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August 31, 2021 1:44 pm
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Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel Honored for ‘Steadfast’ Work Fighting Antisemitism

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel receiving the Buber Rosenzweig Medal on Aug. 31, 2021. Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel was awarded with the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal on Tuesday, honoring her advocacy against antisemitism and racism in politics, society and culture.

“It is our lasting task to strengthen and protect Jewish life in Germany,” said Merkel. “I consider the award of the Buber-Rosenzweig medal as an honor, but above all in these times also as an incentive for our ongoing commitment to the values of our democracy, to tolerance and the dignity of the individual. Respecting them is also a prerequisite for the cohesion of our society.”

In a speech at the award ceremony, Merkel demanded society use all available means to defend against acts of racism, antisemitism and any form of prejudice.

Attacks such as the synagogue attack in the central German city of Halle in October 2019, antisemitic protests in front of synagogues, the trivialization of the Holocaust at demonstrations against measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic and repeated assaults on men wearing kippot should never be tolerated, she said.

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The ceremony was originally scheduled for 2020, but had been postponed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic. The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, emphasized that now was nevertheless a good time to recognize the chancellor, because the entire term of Merkel’s office could be appreciated. Merkel will be stepping down in September after 16 years in power.

At the ceremony, Schuster spoke about Merkel’s “solidarity” with Israel, her advocacy for religious freedom, and her commitment against antisemitism — which he said were rooted in genuine resolve, irrespective of politics.

“You also hold on to these convictions when it is not popular, when you are heavily criticized for it or when there are setbacks,” Schuster remarked. “In times when political populism is unfortunately often rewarded with many votes, this steadfastness is appreciated more than ever.”

The prize, awarded to persons who actively contribute to furthering Christian-Jewish dialogue, was presented by the German Coordinating Council of Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation (DKR), a Berlin-based umbrella organization representing at least 44 different organizations.

The name of the medal honors the memory of Martin Buber, an Austrian-Jewish philosopher, translator and educator, and Franz Rosenzweig, a German-Jewish theologian. Awarded since 1968, other recipients have included former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, former German President Richard von Weizsäcker, conductor Daniel Barenboim, architect Daniel Libeskind, and writer Gyorgy Konrad.

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