Discussion about setting up an internationally-oriented institute for youth education in Weimar started in 1990, and Weimar’s history and present as a place of learning played an important role. The crux of the discussions was the question of location: should the educational institute stand in the Holzdorf district or in the middle of the city? It is thanks to the dedication of the Thuringian Office for Civic Education, the Working Group of German Educational Institutes (German: AdB e.V. – Arbeitskreis deutscher Bildungsstätten e.V.) and two foundations that the efforts to create an educational institute were finally successful.
In 1996 the Free State of Thuringia and the City of Weimar established the Foundation »European Youth Education and Exchange Centre in Weimar« (German: Europäische Jugendbildungs- und Jugendbegegnungsstätte Weimar, EJBW). It was eventually decided that the EJBW would be established in the heart of Weimar’s city centre – a conceptual decision to be physically close to Weimar’s traditions and history, and so to really use the city as a place of learning and a place to learn from (German: »Lernort Weimar«).
The educational institute was primarily built and renovated with the aid of the Free State of Thuringia and of the Federal Government, and until its completion the EJBW occupied two rooms in Buttelstedter Street. The official inauguration took place on the 3rd of September 1999, the year that Weimar was the European Capital of Culture. Today the institute has outstanding workshop and conference capabilities at its command: a central main building, five summer houses, the historic Reithaus and two old city villas are perfect for educational projects and conventions. Today the EJBW is a nationally and internationally-networked youth educational institute, and what is more, an attractive place for conferences and overnight stays in Weimar.
History of the Reithaus
The historic Reithaus (German for »riding hall«) is located right next to the City Palace and the Duchess Anna Amalia Library.
It was constructed between 1715 and 1718 by Christian Richter in the Baroque style, and in 1803–1804 the architect Heinrich Gentz commissioned its conversion. It was at this time that the building received its classical façade, which can still be seen today.
Like the City of Weimar, the Reithaus has a most eventful history. From 1767 to 1768 the Starcksche Theatre Society performed Lessing’s Minna of Barnhelm in the building, and in 1790 it was graced by French street theatre; the Frenchman Burdot offered curious onlookers a fireworks display in front of the Reithaus. During the 1806 Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (Prussia vs Napoleon) it served to house captured Prussians and Saxons, before hosting the French equestrian acrobat Tourniaire with his artistic horsemanship and balancing act in 1821. A year later Tourniaire returned and brought wild animals with him: lions, leopards, gazelles and even polar bears.
Until 1845 the Reithaus was under baronial administration and later passed into the possession of the City. In 1855 it served as temporary accommodation for prisoners after a penitentiary burnt down. In 1920 it was converted again, making its future use as a riding hall impossible; the Bauhaus School had planned to develop the Reithaus into an exhibition space, but these plans were rejected. Finally, the Reithaus was turned into an administrative building for the Thuringian government, whereupon the Bauhaus School provided the plans and received two ground-floor rooms for its own purposes in return.
After the end of the Second World War an exhaustive renovation took place, and in 1947–1948 the Ministries for Health and Transport had their offices in the Reithaus. From 1951 the building was used as a children’s cultural centre (House of the Pioneers), but after 1989–1990 the building was able to be used for work with children and young people, thanks to a dedicated citizens’ initiative, and between 1991 and 1996 hosted a pupils’ recreation centre.
Since the 10th of July 1999 the Reithaus has been thoroughly restored and used as a workshop and event space for the EJBW. It has been an integral part of the educational institute and is used for seminars as well as large meetings and conferences. The Reithaus is a historic listed building.