Paths of Peace Study Camp

As part of “Memory beyond Rhetoric” several study camps at former sites of WW1 are taking place throughout Europe. Participants from former enemy countries coming together in order to reflect on the horrors of war, critically analyse the myth of the soldier as a hero and talk about the impact on present day situations.

The first of these camps took place in Kötschach-Mauthen in the very south of Austria, very close to the trenches where Austria-Hungarian troupes fought against Italians, from the 14th to the 24th of July 2015. Kötschach-Mauthen is a small town, famous for the impressive landscape around and its close connections to Italy. The 26 participants came form Italy (6) and Austria (20) making it a bilateral study camp.

The aim of the event was to reconstruction of old trails & historical sites for the improvement of the Open Air Museum; to raise awareness about WWI and its legacies; to make a connection between past and present with focus on anti-militaristic message and necessity of participation; to increase the understanding of the Union, its history and diversity; debunking of the myth of the hero-soldier, and to collect material for the final booklet. The participants were stimulated in further investigating the proposed topics and realized a workshop in a local school. 

Paths of peace study camp in Austria

The volunteers did research on the First World War on their own and also in guided sessions. All participants took part in discussions, the creation of study materials and exchanged ideas openly with each other. They started with teambuilding games through discovering the place and distributed all the work among themselves, which had to be done, such as cooking together, cleaning, time keeping, etc. 

As a first step the participants constructed a timeline of the main events that happened during the First World War and then presented it to the group. Afterwards they added the main events of the Austro-Italian front in the timeline and discussed it in detail.

As SCI was founded shortly after the end of the First World War they also focused on SCI and its connection to WWI, making a social media report, taking photos and collecting ideas on peace work in general. Pacifism during and after the war was a very important topic in general. Deep reflection was made on this as well as the definition of peace and non-violence in by the group.

A movie night was organised with films related to the topic as well as a human rights and a maps workshop to better understand the entire affections of the war.

The group especially focused on the topic of propaganda during WWI. The participants created their own propaganda flyers. As part of the propaganda session they visited a special exhibition in the Museum 1914-18, which was about arts in wartime. In another workshop they talked about the construction of war heroes and heroines and also their deconstruction. Heroes and heroines of pacifism had been very important in the sessions, as well as pacifism movements today and their heroes and heroines. In a workshop about rememberance, the creation of national heroism and the channels and communitites of memory work were discussed. In order to better understand the topic the group visited the Open Air Musuem on the Plöckenpass high up in the mountains.

A whole day was spent hiking in the mountains and talking with the participants of the other SCI workcamp at the Open Air Musuem, The volunteers also visited the Museum 1915-18 in the town of Kötschach-Mauthen run by the “Friends of the Dolomites”. In a small theatre play they learned about male and female roles in WWI. Furthermore a workshop was organised for the other SCI-workcamp where the participants of the study camp taught them what they had learnt about WWI so far. As a final event the volunteers presented their knowledge in a workshop to local people in a public event. 

Contributions from participants are available here: