Reflections on 50 years of work by the Schwarzkopf Foundation

Schwarzkopf Young Europe with Angela Merkel, 2019
Schwarzkopf Young Europe with Angela Merkel, 2019

On April 1, 2021, the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe celebrated its 50th anniversary.  André Schmitz-Schwarzkopf reflects on 50 years of work by the Foundation in promoting European values and democracy. 

When Pauline Schwarzkopf founded the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe in Hamburg on April 1, 1971, the political Europe still looked completely different than it does today, exactly 50 years later. At that time, European integration as a response to the devastating 20th century was supposed to be promoted primarily through a common economic policy among the six founding members of the EEC. Europe, Germany and Berlin were still divided.

The world has changed radically since then. However, the mission that Pauline Schwarzkopf left us - to strengthen young people in the spirit of European unification and peace - is equally relevant. It has been the goal and purpose of our foundation and all our activities ever since.

The first 25 years of our foundation's history were strongly characterized by the personal commitment of the founder. With her passion for the cause and her Christian based sense of justice, she took an active part in the events and trips for young people, for example to the European institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg as well as to Poland and the GDR. Under her leadership, we initiated the first Young European of the Year Award on the occasion of the Foundation's 25th anniversary, with the first prize winner being David Stulik from the Czech Republic.

At the suggestion of our first executive director, Ilka Keuper, who sadly passed away a few months ago, the Foundation opened its new office in Sophien Strasse in Berlin-Mitte in 2000. Since then, young people have met with politicians, scientists, artists and entrepreneurs at the Paulinenhof for numerous evenings of events and discussions. Seminars on European policy issues are held here, and young trainers are trained to teach European policy topics in schools in Germany and other European countries, and much more.

The foundation has been awarding the Schwarzkopf Europe Prize since 2003. A jury of young people from all over Europe chooses the winners, including the first winner Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the Yugoslavia Tribunal, or the writer Navid Kermani, but also politicians such as Martin Schulz and Jean-Claude Juncker. In 2004, the European Youth Parliament (EYP), which is active in 40 European countries, became part of the foundation's work. Today, it reaches more than 30,000 young people in Europe from Armenia to Portugal every year. The EYP's first project manager, Philipp Scharff, succeeded Ilka Keuper as the foundation's successful executive director in 2008 and remained so until 2013, when Anne Rolvering led the foundation to new successes until the end of 2020. We are all now looking forward to continuing to work with the new Managing Director, Luisa Seiler.

Our foundation's beginnings 50 years ago were shaped by the experiences of excessive nationalism, racial mania, and xenophobia from the so-called "Third Reich". A democratic, united, peaceful, and solidary Europe as an answer to this deepest fall into barbarism is the founding idea of our foundation. In this spirit, our statutes were expanded in 2008 to include the goals of combating anti-Semitism and racism. All of us at the Foundation are particularly dedicated to this cause. A highlight of our foundation's work is therefore the annual awarding of the Margot Friedländer Prize, named after the Holocaust survivor and honorary citizen of Berlin. Students throughout Germany are honored for projects commemorating the victims of the Holocaust and thus encouraged to continue this path. We have also recently begun supporting young scholarship holders in developing a wide range of projects against anti-Semitism through the "Young Ambassadors Against Antisemitism" educational program.

Much has been achieved in Europe over the past 50 years. In the meantime, we count 27 member states in the European Union, there is freedom of establishment and travel, a common currency - things that the people who were there when the Foundation was established on April 1, 1971, would not even have dreamed of. The goal of a united Europe open to the world has remained the same, only the tasks have changed. For this reason, we are particularly pleased that in 2019 the Young Islam Conference could come under the umbrella of the Schwarzkopf Foundation. It is a wonderful network that has now been connecting people of different origins throughout Germany for ten years. With the competence network 'Zusammenleben in der Einwanderungsgesellschaft' (Living together in a migration society), we have also recently started to support other educational actors who make their voices heard to young people from different backgrounds in a pluralistic, inclusive and democratic migration society.

We would have loved to celebrate the Schwarzkopf Foundation's 50th birthday this year with you, our friends, and supporters. Corona wanted it differently, but we hope to be able to celebrate our 51st birthday together with you just as extensively next year. To set at least a small celebratory sign for the anniversary, we have decided to endow the European Schwarzkopf Composition Prize this year. Together with the Herbert von Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic, we want to award a scholarship for young European composers. The scholarship holder will thus gain a unique insight into everyday philharmonic life. The scholarship is used to work on a compositional project, which will later be presented to the public in a chamber music concert of the Karajan Academy. To our great joy, the first prize winner is the young Armenian composer Horvic Sardaryan. What connects us people in Europe across all borders more than music?

We thank you all for your accompaniment and support on the way for a better, peaceful, and democratic Europe.

Vive lˋEurope

André Schmitz-Schwarzkopf, Chairman,  Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe

Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe



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