Max Mannheimer, who spent two years in Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz, has passed away at a Munich hospital. No cause of death has been given.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday honored Mannheimer, who died aged 96, for his efforts to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.
Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Twitter that Merkel was mourning his death, and that “we owe him gratitude.”
In 1943, just before his 23rd birthday, he and his birth family and his new wife were arrested and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
He was later transferred to the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto to clear rubble, before being sent on a death march to Dachau camp and then on to two other camps.
In April 1945, the train carrying him to the second camp was liberated by American troops, which allowed Mannheimer and his brother Edgar to survive. The rest of his family was murdered during the Holocaust.
For several years after the end of World War II, he refused to speak about his traumatic experiences, and instead turned to painting.
But in the mid-1980s, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to fighting anti-Semitism by giving lectures at schools and universities, becoming an advocate against right-wing extremism.
Mannheimer worked tirelessly to educate young people, using the horrors he experienced as a Auschwitz prisoner to ensure the memory of the Nazi atrocities was kept alive by future generations. He won several awards for his work.
He also became the head of a community of former prisoners of the Dachau camp.
“This is very sad news. The memorial site and its employees are mourning a good friend,” Gabriele Hammermann, the head of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site said on Saturday.
Other German politicians paid tribute to Mannheimer, who was also a published author and painter.
“This is an irreparable loss. Max Mannheimer has done great things for peace, reconciliation and democracy,” Christian Social Union MP Karl Freller said.
The Green Party co-chairs Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Anton Hofreiter acknowledged Mannheimer as “an important fighter against forgetting (the atrocities).”
mm/jm (AP, dpa, KNA)