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The Gustav Stresemann Institute is an organisation with history; the first steps towards this started in 1951. The European Educational Centre and Conference House, Bad Bevensen, of the Gustav Stresemann Institute in Niedersachsen e. V. – a long name that sounds like a large organisation. It is however a small non-profit association without institutional links to an umbrella organisation.

Berthold Finkelstein

The development of the Stresemann Institute has been shaped by Berthold Finkelstein. As a victim of Nazi persecution, he belonged to a group of politically motivated and responsible people in Europe who after 1945 thought beyond the borders of the nation state. His vision was called “Reconciliation in Europe”. He was actively engaged towards that aim in the work of civic education from 1953 until his death in 1996.

Berthold Finkelstein was also a co-founder as well as the chairman of the Association of German Education Organisations (AdB) and was connected from the beginning on with politicians from all parties.

It is not just the Gustav Stresemann Institute in Niedersachsen e. V. that owes its existence to him, rather, the Gustav Stresemann Institute in Bonn also does – with its large conference venue in the middle of the former governmental district.

The name giver

Berthold Finkelstein chose the name of the German Foreign Secretary (1923 till 1929) Gustav Stresemann, with a view towards his accomplishments regarding German-French understanding and European unity in the time between the world wars.

In 1926, Gustav Stresemann achieved the Nobel Peace Prize for his work towards reconciliation, together with his French colleague Aristide Briand.

However, an appropriate recognition of his foreign policy was refused in Germany. Many reviled him as a “fulfilment agent” of the victorious powers due to his policies of rapprochement.

The Educational and Conference Centre in Bad Bevensen

The Lower Saxony Gustav Stresemann Institute was founded in 1975. At its beginning, the seminar work began without a house. In 1977, the former local court in Medingen (a district of Bad Bevensen) could be bought from the state of Lower Saxony and converted into a conference centre.

The work of the Adult Educational Centre (Heimvolkshochschule) – such is the official term following an old Scandinavian tradition – was determined by seminars within the framework of further education. To a large extent, the educational work was financially supported by the state of Lower Saxony, which took a leading role in the forming of a progressive and family-friendly adult education law in order to support life-long learning.

The place

Here, in Bad Bavensen-Medingen, the Gustav Stresemann Institute came into being on a historic site of a quite different kind, in the form of the old district court which was built in 1541 on behalf of the protestant duke Ernst “the Confessor”, during the course of a conflict with the Roman Catholic convent of Medingen.

The duke, who had been a follower of Martin Luther since his studies in Wittenberg, took over the government of the principality of Braunschweig-Lüneburg in 1521. Soon after that, he attempted to introduce the new teaching in his principality.

At that time, he urgently needed the rich church and convent property in order to restructure the state’s finances. The monasteries, which feared for their existence, exercised strong resistance during the period after the introduction of the reformation in 1527. In the midst of this resistance was the Medingen convent.

In the course of these disputes, the duke allowed for the erection of a castle-like building on the one entrance to the convent right next to the convent gate. An inscription on the porch indicates that the “Prince´s House” was built by Prince Ernst for the providence of his wife Sophia von Mecklenburg, in the case that she outlived her husband. When Sophia died first, however, the duke gave the house to his daughter Katharina, who acquired it in 1546 and was buried in the Medingen convent after her death in 1615.

It was not just the historical events of the Reformation that led to the “Prince´s House” in Medingen becoming a meaningful cultural monument. Its architecture also offers interesting insights on the change in style from gothic to early Renaissance.

District court and magistrate dwelling

From the end of the 19th century to the 1960s, the Medingen District Court was to be found in the former ducal Prince’s House.

Like the district court, the “district court judge’s mansion” and the “magistrate’s house” are listed buildings under monumental protection. They were built in the middle of the 19th century in a time when the district court seat of ducal administration and jurisdiction.

The Gustav Stresemann Institute today

Our budget is based on a combination of public funding (support for adult education from the state of Lower Saxony, Federal Sources, project funds) as well as participation fees and income from groups booking our seminar infrastructure.

We continue to maintain the property, which is largely comprised of listed buildings and is expensive to maintain, in good condition and, whenever financially possible, to improve the building stock.

The fact that GSI is continuously present in such a changing landscape of education is due to a mixture of our own seminars and the guest groups.

A big share of our target groups participates in seminars conducted by GSI staff members or are run in co-operation with our partners. The other part are groups who have chosen to use this house as a place for their own seminars.

Our seminar programme has significantly changed our establishment, despite that we attempt to perpetuate this house of meeting in the spirit of its founders.


Gustav Stresemann Institute in Niedersachsen e.V. // The European Educational and Conference Centre, Bad Bevensen

Klosterweg 4
29549 Bad Bevensen
Telephone: +49 (0) 5821-955 0
E-Mail: info@gsi-bevensen.de

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