L’Esprit de Rome is based on the stories of the first officials of the European institutions, the linchpins of the European construction. On March 25, 1957, torrents of water poured down on the Eternal City. Under cover, in the Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii, men have just signed the Treaties of Rome. The flashes are crackling. Their names will go down in history. But who are the men and women in the background on the pictures ? Who are those who will put the treaties to music ? What are their expectations, their hopes, their motivations ? Here is the account of their stories by the children. (EM/jan.2023) (Themes : European memory and history ; European construction and integration.) (Full article including pictures please see attached PDF below)

Aside - In an article in a French newspaper (April 2019), a 94-year-old man revisits his past. This man is called Georges Berthoin. He was Jean Monnet’s chief of staff at the European Coal and Steel Community. He recounts how he  took up his post in Luxembourg on 1rt of December 1952. When he walked through the door of his new office for the first time, the euphoria quickly faded. It was a German who came to welcome him. The memories of his encounters with the occupying forces and the Gestapo were still fresh.

The Second World War is still a gaping wound. Georges Berthoin had fought during the Occupation in the Vercors, mourning comrades who were arrested, tortured and sometimes shot. Death lurked everywhere. « But the war was over, I had to take it upon myself », explains Georges Berthoin. He is now determined to open a dialogue with the German who became his office neighbour in Luxembourg. The latter was called Winrich Behr. He was hired by Jean Monnet. A former officer in the army of occupation, Winrich Behr had served under General Friedrich Paulus on the Eastern Front at the end of 1942. With the German forces surrounded by the Russians in Stalingrad, he was sent to Berlin to formally ask Hitler for permission to surrender.

Winrich Behr was then assigned to General Rommel’s service in the Netherlands to lead the final battles. Jean Monnet knew everything of Winrich Behr’s past, as Georges Berthoin wrote in Le Parisien: « This is the reality of the post-war period. In the ‘great chaos’ that is the construction of Europe, it was necessary to build bridges between yesterday’s executioners and today’s victors, not to harbour resentment, to renounce any idea of revenge. We were all [around Jean Monnet] driven by a common will : to implement the conditions for « never again ». « I felt that I was in the process of overcoming my pain, without denying my values. I was making peace with myself », he concluded. This was the « L’Esprit de Rome » (The Spirit of Rome) that hovered in the Hall of the Horatii and Curatii of the Capitol in Rome on 25th of March 1957: peace at all costs, reconciliation, a lasting peace. 


First meant to be an editorial project, L’Esprit de Rome has evolved to a more ambition educational project on European memory. It is based on the stories of the first officials of the European institutions, the linchpins of the European construction. 

The ambition of the project is to revive the spirit of the early days and to recall that it was men and women driven by an ideal (“peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, protection and prosperity for all”) who defied the obstacles to make Europe. Improbable, Europe emerged from the ruins of the Second World War and the discovery of the concentration camps. These early men and women included Holocaust survivors, resistance fighters and former soldiers of the Wehrmacht. They managed to work side by hand side driven by the imperative for peace at all cost so that « never again » could happen. 

On 10th of December 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its actions over sixty years in favor of “peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. In 2022, the 10th anniversary of this award had a bitter taste. More than ever “we have a fundamental responsibility to maintain, whatever our differences, this peace which is probably the most precious asset for all Europeans” (Simone Veil, Auschwitz survivor, President of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1982). 

Learning kits will be developed based on the testimonies of these pioneers or the children, most of whom are former pupil of the first European schools. In addition to European remembrance, the latter will inscribe the project in the transmission to give it a global impact. A special emphasis will be placed on women of the first days. Notably to repair an « injustice » : indeed, there is not a single woman on the historical photo of the signing of the Treaties of Rome at the Capitol. Although invisible, there were many women translators, typists, interpreters and assistants in the early days. But women will have to wait before they can climb the ladder of the European civil service, gain visibility and make their voices heard. 

The kits will focus on the destinies of these pioneers in the history of the 20th century, as well as their contributions to European integration. The kits will be developed by a committee of experts and will be experimented in the network of European Schools, as well as in two European Parliament’s volunteer ambassador schools.

The final goal is to offer new educational tools available around all schools in Europe. 

