Cellist Receives 2021 German Federal Cross of Merit
60-year-old German cellist Friederike Fechner received the accolade for reuniting a family whose ancestors were separated during the Holocaust
Established in 1951 by Federal President Theodor Heuss, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany is the country’s highest tribute to an individual for outstanding services to the nation.
Based in Stralsund, Germany, Friederike Fechner is a professional cellist, local politician, historian, and cultural advocate. Through her music, she has created programs in remembrance of those affected by the Holocaust by featuring works of Jewish composers — including those who perished in the Holocaust.
In 2014, Fechner led efforts to document and commemorate Stralsund’s former Jewish community. She conducted extensive research into the 300-year history of the Blach family, a Jewish merchant household that had once owned the house that Fechner bought and renovated with her husband in 2012.
According to the Boston Globe, when the restoration of the house won a prize, Fechner was asked to look into the house’s history for the awards ceremony. Through this, she was able to reconnect several Blach family descendants whose ancestors had scattered around the world after the Holocaust.
“Some descendants believed they were the last of their family, while others couldn’t bear to revisit the past in search of relatives,” the Boston Globe reported. “It wasn’t until Fechner delved into their story that some Blachs learned they didn’t walk this world alone.”
Fechner also founded the “Initiative for the Remembrance of Jewish Life in Stralsund,” which involves presentations and an online memorial book.
The initiative aims to advance the remembrance of Jewish history through programs that counter anti-Semitism and racial intolerance, looking at their relevancy in the present day.
In addition to her German Cross of Merit on Ribbon, Fechner was also the recipient of the 2021 Obermayer Award, presented by Widen the Circle, an English organization that combats antisemitism and prejudice.
“I wanted to give understanding and friendship a chance and convey a different impression of Stralsund, Germany, and the Germans,” Fechner explained as the reason for her efforts.
“The most painful rejection of these innocent and individual victims would be in the continued refusal to remember — in forgetting.”
Recipients of Germany’s Order of Merit include composer Arvo Pärt, who was also awarded this year with the Great Cross of Merit, and violinist Daniel Hope, who received the Federal Cross in 2017.
A short video made through the Obermayer Award about Fechner's research can be watched below.