: Israelnetz .de. December 12, 2018, accessed January 6, 2019 .
  7. Eckart Roloff : A sign of reconciliation. A look at 1960: Action atonement and its work in Norway. In: dialog. Announcements from the German-Norwegian Society e. V., Bonn , No. 46/2015, p. 46.
  8. [4]
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  11. [7]
  12. ^ Prize of the Peace of Westphalia. In: March 17, 2016, accessed March 17, 2016 .
  13. Sending organizations on
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  16. CV . In: Arne Lietz, MEP . ( [accessed on February 28, 2017]).
  17. ^ Signs of life Die Zeit January 8, 2004