City officials in Frankfurt awarded Auschwitz survivor Trude Simonsohn honorary citizenship at a special ceremony on Sunday, marking the first time that a woman had received the distinction since the city began the tradition in 1795.
“Trude Simonsohn is a great friend of our home city and a tireless fighter against exclusion, racism and anti-Semitism,” said Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann.
Since Frankfurt started issuing honorary citizenship in 1795, just 30 people have received the recognition, though several Nazi leaders have since been removed from the list of honorees, including Adolf Hitler.
Simonsohn was born in 1921 in Olmütz in today’s Czech Republic. During the Second World War, her Jewish parents were killed in concentration camps, and she herself was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp before being taken to Auschwitz.
After the war, she and her husband worked with Jewish refugees in Switzerland before they moved first to Hamburg, and then to Frankfurt in 1955. During her time of more than 60 years living in Frankfurt, she has played a role in rebuilding the Jewish community in the city, and has often given talks to schools and youth groups about life in concentration camps and the importance of remembering history.
The International Auschwitz Committee praised Frankfurt’s decision to award Simonsohn honorary citizenship.
“Trude Simonsohn has, like many other Auschwitz survivors, continued to campaign against hatred and for democracy through numerous talks to young people,” said the committee’s vice-executive president Christoph Heubner on Sunday.
“Her voice is a profound voice of humanity and philanthropy against opposition, despite all her bitter experiences.”