The Former Caux-Palace Hotel
1900-1902: The palace is built and becomes the biggest and most luxurious Swiss hotel. It is frequented by writers, film stars and royalty.
The First World War and the 1929 economic crash throws the hotel into deficit. Debts mount. In the thirties, there are successive managers and financial re-arrangements. Finally the hotel closes its doors in the early days of World War II.
In 1944, it is re-opened by the Swiss authorities under the name of Hotel Esplanade to take in allied prisoners of war who have escaped from Italy and Italian civilians.
In December of the same year Jewish refugees from Hungary are housed. US Historian Egon Mayer researched this period.
An oak tree has been planted and a plaque mounted in the park of the building in memory of these refugees and those who were not admitted entry into Switzerland during World War II.
In March 1946, the Banque Populaire Suisse takes over the Caux company which owns the former palace.
From Hotel to Conference Centre
Spring 1946 - Purchase of the former Caux Palace Hotel
A handful of Swiss believed MRA had a role in bringing healing and reconciliation to a Europe torn apart by war. They started to look for a place where they could hold conferences to bring together nations which had been divided. They were encouraged by Frank Buchman, founder of MRA, and discovered that the former Caux Palace Hotel was for sale.
It was owned by the Banque Populaire Suisse in Montreux who, along with the Mayor, recognised the value of opening an international conference centre in the area. A favourable purchase price was proposed - SFr 1,050,000 - giving MRA an advantage over other prospective buyers.
Some 100 Swiss people made huge financial sacrifices to put down the first instalment. For instance, one family decided not to build a new house; a maid gave all her savings.
The contract was signed on 25 May 1946. The conference centre opened in mid July. Between these two dates 100 volunteers restored the interior of the building, badly damaged through the ravages of the previous decade.
60 Years of the Caux Centre in Action - Highlights
1946-50: Germans and French met at Caux in a spirit of reconciliation.
1950: Visit of a delegation of 60 politicians and trade unionists from Japan. Half a dozen militant communist miners from the Ruhr visited Caux, and seized on the idea of change in people’s attitudes as the missing factor in the thinking of their party. Expelled from the Communist Party, they brought their revolutionary drive to MRA. Communist leaders in various other countries went through a similar process of change.
1950-56: MRA teams went out from Caux to fight corruption in the ports of Brazil. Repercussions in the Rio favelas.
1951-53: Numerous delegations of factory workers, staff and employers came to Caux.
1953-60: Caux became a meeting place for African leaders and members of colonial nations.
1961: The death of Frank Buchman and consequent period of transition put a brake on Caux’s outreach but it continued to operate.
1967: Creation of Asia Plateau, the MRA centre in Panchgani, India, extended the action in Asia.
1968-69: The visit to Caux of seven delegations from Alto Adige (South Tyrol) had an effect on the political situation in this Italian province.
1977-80: Caux contributed towards work for peace and independence in former Rhodesia.
1986: First annual meeting in Caux of business executives from Japan, the USA and Europe.
1986-95: Meetings in Caux between individuals and opposing groups from Lebanon, Cambodia, Somalia and South Africa. Dialogue between ethnic groups from inner cities.
1995: Start of a partnership with the Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS), which rents much of the centre outside conference periods.
2006: 60th anniversary of the conference centre. A new brochure presents the history.