Ascot sixth-formers from three schools gather to learn lessons from 1930s Germany at Knowledge Café

On Thursday 28th November, 29 sixth-form pupils from The Marist School (Sunninghill), Heathfield School (Ascot) and Charters School (Sunningdale) took part in a ‘Knowledge Café’ run by the educational charity Cumberland Lodge, at The Marist School.

The pupils, aged 16-18, are all working towards A-levels in History, Politics and Sociology.

Participants took part in a series of short discussions in small groups, guided by staff from Cumberland Lodge, exploring the modern-day relevance of accounts of the rise of fascism from people who lived in 1930s Germany.

Lessons from history

These accounts of ordinary peoples’ remarkable, and often frightening, experiences were collected by a pioneering woman called Amy Buller, who took delegations of British intellectuals and public figures to Germany in the years preceding the Second World War, to find out more about what was happening there.

In 1943, in the midst of war, Buller published these stories in a book called Darkness over Germany. She wanted to avoid the same thing happening in Britain and was particularly concerned about the way that so many young people had been radicalised by Nazism, which she came to view as a ‘false religion’. This book ultimately inspired the establishment of the educational foundation at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park, five years later, with the support of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Pictured Above: Knowledge Cafe Participants with Canon Dr Ed Newell, Chief Executive of Cumberland Lodge  front centre (sitting down).

At The Marist School, participants in the Knowledge Café were encouraged to relate the historic accounts to issues facing young people in current times, tackling questions such as:

  • How can we address tensions between generations, in our own families or communities?
  • How can we build resilience and protect ourselves and others from being swept along by populist movements?
  • How can society meet the needs of young people who are searching for meaning, purpose and the best in life, in challenging times?

The discussions touched on pressing issues such as the rise of populism and nationalism, young people’s responsibilities in democratic society, and the role of inter-generational exchange in learning lessons from past experiences.

Nurturing and inspiring young minds

Canon Dr Edmund Newell, Chief Executive of Cumberland Lodge, said, ‘The thought-provoking accounts from ordinary people, recounted in Amy Buller’s Darkness over Germany, are a great way to get sixth-formers talking about history and current affairs in a way that makes them relevant to the concerns and priorities of young people today.

‘We are very grateful to The Marist School for hosting us yesterday, and Heathfield and Charters schools for taking part as well, and we also hope to work with other schools, to roll out this model of small-group discussions around pressing issues facing society to more and more young people.’

Cumberland Lodge was founded as a centre for learning and discussion. Over 70 years on, it continues to specialise in bringing people together for candid conversations on the social and ethical dimensions of pressing issues facing society. It helps people of all ages - particularly students and young people ­- to tackle social division and promote progress towards more peaceful, open and inclusive societies.

Cumberland Lodge Knowledge Cafés encourage groups to respond to the study guide published by Cumberland Lodge and The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) in 2018, to accompany the new 2017 English edition of Darkness over Germany. The free guide features guest contributions from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams; Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, a Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism; and the novelist and speaker Salley Vickers. It is intended for use by faith groups, university students and schools, as well as in other community settings.



Founded in 1947, with the support of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Cumberland Lodge is a charity that empowers people, through dialogue and debate, to tackle the causes and effects of social division. We specialise at bringing together people of every background, generation and perspective, in an inclusive environment, to address pressing social and ethical matters that have the potential to fracture communities.

Through our conferencesdebatesseminarsworkshops and retreats, we generate creative ideas that will influence policy and improve public awareness and understanding. Our 2018-19 series focuses on ‘Identities & Belonging’.

Our thriving educational programme with schools and universities includes: workshops in schoolsintergenerational events for families; and subsidised study retreatsbursariesscholarships and mentoring opportunities for university students. These equip and inspire students of all ages with the skills and experience to tackle social divisions and work towards social progress, both now and in the future.

Our facilities are available to hire for residential and non-residential conferences, meetings and special events.  Find out more at

 The Great Park 
Berkshire SL4 2HP 
01784 432316