Leo Baeck Prize

»A true friend of Israel«

Josef Schuster (l.), Mathias Döpfner (M.), Ronald S. Lauder (r.) Foto: Marco Limberg

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has honored Mathias Döpfner for his extraordinary commitment to the Jewish community and to Israel with its highest award, the Leo Baeck Prize. The CEO of Axel Springer Publishing received the award on Thursday evening in Berlin. The President of the Central Council, Josef Schuster, praised Döpfner as an opinion leader who does not stand by silently when Jews and the state of Israel are attacked or denigrated.

Döpfner, Schuster said, speaks out clearly against a new anti-Semitism, which often is »disguised as criticism of Israel«. Again and again, media one-sidedly put the blame on Israel in their reporting, Schuster lamented. This, however, does not apply to the media of Axel Springer Publishing, which is committed to German responsibility for Israel and to the memory of the Shoah. »The Jewish community owes Mathias Döpfner a great debt«, Schuster emphasized. »Unfortunately, we cannot clone you, but I hope that today’s awards will be an incentive for many journalists, especially young journalists, to step into your own huge footprints.«

GREAT Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), said in his laudatory speech: »Mathias, you are a great man. Not only with your almost two meters, but as a human. You are unique! Many, many thanks for all you have done for the German-Jewish relationship.«

Döpfner, Lauder continued, »is a man who stands for courage and decency and represents all the noble qualities that one associates with Germany.« Since more than twenty years Döpfner has been a personal friend of his, Lauder said. He had never met a person who, like Döpfner, simultaneously fights communism and totalitarianism and is a major defender of Israel and the Jewish people.

Mathias Döpfner was visibly moved when he received the award: »I wish that Germany manages to persist as a credible pioneer in the successful fight against anti-Semitism and racism. Only if we can do that will we have the second chance that history seems to have given us. Germany can only find its identity if it stands by its Jewish roots.« Döpfner quoted Leo Baeck’s dictum that the history of German Jewry was definitely over: He hoped, he said, »that this is perhaps the only sentence of the great Leo Baeck that we together can prove wrong.«

COMMITMENT 56-year-old Mathias Döpfner has been at the helm of the Berlin publishing house Axel Springer since 2002. He was awarded the European B’nai B’rith Prize in 2014 and the Arno Lustiger Prize in 2016 for his commitment to the Jewish community and the Jewish state.

The Leo Baeck Prize was established in 1957 in memory of Rabbi Leo Baeck by the Central Council of Jews in order to honor personalities who have rendered outstanding services to the Jewish community. Among the former recipients were Federal Presidents Richard von Weizsäcker (1994), Roman Herzog (1998) and Christian Wulff (2011), Chancellor Angela Merkel (2007) and Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (2018).  ja

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