Friday, March 18, the International Dachau Committee has awarded the General André Delpech Prize to Albert Knoll, chief archivist of the concentration camp memorial.
In a ceremony at City Hall Dachau CID President Jean-Michel Thomas explained why this award was given.
" The International Dachau Committee knows you for almost 20 years now. You have contributed significantly to the „Totenbuch“ and it has become a reliable source of information about the 220,000 prisoners who arrived during those 13 years in Dachau, and of the reasons for the Nazi persecution they endured.
In particular, I would like to emphasize your long-standing collaboration with Stan Zamecnik, you have accompanied him in his publication of the history of the camp, particularly with respect to the research on the number of dead. That was a tremendous labor.
Your work shows such an exceptional dynamic and sustained enthusiasm, which is contrary to the painful and tragic content of the document which you investigate. Your friendliness and the way you are available to the families of prisoners did not remain unnoticed. You guide them and help them find information on the course of imprisonment and to deportation related issues.
These are all reasons why the International Dachau Committee has chosen to reward you with the prize of General André Delpech. This award is only given a few personalities to honor their merits and achievements for the commemoration of the Dachau concentration camp. You are at the center of these memories and meet perfectly the established criteria for this prestigious award."
In his thank word Knoll mentioned an important personal motive for his work at the Memorial:
"this story has to do with my mother, who now advanced in years, is here in the audience and came today for the first time at my invitation to Dachau. It was she as member of the German minority in Serbia in the beginning of 1942, who, as a twelve year old girl, had to witness the murder of the Jews of her hometown Novi Sad. In 1942, when the killing machine of the Nazis was in full swing, thousands of Dachau prisoners were gassed in the killing center at Hartheim Castle, when the expulsion of the Jews was no longer applauded by an enthusiastic crowd of spectators, but the residents were told rudely to stay in their homes, and the next day to do so, as if there had never been Jews in their town. In this year 1942, she hid, a twelve year old girl - out of fear behind the shutters and peered simultaneously from youthful curiosity through a gap, counted the bodies which have been driven directly past her parents' house to the outskirts of town and counted the shots that were soon after to heard on the banks of the Danube. It was the same number. A small detail of the Holocaust in front of the house of my grandparents. The bodies of the women, men and children were sunk in the river, former neighbors and playmates of mother had disappeared. Today there is a memorial.
Why am I telling this story?
The story of the mass murder of the Jews of Vojvodina is sown into the narrative tradition of our family, by my mother. It took place between all the stories of bombings and guerrilla danger of flight and forged identity papers, that made it possible for my family to enter into the German Reich and the difficult new beginning in Bavaria. As a very young man I began to wonder whether one would be linked to the other: The killing of Jews by the Hungarian partisans of the National Socialists and a few years later the expulsion of Germans from Yugoslavia, where they had lived for many generations. From a nebulous feeling came later the serious confrontation with the Nazi state, mistreatment of minorities, the new right-wing radicalism. From the personal commitment later came the study of history and education to the archivist and finally a permanent position at the memorial.
Concluding; we have promised the survivors that we honor their remembrance and pass on its message of peace, democracy, humanity and a more humane world. That should be a target for all of us. "