"Better than any documentary - I could feel his emotions"
Approximately 200 school students from Flensburg and Handewitt joined Europa-Universität Flensburg (EUF) students and faculty to attend the talk by Holocaust survivor Ivar Buterfas-Frankenthal in Flensburg's Audimax auditorium on June 2.
"I have no words express my gratitude for your willingness to share your experiences with future generations," said EUF President Prof. Dr. Werner Reinhart in his welcome address. "This exchange, the act of remembering, is especially important during difficult times. And such times are upon us today. During the Ukraine war, the voices of dissent and nuance are suffering while hatred towards others, diatribes on the net, and politically motivated violence are on the rise. And the poll ratings of parties that propagate exclusion and stir up resentment are skyrocketing."
For about an hour and a half, Ivar Buterfas-Frankenthal, now ninety years old, interwove his personal life story with facts about National Socialism and appeal to take seriously one's democratic responsibility.
"You are the fuel that always gives me strength - you, the young people of today, who have a responsibility to preserve this republic that your great-grandfathers built after the war." That also means checking the right ballot box, Buterfas noted. "People who publicly protest against having a black soccer defender as a neighbor - don't give those people a chance. Don't vote for racists if you care about this republic, because it is the most beautiful Germany that has ever existed," he stressed.
Ivar Buterfas-Frankenthal was born in Hamburg in 1933 as the eighth child of a Christian mother and a Jewish father. In 1934, his father, a Jew and Communist, was sent to the Esterwege concentration camp and later to the Sachsenhausen camp. Ivar Buterfas had to wear the Jewish star ("It cost 12 Reichsmarks, I don't know where my mother got the money for it"). As a six-year-old, he was injured and humiliated when adolescent students beat him, injured him with smoldering cigarettes, and set him atop an iron grate under which they set papers alight in order to burn him. The nightmares haunt him to this day.
The predominantly young listeners in the Audimax listen to his story with wide eyes.
Deprived of his citizenship, Ivars Buterfas-Frankenthal had to fight for 20 years to regain it. He had with him a copy of his old foreign passport, bearing not the swastika but the imperial eagle. And his stories didn't end in 1945. They also recounted how, in Germany, former Nazis were helped into positions of influence - people like Hans Globke, who co-wrote and commented on the Nuremberg Race Laws before working as Konrad Adenauer's private secretary after the war. Buterfas-Frankenthal expressed understanding for the rebellion of the '68 generation. He did not spare his audience, recounting mass shootings, torture and daily life in the concentration camps.
Buterfas-Frankenthal used a unique and humorous approach to connect the narration of his own experiences to historical facts and reflections on current events. This interconnection between historical and current events is special to him, says Nico Wich. Now a primary school teacher, Wich met Buterfas-Frankenthal and invited him to EUF in 2022 while writing his master's thesis at EUF on biographical work to prevent anti-Semitism. "He integrates a wide range of different perspectives into his talk, and this makes him unique as far as I know," he explains.
Accordingly, Ivar Buterfas-Frankenthal is in great demand: he has given approximately 1,600 lectures worldwide and has been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit, First Class, the European Human Rights Medal and the World Peace Prize.
"The future is yours; you just need to ensure that the "brown elements" never again take hold. It is terrible what happened in 2020 with the assassination attempt in Hanau, in which nine people died . . . terrible that Walter Lübcke was executed on his terrace by gunshot to the head. . .terrible the attempted mass murder of Jews in Halle. All of this must be prevented," Buterfas-Frankenthal appealed to his listeners. At the end of the talk they asked him numerous questions: how he experienced the end of the war, whether he regrets anything in his life, whether people have ever apologized to him.
Tenth-grader students and university students alike were moved by the talk. One tenth-grader from the Käthe-Lassen-Schule said that he hadn't felt like coming, but in the end he found the lecture exciting "because I didn't know a lot of things, and now I can imagine it better." Another student found the talk better "than any documentary, because I felt his feelings."