Lily Ebert wins Austria’s Simon Wiesenthal Prize

The 98-year-old author was one of four Holocaust survivors to receive an award


Lily Ebert was named one of the winners of the inaugural Simon Wiesenthal Prize at a ceremony in Vienna on Wednesday evening.

Mrs Ebert was one of four Holocaust survivors to be bestowed the prize’s main award for civic engagement against antisemitism and for education about the Holocaust by Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission’s coordinator on combatting antisemitism.

Ms von Schnurbein praised Mrs Ebert for her decades-long engagement as a witness to the Holocaust and her recent turn to TikTok, a platform on which she and her great-grandson Dov Forman have amassed over 1.6 million followers and brought her life story to a whole new audience.

In September 2021, Mrs Ebert and Mr Forman published her memoir, Lily's Promise: How I Survived Auschwitz and Found the Strength to Live.

The 98-year-old was shortlisted for the main prize alongside three other witnesses to the Shoah: Zwi Nigal, who fought in the British army’s Jewish Brigade during the Second World War; the Austrian journalist Karl Pfeifer; and the Italian parliamentarian Liliana Segre.

Ms von Schnurbein explained that the Simon Wiesenthal Prize jury had come to the conclusion to award the main prize to all four nominees in order to recognise their life’s work. The winners also stand as representatives of all those who have kept the memory of the Shoah alive by telling their stories.

In his acceptance speech given on behalf of Mrs Ebert and the other awardees, Mr Pfeifer said “the fact that I am standing here today and receiving this award shows that a lot has changed” in Austria since the end of the War.

“Let's put it bluntly: No party, no social force in this country, can claim to have always consistently fought antisemitism in all its forms after 1945”, Mr Pfeifer said. As late as the 1990s, “no one could have imagined that a prize would be named after Simon Wiesenthal in Austria and that I would have the great honour of receiving it”.

Today, the Austrian government “is making an effort to teach the values of democracy to the pupils here”, Mr Pfeifer said. When he visits schools to talk about his life, “the children listen with interest when I speak and I often notice that they are affected and empathetic”.

The Simon Wiesenthal Prize is an initiative of the Austrian parliament and the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism set up to recognize those who “actively stand up against antisemitism through civic engagement and who do their utmost to educate people about the Holocaust”, the parliament’s president Wolfgang Sobotka said.

The prize was born out of a trip to Israel Mr Sobotka took in 2018, during which he met with Simon Wiesenthal’s granddaughter Rachel Kreisberg and the idea of a prize in keeping with Mr Wiesenthal’s work bringing Nazi perpetrators to justice and campaigning against antisemitism was discussed.

The Simon Wiesenthal Prize forms part of the Austrian government’s National Secretary Against Antisemitism which, launched in January 2021, details how the state plans to coordinate and expand its work tackling antisemitism.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive