Prof. Martin Buber Accepts University of Hamburg Award

Professor Martin Buber, noted Jewish philosopher and scholar, today announced that he had accepted the annual Goethe Prize which the University of Hamburg recently awarded him and that he had specified that the monetary award attached to the prize should go “for the furtherance of works and undertakings in Israel serving the cause of a new national-supernational humanity.” Prof. Buber announced his decision in the following statement, issued through the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“I have been asked from so many sides about my attitude toward the Goethe Prize which the University of Hamburg has awarded me that I feel induced to make some public statement concerning it.

“The Rector of the University of Hamburg, Professor Bruno Snell, has communicated to me that the prize, which was founded recently ‘for the furtherance of supernational feeling and humanitarian striving in the spirit of Goethe,’ has been awarded to me in recognition of my scholarly work, and above all, of my ‘activity in the spirit of a true humanity’ as ‘an exemplary cultural activity which serves the mutual understanding of men and the preservation and continuation of a high spiritual tradition.’

“I recognized immediately that here is an expression of a genuine inner struggle in the life of a people. That such a struggle existed in the German people even at the time of Hitler, though it did not then come to public knowledge, is witnessed not only by many brave acts for the protection of Jewish life and property but also by a series of actual martyrdoms of which I have knowledge. Now this struggle has become a public one which is being fought out between humanity and anti-humanity in the public opinion of Germany itself. How unsparing the self-criticism practiced on the side of the first (humanity) is, may be witnessed by the following excerpt from a letter of a leading German theologian, which is only one of many statements of this kind that I have received: ‘The monstrous blood-guilt of my people toward Israel lies on me daily as a heavy burden. That only by an unaccountable miracle. I escaped the death that threatened me because of my attitude, does not alter this in any way.’

“Under these circumstances the question which the award of the Prize and the motivation for the award posed for me was simply this; whether through an intransigent refusal I should declare to the fighters for humanity that I cast them together with their extreme adversaries and even with the mass-murderers themselves and thereby reject them, or whether I should through accepting recognize and strengthen them in their fight. I have chosen this second way and have elucidated my reason for so doing by emphasizing two things in my answer to the University of Hamburg: first, that the new humanity ‘arising out of the anti-human Chaos’ must prove itself’ in the inner straggle of each people’ in which it arises and, second, that I see in the University of Hamburg’s act of awarding the prize a manifestation which is more than personal, and a symbolic confession and accept it as such.

“I have designated the monetary award that goes with the Prize for the furtherance of works and undertaking in Israel serving the cause of a new national-supernational humanity.”