Thomas Weihs was a Doctor who fled Austria in the 30s after being pursued as a Jew (despite being a protestant!). In the late 30s, he moved to Scotland where he first worked alongside fellow refugee Karl Koenig and the other founders of the first Camphill school. Thomas had only just managed to escape Vienna on the last boat into Switzerland.
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We at Camphill Milton Keynes Communities are celebrating our 40th birthday this year!!One of our senior managers, Thomas, has been discussing the various founders of Camphill to help us understand the legacy of how our community came about. He discusses how it relates to our community today and why our practice has a more profound meaning. We know that Camphill is more than just a name and very different to most conventional social care providers! Here Thomas tells us about Karl Koenig. Karl Koenig was an Austrian Jew who studied medicine in Vienna in the 1920s and worked in an institute for adults with learning disabilities. König then worked as a paediatrician at the Rudolf Steiner-inspired Schloß Pilgrimshain institute in Strzegom and had his own medical practice until he was forced to flee Austria in 1938 following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Koenig came to Aberdeen and met with many of his former colleagues and friends who’d also fled Nazi-occupied countries during this time. They occupied an old estate called “Camphill” in Aberdeen, Scotland which became the first Camphill Community based on curative education. He was a great believer in the abilities and spiritual/holistic welfare of children with disabilities and the idea that they have a potential that can be unlocked and developed. This was pioneering when seclusion, isolation and chemical control were generally seen as the “correct” approach for people living with intellectually-limiting disabilities. Central to this was using the arts to develop potential- Camphill communities are always alive with art and craft activity, drama and have a very specific aesthetic and architectural style. Koenig was also religious and a great believer in the spiritual potential of those living with disabilities, inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s work before him. From the first community in Aberdeen, Camphills began to develop all across the World – at the time they were founded, built, maintained and run by co-workers who adopted Camphill as a way of life rather than a job. In retrospect, it was decades ahead of its time considering how to work alongside and with adults and children with learning disabilities instead of marginalising them. It’s only in the last 20-30 years that the rest of social care has “caught up” with ideas around inclusion, dignity and occupation that were being espoused decades earlier by these communities. However, many of the Camphill estates are quite remote. It would have been interesting to …
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It’s been a tough 2020, but we’ve got through it, stuck together and learned new skills.As a community, we’ve worked together to understand the world a little better. We’ve launched a radio station, welcomed new staff & created our vision mission.We are thankful to our staff, volunteers, residents, service users, supporters, family & friends!We’ve grown, created, crafted, learned, made and celebrated together!Here’s to a safe, inspiring, healthy & fun 2021!