Study Group Wisdom of Contemporary Witnesses (WEIZEN)
Founding process and objective of the WEIZEN study group
On October 9th 2019, at 11:00h, the study group WEIZEN (wisdom of contemporary witnesses) was founded in the house of Ursula Dallwitz-Wegner by four elderly people and one academic, with the objective to hand down knowledge, political experience and life lessons to younger people and following generations. The project is based on the intergenerational studies seminar Ethik der Generationen (ethics of generations) founded by Dr. Ehret, where elderly people and students at Heidelberg University discuss social issues on a theoretical, ethical and pedagogical level. In this context, Ursula von Dallwitz-Wegner pointed out the duty of elderly people to pass on their cultural and historical knowledge to younger generations. The authenticity of this knowledge, according to Mr. Sammet, traces back to the fact that elderly people, like no others, are connected to the past. The centrepiece in that is the dialogue (in the sense of Socratic questioning) in which truth and wisdom can be conveyed. The efficiency of the dialogue could be proven multiple times.
The last remaining contemporary witnesses of World War II are available for questions on National Socialism (propaganda, obligation, parental behaviour etc.), the post-war years, and in some cases even the Weimar Republic. They furthermore possess an profound knowledge about associated topics just like the sense of belonging, dictatorship and democracy, East-West-differences, planned economy and market economy, which all can be easily refreshed in conversations with younger people.
The study group considers its work as a contribution to the education process of society by old age. Such an education manifests itself by respecting one’s elders and the historical and cultural role they play. In its informal dimension it functions as a fundamental socialisation of different ages and ties in with thoughts and ideas of great philosophers. The intergenerational dialogue is the highest form of communication.
We encourage the self-reflective historical learning in dialogue and guarantee a maximum of traditional-exemplary, critical and genetic construction of meaning.
We are currently looking for older and younger people who would like to write letters.
Please contact us via mail: email@example.com.
Dr. phil. Sonja Ehret (chairperson und founder)
Ursula von Dallwitz-Wegner, (1922-2020, founder)
Ingrid Michligk, Jg. 1927 (founding member)
Gerhard May, Jg. 1932 (founding member)
Gerhart Sammet, (1928-2020, founding member)
Elders: Inge Burck, Jg. 1925, Doris Ebert, Jg. 1928, Johanna Ittner, Jg. 1932, Renate Kudla, Jg. 1932, Rosemarie Schnepf, Jg. 1927, Gertrud Ulbricht, Jg. 1920, Olga Gräf, Jg. 1932, Edith Wendt, Jg. 1931
Students: Jasmin Alaeddine, Franziska Cengiz, Johannes Hitzegrad, Alice Kübler, Miguel Andres Rapp
The study group was awarded the prize of the community foundation Heidelberg.
If you are interested in participating in this project, regardless of your age, please feel free to get in touch.
The WEIZEN study group works dialogically. In dialogues and polylogues, supported by Socratic questions, truth and wisdom shall be brought to light. But what does dialogue even mean? We understand dialogue as a verbal encounter between people. When young and older people meet in this in-between, their encounters should be of certain quality, because this is where the anthropological meets the ontological. Buber emphasizes the joint productivity that these situations hold because of the potential of interpersonal communication to deduce the unknown.
The productivity of the dialogue between the young and the old is - due to the propulsive course in precisely these two life phases – accelerated (Ehret 2019). All the provided material is approved by the involved dialogue partners. The results shall be complemented by implementations into society. Please address inquiries to Dr. Ehret.
The study group was also active in the summer term 2020. Young and old reflected in dialogues via letters about time and temporality, acceleration and stagnation, as well as about human virtues from the past, the present and the future. At the end of the term, dialogues about the latest human rights issues were held. A publication is currently under review.
In the winter term 2020/2021, our seminar series continued with digital support on the topic Changing culture of life – a intergenerational dialogue in our classical format. Visits to elderly people took place in compliance with the pandemic induced hygiene rules (mask, distance, test) in order to maintain the dialogic and social contact. Furthermore, the seminar provided alternatives where dialogues could be held via letter or phone. Find the highlights of our winter term listed below.
In the summer term 2021 we went on a journey with our seminar Ethik der Generationen. The topic was: Living responsibly – an ethical journey for young and old. 15 young students and 15 elderly people encountered in either a real dialogue at the elders’ home or alternatively on the phone or in letters. Following you can find the highlights of our summer term.
Ehret, S. (2021): Daseinsthemen Hochbetagter am Lebensende. Eine retrospektive Interpretation. Pro Alter 1/21, 23-26.
Ehret, S. (2021): Der Arbeitskreis WeiZen (Weisheit der Zeitzeugen). Pro Alter 2/21.
Contributions of study group members