Galinski, Heinz

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GALINSKI, HEINZ (1912–1992), leader of the Berlin Jewish community after World War ii. Born in West Prussian Marienburg, Galinski worked in a textile retail store in Rathenow before he moved to Berlin on the eve of World War ii. After being taken for forced labor, he was deported to Auschwitz in February 1943. His father had already been killed in Berlin before the deportation; his mother and his wife were murdered in Auschwitz. Galinski was liberated by British troops in Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945.

Galinski was involved in preparing the first restitution laws and in rebuilding the Berlin Jewish community. In 1947, he married again; a daughter was born two years later. In 1949, he was elected president of the Berlin Jewish community, an office he held until his death in 1992. Jewish life in Berlin was clearly shaped by his activities. In contrast to his predecessors and some other German-Jewish politicians, Galinski saw German-Jewish life after the Holocaust not as the closing chapter of a long German-Jewish history but rather as a period for reconstructing the future. During his 43 years in office, the Berlin Jewish community built a new community center (inaugurated in 1959) and an elementary school and opened its doors to Jewish immigrants, mainly from the Soviet Union. In 1971, he signed a treaty with the Berlin city government which defined the position of the Jews.

From 1988 until his death, Galinski served as president of the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, an office he took over from Werner *Nachmann, who had died amidst allegations of fraud and embezzlement. It was Galinski's prime task to clear the name of German Jewry's central institution. Galinski had been Nachmann's political rival for decades. While Nachmann kept up close contacts with conservative politicians and represented a more lenient position toward dealing with the Nazi past, the memory of the Holocaust and the prosecution of Nazi crimes always played a central role in Galinski's activities. Among the many honors he received were an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University (1983) and the title of honorary citizen of Berlin (1987).


A. Nachama, "Der Mann in der Fasanenstrasse," in: A. Nachama and J.H. Schoeps (eds.), Aufbau nach dem Untergang (1992); K. Schuetz, Heinz Galinski (2004).

[Michael Brenner (2nd ed.)]