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German non-Jews honored for preserving local Jewish history

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BERLIN (JTA) — A teacher who helped rescue a ruined synagogue was one of five German non-Jews honored for keeping alive local Jewish history.

Hans-Peter Klein was among the winners of the 14th annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards presented last week at Berlin’s parliament building.

Recipients are nominated by Jews around the world who maintain ties with the towns from which their ancestors fled.

Klein, along with helping to preserve the building in in Gudensberg and its story, also assisted descendants of local Jews in finding their roots, as did the other winners.

“What was most important was getting to know my grandmother” through letters Klein transcribed, said Dennis Aron of Skokie, Ill., who nominated Klein.

Another awardee, journalist Steffen Pross reawakened the past for Patrick Levi of Neuilly sur Seine, France.

“He had letters from my grandmother that my father had never seen … and after 70 years our ancestors knocked on our doors again. It was amazing,” Levi said.

The other awardees were history teachers Johannes Grotecke of Bad Wildungen and Silvester Lechner of Ulm; and Jewish studies scholar Frowald Gil Huttenmeister of Stuttgart.

German Jewish leader Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Bavarian Jewish community, also was honored.

Richard Oppenheimer of Venice, Fla., said he learned about an unknown family member through Grotecke: an aunt who was a single mother and was killed with her child in Riga, Latvia.

“All in all, I think we are all related somehow or other as having a common Jewish history,” he said.

The awards were presented by American-Jewish philanthropist Arthur Obermayer and Ralf Wieland, president of the Berlin House of Representatives.

Obermayer was inspired to initiate the awards by his contacts with grass-roots historians in his family’s ancestral town of Creglingen.

 

 

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