He helped forge a lasting friendship between two former wartime enemies.
Now Reverend Geoffrey Beck from Herstmonceux has been awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit from the President of the Republic of Germany.
He was given the accolade for uniting Britain and Germany through his creation of a living memorial to German hero Adam von Trott who fought and died in his quest to bring down the Nazi regime. Geoffrey was also recognised for his work to educate the generations after the war and help keep the memory alive of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
A trained lawyer, Adam von Trott joined the German resistance against Hitler where he took part in the conspiracy to kill the dictator. He was executed in Berlin in August 1944.
Geoffrey, 95, and his colleague Dr Elaine Kaye unveiled a commemorative plaque to the German hero in the chapel of Mansfield College at Oxford University where he studied in 1929, before founding the Adam von Trott Memorial Appeal which has been held up as a ‘lasting pillar of British and German relations.’
Geoffrey said: “Adam was executed for his part in the fight against Hitler.
“We got the memorial plaque in Mansfield College in 2004. After this we thought what about a living memorial not just having something on a plaque. This is where we set up the Adam von Trott Memorial Appeal.
“The German government were made aware of the work and saw this as a contribution to reconciliation because some forget there was resistance to Hitler in Germany.”
Geoffrey was also recognised for his education of the generations of people following the war after setting up a scholarship for German students at Oxford university in 2010 funded by the appeal, which helps keep alive the memory of the resistance who gave their lives to fight Hitler.
He added: “We offer German students a two year scholarship, post graduate, on the Adam von Trott Scholarship set up in 2010 where students can study at Mansfield College for a Masters Degree.”
Geoffrey’s quest to improve relations between the two countries began in 1965 when he was appointed Warden of Coventry Cathedral’s Chapel of Unity, where he worked for the Community of the Cross of Nails, which aimed to rebuild relations between Britain and Germany. In 1968 he was elected to the British Council of Churches. And in 1969 he was one of a group of 12 British Christians allowed into East Germany in the years that followed the war, to help bridge a relationship between the two countries.
Geoffrey added: “I was taken quite by surprise. I think it is one of the highest honours the country can give.”