Welcoming address by the President of the Berlin House of Representatives Dennis Buchner at the official ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Touro College
15.11.2022 09:00, Touro College, Am Rupenhorn 5, 14055 Berlin
May I start by saying: the Touro College is a stroke of luck for Berlin. Therefore, it is an honour for me to celebrate it here at this historic place this morning. In the name of the entire Berlin House of Representatives, I congratulate you most warmly on your “golden” anniversary.
It was your goal to re-establish Jewish life and Jewish culture in Berlin. Today, we know that you have made an outstanding contribution to this. As a state parliament, we are grateful that the College is not only enriching everyday Jewish life, but also promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue alike. That is also a real benefit for Berlin as a location for science.
The brain drain caused by the Nazi dictatorship has left a gap in Germany which is still felt and has yet to be filled. In the first 40 years of the 20th century – despite all the discrimination – almost one third of German Nobel Prize winners were of Jewish descent. They were brilliant and had a creative vein. Often, they were forced into peripheral scientific fields which later transpired to be the focal point of scientific progress.
When we think back on Jewish success in German science in the pre-Nazi era, great names come to mind for us Berliners: Albert Einstein or Germany's first female professor of physics, Lise Meitner. But there are also less well-known ones. For me, Frieda Wunderlich, as one of the first female economists, is particularly interesting, because as a Berlin city councillor and a member of the Prussian Parliament she was also one of the first female parliamentarians of our city. In 1933, she emigrated to the USA. Before that, she had walked along the same corridors and hallways that I use today in the parliament building to reach my office, the committee rooms or the assembly chamber. Frieda Wunderlich played an active role in social policy issues, and yet she is largely forgotten by our House of Representatives.
In Berlin, the pain of historical events can still be felt. The colourful Jewish life in the Weimar Republic is lost for ever. Nevertheless, we are very grateful that a Jewish diversity is establishing itself in Berlin again, and the Touro College is making a powerful contribution to this. More than 30,000 Jews, orthodox, liberal, conservative or secularized, now live in the city. We sense the courage and the power of the Jewish Community to build something new, to live self-confidently and openly. It is our political role to do everything in our power to protect and promote that self-perception.
Well-meaning words or legislation will not suffice. We have to foster a social atmosphere which has no place for prejudices and stereotypes, fake news and resentment; an atmosphere in which antisemites are isolated because that is the will of civil courage. Ultimately, tolerance comes from knowledge, and that is the hallmark of the Touro College. The "Holocaust Communication and Tolerance" course, unique as it is in Europe, is playing a key role. The international interaction in the degree course broadens outlooks and creates a mutual understanding that knows no national borders. At your College, students with kippah, hijab or crucifix, who would perhaps never have met outside this institution, come into contact with each other. Touro Berlin lives and breathes variety and I am certain that this will remain the case in the next 50 years. I wish you all the best for the future and I hope you have a wonderful celebration today.
Once again, congratulations and thank you very much!