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.


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.


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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Tribute in Light: A Heavenly-Reaching Luminesce

lightDuring the months following the tragedy of 911, a weary and shocked New York City was ready for a memorial that would eulogize and venerate all those that had perished in the horrific events of that day. Searching for a way that such a monument could jump into existence instantaneously, without the laying of bricks and mortar, the Municipal Art Society of New York City turned to pure light – as evident in eighty eight 7000-watt xenon light bulbs projecting brightly to the heavens. Consisting of search lights that are positioned “into two 48-foot squares that echo the shape and orientation of the Twin Towers,” the Tribute in Light is essentially a dedication in luminesce that reaches 4 miles into the heavens every year on the anniversary of 911 – creating the brightest beam ever seen shining into the nighttime sky. First assembled exactly 6 months after the events of 911 on March 11, 2002 through a grant provided by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the tribute has occurred every year since, as a glowing memorial to those that perished – either as the originally intended victims of the terrorists or as those who died as part of the rescue efforts that followed. It is a testament so brilliant and attractive, even migrating birds can’t resist – flocking and swarming to be a part of the majestic beams as they make their way into outer space.


Photo credit: David Shankbone / Foter / CC BY

The original idea for Tribute in Light came within a week of the horrors that beset New York City on September 11, 2001 – when a group led by designer John Englehart of the Arnell Group approached Consolidated Edison, the electric utility company serving the area. A noted New York architect, Richard Nash Gould, presented the idea to the Municipal Art Society, which thereupon contacted New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and urged him to go forward with a project that would be entitled “Towers of Light.” Very much agreeing with the idea, Giuliani acquired the services of a lighting company hailing from a city noted for its bright illuminations – Las Vegas, Nevada. Springing from these initial efforts, a creative team including Gould, architects John Bennett and Gustavo Bonevardi of Proun Space Studio, artists Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, and lighting designer Paul Marantz moved forward with the project. The Municipal Art Society joined forces with Creative Time as the two non-profit organizations providing production support for the realization of the creative venture.

Through the graces of the Battery Park City Authority, the location for the project came to be situated in an empty construction lot adjacent to Ground Zero, which “was selected over others in order to avoid interfering with the recovery process and in an effort to be sensitive to Lower Manhattan residents.” As part of the final approval for the initial projection of light in March of 2002, the idea received the endorsement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the “light cannons” were provided through a gracious donation on the part of company that manufactured them. Although the demonstration in illumination has occurred every year since 911, its future at one time lay in great peril due to a lack of funding. Unable to find the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to provide the tribute, the Municipal Art Society was forced to initiate a fundraising campaign, but the real salvation for the annual event came when it was turned over to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which became the official sponsor for the 2012 anniversary. Usually accompanied by a variety of salutatory measures, the 2012 ceremony marking the lighting of the tribute was attended only by family members of 911 victims and high ranking officials, who for the first time were not allowed to speak at all. Under the auspices of the Memorial & Museum, it is hoped that the Tribute in Light will be preserved as an annual commemorative event for years to come.


Photo credit: KimCarpenter NJ / Foter / CC BY

The twin columns of light eerily rising to the heavens can be seen easily from a 60 mile radius, beginning at sunset on September 11 and ending at sunrise on September 12. At least three quarters of the families affected by the loss of loved ones through the events of 911 have voiced their support for making Tribute in Light a permanent yearly event. Down through the years, the location for the light cannons has changed with the shifting availability of space in a crowded metropolis – but it has persisted as a memorial to those that lost their lives to an overwhelming human tragedy, not to mention the symbolical statement it makes on the need for world peace. As a grassroots endeavor that has morphed and persisted to the present, the yearly memorial comprised of heavenly-reaching light is a testimony to the cathartic impact such endeavors have on the human spirit – and the real need for a national monument to the victims of terrorism is encapsulated in that fact. Please join us and sign the petition by clicking on the link below.

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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