Nominations for the Simon Wiesenthal Prize 2023
Prizes for civic engagement to combat antisemitism and to educate the public about the Holocaust will be awarded in March 2024
The nominations for the 2023 Simon Wiesenthal Prize have been announced. The jury, now in its third year, once again had to make its selection from a wealth of submitted projects and initiatives and has now announced the nominations for 2023. The Simon Wiesenthal Prize, which was established in 2021, will be awarded on 12 March 2024 in Parliament.
A number of contemporary witnesses will also be honoured at the award ceremony. This is in line with the intention enshrined in the amended National Fund Law. Special tribute will be paid to Helga Feldner-Busztin (Austria), Jeno Friedman (USA), Octavian Fülöp (Romania), Naftali Fürst (Israel), Maria Gabrielsen (Norway), Viktor Klein (Austria), Otto Nagler (Israel), Katharina Sasso (Austria), Liese Scheiderbauer (Austria) and Marian Turski (Poland).
The prize is dedicated to the memory of the architect, publicist and writer Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005). Wiesenthal was a driving force in the worldwide efforts to seek justice for the crimes of the Nazi regime. From the day of his liberation from Mauthausen concentration camp, he made it his life’s work to remember the victims of the Nazi reign of terror.
A total of 197 entries from 30 countries worldwide were submitted to the National Fund this year, 107 of which were first-time submissions. The majority of submissions originated from Austria and Germany, but a significant number of entries were also received from the United States, Spain, Israel, the United Kingdom, Poland and Argentina.
Sobotka: The Prize Demonstrates that Civic Engagement to Combat Antisemitism Remains Unwavering
“The terrible events of recent months in Israel underline the importance of the Simon Wiesenthal Prize,” said National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka at the announcement of the nominations for the 2023 Simon Wiesenthal Prize. “The large number of entries from all over the world for the third edition of the prize proves the unwavering and resolute engagement of civil society in the fight against antisemitism. This engagement is also demonstrated above all by the contemporary witnesses: for this reason, the special recognition of them and their work has now been expressly anchored in the National Fund Law as part of the amendment. They remind us that we must stand up and take action against the suppression and trivialisation of the historical truth. Because ‘never again’ is now.”
Schnurbein: Standing Up Against Antisemitism is More Important Than Ever
Jury chairwoman Katharina von Schnurbein notes with concern that since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli civilians, there has been an explosive rise in antisemitic incidents in Europe and worldwide. “Now more than ever, we need decisive action and civil courage to stand up against antisemitism. All 2023 Simon Wiesenthal Prize nominees are examples of outstanding grassroots initiatives. They are characterised by a clear moral compass, perseverance and a great deal of voluntary commitment,” explains the jury chairwoman about the nominations that have now been announced.
The Candidates for the Main Prize
The organisations AMCHA (Israel), Casa Stefan Zweig (Brazil), Holocaust researcher Jan Grabowski (Canada) and the initiative LIKRAT - Let's Talk! (Austria and Switzerland) made the shortlist.
AMCHA is an organisation founded in 1988 to provide psychosocial support to Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Israel. It supports around 15,000 people at 15 locations, the AMCHA centres. The services provided by AMCHA Israel include individual counselling sessions with professional therapists, social clubs with group activities and visiting services by volunteers. In addition to caring for survivors, AMCHA also carries out important educational and mediation work.
The Casa Stefan Zweig is a non-profit organisation under private law based in Petrópolis in Rio de Janeiro, which was founded in 2006 with the aim of establishing a museum at the last home of Stefan Zweig and his wife in order to preserve the memory of the writer. It is also a memorial for other exiled artists, intellectuals, scientists and other persecuted people who sought refuge in Brazil during the Nazi period and made a contribution to culture, art and science here, and also carries out extensive educational and awareness-raising work.
Jan Grabowski is a Polish historian and history professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the most outspoken advocates of Holocaust education in Poland. Grabowski’s research interests include the extermination of Polish Jews and the history of Jewish-Polish relations between 1939 and 1945.
“LIKRAT” is a poetic Hebrew expression for “to approach someone" and the name of a dialogue project that brings together Jewish and non-Jewish young people. The project was launched in Switzerland in 2002 and has been running in Austria since 2015, in Germany since 2017 and in Moldova since 2018. The aim of the dialogue project is to dispel antisemitic and anti-Jewish stereotypes and generate a pluralistic awareness.
Nominations for the Prize for Civic Engagement to Combat Antisemitism
The Asociacón Cultural Mota de Judíos in Spain was one of the organisations selected by the jury for the award for civic engagement to combat antisemitism. The Spanish village of Castrillo Matajudios - which roughly translates as “Fortress to Kill Jews” – officially changed its name back to Castrillo Mota de Judíos (Fortress Hill of the Jews) in 2015 following a referendum and the approval of the regional government. Despite various hostilities, the village of around 50 inhabitants continues to stand by its decision to discard its insulting name and honour its Jewish origins.
The European Leadership Network (ELNET) in Germany acts as a think tank and network organisation in the context of European-Israeli relations. It focuses on the areas of foreign and security policy, antisemitism and innovation. In the jury's view, it qualified for the nomination with its educational campaign "Question Wall - 2,641 questions about Judaism and Jewish life in Germany".
“SOS Mitmensch” (Austria) is also nominated for the prize. The jury pointed to the key role played by SOS Mitmensch – with its extensive research, precise criticism and powerful public relations work – in the closure of the far-right publication “Aula” and the judiciary’s plan to bring charges against the former editor-in-chief of “Aula” for propagating Nazi ideology. It therefore stands as an example of the successful pressure that a committed civil society organisation can exert to quell antisemitic activities.
Prize for Civic Engagement to Educate the Public about the Holocaust
The Simon Wiesenthal Prize jury selected three projects from the entries for Civic Engagement to Educate the Public about the Holocaust.
In a private initiative, Alois and Erna Will (Austria) erected a memorial to three unknown Hungarian-Jewish concentration camp prisoners who were murdered during the death marches to Mauthausen concentration camp in April 1945 near Alois Will’s parents’ house.
The Austrian historian Heidemarie Uhl, who passed away in 2023, was also nominated. For decades, she dedicated her work to coming to terms with and educating people about the Holocaust in Austria and produced important academic research on this topic.
The organisation CENTROPA (Austria), which documents the recollections of contemporary witnesses to the Holocaust and of Jewish life before the Second World War, was nominated for the efforts it has made to continue Holocaust education in Ukraine since February 2022 in spite of the Russian war of aggression.