22 September 2010
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been honored for her work in German-Jewish reconciliation with an award from a US group founded by a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. The Leo Baeck Institute presented its first medal ever to a serving German head of government for Merkel's work in cultivating a good relationship between Germans and Israel, and Germans and world Jewry. Former US Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal, who is head of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, saluted Merkel for her support of Jewish cultural life and the integration of minorities in Germany. Merkel said the medal was an inspiration for continuing the work of integration and cooperation with the Jewish community. "That work, unfortunately, entails going against the anti-Semitism that crops up on a regular basis," she said.
Merkel said Germany was prepared to use all of its leverage to help along the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. She also urged Iran to clear up any doubts about its peaceful intent with its nuclear program and to stop threatening Israel with annihilation. "Iran must know that the existence of the State of Israel will never be negotiable for Germany," she said.
The institute was founded by Rabbi Leo Beck in 1947 to study the history of German-speaking Jewry, which it notes on its website is "inextricably linked to Europe's cultural, intellectual and political history over the past 500 years." Beck survived the Holocaust despite severe deprivations. Many of his family members were murdered. He died in 1956.
The Leo Baeck Institute has a library and archives in Manhattan which offer the most comprehensive documentation for the study of German-Jewish history.
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