Wiener Library Awards

On behalf of the Library, I awarded the diploma of honour to three Germans, who have earned high merit in recovering the memory of Jewish life in their region and fighting against ignorance and indiference. Again, the writing of Laudatios for people whom one does not personally know required much detective work and time.


Dean Alfred Lohrbächer was honoured in Weinheim, half way between Mannheim and Heidelberg, on 15 July.

Lohrbächer had already researched the history and fate of the Jews in Schwetzingen under the Nazis before he came to Weinheim and was largely responsible for the erection of a memorial stone in the town. His book “Sie gehörten zu uns” followed. His further interest was in redefining and teaching Christian attitudes to Jews in the light of the Holocaust. His books in this field made him very effective within the evangelical church and as a supervisor of the religious education in 58 schools in his area.

His researches about the deportation of Jews in Baden and Württemberg got him into contact with survivors and descendents. From these contacts developed mutual visits and friendships. When we sent out invitations to the ceremony to some of Lohrbächer’s friends in Holland, France, Switzerland, Italy and Israel, we thought of it as a courtesy. It says a lot about the esteem in which he is held that people from all these countries actually attended.

He managed to raise the enthusiasm of the young in helping him to restore the vandalised Synagogue in Hemsbach and he was largely responsible for the restoration of the Jewish central cemetery in Hemsbach with its 1200 graves. The ceremony took place in the Hall of the Protestant Centre in Weinheim. The 90 guests included his friends and supporters, as also representatives from politics, the churches, public life and colleagues. The principal speaker was the Lord Mayor of Weinheim Uwe Kleefoot, who saw in the Award also reflected glory for the town of Weinheim.


Michael Mence and Cornelia Binder (a husband an wife team) were each honoured in Bad Kissingen on 18 July. They have for more than 15 years researched the history of the 16 Jewish communities and the five cemeteries in the Landkreis. They initially met with resistance to their work. In the circumstances, they showed moral courage in going from house to house in all the places concerned in order to obtain information. They managed to collect many documents as well as photos, some from survivors all over the world. The first fruit of their work was an exhibition under the title “Letzte Spuren”, mounted in Bad Kissingen, Hammelburg and Bad Brückenau. In 1992, the material formed the basis of a book showing the suffering of Jews under the Nazis. Another book incorporating their latest research is nearing completion.

They also spent much time in establishing a definite list of victims of the Holocaust from the Landkreis and found over 400. Not the least part of their work is the establishment of an archive, already containing more than 700 items. The ceremony and the reception took place in the hall of the Council of the Landkreis Bad Kissingen. The principal speaker was Landrat Thomas Bold. 35 people were present. The liquid refreshments were kindly provided by the Landrat. 
Wilfried Weinke was honoured, appropriately, in the Warburg Library in Hamburg. The original art-historical library was created by Prof Aby Warburg, who managed to transfer it to London in 1933. It now forms the core of the Warburg Institute of the Universitry of London. Rebuilt after the War, the original Library is now part of the art- historical department of the University of Hamburg.

Weinke’s list of the books, book reviews, newspaper and magazine articles, lectures, an annual seminar he created, almost all on a Jewish topic - particularly in regard to aspects of Jewish history of Hamburg under the Nazis - extends to 14 pages. He is a doughty fighter against forgetting people and events, against post-War moral oversights and against antisemitism. 
About 80 mainly prominent people attended the presentation, which unfortunately coincided with an event to signify the return of the Hamburg Jewish school to the Jewish communitry, a matter which was not known when we settled the date for Weinke’s award ceremony in May.
Among the speaker were Staatsrat Behlmer, representing the governing Mayor, who was engaged elsewhere.
I should add, that the wives of the above supported the work of those being honoured or even took part in it. Ulrike Lohrbächer learned Ivrit on frequent visits to Israel with her husband and now teaches the language. Cornelia Binder participates equally in the work of her husband Michael Mence. Weinke’s wife Ursula Wamser collaborated with her husband on their first book about the Jewish Quarter of Hamburg (Am Grindel) and, through her employment, enables him to work as a freelance author and publicist..

Furthermore, there was musical accompaniment at all the Award ceremonies, as well as good spreads at the receptions afterwards. The events were reported in the local press.
Chriss Fiebig kindly drove me to Weinheim and Bad Kissingen and joined me in Hamburg.



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