Victories Without Violence number 9 at the Progress Report
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Victories Without Violence
Near the University of Göttingen, about 50 students eat, play and study together. Half of these students are German; half are from other countries. By the way, the year is 1950 and World War II is fresh in everyone’s memory.
How did this experiment in give-and-take across national frontiers get started? Through a Norwegian by the name of Brennvold. Pastor of a church, he was a leading figure in the Norwegian resistance movement. In 1943 the Nazis captured Brennvold and deported him to Germany keeping him two years in concentration camp. For six months he was under sentence of death. Most of his friends working with him in Norway were killed.
Set free in 1945 by the Allies, he set out to get “revenge.” He got it. It took months of begging money all over the Western world. But now the dream is a reality, and in a residential center 50 students are learning how to live instead of kill together. Hate is being overcome by cooperation — Scandinavian style.
Professor Douglas Steere of Haverford College describes a two-hour discussion one afternoon in 1950 with some of the resident students. “The experience of living and talking together showed itself in the way they handled issues, listening to each other and building on each other’s points instead of the usual method of seeking to annihilate all, and then to give the final solution of the issues in terms of your own prejudice.” Steere also reports what the founder, Pastor Brennvold, told him, as they were alone, about his prison experience.
When the sentence of death came, the pastor faced it and was prepared to die. Then “a wave of mercy for his fellows swept over him, a wave that included especially the Norwegian Quislings [those who cooperated openly with the Nazis]. He saw that the people in Norway could only live together after the war if this mercy broke out everywhere.”