Simon-Wiesenthal Prize Goes to Palestinian Activist

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: March 14, 2023; 01:31 ♦ (Vindobona)

The Simon-Wiesenthal prize for the year 2022 was awarded for the second time. This prize is being awarded for the best activism against anti-semitism. This time the main prize was awarded to the organization Zikaron Basalon.

The Simon-Wiesenthal Prize for the Year 2022 Was Awarded on Monday. / Picture: © Jewish Museum Vienna / Horst Tappe Stiftung

The Simon Wiesenthal Prize was awarded today for the second time. The main prize of the award, which was presented in Parliament by National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka, went to the Israeli Holocaust memorial initiative Zikaron BaSalon. The Palestinian peace activist Mohammed Dajani and Waltraud Barton, chairwoman of the association IM-MER, which works to commemorate the Nazi extermination site Maly Trostenez, were also honored, according to ORF.

As reported by VOL, The Simon Wiesenthal Prize, which is endowed with 30,000 euros annually, was initiated in 2020 and is awarded by the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for the Victims of National Socialism. It honors up to three individuals or organizations for their civil society commitment against anti-Semitism and for upholding the memory of the Holocaust. The prize is named after the architect and publicist Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005), who became known as the "Nazi hunter". Throughout his life, he campaigned for Nazi criminals to be tracked down and brought to justice. For this year's award, 264 applications were submitted from over 30 countries. In the end, four initiatives were nominated for the main prize, and three individuals or organizations for each of the two secondary prizes.

The main prize went to Zikaron Basalon (Commemoration in the living room), which was founded in Israel in 2011 and lets Holocaust survivors talk about their experiences in the living room of interested hosts. Zikaron BaSalon also offers a wide range of materials on its homepage to create an evening of remembrance for Holocaust Memorial Day in one's own home, even without the personal presence of a survivor. These include recorded or written testimonies from contemporary witnesses, inspiring texts and music, or suggestions for discussion topics. With its materials, the initiative wants to help make remembering the Shoah in a private setting a meaningful event that also stimulates reflection and debate, as stated by VOL.

According to Wiener Zeitung, the prize for commitment went to Palestinian political scientist and peace activist Mohamed Dajani. Dajani was born in Jerusalem in 1946. At a young age, he became involved in the Palestinian liberation movement, studied in Lebanon, and later lived in the United States. After returning to Jerusalem in the mid-1990s, he experienced a change of heart regarding Israelis, whom he had previously considered enemies. He worked as a professor at the Arab Al-Quds University in Jerusalem and, in 2007, founded the Wasatia (roughly: Middle Way) initiative, which works for peace and understanding between Palestinians and Israelis in the name of moderate Islam. In 2014, he led a group of Palestinian students to the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. This was part of a project where students of Palestinian origin were to learn about the Holocaust and Jewish-Israeli students were to learn about the Nakba ("catastrophe," meaning the flight and expulsion of Palestinians after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948). Dajani was forced to leave Al-Quds University shortly after the trip due to massive outrage from Palestinians, and his safety has been at risk ever since.

According to VOL, the prize for education about the holocaust went to the Viennese Waltraud Barton. She founded the association IM-MER (Initiative Malvine - Maly Trostinec Remember) after discovering that Jewish members of her family had been murdered at the Nazi extermination site Maly Trostenez (Maly Trostinec) near the Belarusian capital Minsk. Most of the Jews deported there were shot or killed in gas vans immediately upon arrival in a nearby forest. As a result of Barton's commitment, a memorial to the Austrian Jews murdered in Maly Trostenez was inaugurated in March 2019 in the presence of then-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.