The outgoing president of Germany's Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, has been awarded the Large Federal Cross of Merit with star, one of the highest honors available in Germany.
Knobloch survived the Holocaust as a child in Germany
German President Christian Wulff gave one of the highest orders of merit available to the country's Jewish leader on Tuesday, praising Charlotte Knobloch and her term of over four years at the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
"We are honoring a woman of whom our entire country can be proud, and who is therefore receiving one of this country's particularly high honors - along with our gratitude and admiration," the German president said at the ceremony in Berlin.
Knobloch, 78, survived the Nazi era as a child, hiding with a sympathetic German family. She has held several leading positions in the German Jewish community since the 1980s, and took over from Paul Spiegel as the president of the Central Council for Jews in 2006.
"It's thanks to people like Charlotte Knobloch, that there is such a thing as reconciliation; that we were able to set off on a path towards a new collective life, a new normality. We will continue along that path."
Knobloch has been awarded the Large Federal Cross of Merit with star, one of the highest orders available to civilians in Germany.
"Last eyewitness to leave"
Wulff said all of Germany could be proud of Knobloch's achievements
Knobloch will not stand for reelection when the Central Council for Jews votes on a new president on November, 28; former vice president Dieter Graumann is considered her likely replacement. Graumann, born in Israel in 1950, would be the first post-war German Jewish leader not to have lived through the Holocaust.
"With the departure of Charlotte Knobloch, the last eyewitness will be leaving the presidential office at the Central Council for Jews. That is certainly a break with history in German Jewish culture," President Wulff said in his speech honoring Knobloch.
"But this change will not mean that anything is forgotten. We all well know the obligations we have, not just to the victims of the past, but also to our future offspring."
Knobloch also discussed this prospect in a recent interview with the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper, but agreed that there was no danger of the Holocaust being forgotten in Germany.
"The next generation has still grown up with the history of the Holocaust, even if we (German society) didn't really talk about it for decades," Knobloch said.
"Nowadays, Jews are accepted in the mainstream of German society, something that for decades was not the case."
One of the issues on which Knobloch concentrated during her term in office was the integration of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a fast-growing group with increasing influence in Germany's Jewish community.
Wulff told Knobloch in the ceremony that the Large Federal Cross of Merit with star symbolized Germany's enduring gratitude for - and commitment to - her life's work.
Author: Mark Hallam (apn, dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer