The Maison Schweitzer was Dr. Albert Schweitzer's European home and office where he worked at his writings, planned his European lecture and organ-recital tours and housed a skeleton staff to manage his European affairs.
During Dr. Schweitzer's lifetime
It was here that medicines and other essential supplies were sourced and shipped to the Gabon and it was also here that both domestic and medical volunteers were interviewed and briefed before they ventured out into the unknown in Africa . When Vreni - then Burkhalter -answered the call for a new housekeeper and catering manager for the Lambarene hospital, this was the door bell that she hesitantly rang and where she received her first instructions as to what to take with her, what to expect and how to conduct herself in Africa .
It was here that Schweitzer worked on many of his theological and philosophical books during his intermittent sojourns in Europe and between his fundraising lecture and organ concert tours. (Schweitzer raised all the funds for his hospital himself - from the sale of books and donations at his concerts. He never accepted financial assistance from government- or other official sources.
The house was built from the money he received on winning the Goethe Prize, which he was awarded in 1928 . The building work was completed in 1929.
After Schweitzer's death
Schweitzer died in 1965 at the age of 90 and was buried at Lambarene. Shortly after that, one of his two loyal personal assistants, Mlle Ali Silver came to live at the house and began the huge task of cataloging all the correspondence and photographic material to establish the beginnings of an archive of Albert Schweitzer's legacy. Thus the house became a museum and archive where regular seminars, discussion groups and organ master classes were organised and the British Fund gave both both personnel and financial support from then onwards.
In 1984 Vreni Mark, then acting as secretary and interpreter for Dr. James Witchalls who was president of the AISL (International Albert Schweitzer Association) began to assist Mlle Ali with the organisation surrounding the master classes that were held each summer. When Mlle Ali's health began to deteriorate this assistance expanded into all aspects of the running of the house, and when Ali died in 1987, Vreni remained in charge of the house for two years.
Now the Seat of the AISL
During that time, two further buildings were bought and the Maison Schweitzer became the official and permanent seat of the AISL. All Annual General Meetings of the organisation are now held there at which RfLUK is permanently represented.
Under the current directorship of Jenni Litzelmann and her husband, and with the close attention of the current president of the AISL, the archive grows and visitor numbers rise. As public access regulations become more demanding, pressure on the facilities offered by the house have become critical. This has led to the decision to build a major extension into the garden to provide better accommodation for the museum and public meeting spaces. Plans and permissions are well advanced and fundraising is proceeding apace. Go to < schweitzer.org > for more information.