Ralph Hegnauer – Archives of Service Civil International

Ralph Hegnauer

Ralph Hegnauer (1910-1997) born in Switzerland, was initially a bank employee and worked in Argentina. In 1937-39, he participated in the relief work organized by SCI for the Spanish refugees from the civil war.

There he met his future wife Idy, who was also involved with SCI for the rest of their life. In 1944, Ralph became secretary of the Swiss branch. During the following years, he organized various workcamps in Europe and supported the development of the French branch and the start of a German one. In 1949, Ralph and Idy were put at the disposal of the Quakers to assist the refugees in Palestine.

The same year, Rajendra Prasad, the new President of India, asked the British branch (IVS) to send volunteers to work for refugees. But to break with the colonial past, IVS preferred to give the leadership to Ralph, who worked with the first Indian volunteers and in Pakistan. Idy was also part of the first post-war team in India.
In 1952, Ralph became International Secretary (jointly with Dorothy Abbott). He participated in several workcamps in Lebanon, until he was asked not to come, because the SCI approach was not compatible with the fight with Israel. He contributed to the start of East-West exchanges with the Communist countries and of the work with North African countries.

In 1972, Ralph was succeeded by Thedy von Fellenberg as International Secretary and worked as an accountant until 1980. But he continued to work for SCI as the Treasurer, Vice-President and President. Ralph was always a peace activist and he wrote books on non violence and an autobiography.

During the last years of his life, Ralph has devoted himself tohe organisation of the SCI International Archives, that are now available to the public in La Chaux-de-Fonds – Switzerland.