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

A Theologian for Europe between Ecumenism and Federalism


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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Plans of Christian Churches and Groups on the Future of Europe in “Documents on the History of European Integration” by Walter Lipgens




The extensive documentary collection Europa-Föderationpläne der Widerstandsbewegungen 1940-45 was published in 1968 by Oldenbourg Verlag in Munich in the collection of the German Society for Foreign Policy in Bonn and edited by historian Walter Lipgens1. It reported and commented on a number of (partly unpublished) documents containing Europeanist and federalist views as well as programme proposals defining the structure of Europe after the defeat of Hitler’s Germany drawn up by different national and transnational Resistance groups during the Second World War. They were grouped into different sections according ← 273 | 274 → to national origin and accompanied by a specific detailed introduction. It was only the first step in a long historiographical work which kept Lipgens occupied until his death and culminated in the four volumes of Documents on the History of European Integration, published in English in the 1980s, a substantial work that was made possible thanks to the fundamental contribution of Wilfried Loth, Lipgens’ student, and the contributions of a long list of European scholars and historians who provided the introductions to the various sections into which each volume is divided.

The first two of them cover the years 1939-1945 and are a more in-depth study of the issues addressed in Europa-Föderationpläne, extending the collection of documents. The first volume includes documents drafted by the Resistance movements in Germany and the occupied countries (Continental Plans for European Union). This perspective is broadened in the second (Plans for European...

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