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Taiwan’s National Human Rights Museum awarded for civil courage

  • Date:2020-06-04
Taiwan’s National Human Rights Museum awarded for civil courage

For its efforts in boosting education on human rights and democracy, Taiwan's National Human Rights Museum (NHRM) was granted a Special Award by this year's Karl Wilhelm Fricke Award on June 3.

Organized by the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship (FFRSD, Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur), a government-funded organization launched in 1998 by the German parliament, the award honors individuals and organizations that contribute to transitional justice.

Taiwan's Representative to Germany Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) received the award certificate on behalf of the museum at Taiwan's representative office in Germany. Among the attendees were Dr. Anna Kaminsky, FFRSD's managing director, Axel Knoerig, German parliamentarian of the Christian Democratic Union, and Michael Zickerick, vice chairperson of the German-Chinese Association—Friends of Taiwan, a society in Germany advancing ties with Taiwan.

In her speech, Kaminsky said Taiwan is Germany's powerful partner in promoting transitional justice. Though Germany and Taiwan withstood different types of dictatorships, the two sides have a lot to learn from each other, she said.

"Transitional justice has a key role to play in bringing those cases from the darkness into the light, we shall not repeat similar [unjust] incidents time and time again," Shieh said upon receiving the honor. The accolade was bestowed just prior to the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, which shows that the world has not forgotten the 1989 massacre, he stated.

While noting that Taiwan has turned places of injustice into sites of remembrance and caution, Knoerig pledged to support human rights education in Taiwan.

NHRM Director Chen Chun-hung (陳俊宏) said it has been two years since the establishment of the museum, during which NHRM has cultivated a diverse range of audiences through its preservation of historical documents, research, and curation of educational exhibitions, and collaboration with external resources.

In addition, NHRM has established a strong network with international human rights organizations, including the International Council of Museums, Federation of International Human Rights Museums, and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Chen noted. The award represents a recognition from an international partner and it will encourage all NHRM members to keep up the good work, the director said.

In 2019, the New Taipei City-based museum signed a letter of cooperative intent on promoting transitional justice with the Stasi Records Agency, a government-funded organization designed to safe-keep the archival holdings of the Ministry of State Security of the former German Democratic Republic.

In that same year, NHRM also has shouldered various operational tasks for the Asia-Pacific office of the Federation of the International Human Rights Museums since its establishment in Taiwan.

As the first national-level human rights museum in Asia, NHRM is dedicated to memorializing the wounds of history, focusing on contemporary issues, and assisting disadvantaged communities. The award-winning institution will continue to promote the development of human rights at home and abroad.

Launched by FFRSD, Karl Wilhelm Fricke Award aspires to promote the idea of anti-totalitarian rule and lauds the pursuit of freedom, democracy, and civil courage. The award is also a tribute to the eponymous German political journalist and author who fought against East Germany’s communist dictatorship. The 90-year-old was also the first winner of the award.

This year, the panel of judges for the prestigious award was headed by former Stasi Records Agency Commissioner Marianne Birthler, and staffed with members including former President of Germany Horst Köhler, Russian human rights activist Irina Scherbakova, Germany author Marko Martin, award sponsor Burkhart Veigel, and FFRSD’s Kaminsky.

Along with NHRM, two German organizations — Initiativgruppe Lager Mühlberg e.V. (ILM) and the Martin Luther King Center of Nonviolence and Civil Courage — were also recipients of the Special Award, whereas the Karl Wilhelm Fricke Prize went to German writer and director Freya Klier, a tireless activist.

The official awards ceremony will be streamed on June 10: 

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