The American architect Daniel Libeskind was awarded the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma on October 18 in Berlin. The European Civil Rights Prize is awarded by the Central Council and the Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma and the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation, which endows the 15,000-euro prize. The prize honors outstanding personalities who have rendered outstanding services to the equal participation and human rights of Sinti and Roma in Europe.
The 2023 Prize honors Daniel Libeskind’s worldwide contributions to the culture of remembrance. The commemoration of the Holocaust against Jews and Sinti and Roma is an important part of his artistic and architectural work.
Daniel Libeskind designed the National Memorial to the Victims of the Holocaust in Amsterdam, which will be presented to the Dutch public in 2021 by King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Through his design of the Amsterdam memorial, the U.S. architect deliberately emphasizes the common fate of Sinti and Roma and Jews during Nazi persecution, uniting them in remembrance in the place he created. The National Holocaust Memorial in Canada, designed by Daniel Libeskind in 2018, is also dedicated to both Jews and Sinti and Roma.
At the award ceremony, Daniel Libeskind said:
‘Early in my career, I vowed to fight the erasure of memory and to build architecture with emotion and hope. My goal is to make memory palpable through the experience of light and space. Without the deliberate decision to hold on to memory, and to share our experiences with others, time can surreptitiously erase all.’
In her laudation, the President of the German Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, said:
‘Daniel Libeskind has created monuments across the world for the collective remembrance of the European Jews and Sinti and Roma murdered in the Holocaust. In this way, he has made a powerful contribution to anchoring the genocide of the Sinti and Roma, which had long been ignored, in the public consciousness. The European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma pays tribute to Daniel Libeskind’s dedication to our culture of remembrance. At the same time, the prize serves as a call to work towards recognition and equal participation in society for Sinti and Roma in Germany and Europe.’
On behalf of the founder, Markus Lautenschläger emphasized:
‘The work of this year’s laureate, Daniel Libeskind, express the growing recognition of the historical fact that there is a common fate of persecution of Sinti and Roma and Jews. This is particularly true of the Holocaust memorials he has designed in Amsterdam, Ottawa and Auschwitz. They are committed to the principle of common remembrance of all victims of the Nazi policy of extermination.’
The Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, paid tribute to the laureate with the following words:
‘With his artistic work, Daniel Libeskind has contributed to the international recognition that the Holocaust also meant the murder of 500,000 Sinti and Roma in Nazi-occupied Europe. Knowing the history of this crime against humanity, the ignorance of the member states of the European Union is shameful. They accept the inhuman situation of the Sinti and Roma, which has led to apartheid-like conditions, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Today, we as citizens, as well as our democratic institutions, have the duty to oppose the anti-democratic efforts of nationalist and extreme right-wing parties in many European countries, which are once again stirring up sentiments and hatred against Jews and Sinti and Roma.’
The European Civil Rights Award of the Sinti and Roma
The European Civil Rights Award is a contribution to the protection and enforcement of the civil rights of Sinti and Roma in their respective home countries. The prize was awarded for the first time in 2008 and will be awarded from 2019 in memory of Vinzenz and Oskar Rose, who initiated and shaped the civil rights work of the minority. The laureates are exemplary advocates of democracy and the rule of law and, in view of the long history of antigypsyism Previous laureates were Wladyslaw Bartoszewski (†), former Secretary of State and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Poland (2008), Simone Veil (†), former President of the European Parliament (2010), Thomas Hammarberg, former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe (2012), Tilman Zülch (†), co-founder and President of the Society for Threatened Peoples (2014), the human rights organization Amnesty International (2016), former President of the Slovak Republic Andrej Kiska (2019), and former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr. Angela Merkel (2021).
The Founder of the Prize
Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger is one of the founders of the financial services company MLP SE, which was established in 1971. He was Chairman of the Executive Board from 1984 to 1999 and then moved to the company’s Supervisory Board, of which he has been Honorary Chairman since 2018. In 2002, he established the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation to promote science and research, education and training, art and culture, and international understanding. Manfred Lautenschläger holds an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology at the University of Heidelberg. He is an honorary senator of the University of Heidelberg and the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien in Heidelberg, and a member of the University Council of the University of Heidelberg. Since July 2002, Manfred Lautenschläger has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma. Since 2008, the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation has endowed the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma.