Every year for 60 years, ASF (Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste), an association founded by men and women who resisted Nazism, has sent approximately 70 German volunteers to countries where the local population suffered from crimes committed by the Nazis during the Second World War. The first ASF volunteers arrived in Belgium in 1963.
The purpose of youth involvement serves to encourage reconciliation and peace through cooperation in the combat again racism, discrimination and social exclusion.
Every year, approximately fifteen volunteers are sent different institutions throughout Belgium in order to assist in the development of social, educational and history projects. These institutions include the CegeSoma and the State Archives in Eupen.
The CegeSoma the ASF… a long partnership…
The start of the cooperation between CegeSoma and ASF dates back to 2009. Since then, more than twelve volunteers have spent time at the centre.
This cooperation has always been intended to be a real “win win” for both the institution and the volunteer. The volunteers are fully integrated staff members; more specifically, they work in the documentation sector (archives, library, audio-visual, reading room and digitization of documents). By participating in various activities in this sector, they have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with historical and current documents, to interact with readers and to understand how a documentation centre generally works.
Apart from their assigned tasks, they can also develop new skills, deepen their understanding for history and strengthen their capacity for critical thinking by participating in the project ‘Exil en Belgique / Das Andere Deutschland’. This project deals with the immigration of German refugees to Belgium from 1933 to 1940. It provides the volunteers with an opportunity to carry out research at the Royal Library of Belgium and to discover the archives of immigration police at the State Archives of Belgium. The results of this project take different forms every year: exhibitions, presentations of biographies, interviews with families, …
To complete their program, the volunteers attend language courses and, once a week, lend a helping hand to the non-profit organisation Convivial, which provides support to refugees.
In addition to simply broadening their knowledge, the volunteers also take part in a vibrant social environment where they share their workplace with others; participate in conversations with colleagues at lunchtime, are part of a team, see the difficulties people encounter …
Assessment of the partnership:
Each year, CegeSoma has the pleasure of welcoming aspiring, reliable and enterprising young men and women who strive to give the best of themselves. We can only admire their adaptability and language skills as well as at their ability to quickly familiarise themselves with the tasks entrusted to them. Moreover, we are impressed by the association ASF, which provides the volunteers with professional guidance.
Finally, CegeSoma has the satisfaction of contributing to a European citizenship project, the underlying message of which the centre wholeheartedly endorses. This form of partnership certainly has a bright future at the State Archives.