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Heinz Galinski (1912–1992)

“I didn’t survive Auschwitz in order to keep silent now.”[1]


Heinz Galinski, the son of textile merchant Albert Galinski and his wife, Marie (née Mendelsohn), was born in Marienburg, West Prussia, on November 28, 1912. He attended the Jewish religious school in Marienburg. After high school graduation, Heinz Galinski trained to be a salesman in the textile industry, and after completing his apprenticeship in 1933, he found employment in Rathenow. There he also met Gisela Jakobsohn, whom he married in November 1938. The couple moved to Berlin, where his parents now were living. As of 1940, Gisela and Heinz Galinski and his mother, Marie, were obliged to do forced labor in the city’s arms factories; only his father, who had been disabled in World War I, was exempted from this work. On February 26, 1943, Gisela, Marie, and Heinz Galinski were deported to Auschwitz. Albert Galinski, who was not well enough to be transported, died shortly thereafter in the police station of the Jewish Hospital.


Gisela and Marie Galinski were murdered soon after arrival at the Auschwitz concentration camp, while Heinz Galinski was selected as a forced laborer for I.G. Farben and placed in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. After just under two years of grueling work and hunger, Heinz Galinski, along with thousands of other Auschwitz prisoners, was forced by the SS to go on the death march to Gleiwitz on January 18, 1945. From there he was sent on to Mittelbau-Dora and finally to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he was liberated by British soldiers on April 15, 1945.


In July 1945, Heinz Galinski returned to Berlin; his entire family had been murdered. In the following years, he championed the cause of equality and assistance for victims of racial, political, and religious persecution and helped rebuild the Jewish community in Berlin. In 1947, he married again: he and Ruth (née Weinberg) had a daughter, Evelyne, in 1949. The family was unable to carry out plans to immigrate to the United States. In 1949, Heinz Galinski became chairman of the Jewish Community of Berlin, where he fought energetically against anti-Semitism in the 43 years that followed. He was one of the cofounders of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in 1951, and served twice as its chairman: 1954–1963 and 1988–1992. His commitment was honored in 1982 when the FRG awarded him the Great Cross of Merit with Star and Shoulder Ribbon (Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz mit Stern und Schulterband). Heinz Galinski received an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University in Israel in 1983, and he was named an honorary citizen of Berlin in 1987. Heinz Galinski died in Berlin on July 19, 1992.


Since 1989, the Heinz Galinski Prize has been awarded annually by the Heinz Galinski Foundation, in honor of his services.

(SP; transl. KL)


Brenner, Michael: After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1997.

Schütz, Klaus: Heinz Galinski. Ein Berliner unter dem Davidsschild. Teetz: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2004.

[1] Heinz Galinski, cited in Klaus Schütz: Heinz Galinski. Ein Berliner unter dem Davidsschild (Teetz: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2004), p. 42. (Translated by KL)