Richard Schirrmann in England

P1060376To Willersley Castle for a meeting today.  I can’t help but remember that Richard Schirrmann was here in 1934.

He came with delegates from across Europe, from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Danzig, England and Wales, France, Germany, Holland, the Irish Republic, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland, Poland, Scotland and Switzerland.

They met here for four days. They pooled their ideas about youth hostels hoping to  achieve greater freedom of travel for young people in Europe as the threat of a second world war increased.  In Germany the Nazis had taken over youth hostels installing their own people in uniforms.

With an agenda of 60 pages, their work included admitting Danzig, Luxembourg and Rumania to membership of their association.

They found time go by bus to youth hostels at Chester and Maeshafn in Wales. They stopped at the youth hostel in Llangollen for lunch before continuing to Shrewsbury for tea.

During the journey, in mist and rain, they sang to entertain themselves, which Schirrmann always enjoyed. A concert of folk music and a film about youth hostels in England and Wales, Youth Hails Adventure, entertained them that night back at Willersley.

After a conference session the next day, they visited the nearby Hartington Hall youth hostel, where Schirrmann planted a copper beech tree as a symbol of the friendship of the youth of all nations. Five years later war in Europe began.

A tree in the grounds of Harrington and a plaque are reminders of that visit but for me Willersley Castle is another tangible reminder of Richard Schirrmann and his hopes that if “thoughtful young people of all countries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other” peace and friendliness could be encouraged.

“That could and must be the role of our youth hostels, not only in Germany, but throughout the world, building a bridge of peace from nation to nation.”

You can read more about the meeting at Willersley Castle in Richard Schirrmann, the man who invented youth hostels.

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