By Benjamin Brown • 31 October, 2019
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been presented with the World Jewish Congress’ (WJC) Herzl Award, which recognizes outstanding individuals who work to promote Herzl’s ideals for a “safer, more tolerant world for the Jewish people”, according to the WJC.
Speaking at the award ceremony on Monday, WJC President Ronald Lauder addressed Merkel as “the symbol of all that is good in post-war Germany” and “the guardian of democracy, the guardian of civilization and the guardian of Europe.”
Lauder also acknowledged Merkel’s support for the State of Israel and Jewish life in Germany. Thanking the WJC for the award, Merkel spoke about “an obligation never to be content with what has been achieved but to continue striving toward a better future in unison with our partners.”
While international media has reported stark criticism by the German Jewish community over Merkel receiving the award because of her support of the Iran Nuclear Deal, as well as recent anti-Semitic attacks in Germany and the German government’s refusal to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, senior figures of the local Jewish community lauded the WJC’s decision in awarding Merkel the Herzl Award.
German publicists, most notably columnist Henryk Broder and publisher of the Jüdische Rundschau Rafael Korenzecher, did in fact, criticize Merkel’s receiving the award. The move, however, was generally welcomed by Germany’s Jewish community.
Anti-Semitism Threatens a ‘Free, Democratic’ Germany
Speaking at the award ceremony hosted by Munich’s Jewish congregation, the second biggest in the country, Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and Vice-President of the WJC, warned that Germany would not be a “free, democratic country, should Jews not be able to abide as free citizens”, explaining that this was equally applicable to other religious minorities.
Referring to the extreme right-wing terrorist attack carried out in Halle on Yom Kippur, Schuster warned of it being the “tip of the iceberg” before voicing his support for Merkel as a reliable partner in ensuring the flourishing of Jewish life in Germany.
This year, former US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is also set to receive the award in a separate ceremony on November 6th. Lauder credited Haley with “exemplifying [the United States’] unwavering friendship for Israel and commitment to world Jewry.”