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Reichenbach / Lautertal – Germany

Max Liebster becomes an honorary citizen in his hometown.
Excerpts from an article printed in the November 20, 2004 issue of the daily Bergstrasser Anzeiger.

Award of honorary citizenship of the municipality of Reichenbach (Lautertal) to Max Liebster
Award of honorary citizenship of the municipality of Reichenbach (Lautertal) to Max Liebster

The new honorary citizen from Lautertal, Max Liebster (third from the left) with, from left to right, Mayor Jürgen Kaltwasser, Max’s wife, Simone Arnold-Liebster and Community of Communes Chairwoman, Heidi Adam.

Lautertal. “This honor is to be bestowed upon an extraordinary man,” said Community of Communes Chairwoman Heidi Adam, to a capacity crowd at Reichenbach City Hall. Today the Chairman of the City Council had only one item on the agenda: bestow the ceremonial decoration of honorary citizenship upon Max Liebster–humanitarian, eyewitness of the Holocaust and nonetheless, a son of Lauterbach, who declared, “I still feel like a true Reichenbacher.” (…)

In the presence of innumerable friends, guests of honor and well-wishers, Mayor Jürgen Kaltwasser handed the certificate of merit to Liebster. A citizen of Lautertal, Liebster contributed enormously to the study of mechanisms of persecution under National Socialism. His reconciliation efforts are a matter of the heart. “He arrived as a propitiator, not as an accuser,” stated Mayor Kaltwasser, impressed by a man that radiated goodness and hope despite his heartbreaking life story. (…)

Max Liebster’s official words of thanks were a plea for hope and charity that lie in the deep faith of the 89-year-old man. Contact with members of Jehovah’s Witnesses who wore the “purple triangle” in concentration camps has permanently influenced Max Liebster’s life and philosophy.

Max Liebster was impressed by their uncompromising self-determination and a total rejection of Nazi ideology. “Their fine example became my goal in life,” he says. (…)

His biography, Crucible of Terror, and his wife’s memoirs, Facing the Lion, help to close the gaps and to come to terms with the Holocaust.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses as victims have been left out of history books. The discrediting of this religious group casts gloom on an otherwise clear view of the past,” observed Cologne historian Hans Hesse in his official speech. Hesse appreciated Liebster’s international work on peace and his humanitarian appeal, both inseparable from his experiences in the Nazi era. (…)

For Uwe Klages, the Chairman of the “Arnold-Liebster Foundation,” a good conscience is justified mainly by fundamental knowledge of historical connections and faith-specific characteristics: “Peace means love of men. This is exactly what is in Max Liebster’s heart.”

Klages emphasized how the honoring included the activities of the foundation as well as the furtherance of Lautertal’s good reputation throughout the world by means of Liebster’s international engagements.

Following the festivities, Max Liebster signed the community’s Golden Book.

Max Liebster signs the Golden Book of the municipality of Reichenbach (Lautertal).
Max Liebster signs the Golden Book of the municipality of Reichenbach (Lautertal).

The new honorary citizen, Max Liebster, signing the Golden Book. Also present on this solemn occasion, from left to right: Heidi Adam, Honorary Mayor Josef Weitzel, Jürgen Kaltwasser and Horst Steinmann (the first honorary citizen of the town)

Accompanied by beautiful music played by the “Queen of Klezmer” Irith Gabriely, and Martin Wagner on the accordion, Heidi Adam and Jürgen Kaltwasser had another present for the honored guest:  a picture of the Felsenmeer (The Ocean of Boulders) that reunited Liebster with the very soil and favorite playground of his childhood. (…)

“Besides his colourful memories and his openness toward the audience, the conciliatory chord that he struck distinguished the native-born Reichenbacher. All this consequently justified the honourary citizenship,” expressed the historian. “Max Liebster’s message is more urgent today than ever.”

Musical contribution at the honorary citizenship ceremony
Musical contribution at the honorary citizenship ceremony