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«Die Welt war meine Gemeinde»- Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft

A Theologian for Europe between Ecumenism and Federalism

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Edited By Filippo Maria Giordano and Stefano Dell'Acqua

Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft (1900–1985), Dutch pastor and theologian, was one of the most significant personalities in the Protestant Ecumenical movement. Deeply influenced by Karl Barth, and filled with a strong Ecumenical spirit, he was closely involved in the founding of the World Council of Churches, of which he was elected General Secretary. During the Second World War, many Protestants became convinced of the need for an international political system which, beside uniting the nations and peoples of Europe, would guarantee them fundamental freedoms and mutual respect for their historical, cultural and confessional traditions.
The directors of the WWC were strongly committed to federalism, partly because of the political traditions of the states from which their member churches originated (Switzerland; Great Britain and its Commonwealth; the United States), and partly because of their conviction that a simple confederation of states, based on the model of the League of Nations, would be completely incapable of containing national ambitions. In spring 1944, Visser ’t Hooft welcomed into his Geneva home the representatives of the European Resistance, who, under the leadership of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, signed the International Federalist Declaration of the Resistance Movements. These historic transnational encounters, aimed not only at coordinating military action or seeking diplomatic contacts but at exploring ways to «build» peace and re-establish the future of the Continent on new foundations, marked a profound break with the past.
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The 1944 Meetings at the House of Willem Adolph Visser ’t Hooft

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The International Federalist Declaration of the Resistance Movements

Antonella BRAGA

This paper is focused on the analysis of the international meetings that took place in Geneva at the house of Pastor Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft between the spring and summer of 1944, which were the most important initiatives promoted by Ernesto Rossi and Altiero Spinelli during their exile in Switzerland.

Much has already been written about these meetings, not only in the protagonists’ memoirs, such as those of Visser ’t Hooft and Spinelli, but also in the historical essays by Klaus Voigt, Walter Lipgens, Cinzia Rognoni Vercelli and Piero Graglia1. I have personally addressed this subject in a book dedicated to Ernesto Rossi’s federalist efforts, deepening the debate that led to the federalist declaration and trying to clarify any controversial issues2. I would refer to this study for a more comprehensive analysis. However, this is still a work in progress as all the available sources have yet to be compared, especially those not written in Italian, starting with ← 165 | 166 → the documents stored in Visser ’t Hooft’s private archive. Therefore, here I will only provide a general reconstruction of the story.

Spinelli and Rossi, both appointed interim Secretaries of the newly founded European Federalist Movement (Milan, August 1943), obtained a mandate to go to neutral Switzerland at the earliest opportunity to rally support for the United States of Europe among all the European Resistance movements3. After September 8th, 1943,...

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