SCI International Archives

SCI history and World War I

The origins of SCI are very much linked to the history of World War I. It was in the aftermath of the war when the Swiss engineer Pierre Ceresole established the peace and humanitarian movement that laid down the foundations of SCI in 1920. In the same way, the first international voluntary service project took place on the former battle field of Verdun in France that year. The aim of the project was to reconstruct the war damaged village Esnes-en-Argonne and to be a symbol of reconciliation between France and Germany. The team – a small group international of volunteers including three Germans – built temporary homes for the people in the village and cleared the farm land.

More projects followed this pilot initiative, and they were promoted as a model service for conscientious objectors to military service, in order to support a political campaign to introduce an alternative "civilian" service ("service civil" in French, "Zivildienst" in German). From mainly relief services for regions affected by natural disasters, SCI working areas widened including social projects such as community and development aid and humanitarian projects as well (from Wales to India through Spain and Tunisia).


SCI International Archives

The SCI International Archives is the place where all this history is carefully conserved. Around 90 years of history of peace and volunteering are kept safely in 700 archive boxes. It is in the town library of La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland), where Heinz Gabathuler takes care of the files, documents and photos that are accessible to everyone – researchers, journalists, SCI activists and veterans. The SCI International Archives was established by the former international secretary Ralph Hegnauer in the 1970s.

Click here to see the Archives Catalogue


From the archives...

Check out the latest news coming from the SCI International Archives.

Les Soeurs du Service Civil                                       A Songbook from the Postwar period 

Amongst the propaganda brochures issued by SCI Archives in the early years, my clear favourite is the 32 - pages booklet titled "Les Soeurs du Service Civil".

In a box full of duplicates I found in the SCI Archives in Switzerland, a
tiny little red and yellow booklet "Work and Sing - an International Songbook".