In an original move designed to mark the centenary of the
First World War, Abingdon School has invited its exchange school in Germany,
the Ratsgymnasium in Bielefeld, to co-operate in a joint exhibition on the
impact of the war on their two schools.
The friendship between the schools is nearly fifty years old, but as they both
acknowledge, it wasn't always like this. Casualty records show more than one
occasion when the chances are that Abingdon and Bielefeld pupils were involved
in the same battles but on opposite sides.
Records at the two schools vary with Abingdon having a continuous run of the
school magazine and a collection of letters and photographs of the dead, now
all online (see www.abingdon.org.uk/1ww).
Bielefeld has a collection of essays written by the German pupils in August
1914, which offer a fascinating insight into their thinking at the time, one
that belies our popular opinion of Germany’s attitude.
The exhibition was the idea of Abingdon School’s archivist, Sarah Wearne, who
says, “I felt that the friendship not only between our two schools but between
our two countries should be acknowledged by showing a respect for our war
experiences. If nothing else these throw up our common humanity: love of
country, sense of duty, grief, fear, love, and despair. The German A
level essays from the time show everyone shared the same fears, there is a
common humanity that binds the people of both countries,"
Dr Marli Schuetze, teacher of
English and French at Ratsgymnasium Bielefeld said, "As Germans we want to
show that we want to live up to the responsibility to learn from history.
It is something of a peace project for us; more about what we share than what
Calum Steer, age 14 from Abingdon School added,
"The partnership with the German students is really interesting. It
highlights cultural differences but also shows how much we have in common as
Tjorven Woermann, age 14 from Bielefeld said, "I think it is important to
know about each other's history and I am happy we get on so well today."
Pictured are the boys from both schools who compiled the exhibition.