Holocaust survivors Lily Ebert, Zwi Nigal, Karl Pfeifer and Liliana Segre have been awarded the first Simon Wiesenthal Prize for their commitment against antisemitism and to education on the Holocaust.
The four award winners have dedicated their lives to transmit their testimonies as survivors witnesses of the Shoah and to contribute to education and remembrance. They have now been honoured as first recipients of the Main prize for civic engagement to combat antisemitism and to educate the public about the Holocaust.
Lily Ebert was born in Hungary in 1923 and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944, where her mother, younger brother and sister were murdered. After four months, Ebert and two of her other sisters were put to work in a munitions factory near Leipzig, where she was liberated by US troops. Via Switzerland and Israel, she arrived in England in 1967 with three children. Today, her great-grandson, Dov Forman, runs a TikTok account for Lily Ebert with over 1.6 million followers and has also published a book with her.
Zwi Nigal was norn in Vienna in 1923. He fled to Palestine in 1939 and fought in the British army against Nazi Germany. His father was murdered in the Holocaust. In 1946, Nigal returned to Vienna as a British soldier, but did not want to live there anymore. He joined the underground paramilitary organisation Haganah and fought in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Since his retirement, he has lectured as a contemporary witness to an average of 1,500 schoolchildren each year in Germany and Austria.
Karl Pfeifer was born in Baden near Vienna in 1928 and fled to Hungary with his parents in 1938. He managed to escape to Palestine and returned to Austria in 1951. Pfeifer is active as a journalist and was editor of the “Gemeinde”, the official organ of the Jewish Community of Vienna. Until 2005, he worked as a Vienna correspondent for Israeli radio and as a freelance journalist for magazines. He is active in his work against antisemitism.
Liliana Segre was born in Milan on 10 September 1930. In 1944, at the age of 13, she was one of 776 Italian children deported to Auschwitz. Only 25 survived. To this day, Segre remains active as a contemporary witness on television, in theatres and in schools. She has become one of Italy’s most important moral authorities. Segre is president of the Special Committee against Intolerance, Racism and Antisemitism and a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Children and Adolescence. She is also the author and co-author of numerous articles and books. She is particularly concerned about communicating with children and young people.
In addition, two more prizes were awarded, an Award for civic engagement to educate the public about the Holocaust for commitment to education about the Holocaust, and an Award for civic engagement to combat antisemitism.
They were awarded respectively to the Central Austrian Investigative Office for Post-War Justice, and to the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA).
In 1998, the Central Austrian Investigation Office for Post-War Justice was founded with the aim of documenting the Austrian judiciary’s involvement with Nazi crimes by recording and indexing the files of public prosecutors’ offices and courts. It is intended to contribute towards safeguarding this part of Europe’s legal cultural heritage and to bring historical experience to bear on the debate about war crimes and human rights violations of the present day. In this respect, its work is particularly close to that of Simon Wiesenthal in terms of both content and difficulties faced.
The Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA), was established in 2008, an initiative by Levi Salomon, with the support of Lala Süsskind and the Jewish Community of Berlin. It aims to strengthen democratic governance, promote interreligious and intercultural exchange, and help those persecuted on political, racial, or religious grounds. This includes the fight against antisemitism and racism. In addition to carrying out educational, public relations and cultural work, the JFDA conducts independent monitoring and records and evaluates antisemitic incidents and tendencies as well as other incidents directed against German Basic Law (constitutional law) and human rights.
The Simon Wiesenthal Prize is an initiative of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism, established at the Austrian National Council, the country’s lower house of parliament.
The award ceremony was held at the Hofburg in Vienna, in the presence of President of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka, President of IKG Wien Oskar Deutsch, EJC President Dr Ariel Muzicant, and European Commission Coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, Katharina von Schnurbein.
Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka emphasized the importance of civil society engagement It must be a matter of concern for all democrats to stand up against anti-Semitism. The prize was awarded for the first time in memory of the architect, publicist and writer Simon Wiesenthal.
For the Simon Wiesenthal Prize 2021, the National Fund received 284 applications from more than 30 countries worldwide – from Austria, Germany and other European countries as well as from Israel and the USA, and also from Asia, Australia, South America and Canada.
The jury selected ten entries to be shortlisted for the award. From this shortlist, the Board of Trustees of the National Fund selected the following award winners.
Applications for the Simon Wiesenthal Prize 2022 will be open from May 12, 2022. Details and eligibility requirements are available at www.wiesenthalpreis.at.