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Remembering The Holocaust, Without Bitterness

German consulate bestows Order of Merit on Holocaust survivor and Claims Conference negotiator Roman Kent.

Staff Writer
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Roman Kent, left, last week received Germany’s Order of Merit from Consul General Busso von Alvensleben.  Jörg Windau
Roman Kent, left, last week received Germany’s Order of Merit from Consul General Busso von Alvensleben. Jörg Windau

The incongruity of the moment was inescapable.

Roman Kent, an 89-year-old, Polish-born Auschwitz survivor, stood in the living room here of German Consul General Busso von Alvensleben’s home last month and heard the German official describe him as a man who “went through hell and yet brought the message of tolerance and solidarity to so many.”

As Kent’s wife, Hannah (also an Auschwitz survivor), their two children and three grandchildren watched, von Alvensleben then pinned to Kent’s suit pocket the German government’s Order of Merit that German President Joachim Gauck had ordered bestowed upon Kent for his work on behalf of Holocaust survivors and for “reminding the world of the lessons the Holocaust has taught … [without] bitterness or hatred.”

Obviously moved, Kent replied: “How could I, a Holocaust survivor, even remotely envision such an incredible scenario when enslaved in Auschwitz.”

This is the first time the German consulate has bestowed the award on a Holocaust survivor, a spokesman for the German consulate said. The award reflects achievement in the political, economic, social or intellectual realm and for outstanding service to Germany in the field of social, charitable or philanthropic work.

Kent has served as president of the International Auschwitz Committee, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and treasurer of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. It is as a Claims Conference negotiator with the German government seeking additional compensation for survivors that Kent is most well known to them and for which he won von Alvensleben’s praise.

“We Germans are grateful to Roman Kent for the gift of his trust, a gift by all means not to be taken for granted from someone who has suffered so much from German hands,” he said.

In his remarks to about 75 guests — including Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman and David Marwell, director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust — Kent said he does not hold the German government of today responsible for the Nazi atrocities.

“You, the new generation, just like we the survivors, have miraculously rebuilt our past lives,” he said. “The new generation of Germans rose from the ashes, and must be commended for replacing totalitarianism with democracy, accepting responsibility for their wrong-doings, and apologizing for the deeds of an earlier generation. ... By having the courage to face the past, by having the decency to assume responsibilities to the victims of the past, Germany is creating a foundation for an impressive future.”


Last Update:

02/03/2015 - 15:03
holocaust survivors, Roman Kent
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As my oldest friend, since we are eight (we' re 68 now), is Jewish, I started reading about Jewish life in general and the Holocaust in particular from a very early age. Mr Kent' s speech in Auschwitz on the 27th of January, I found very impressive: going beyond his own experiences, giving it a universal value. It was also generous and a desire for a future without a repetition of the past. Hè must have a very big heart full of trust in humankind. As Vasili Grossman said, ' Without humanity, life on earth is hell.' Mr Kent shows this
K.J. Simonet (mrt)

Another Auschwitz survivor who thinks that Kent or any other survivor should NEVER accept a German Order, especially in connection with Auschwitz.
Auschwitz survivor whose mother did not survive.

Not so, just not accept awards with crosses.
You can read, can't you?

So sorry there is a cross on the gentleman's clothing, is that his award? If so he is better to refuse it.

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