Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hans-Peter Klein of Melsungen Receives 2014 Obermayer Award

Hans-Peter Klein has devoted more than 25 years toward preserving the legacy of numerous small Jewish communities located in Nordhessen, the northern part of the State of Hessen. He assists descendants of Nordhessen Jewish families, performing archival research, building and growing family trees, providing copies of family records and transcribing correspondence. He accompanies family members of the Holocaust diaspora on frequent tours of ancestors’ towns and cemeteries.  In his profession as a teacher, he has accompanied German school students (26 seminars) and teachers (11 seminars) on one week tours to Auschwitz to teach them the history and impact of the Holocaust. To hear Hans-Peter to discuss his activities: Video of 18 Oct 2013 meeting at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

For all these accomplishments and many, many more, Hans-Peter has received the prestigious Obermayer Award for 2014. 

From "The Obermayer German-Jewish History Awards are given annually to individuals who have made outstanding voluntary contributions toward preserving and recording the Jewish history, heritage, culture and/or remnants of local German communities. These volunteers have devoted countless hours to such projects, but until now few have been recognized or honored for their efforts. The German Jewish Community History Council believes it is particularly meaningful for Jews the world over to recognize and encourage such work through this award, and to bring international attention to these activities."
I am proud to know Hans-Peter, grateful for the opportunity of benefiting from his friendship, knowledge and energy and pleased to be part of the team that successfully nominated him for the Obermayer Award.

On Monday January 27, 2014, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 2014 Obermayer awards were presented in the Plenary Hall of the Abgeordnetenhaus Berlin, home of the Berlin state parliament.  The ceremony was simulcast on the Internet and simultaneous translations to English were provided.  In attendance, and almost filling the chamber, were the awardees, their families and nominators, prior awardees, members of Parliament and various other dignitaries.  Guests came from the US, Europe and Israel. The ceremony was highlighted by musical performances and was followed by a sumptuous reception.

Hosting the proceedings were Mr. Ralf Wieland, President of the Berlin House of Representatives and Mr. Arthur Obermayer, sponsor of the Obermayer German Jewish History Awards. The event began with a moving speech by Mr. Wieland, recalling the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the horrors of the Nazi period and speaking to the impressive efforts of the Obermayer awardees in recovering and preserving the history of the Jewish Communities.

Mr. Obermayer then addressed the history of the award program and announced the winner of the first annual Distinguished Service Award to be given to those who, for whatever reason, do not qualify for the Obermayer German Jewish History Award, but whose efforts would otherwise lead to receiving one.  The first award was given to Frau Dr. h. c. Charlotte Knobloch, the President of the Jewish Community of Munich and Oberbayern K.d.ö.R. who then gave a brief talk.

Then each of the five awardees made a brief presentation summarizing their activities which led to their nomination and selection, followed by the presentation of their award. Please click here for information on the awardees.

The Obermayer organization in its efforts to broaden awareness of the Award, especially among potential nominators, issued a press release which led to the following articles:

My mother's parents and sister, pictured in 1939 from a trove of official documents which I received, unexpectedly, courtesy of Hans-Peter Klein. 
Levi Speier
Franziska Rosenbusch Speier

Ursula Speier
They were three of 988 Jews on a transport from Frankfurt on 22 Nov 1941 who were all killed at Kowno Fort IX in Lithuania on 25 Nov 1941 upon disembarking from the train.  Fifteen other family members were on the same transport.

The picture below is of my mother's family in front of their home in Borken(Hesse) Germany, 1928-1930.  The older girl is my mother Hilde Speier Aron, then her sister Ursula Speier, father Levi Speier and mother Franziska Rosenbusch Speier.  Standing in the doorway is believed to be Franziska's mother Johanna Kander Rosenbusch who died in 1936.

In 2011, Hans-Peter Klein and I walked the streets of Borken with this photo, seeking to find the pictured building. I believed that this was my mother's family home, but was not certain. As an example of Hans-Peter Klein's persistence, kindness and resourcefulness, he followed up and later found matching archival photos of the family home prior to destruction in 1971 proving that the building in this photo was indeed my mother's home.

The picture below is, from the left, my mother, her uncle Joel Speier, and Joel's daughter Blanka. The date is 30 Dec 1937. They are boarding the steamship Hansa in Hamburg, the young women to depart for New York City.  They were 16 years old. Joel escorted them on board, but remained in Germany with his wife Malwine and their son Bruno. Their escape led them to move from home in Guxhagen to Berlin and somehow to arrange for passage from Barcelona on 1 Aug 1941 on the steamship Ciudad de Sevilla.  This picture is courtesy of my cousin Bruno Speier of New York.

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