Call Issued for Nominations of Germans Who Preserved Memory of Jewish Communities Destroyed by Nazis

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Obermayer Foundation to give German Jewish History Awards in 2014

Lothar Czossek, a 2013 Obermayer German Jewish History Award winner

The Obermayer Foundation issued a call today for nominations for the 2014 Obermayer German Jewish History Awards. The awards are given annually to non-Jewish Germans who have worked voluntarily –and often with little public recognition—to preserve the memory of Jewish communities decimated by the Nazis.

“These awards are for Germans who feel that commemorating the history and culture of their country’s once-thriving Jewish community is the most constructive way to respond to the horrible legacy of the Nazis,” said Arthur Obermayer, an American entrepreneur who founded the awards.

"Throughout Germany, dedicated individuals have restored synagogues and Jewish cemetaries, documented the histories of local Jewish communities, educated Germans about former Jewish neighbors, and helped in many other ways to keep alive the memory of German Jews,” according to Mr. Obermayer. "They deserve international recognition."

What makes these awards unique is that most awardees are nominated by Jews, including Holocaust survivors. Most nominators live outside of Germany, but their families once lived in the awardees’ towns. A total of 72 people have received the awards since they were established in 2000, with nominations from 17 countries.

Information about how to submit nominations for 2014 Obermayer awards can be found at http://www.obermayer.us/award/nominate.htm.

The 2013 awards were presented at a ceremony at the Berlin Parliament House on January 28th, in the Parliament’s commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. This year’s awardees include Lothar Czossek, whose research was largely responsible for preserving the history of the “Wille” slave labor camp, a satellite of the Buchenwald concentration camp in Rehmsdorf.

Another awardee, Klaus Beer, learned in 1945—at the age of 12—that he had a Jewish grandmother, and eventually learned that 19 of his relatives had been murdered by the Nazis. After a career as an eminent judge, he wrote about his family and helped to create a memorial to Jews in his ancestral hometown, Osterholtz-Scharmbeck. Profiles of 2013 awardees are available at http://www.obermayer.us/award.

The awards have focused public attention, sometimes for the first time, on the recipients’ work both in Germany and around the world. This recognition has helped some awardees to get resources to help them continue. For example, Mr. Czossek got virtually no support for his work until he became an Obermayer awardee. The publicity surrounding his award prompted his local administrative district to provide him with 10,000 euros per year.

Over the years, other noteworthy Obermayer awardees have included:

o--Gisela Blume (2000): She reconstructed the Jewish cemetery of Fuerth with the gravestones that had been used for paving and construction by the Nazis, after completing the difficult task of locating the specific gravesites.

o--Gunter Demnig (2005): This artist initiated and implemented a project that has placed Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) in front of the former homes of Holocaust victims throughout Germany.

o--Lars Menk (2007): A night watchman and letter carrier, he prepared an 800-page dictionary providing the etymological and geographical origins of more than 13,000 German Jewish surnames.
o--Sibylle Tiedemann (2011): She produced a documentary film that compared how former Jewish and non-Jewish classmates in 1936 remembered the Nazi era.

The Obermayer Awards are co-sponsored by the German Jewish Community History Council, the Office of the President of the Berlin Parliament, and the German Jewish Special Interest Group of JewishGen – the leading worldwide Jewish genealogy organization on the Internet. For more complete profiles of the awardees, go to http://www.obermayer.us/award.

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Dan Fleshler

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