Annette Schavan, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the EVZ Foundation

How did you perceive the year 2021 – from your perspective as Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the EVZ Foundation?

2021 was an interim year. Although the Covid-19 pandemic had not yet completely lost its horror, societies had come to terms with the "new normal": the digital learning curve was steep; and working under the conditions of "social distancing" became an everyday reality. Our project sponsors have adapted their work to these conditions in an impressive way. Visits at the window or Zoom calls to survivors of National Socialist persecution became commonplace. We must continue to do all we can together to bring the very elderly into our social center and perception. At the same time, the historical upheaval we are experiencing as we write these lines is not yet finished. Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian participants still came together in our youth projects. The first ban of Memorial at the end of 2021 was an alarming sign of the brutal repression of civil society organizations, the lack of freedom of expression and historical revisionism that now go hand in hand with Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine in an even more intensified form.

The EVZ Foundation's 2021 Agenda for the Future states that the Foundation "is positioning itself as more capable of action and more effective." What does this mean?

This reflects the Foundation's new beginnings and the ambition for its commitment. The Foundation has strategically reconfigured itself, questioned stakeholders, identified and formulated needs through participatory formats, and applied new funding approaches. To illustrate this: In the field of activity "Action", we will strengthen self-organizations with even greater commitment in the future. In the field of activity "Education", we address gaps in knowledge within society with innovative narrative forms – e.g. relating to marginalized victim groups.

2021 marked the 20th anniversary of the start of payments to former forced laborers. What do you take with you from the founding mission into the future?

As we state on the Foundation's anniversary website: The issue of how we shape the future also depends on our understanding of the past. This applies to our society, its knowledge of National Socialist injustices and the persistence of exclusion and discrimination into the present. But this also applies to the EVZ Foundation itself. The Foundation was established in a cooperative spirit, a unique private-public partnership across organizational and national organizational boundaries and national borders. We continue to implement this mission of dialog, change of perspective and mediation – it is now more important than ever.

Annette Schavan, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees Former Federal Minister