Activist couple rewarded for sole resistance to neo-Nazis
The Local · 12 May 2011, 15:28
Published: 12 May 2011 15:28 GMT+02:00
Birgit and Horst Lohmeyer are practically the only non-neo-Nazis in the village of Jamel, and have become well-known for refusing to accept the politics of, or bow to the bullying of their neighbours.
Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, presented Birgit, 52, and Horst, 54, with the award at a ceremony at Schwerin Castle on Thursday.
Graumann praised the couple, who moved from Hamburg to the village in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2004, for the courage they have shown in their daily struggle against the neo-Nazis who have inundated the town.
Jamel has become the centre of a troubling right-wing trend in the region.
As ever more neo-Nazis move to the town, crudely-drawn swastikas have appeared on streets signs and right-wing intimidation and violence have become more frequent.
Birgit, a writer, and Horst, a musician, were “life heroes” according to Graumann, who said their resistance to the bullying of their neo-Nazi neighbours sets an important example of civic courage.
Jamel, dubbed a “national free zone” by neo-Nazis, was an “untenable situation... and a scandal” that no one in Germany should accept, Graumann said.
In his speech, state premier Erwin Sellering, of the centre-left Social Democrats, said the couple deserved credit for making Jamel a symbol of civil courage, praising the couple's bravery to stay the course.
The Lohmeyers have hosted a rock concert on their property each year since 2007, along with a variety of cultural events to combat the extremists' ideology.
Sellering used the opportunity to demand that the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) be banned, saying that although the move would not succeed in eliminating Nazi ideology, it would be an important step in the right direction.
In her acceptance speech, Birgit Lohmeyer deplored the disenchantment with democracy currently spreading through parts of eastern Germany.
She said it was painful to see how effectively what she called, the, “terror of intimidation by the right-wing extremists” worked, particularly on young people, and how no one dares to protest.
The 52-year-old prize winner said the onus was on every individual to prevent, “the Third Reich to return to German soil in less than a century.”
The Paul Spiegel Award, which carries a cash sum of €5,000, has now been awarded twice.
In 2009, Saxony police president Bernd Merbitz was the recipient for his dedication to the fight against anti-Semitism and right-wing radicalism. The prize was not awarded last year.