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Henry Ollendorff (1907 - 1979)

Henry Ollendorff was a pioneer in developing cultural exchange programs for social workers. He foresaw that "cultural exchanges which used to be dessert of foreign policy must now become a main dish."

Born in Esslingen, Germany in 1907, he graduated from high school and studied law in Berlin and Heidelburg. He received a doctor of law degree from the University of Heidelburg and became legal liaison to white collar workers until 1933 when all unions were banned.

Mr. Ollendorff had three careers.  In his first career he was a lawyer in his native Germany until his outspoken defense of his clients landed him in Hitler's prison. After 13 months in solitary confinement, influential friends secured his release and he sought refuge and freedom in America. There he started a second career in social welfare. He earned his doctorate at the New York School of Social Work.

He started as the Boys' Worker in a settlement house in Cleveland, and shortly became the director. He joined his settlement house and several others into the first city federation of settlement houses and community centers in the nation, then founded several more settlements in new neighborhoods.

Henry's third career started when the U.S. government asked him to help reconstruct democratic institutions in post-Hitler Germany.  Although it was traumatic for him personally to return to the scene of the Nazi terror, he proceeded with lectures and seminars describing to youth leaders in Germany the democratic developments in social welfare during the 12 years they had been isolated from the free world. He found talking was not enough: he wanted to show social programs in action. So in 1956, with the support of the U.S. government, the German government, and influential volunteers, he brought 25 German youth leaders to Cleveland for a summer of living with host families and working in recreational camps. This was the beginning of what is now Council of International Programs USA.

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