History of ARSP in the United States

History of ARSP

Since ARSP began work in the United States in 1968, more than 700 volunteers have worked in the United States in movements for peace and social justice and for reconciliation with the Jewish community. 

After World War II, young Americans of the traditional peace churches – the Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren – came as volunteers to a destroyed Europe to work in refugee camps and settlements for "displaced persons." In the 1960s, American volunteers worked with German youth in local church congregations in West Germany.

After a decade of cooperation between American and German peace organizations in Europe, the peace churches and the United Church of Christ asked ARSP to send German volunteers to the United States to ensure that this peace service would not be a "one-way-street."

The United States was struggling to overcome racism. In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Riots swept through the ghettos of American cities. The Vietnam War was at its peak. American church groups thought they could use help from young, highly motivated volunteers. They believed Americans and Germans could support and learn from each other since both nations faced similar problems of racism and militarism.

ARSP accepted the church groups' invitation to do volunteer work in the United States for several reasons:

  • ARSP's leaders were aware that a large number of Holocaust survivors and refugees from Nazi Germany had fled or immigrated to the United States.
  • American soldiers had lost their lives or been wounded liberating Europe from National Socialism.
  • After 1945, citizens of the United States had sent manifold signs of reconciliation to Germany, including food and volunteers. The most famous example is the relief work of the Quakers. ARSP wanted to thank Americans for their support through its volunteer service in the United States.
  • Prejudice still existed towards Germans in the United States. ARSP felt that young volunteers could serve as representatives of a new, peaceful Germany.
  • ARSP opposed the war in Vietnam and decided to work with the U.S. peace churches that strongly protested the war.
  • The Cold War and pervasive anti-Communist sentiment in the United States were a challenge to ARSP. The organization's leaders believed that through its work in Eastern and Western Europe ARSP could contribute to building bridges across ideological barriers.
  • ARSP wanted to be a modest model of international, ecumenical, interfaith and practical cooperation.


At the invitation of the U.S. peace churches and the United Church of Christ, volunteers worked at camps for children from poor neighborhoods, community centers in urban ghettos, halfway houses, camps of migrant workers, and on Indian reservations.

In the 1970s, many ARSP volunteers worked in community organizing, especially helping migrant workers and dealing with housing problems.

In the 1980s our volunteers worked with the Jewish community for the first time. By the mid 1990s about half of the volunteers worked in Holocaust education or with the Jewish elderly.

Today our volunteers are active in ten cities in the U.S., specializing in one of four different fields:

  • working with the Jewish community
  • civic education and human rights
  • social services with marginalized groups
  • community organizing