26 January 2010

Obermayer Awards: The honorees' stories

The 10th annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards were given in Berlin on January 25, 2010.

The winners and their towns were:

-- Angelika Brosig (Schopfloch)
-- Helmut Gabeli (Haigerloch)
-- Barbara Greve (Gilserberg)
-- Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann (Lübeck)
-- Walter Ott (Muensingen-Buttenhausen)
To read the complete profiles of the honorees, click here.

This year marks the tenth annual presentation of awards that were created to honor the past and enrich the future. German life was once filled with contributions made by Jewish scholars, writers and artists. Music, science, literature and architecture were often collaborative efforts that brought diverse talents together. The collective history of Germans and Jews was profoundly connected and served to benefit the world. The Nazi regime and its obliteration of the German Jewish community ended a long period of collaboration and mutual trust.

However, many German citizens, ranging from academics to those working in business and professions, did not let go of their interest and commitment to Jewish history and culture. Many worked at great personal cost to preserve and reconstruct aspects of Jewish life, which had contributed to the cultural richness of their lives and the lives of their respectivecommunities. These individuals have researched, reconstructed, written about and rebuilt an appreciation of Jewish culture that will enrich life today and in the future.

Diverse individuals, without thought of reward, have helped raise awareness about a once vibrant community. Their ongoing efforts pay tribute to the importance of Jewish subject matter and its value to German society as a whole.

Many volunteers have devoted years of effort to such projects, but few have been recognized or honored for their efforts. The German Jewish Community History Council and its cosponsors believe it is particularly important for Jews from other parts of the world to be aware of this ongoing work. The annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards provide an opportunity for the Jewish community worldwide to acknowledge German citizens who have rekindled the spark of Jewish thought that once existed in Germany. The award winners have dedicated themselves to rebuilding destroyed institutions and ideals. Their achievements reflect a personal connection to Jewish history and a willingness to repair a small corner of the world.

-- Angelika Brosig launched a Web site to document her town's Jewish cemetery and to help finance its restoration. Her town is Schopfloch.
“My friend wanted to see the Jewish cemetery,” Brosig recalls, “and when we went and saw the conditions there, she started to cry. She said ‘It’s terrible, the stones aren’t readable, the plants and trees are all overgrown.’ I was surprised because it seemed natural for a cemetery to decay. But she said, ‘No, it’s not good for the descendants,’ and this was my start.” ...
-- Helmut Gabeli

The lawyer Helmut Gabeli moved to the small Swabian town of Haigerloch, on the edge of the Black Forest, when his wife was hired there as a teacher in 1968. Shortly after, the couple discovered that the town market where they bought their food was once a synagogue, and they instantly stopped shopping there.

“My wife and I said ‘No, we will not buy there in the future,’” Gabeli remembers. “I had respect for the Jewish religion. My moral standards told me it was not possible to buy from a building where the Jews once prayed.”

Twenty years later, on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Gabeli helped form the Gesprächkreis Ehemaliger Synagogue Haigerloch (Discussion Circle for the Former Haigerloch Synagogue). ...
-- Barbara Greve

Ask Barbara Greve what motivates her to unearth the Jewish past around theKreis Ziegenhain region of Hessen, and you get a not-so-German response.

“It may not be the right way to say it, but I think of it as a kind of mitzvah,” she says. “It’s a moral duty. I’m giving people back their history.”

Indeed, for Greve, a primary school teacher who has become a crusader dedicated to rescuing 400 forgotten years of Jewish history in her area, much of her passion stems from the desire for local residents to get their facts straight. ...
-- Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann

For nearly two decades, Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann has been wrestling with her city’s Holocaust history through research, teaching, tours, exhibitions, forums, memorials, articles and books. Not only has she made an impact on her community, but she has developed very strong personal relationships with survivors as well.

When she thinks how it all began, her memory returns to her grandmother’s nervous eye. Born in Lübeck in 1951, Kugler-Weiemann recalls that “the war was very present for me as a child” because of the strong memories lingering in her family, and one in particular: the day the Gestapo came and arrested her grandfather for listening to the BBC. Though her grandfather was eventually released, her grandmother’s eye never stopped twitching after that. ...

-- Walter Ott

It was in 1973, when the castle outside Buttenhausen was being renovated, that Walter Ott’s home became a temporary storage place for chests and boxes belonging to the city— some of which, he discovered, contained eye-opening documents like a letter from Baron von Liebenstein, inaugurating the town’s 200-year-old Jewish history.

“I was impressed with that history. It was taboo,” says Ott, who was born in 1928 near Stuttgart and spent most of his life working as a farmer. “The subject wasn’t talked about in Buttenhausen; it was new to me. So I asked people, ‘Why don’t you speak any more about the Jewish community?’ and they answered, ‘Oh, it was so long ago.’ This is a small village and no one wanted to talk, but the truth is that three-fourths of the citizens here were Nazis.”

With the material he found in the boxes, and later in the town archives, Ott sorted and catalogued Buttenhausen’s history into a first-ever Jewish archive—from 1787, when the first 25 Jewish families were granted the right to settle in Buttenhausen, to the residents’ deportations to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and other concentration camps in the final years of the war. (Located in a remote part of the Swabian Alps, Buttenhausen was used as a collection point for Jews deported from across Germany, before their shipment to the camps).
Read these inspiring full-page stories for each honorees at the link above, and view the links to their projects.

No comments:

Post a Comment