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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: July 2009

6 - Creating core Europe: the rise of the party network


In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the first priority of all Catholics coming back into politics from exile, the resistance or internal emigration was national reconstruction. Infrastructure had to be rebuilt, businesses restarted, elections held and colonies occupied once more as in the case of Dutch Indonesia, for example. In 1944–6, forging institutional links with Christian democrats in other countries would at best have seemed like an esoteric pastime. As the transport infrastructure was largely destroyed, European conferences would also have been very time consuming. At the same time, systematic contacts with German Christian democrats were impossible while they were not permitted to travel abroad. Despite the rudimentary cooperation in exile, moreover, the Christian democrats faced the predicament that the interwar network had collapsed. As the Swiss SKVP President Joseph Escher bemoaned at the first informal European meeting in Switzerland in early 1947, World War II put an end ‘to the links between Catholics of all European countries. … Relations between countries and between individuals have been interrupted, organisations destroyed, and many who used to work as brokers between the peoples, are dead. The younger generation no longer know each other.’

In this postwar vacuum, individual Catholics from different countries took the initiative to forge new links and establish a new network. Having assisted the Catholic refugees in exile in Britain, members of the People & Freedom Group enthusiastically planned to help reconstruct party links at the end of World War II.