Anglo-German Remembrance and Reconciliation
Defined as the interactions of an individual, a group or a society with their past history, a culture of remembrance (German: Erinnerungskultur) is part of the cultural DNA of a particular place and people. These interactions serve to create a feeling of togetherness to reflect on a common past and contemplate the present and future. These often find their greatest and most formal expression in anniversaries, be it to celebrate a particular individual and his or her aesthetic contributions (e.g. Shakespeare Year in 2016 four-hundred years after his death); or be it to recall a historical event of national or international significance (e.g. 800 years of Magna Carta in 2015).
PROJECT: AGRR is an initiative designed by the Academy of English and its partner school, The High Arcal School, in Sedgley, West Midlands, to transcend the defined borders of the culture of national remembrance, giving individuals, particularly young people from Germany and Great Britain, opportunities to encounter, experience and interact with Erinnerungskultur of the other.
The project aims:
- to raise historical awareness and understanding of Anglo-German historical and cultural relations;
- to facilitate encounters by organizing collective acts of remembrance and reconciliation, particularly among youngsters and teenagers
- to bring different generations together, allowing for knowledge and experience transfer between young and old; and
- to highlight differences and similarities in the cultures of remembrance between Great Britain and Germany.
Launched in 2014, PROJECT: AGRR coincided with the centenary of the start of World War One (WWI) and the 75th anniversary of the start of World War Two (WWII). These global conflicts of the twentieth century set both countries, Great Britain and Germany, against each other, leading to devastation and destruction. Post-war leaders faced the daunting task of not just rebuilding their devastated countries and systems, but also to heal the wounds of war through collective acts of remembrance and reconciliation.
Since 2014, the PROJECT: AGRR has organized very public acts of collective remembrance and reconciliation, both in Germany and Great Britain, to recall key milestone dates of WWI. It has received the generous support of the Royal British Legion, Wolverhampton Central Branch, the Lord Lieutenant’s Office of Staffordshire, the Mayor’s Office of the City of Wolverhampton, the Mayor’s Office of Dudley, the Mayor’s Office of Stafford Borough, Members of the British House of Commons, including the Member of Parliament for Stafford, Mr. Jeremy Lefroy; Member of Parliament for Dudley North, Mr. Ian Austin; the Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary British-German Group, Mr. Paul Farrelly as well as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and its German equivalent, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V.
Centenary Chair for Anglo-German Remembrance and Reconciliation
For his efforts in facilitating youth dialogue and also his research activities into the First World War, Dr. John Goodyear was appointed the Centenary Chair for Anglo-German Remembrance and Reconciliation in 2014. In chairing the project, he is responsible for fulfilling the aims of the project by overseeing and organizing the acts of collective remembrance and reconciliation among young people; broadening the reach of the event to encompass both German and British perceptions of both global conflicts; and facilitating cross-border, inter-generational dialogue between the youth of Great Britain and Germany.
To mark the centenary of the start of WWI, PROJECT: AGRR brought together youngsters from the Academy of English in Oldenburg and the High Arcal School in Sedgley to reflect on the centenary of the start of WWI. Coinciding with the start of the Battle of Ghelevent in Belgium, a collective act of remembrance and reconciliation was held at the cenotaph in St. Peter’s Square, led by the Mayor of Wolverhampton with the Royal British Legion Wolverhampton Central Branch carrying the standard followed by the students. Regarded locally as the first event to launch the centenary commemorative events, German and British students jointly laid wreaths at the foot of the cenotaph and also sung Silent Night (Stille Nacht) to recall the Christmas Day Truce in 1914. Click here to view programme.
A month later, in November 2014, students from the Academy of English participated in the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Sage, Großenkneten, just 30km south of Oldenburg. At the invitation of the Royal British Legion Osnabrück branch, returning German students from the High Arcal School took part in the ceremony in their school uniforms and also read poetry from Wilfred Owen and John William Streets.
In marking the Battle of Loos in 1915, the second Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation took place at the Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery, the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom. 2143 German soliders from WWI and 2786 from WWII are laid to rest in this beautiful part of the Staffordshire countryside. Supported by the Royal British Legion, German students from the Academy of English came together with students from the High Arcal School in Sedgley to reflect on the Battle of Loos by reading poems and reciting the Todesgedenken. The wreath laying was led by the official representative of H.M. The Queen in Staffordshire, The Lord Lieutenant with the Mayor of Wolverhampton giving a moving speech on the importance of remembrance and reconciliation in the modern global world. Click here to view programme.
October 2016 marks the centenary of the downing of the zeppelin balloon at Potters Bar, near London, in which the German crew perished, all of whom are buried at the Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery. Students from the High Arcal School and the Academy of English will come together at the Third Anglo-German Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation on Sunday 9 October 2016 at 10.45am to recall the role of air warfare in the First World War, reflecting on the losses, both in the air and on the ground. Civic and political dignitaries will also be in attendance at the event. including the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and the Mayors of Wolverhampton, Dudley and Stafford. Click here to view programme.
2017 marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, claiming the lives of many thousands of soldiers on both side. Though the true number will never be known, it is estimated that up to 500,000 fell in that World War One battle, known in German as the Dritte Flandernschlacht. On Friday 13th October 2017 at 10:45am, the Academy of English was joined by its partner school in Sedgley to reflect and remember the losses at Passchendaele at the cenotaph in the City of Wolverhampton. Led by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, representing Her Majesty The Queen, the Mayor of City of Wolverhampton and the High Sheriff of the West Midlands, young people took an active part in the Fourth Anglo-German Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation. As with each of these services, it was organised jointly by the Royal British Legion Wolverhampton Central Branch, the Academy of English and the High Arcal School. It also received funding from the Passchendaele at Home Project. The young people were at the centre of the event, laying wreaths and also reading poetry, both in German and English. High Arcal student Caitlin Hoyland read the poem In the Square and German student Mattea Klauke read Passchendaele, both of which were written by local Wolverhampton woman and Royal British Legion member Eilien Ward Birch. Greta Gesang from the Academy of English read the Totengedenken in German to the assembled public and dignitaries. At the end of the service, the Mayor of the City of Wolverhampton hosted a reception for both the veterans and the young people, bringing the generations together in a spirit of friendship and reconciliation. Click here to view the programme.
Rights: (c) Heiner Elsen (2014).
If you are interested in participating in the event, then please contact the Centenary Chair for Anglo-German Remembrance and Reconciliation, Dr. John Goodyear:
Tel: +49 (0)441 2005667
The Chase Project
The Academy of English and The Chase Project have been working closely together, collaborating in research in order to improve understanding and awareness of the Prisoner of War camps on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire during World War I. Headed by Lee Dent and Richard Pursehouse, The Chase Project looks at reconstructing the life of the Prisoner of War camp on Cannock Chase which housed German troops as early as 1917.
Pupils at the Academy of English, notably Hannah Gesang and Andreas Heyer, have provided excellent input with translations of letters and documents, as well as cultural help and research on German traditions, e.g. Karnivals, thereby improving the overall understanding of what life might have been like for those imprisoned.
The Chase Project plays a leading role in publicizing the Anglo-German Services of Remembrance and Reconciliation of the Academy of English, including promoting the event among local schools and community group as well as the regional media.