BERLIN (JTA) – The rescuer of a ruined synagogue inÂ Gudensberg is one of five German non-Jews honored this year for
ensuring that local Jewish history is not forgotten.
High school teacher Hans-Peter Klein helped to preserve aÂ building and its story, and he also helped descendants of local Jews findÂ their roots — as did all winners of the 14th annual Obermayer GermanÂ Jewish History Awards, presented at Berlin’s parliament building lastÂ week.
“What was most important was getting to know my grandmother” throughÂ letters Klein transcribed, said Dennis Aron of Skokie, Illinois, whoÂ nominated Klein.
Another awardee, journalist Steffen Pross, reawakened the past forÂ Patrick Levi of Neuilly sur Seine, France: “He had letters from myÂ grandmother that my father had never seen… and after 70 years ourÂ ancestors knocked on our doors again. It was amazing,” Levi said.
The awards were presented by American-Jewish philanthropist ArthurÂ Obermayer and Ralf Wieland, president of the Berlin House ofÂ Representatives.
The other awardees were history teachers Johannes GrÃ¶tecke of BadÂ Wildungen and Silvester Lechner of Ulm; and Jewish studies scholarÂ Frowald Gil HÃ¼ttenmeister of Stuttgart.
German Jewish leader Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Bavarian JewishÂ community, also was honored.
Richard Oppenheimer of Venice, Florida, said he learned about anÂ unknown family member through awardee GrÃ¶tecke: an aunt who was aÂ 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 aÂ common Jewish history,” he said.
Obermayer was inspired to initiate the awards by his contacts withÂ grass-roots historians in his family’s ancestral town of Creglingen.Â Recipients are nominated by Jews around the world who maintain tiesÂ with the towns from which their ancestors fled.