Frankfurt Book Fair: Jewish historian receives prize, German president attacked
14 October 2007, Frankfurt (dpa) - Saul Friedlaender, the Jewish historian of the Holocaust, read from the letters of family members who died at the hands of the Nazis, on accepting the German Book Trade Peace Prize at the highpoint of the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday. The 75-year-old French-educated Israeli academic, who lost his parents in the Shoah (Holocaust), was being honoured with Germany's top literary prize for "restoring the stolen dignity of the victims of the Holocaust, a recognition of which
14 October 2007
Frankfurt (dpa) - Saul Friedlaender, the Jewish historian of the Holocaust, read from the letters of family members who died at the hands of the Nazis, on accepting the German Book Trade Peace Prize at the highpoint of the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday.
The 75-year-old French-educated Israeli academic, who lost his parents in the Shoah (Holocaust), was being honoured with Germany's top literary prize for "restoring the stolen dignity of the victims of the Holocaust, a recognition of which is the basis of peace."
The event was marred by an attack on German President Horst Koehler, who was attending the ceremony in the historic St Paul's Church in the city centre.
An apparently mentally disturbed man rushed at Koehler after the ceremony, grabbing him by the lapels before being overpowered by bodyguards and led away.
Koehler was unhurt and continued with his schedule.
Friedlaender called for the voices of the Holocaust victims not to be silenced.
The personal documents of the victims "move us precisely because of their utter helplessness, their innocence and the solitariness of their desperation," he said.
Friedlaender chose not to make the usual speech, but read the last words written by his parents and thrown from the train taking them to a French concentration camp.
The letters were addressed to the French woman who saved Friedlaender's own life by placing him in a Catholic school under an assumed name.
In his letter, Friedlaender's father wrote he had sent money, jewelry and stamps to the woman, Madame Mace de Lepinay.
"Don't leave the boy. May God repay you for everything and may he bless you and your family," he wrote.
In an earlier letter, Freidlaender's parents wrote: "If we must perish, at least we have the great good fortune of knowing that our beloved child has been saved."
Making the eulogy earlier, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation President Wolfgang Fruehwald stressed the need to remember.
The Nazis had driven naivete from the world, "destroying the original sense of trust in the moral power of civilization," Fruehwald said.
After being told he was to receive the award, Friedlaender, who speaks fluent German, referred to the "terrible feeling of fear" he had sometimes felt during his early stays in Germany after World War II.
"I had to keep going away for periods. But in time that changed," he said. Germany was now a country like any other. He even had a German grandchild in Berlin, since his daughter is married to a German musician.
He said he had a "dual response" to being awarded the annual German literary prize, and was both happy to be honoured for his scholarship while aware that this was closely bound to the loss of his parents.
"I won't have mixed feelings, but I would say complex feelings," he said.
He said his attitude to Israel was also complex. He emigrated there in 1948.
"When I arrived in Israel at the age of 15, I was a convinced Zionist," he said. Later he had been a critic of Israel's policies. "Israel made a lot of mistakes," he said.
But he retained "a strong emotional bond to the country and its people." His two sons live there, but the historian mainly lives in the United States.
The award ceremony marks the climax of the book fair, the world's largest. More than 280,000 people attended the 59th fair, the same number as last year.
"From an economic point of view it went well," Book Fair spokesman Thomas Minkus said, adding that the politics and showbusiness categories had drawn the most attention.
Subject: German news