MUNICH, Germany (JTA) — Ernst Cramer, a Jewish journalist who fled Nazi Germany to become an American soldier in World War II, has died.
Cramer died Tuesday in Berlin, ten days before his 97th birthday. He was known as a champion of Israel who also fought to improve relations between Germans, Jews and Americans.
Born in Augsburg, Cramer was incarcerated in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1938. The Nazis released him on condition that he emigrate. He and his late sister, Helene, made it to the United States, but their parents, Martin and Clare, and brother Erwin were murdered in the Holocaust.
Cramer returned to Buchenwald as a U.S. soldier, just after liberation in April 1945. In 1958, the Axel Springer publishing company hired him as a reporter, and he remained with the company. He and his wife, Marianne, have two children.
He once told JTA that he never understood "why people behaved as they did, and why so many looked away" during the Holocaust. Cramer held onto his U.S. passport, even though his German citizenship had been restored.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany said in a statment that it mourned the loss of "an outstanding personality." Lala Süsskind, head of Berlin’s Jewish community, praised Cramer’s "boundless energy, power and inspiration." Cramer always stressed “the importance of remembrance, reconciliation and partnership between Germans and Jews,” wrote American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris.