“On Guilt and Atonement”: Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste and its Activity in Israel
The article describes the Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste organization – ASF (Action Reconciliation Service for Peace), the values that underlay its establishment, and the way that it worked from its inception in 1958 to the 1990s, stressing on the organization’s activities in Israel. The article examines the process through which the organization changed over three main periods: 1958-1968, 1968-1980, and 1980-1992. For each period, the organization’s activities are examined in parallel with the trends in shaping memories of the Holocaust and the Nazi past in West German society. For each time period, the organization’s constitutive values are examined, together with its behavior and the profile of its volunteers. Special emphasis is placed in each time period on the organization’s activities in Israel. In parallel to describing the processes throughout the years that the organization has been operating, the article examines the subsequent influence on volunteers’ lives of the period during which they were involved with the organization. Since ASF is a volunteer organization which operates similarly to a youth movement, combining theory and action, the observation of the organization made it possible to examine processes on a number of different levels. The study thus made it possible to look at written versus oral narratives, intergenerational relationships, official declarations versus hands-on decisions, and moderate decisions versus extreme positions.