The Foyer International d’Etudes Françaises (International Centre for French studies,) is a non profit association 1901 Act, founded by Ernest Jouhy in 1961. Bernard Martini and his wife Madeleine, both professors of German, were its voluntary directors until 2002.
Today the Association is presided by Bernard Faquin and it welcomes every year groups and families of all nationalities for all kinds of activities: seminars, vocational training programmes, civilisation and language courses, study and heritage trips, arts activities, family occasions…
- Why found the FIEF?
- Why in la Bégude de Mazenc?
The founder of the FIEF Ernest Jouhy (1913 – 1988) answered the question twenty years after having asked it to himself.
I must begin with my own story. Not for self-praise, but to explain where the idea came from as well as the determination to make it reality.
I spent my childhood in Berlin. It was during the twenties. My last years at High School saw the rise of fascism. I was at the time a young follower of Marx and Alfred Adler, I was a militant in a young Jewish far left wing organization, fighting racism, chauvinism and the cynical hate of Humanism. In 1933, after seven months as a clandestine in what had become Hitler’s Germany, I joined the French branch of my family in Paris. I finished my studies in Psycho pedagogy at the Sorbonne. However, from 1933 to the end of the war I dedicated most of my energy and hopes to the intellectual, political and armed fight against the monstrous and bloody terror of fascism.
Before their elimination, the German Nazis had exterminated nearly all my family, murdered my friends, deported the children I was in charge of as educator. And yet, in 1952, I went back to Germany and accepted to work in a pedagogical team which was at the head of a school community, a leader in the democratic reform of the young German Federal Republic. I went back, me, young Frenchman, because I was convinced that I had to commit my sufferings, my political experience and my pedagogical skills to that mounting generation over the Rhine, wounded and corrupted by twelve barbaric years.
I settled back in Germany because in my opinion, the rare Franco-Germans capable of reviving in the young Germans the humanist heritage in ruins would have to answer for that in front of the whole of Europe. They had to resuscitate in that young generation of “Germany year zero” the ideas of Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Rousseau, Goethe, Condorcet, Humboldt. They owed it to Europe to re-awaken in the young the perspectives that had inspired the great thinkers both German and European, such as Hegel, Marx, Schiller, Heine, Berthold Brecht, Böll, Freud, Adler, Adorno, Bloch. I had put aside the resentment that so many of my friends of the Resistance held against my return to Germany. I felt we had to incarnate and recall in education and teaching the message of 1789, the horror of the Holocaust, the music of Beethoven, the despicable figure of a Goebbels, and the yelling of the assault divisions.
So I went back to Germany wanting to take with me a bit of France and I settled in Odenwald, while at the same time setting up the Centre in La Bégude. The French centre was still practically a project, and to my mind had to be an educational centre for the young and for teachers wishing to recycle. Its foundation and its approach had to show the truth of Sartre’s “existence precedes essence”. It had to show in practice the fertile contradictions of the becoming, the superposed layers of history, the harmony and the opposition between nature and culture, of the individual and society. It had to be located in a region where the immense heritage of France and of Europe could speak to the teachers and to the young Germans without textbooks and hard studies, in a place where the joy of being there would precede the need to learn and where living the present moment would give the courage to prepare the future one.
Right from my first contact with the old village of Châteauneuf, I was convinced that La Bégude would meet these requirements. It was during the Resistance that I linked with the Rhône-Alpes region .It was the UNESCO training programmes aimed at children victims of the war that led me to the Beauvallon School, and hence to Dieulefit. It was the school’s admirable Headmistresses that introduced me to Châteauneuf-de-Mazenc. In 1948 I found myself for the first time on that hill where the eye looks over a distance and at the same time is limited, where the landscape is “defined” like the Latin spirit, I dreamt of seeing that old feudal bastion of ancient masters and slaves transformed into a FIEF without prejudice, with no master except the spirit of understanding and of tolerance, where the internationalist could feel at home, the foreign youth in their own centre.
I dreamt of all this as a lover of a certain quality of life and as an educator in search of his working tools. The Drome’s quality of life and its pedagogical qualities have for ever committed me to this work. Here, in this landscape of light and of culture one feels linked to the history and to the present of France and of Europe.
Mediterranean and Alpine, dry and fertile, Gaul and Roman, Provencal and French, catholic and protestant, disciplined and rebel, austere and funny, this land represents the contradictions of France, which generate love, admiration and at the same time a critical eye and a longing for change. The old Romanic church and the Templars’ House in Châteauneuf, half an hour away from the nuclear centre, the feudal belfry and the sinister absolutist dungeon of repression in Crest, not far from the Resistance’s traces in the courtyard of the FIEF, the remnants of the terror and of the liberation in the Vercors mountains. All these aspects introduce the learner to the past and then release him or her so that he or she can carry on and innovate. This is where the geographical, historical, economic, social and cultural elements precede and pre-define the essence of the ideas and of the opinions that are compared and then integrated.
It is a “survivor” of a guilty and sacrificed generation both in France and in Germany that has found friends to share the hopes and the toil to create the FIEF. It is the young ones among them, first of all Bernard and Madeleine Martini, who twenty years after the difficult beginnings, continue, transform and widen the common work inspired by the words of Jean Jaurès, that apostle of humanist socialism and of Peace: “It is because it flows towards the sea that the river remains faithful to its source.”
Ernest JOUHY, June 1981