Georg Zundel and the Concept of Peace Research

PeaceEver wondered what would happen if ground breaking scientific research, a genuine concern for philanthropy, and the study of peace were to come together in one person? Then look no further than Georg Zundel of Germany. Born on May 17, 1931 in Tübingen, Germany, he was the son of a painter and the grandson of the German industrialist Robert Bosch, who invented the first magnetic-electric ignition device for engines. As a respected biophysicist, Zundel dedicated his life to research in hydrogen bonding, achieving worldwide notoriety and eventually receiving the Great Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany in 2003. Throughout the Cold War, he was involved in scientific research with both the East and West, bridging the gap between political and cultural differences. His highly-respected work has been integral to the understanding of the electrical field that is discharged through the shifting of hydrogen protons during the process of bonding. Passing away in 2007 at the age of 76, his intellectual legacy carries on through the Berghof Laboratory of Physics and Technology he founded in 1966 – now known in environmental sectors around the world as Zundel Holding GmbH + Co. However, he is perhaps better known for his dedication to the concept of world peace – and the propagation of peaceful institutions.

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Zundel Came From the College Town of Tübingen
Photo credit: Photo: Andreas Praefcke / Foter / CC BY

Fully aware of the immense power in hydrogen that could be unleashed through fission and fusion, Zundel was a young scientist during the years of World War II and the reconstruction that followed in the wake of Nazi Germany’s collapse. Horrified by the destruction evident in the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, he joined with other German scientists in opposing the use of science for the production of nuclear weapons. Throughout the 1950s, he was a driving force within a post-World War II peace movement that swept through Europe – distributing flyers, organizing demonstrations, and speaking on the subject publicly. He was a strong supporter of the Göttinger 18, a group of 18 German scientists who issued the Göttingen Manifesto of April 12, 1957 – an appeal to the leaders of West Germany protesting against the development of nuclear weapons.  Including three Nobel laureates, the group also spoke out on the international stage against the Cold War that had emerged between the Soviet Union and the United States. Zundel stood by the manifesto as the guiding light for his own dedication to peace and opposition to nuclear proliferation. Professionally and privately, he was a strong adherent to the belief that a peaceful world had “to be a world without nuclear weapons and that scientists carry a responsibility to inform the public about the dangers of weapons of mass destruction.”

During the 1990s, he was a founding contributor to the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES), an organization dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons and the promotion of responsible and sustainable uses for science and technology. But even prior to his activism through INES, Zundel was very energetic in launching organizations on his own accord. In 1971, he founded the Bergof Foundation, a philanthropic enterprise that is to this day still owned and managed by members of the Zundel family. Originally established as the Bergoff Foundation for Conflict Studies, it is billed as “an independent, non-governmental and non-profit organization dedicated to supporting conflict stakeholders and actors in their efforts to achieve sustainable peace through peacebuilding and conflict transformation.” The organization envisions a world that is able to transform politically and socially without the use of violence, because change can occur when the various groups involved in a conflict “constructively engage with each other.” With an international board of trustees and a multi-national staff that works with associates around the world, the primary emphasis is on conflict research.

As noted at the website for the Berghof Foundation, conflict research addresses “the deeply rooted structural causes of conflict,” with the particular hope of developing “innovative approaches to the peaceful transformation of violent and protracted social conflict.” These efforts come together in a continuously updated publication called the Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation – a resource known around the globe for academicians and peace promoters to discuss and exchange ideas for successful conflict transformation. Since the date of its first publication in 1999, the handbook has been dedicated to 3 overall goals:

  • fostering critical discussion both among and between academics and practitioners;
  • bridging the gap between theory and practice in the field of conflict transformation; and
  • including a wide range of voices and perspectives from different regions throughout the world, as well as from multiple disciplines and faculties.

Specifically intended to speak to an international audience for the purpose of presenting state-of-the-art and cutting edge knowledge to the transformation of “ethnopolitical” violence, the handbook is published primarily in English, but certain articles have also been translated into seven other languages.

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Zundel Has Voiced His Opposition to Nuclear Weapons
Photo credit: Museum of Photographic Arts Collections / Foter

Around the world, humans study many things – science, biology, math, language, art, sociology, engineering, and (yes) even the history of war itself. We have data bases addressing “this,” editions of books elucidating about “that” – and explanations concerning solar flares, the speed of sound, electricity, classifications in plant life, journeys to the bottom of the sea, the chemical makeup of gunpowder, and a zillion other topics of study. Why not place peace under the microscope and discover what chemical elements come together to create the optimal environment for its existence? If we can spend trillions of dollars on weapons for waging war and mass destruction, why can’t we spend an equal amount for the creation of instruments for the purpose of “waging peace”? Why is it we honor reactive measures for confronting terrorism, when it should be approached aggressively through proactive methods that foster things such as empathy, multiculturalism, religious tolerance, and human rights? We hope you agree with us – and that you will also join us in sponsoring a national monument to the victims of terrorism. Please click on the link below and sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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About jrcclark

On October 2, 2001, scarcely one month after the horrors of 911, Representative Jim Turner of Texas introduced H. R. 2982 to the House of Representatives, calling for “the establishment of a memorial to victims who died as a result of terrorist acts against the United States or its people, at home or abroad.” The resolution was amended by the Committee on Resources in June of 2002 and eventually approved on September 25, 2002 on a “motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill.” It was sent to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but it has languished there ever since – in effect dead and going nowhere. In 2008, this Senate Committee considered making Dark Elegy, the work of a New York sculptor who lost a son in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, as the monument called for in H. R. 2982. However, the committee turned down the touching and thought-provoking sculptures of Suse Ellen Lowenstein – on the grounds that “…as compelling and impressive a proposal as has been made for the memorial in question, that we believe that, for the time being, that it relates to a very specific incident and should be treated as such rather than as a generic monument to victims of terrorism for all time.” Today the resolution seems forgotten, and it is the purpose of this website to promote a petition to the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requesting that H. R. 2982 be reconsidered and revisited.
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