Justus Wittich studied economics at the Free University in Berlin. In 1979 he became the second executive director of the Friends of Waldorf Education. Today he is treasurer on the executive council of the General Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach.
Erziehungskunst | What event from the early days of the Friends of Waldorf Education still inspires you today?
Justus Wittich | When I partially took over the management of the Friends in 1978/79, the idea of an International Aid Fund for Waldorf schools all over the world was still quite abstract and there was no great awareness of such a thing. It only took on a more concrete form in the early 1980s when the oldest school on the west coast of America – Highland Hall in Los Angeles – was unable to make the final mortgage payment on a property and was in danger of losing the whole site. A little later, the newly constructed wooden school building of the Pine Hill Waldorf School in New Hampshire burned down due to rags soaked in linseed oil which caught fire by themselves – a real disaster!
In both cases, appeals for donations and campaigns in Germany created a movement of solidarity that was crucial in terms of morale and financially for the affected schools and helped them to mobilise their own forces. When I wrote about it and made the error of moving New Hampshire to the West Coast, I received a call in the house from Ernst Weißert, the doyen of the German Waldorf school movement, which was at such a volume that I had to hold the receiver well away from my ear. His indignation then culminated in the question: “Who taught you geography?” When I mentioned the name, his choleric outburst subsided – and was followed by a warm description of this Berlin Waldorf teacher who took the blame, as it were, for my mistake.
EK | What has surprised you most about the development of the Friends of Waldorf Education?
JW | How an alert eye for the needs of the time led to an “alumni association” developing, via a Waldorf aid fund, into a real movement for a free educational and social system in the world which offers many thousands of young people the chance to look differently at the world.
EK | What do you wish the Friends for their 50th birthday?
JW | The onward development into the nucleus of a “planetary service” – a network that is concretely committed to humanising the world.
The interview was conducted by Matthias Niedermann