Denis de Rougemont


What an outstanding person from his very beginning! Born in a Swiss mountain village near Neuchâtel, biochemist at 14, a poet with 18, publishing his first article with 17, and with 22 his first book "The Misdeeds of Public Education" (to which he was exposed from elementary school to a doctorate in literature at the University of Neuchâtel). But neither school nor any other institution could tame his rebellious spirits. ln his mid-twenties he is founding a monthly 'Esprit' and becoming a mover of the non-conformist French intellectuals of the 'stormy Thirties'.

The outbreak of World War II means mobilization for the Swiss Army. Denis is co-founder of the "Ligue de Gotthard", committed to resist Hitler in case of an German attack on Switzerland. 1940 Hitler enters Paris. Lieutenant Denis writes a mournful article - rather unfriendly to Hitler - for the Gazette de Lausanne. That is too much for the Chief of the Swiss army. It could be considered as a breach of neutrality and provoke German repression. After two weeks of confinement Denis is shoved over to the United States where he is to stay for six long years. But this could not convert him to the religion of 'God's own country', the first commandment being 'Make Dollars'. He writes a book "The Heart of Europe: Switzerland", hardly concealing that his heart was in Europe all the time. And after his return, as speaker at 'Rencontres International', here in Geneva - his title: "Les Maladies de l'Europe" followed 40 years of untiring political, cultural, philosophical struggle for a United Europe, entirely different in character and concept from the EU of today, which embodies everything dear to the establishment - and the multinational corporations, as the true masters behind the scene he is loathing.
Along with this are the endeavors to become a super-power, armed to the teeth with atomic weapons, competing with the US and Japan in dominating if needed, with military force the globe.

ln one of his most important books - "L'Avenir est notre Affaire", Denis is inciting men and women to independence in interdependence, in thought and action: not to accept as fate, that which is only serving the vested interests of the few in command. The three pillars of his thinking and feeling: Federation, that is cooperation by free will and consensus without sacrificing the precious values of diversity, in order to master the tasks which cannot be left to individuals or small communities. Freedom and responsibility: the two are inseparable! Without them democracy can never survive.

And finally, compassion for aIl those in stress and need - the great majority of the world's population. That includes global responsibility for the natural patrimony, meaning also to stop the senseless waste, stop the kind of parasitical way of life of our industrial society.

ln one sentence: Denis asked for a profound change, for a great U-Turn as our friend Edward Goldsmith called it. Creating and directing until his death the Centre Européen de la Culture, to which he devoted so much intellectual and physical efforts, he nevertheless was convinced that Ecology in the full meaning of the word was a precondition for the survival not only of our civilization, but for all forms of higher life on earth. From the very beginning of ECOROPA, Nanik - a convinced ecologist - was at his side in common efforts for our cause. Let us at this occasion - as she ist fortunately with us - thank her from all our heart. Could ECOROPA have found a better president as the one who founded our group? Therefore, 20 years later, cheers to him, cheers to his soul, somewhere in the world behind our world.

Obituary by Paul Blau