Awards recognize Germans preserving Jewish history


BERLIN (JTA) — A woman who rescued a synagogue that had been turned into a barn was one of six recipients of the 11th annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards.

The ceremony, held Jan. 24 at the Berlin Parliament House, was one of several events commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet soldiers on Jan. 27, 1945.

For the first time, Germany’s main Holocaust remembrance event features a representative of the Sinti and Roma, or Gypsies. Zoni Weisz, a Dutch survivor, was scheduled to address Parliament and Chancellor Angela Merkel in ceremonies Thursday to be broadcast live.

German President Christian Wulff is attending ceremonies at the Auschwitz memorial and museum in Poland.

The Obermayer awards recognize Germans who preserve local Jewish history and build contacts with Jews who fled during the Nazi years. Arthur Obermayer, an American Jewish businessman who was inspired by his contacts with historians in his family’s ancestral town of Creglingen, created the awards.

Awardee Brigitta Stammer helped raise funds to bring a tiny, 19th century synagogue from the village of Bodenfelde to her home city of Goettingen, in Lower Saxony, where it is now being used by a Jewish community.

“I wanted the new Jewish community to have a roof over its head, to have a synagogue, and be integrated in the society of Gottingen,” Stammer said.

Filmmaker Sibylle Tiedemann, of Ulm and Berlin, was recognized for films that explore the dark side of local memory, including the recollections of her own mother and her former Jewish classmates.

Retired bookseller Barbara Staudacher and publisher Heinz Hogerle documented the flight of Jews from Rexingen, in Baden-Wurttemberg, to then-Palestine. Today the Jews of Shavei Zion in Israel have a special bond to the next generation of Germans in Rexingen.

Journalist Peter Korner was honored for helping preserve the Jewish history of Aschaffenburg, Bavaria, and for his role in creating a website to search local Jewish genealogy. Teacher Michael Heitz of Eppingen, Baden-Wurttemberg, who once faced closed doors when he asked what happened to the local Jewish community, today inspires his own pupils to explore this history.

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