In recent decades, many individuals and organizations in Germany have raised awareness of a once-vibrant Jewish history and culture in their communities through educational programs exhibitions, restoration of synagogues and cemeteries, installation of Holocaust memorials, genealogical research, development of websites, publications, Stolpersteine, public programs, and other activities. They have forged meaningful relationships with former residents and descendants of those who once lived in their towns. They are teachers and engineers, publishers and judges, artists and bankers, lawyers and business executives, and they come from every corner of the country. These volunteers have devoted countless hours to such projects.
The Obermayer Awards recognize and encourage those who have been devoted to such activities and bring international attention to their work. Five individuals and/or organizations are honored each year.
In addition, to mark their 20th anniversary, the Obermayer Awards are expanding. The new Anniversary Awards will focus on those who, through innovative efforts, find ways to use the lessons of history to fight against current prejudice and racism. These individuals and organizations are changing attitudes that lead to intolerance, as well as fostering the kind of understanding among different cultures that prevents prejudice from taking root.
The award program was initiated in 2000 by Dr. Arthur S. Obermayer. Awards are presented annually at the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin, the home of the Berlin Parliament. A Distinguished Service Award, an honor bestowed upon extraordinary individuals whose accomplishments fall outside the scope of the specific award guidelines, was established by the jury in 2013.
The Awards are presented in late January to coincide with the commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 1945.
They are administered and supported by Widen the Circle, a division of the Obermayer Foundation established in 2019. It seeks to widen the circle of tolerance, reconciliation, and intercultural understanding, particularly in places where there is a history of extreme persecution of one group by another. It works to combat prejudice by fostering a shared understanding of the past that promotes healing, as well as opens a path to dialog and mutual trust moving forward.