The Federal Republic of Germany presented Abraham H. Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s National Director Emeritus, with the government’s highest civilian honor for devoting his life to the battle against anti-Semitism, hatred and discrimination.
“Your voice has been a voice of tolerance and against hate, a voice for responsibility and against discrimination,” Ambassador Peter Wittig said in presenting the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit last night to Mr. Foxman at the German Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C.
The ambassador called Mr. Foxman “a tireless and committed fighter” against bigotry in all forms, and praised his work in promoting reconciliation between Germany and the Jewish community in the United States.
In his acceptance remarks, Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor who lost most of his family to the Nazi death machine, said: “I never would have believed that I would one day accept and take great pride in accepting an honor like this from the government of Germany.”
Among those in attendance were Tony Blinken, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; Ambassador Robert M. Kimmitt, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany; and Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union; and Brita Wagener, German Consul General in New York.
Mr. Foxman told his audience that the lessons of the Holocaust are threefold: First, that every generation must be told and taught about what happened; second, that there is a moral imperative of standing up against bigotry wherever it appears, and third, that Jews can never again afford to be powerless.
“Germany has shown that it is willing to be a leader in standing up against intolerance,” Mr. Foxman said, saying how he was inspired to see Germany’s leaders attempting to set a standard for the humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees streaming across Europe. “Wherever things go, that instinctive reaction is to be commended,” he said. “The moral lesson of the Holocaust has been well-learned.”
The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was instituted in 1951 by Federal President Theodor Heuss. It is the only honor that may be awarded in all fields of endeavor and is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation.
The Order of Merit may be awarded to Germans as well as foreigners for achievements in the political, economic, social or intellectual realm and for all kinds of outstanding services to the nation in the field of social, charitable or philanthropic work.