Prior to the eductional project (that is to be submitted to the call for proposals of the EU progarmme CERV for Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values), a pilot project intended for publication (supported by the Jean Monnet Foundation) was launched in April 2022. As part of this pilot project, about thirty testimonials were collected. Summaries were posted on the My House of European History platform created under the auspices of the European Parliament, which endorsed the pilot project. Conceived as a virtual library of European stories, the My House of European History (MyHEH) platform explores the concept of European identity (https://my-european-history.ep.eu/myhouse/user/2910/stories). Some of the summaries are also available on the Citizens’App. 

The educational project is divided into two parts: 

A collection of testimonies The work here consists of: 

  1. Identify witnesses (children of former civil servants or civil servants themselves when they are still alive); 
  2. Accompany the witnesses in writing and formatting their story; 
  3. Conduct interviews/interviews (by phone or video) when writing is not possible; 
  4. Transcribe the interviews and have them validated; 
  5. Collect photographic archives (free of rights).

An educational component with the creation of educational kits (based on the testimonies collected). These kits will focus on the destinies of their authors in the history of the 20th century, the European ideal that inspired them, as well as their contributions to European integration through professional achievements. They will be developed by a committee of experts (which will meet regularly), including teachers and alumni of the European Schools, and will be tested in the network of European Schools, as well as in two European Parliament’s volunteer ambassador schools. 

A selection of testimonies collected during the pilot project as well as the educational project will be the subject of the book L’Esprit de Rome. In addition, all the testimonies and photos will be donated to the House of European History. 


1) Project Leader: Alumni Europae ASBL (an association under Belgian law) – (https://alumnieuropae.org/) 

[Designer and project coordinator : Emmanuelle Mourareau]

Alumni Europae is a European network of more than 6,000 alumni of the European Schools across Europe (80%) and the United States (20%). The association provides information to European School students on university education in Europe. It also assists them in their entry into working life. It has recently been involved in welcoming Ukrainian children to the European Schools in Brussels. 

As the project leader, the Alumni Europae association will ensure, on the one hand, a role of relay in the identification of witnesses (direct witnesses or descendants), and on the other hand, it will sit on the committee of experts in charge of the realisation of the educational kits. [Reinhold Ziegler, President]

2) General Secretariat of European Echools – (https://www.eursc.eu/fr)

Hosted by the European institutions in Brussels, the General Secretariat has an office that provides advice and assistance to the European Schools on pedagogical, administrative, financial and legal matters.

The Secretariat General of the European Schools will identify, through the College of Directors of the European Schools, teachers who volunteer to sit on the committee for the production of the teaching kits. It will also allow enable the testing of the teaching kits in the European Schools network.

3) European Parliament Ambassador Schools

1.  Vilkaviskio r. Graziskiu Gimnazija (Lituanie) – (https://graziskiai.vilkaviskis.lm.lt/)

The Vilkaviskio r. Graziskiu gimnazija in Gražiškiai, Lithuania provides primary and secondary education. In 2015, three students accompanied by Daiva Snipaitiene, the correspondent for the Spirit of Rome project, represented Lithuania at the European Economic and Social Committee as part of the « Your Europe, Your Say 2015 » project.

2. Josip Slavenski Grammar School Cakovec (Croatie) – (https://gimnazija-cakovec.hr/)

Josip Slavenski High School is located in Cakovec, Croatia. Ethics and Politics teacher Ivancica Sklepic, the correspondent for the Spirit of Rome project, is also supervising an elective course there entitled « Europe: yesterday, today, tomorrow » where the European Union and its values are presented.


Project launching: End of 2023, beginning of 2024 


« My first words are Italian. My first steps were in Canada, my first classes on the benches of a small private school in Dorset. From the age of reason to the age of majority, I am Belgian by geography. And if education makes identity, mine is European without hesitation. My schooling at the European School of Uccle will be foundational. With a European baccalaureate and a law degree from the Sorbonne in hand, I experimented with several jobs before settling down. Founder and editor of Éditions du Pétrin and author of a delicious Dictionary of Italy, I revisit today what made me who I am: Europe. » 

Emmanuelle Mourareau, Editor and Author - Alumni 84 

Contact : esprit.de.rome@gmail.com / +33 (0)6 88 83 99 84