Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Alfred Landecker Foundation
Alfred Landecker

The Alfred Landecker Foundation has awarded the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) a $13 million USD grant to fund academic initiatives that focus on the causes and consequences of the Holocaust, promote studies on human rights, minority protection, the rule of law, and reparations for historical wrongs and injustices.

Alfred Landecker (1884–1942) was a German-Jewish accountant who was married to a Catholic woman with whom he had three children. Landecker baptized the children after the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933, but was eventually deported to a Polish ghetto, where he died in 1942. Landecker’s daughter Emilie (1922–2017) took care of her two siblings after her father’s death, and went to work for the Benckiser company, where she bore three children to the owner, Alfred Reimann Jr., who was a married man. It is unclear whether Reimann was aware of Emilie’s Jewish ancestry, but since he and his wife were childless, he adopted Emilie’s and his children in 1965.

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In 2016 the Reimann family commissioned the historian Paul Erker from the Institute for Contemporary History at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich to research the political past of the family and the Benckiser company between the early 1920s and 1945. In January 2019, Erker informed the family that Albert Reimann Senior and Albert Reimann Jr. were deeply anti-Semitic and staunch supporters of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism, and profited from the war economy. In addition, there was violence and abuse of slave laborers in the company’s plants during the Nazi regime.

The Alfred Landecker Foundation was established by the Reimann family in June 2019 to atone for their father and grandfather’s war crimes. It is based in Berlin.

As part of the grant, three new academic initiatives will be established at Hebrew University, among them The Jacob Robinson Institute for the History of Legal Thought and Practice. Dr. Robinson, an historian of the destruction of Eastern European Jewry during the Nazi regime, served as a consultant in the Nuremberg war crime trials and worked on the prosecution of Nazi murderers, including Adolf Eichmann. He also participated in drafting the reparations agreement between Israel, the Jewish People and Germany, and helped to establish the research arm of Yad Vashem.

Second, the grant will establish the Landecker-Benjamin B. Ferencz Chair in the Study of Protection of Minorities and Vulnerable Groups. Ferencz was an American lawyer who investigated Nazi war crimes after World War II and was a fierce advocate for the establishment of an International Criminal Court. Third, the grant will create the Alfred Landecker Digital Humanities Lab at Hebrew University to research oral testimonies of survivors of mass crimes. Additionally, the grant will provide further funding for Hebrew University’s Minerva Center for Human Rights.

This prestigious grant is one of the first major projects of the Landecker Foundation, as part of its commitment to create an international academic network that addresses key aspects in the protection of democratic values, pluralism and ethnic, religious and cultural minorities in an age of nationalism and emerging authoritarianism.

This donation is a cornerstone grant to build on the lessons learned from the collapse of democratic institutions in the 1930s – the emergence and proliferation of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, the decline in minority rights protection, the subsequent World War, and the Holocaust committed in its shadow as an ultimate crime against humanity, committed against the Jewish people.

“I’m proud that at the very beginning of my assignment as the CEO of the Alfred Landecker Foundation, our first major donation goes to one of the world’s outstanding and Israel’s leading academic institution, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The foundation gladly supports the research and scholarly dissemination of legal and historical questions related to both the establishment and strengthening of human rights, individual as well collective rights. These subject matters were at the core interest and activity of leading Jewish legal scholars throughout the conflict-ridden 20th century. That legacy has to be continued, strengthened and applied during exceptionally precarious times,” said Andreas Eberhardt, CEO of the Alfred Landecker Foundation.

“Hebrew University is honored to receive this prestigious grant from the Alfred Landecker Foundation. The funding will allow us to expand our goal of nurturing a new generation of public and professional leaders, one that will work tirelessly to safeguard human rights and minority rights, and to abide by a rule of law that protects the sanctity of life. This ethos is at the core of Israel‘s Jewish and democratic underpinnings and of our own academic charter, “ shared Professor Asher Cohen, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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