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German Reunification

Germany awards last-ever Unity Prize amid reunification celebrations

As part of the celebrations to mark German Reunification Day, Germany's tenth and last-ever Unity Prize ceremony took place in Bonn, at Deutsche Welle's radio headquarters.

The Berlin wall being toppled

The people of Plauen helped topple the wall with their protest

Back in September, an independent panel - chaired by the politician and theologian Joachim Gauck - chose the winners of the prize, also known as the Citizens' Prize for German Unity.

The special prize awarded on Sunday went to a whole city, the city of Plauen, for the courage shown by its inhabitants on October 7, 1989 - the national day of the former East Germany.

On that day, people demonstrated for an end to the Communist regime. Mayor Ralf Oberdorfer received the prize, and spoke about how he, as a 30-year-old, had taken part in the protests.

Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy

Figure skaters Szolkowy and Savchenko were the winners of the public prize

The public prize went to figure-skating pair Robin Szolkowy, from Greifswald in northeastern Germany, and Aljona Savchenko, from Ukraine. Gerald Praschel - chief reporter for the German news magazine SUPERillu - presented the award, which is jointly bestowed by the magazine itself and Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb).

The ice skaters were held up as an example of good relations between Germany and its eastern neighbors - and not only for young sportspeople. The prize was picked up by their manager Klaus Kärcher, with the duo themselves taking part in a tournament in Japan.

Work is set to continue

In a speech, Thomas Krüger, President of the bpb, explained that, although it was the final unity prize, his organization would continue with the task of continuing to nurture relations.

As well as a special prize and the audience prize, there are two winners in the "youth," "culture" and "people" categories. Altogether, the prize is worth 15,000 euros ($20,000), which is divided among the winners.

During the formal ceremony, prizes and certificates were given to the winners. The web site "lernen-aus-der-geschichte.de," was one winner in the Culture category.

"Not only should our approach to climate control be sustainable, but also political education," said Birgit Wenzel, who received the prize on behalf of the web page, the name of which means "learning from history."

Thomas Krüger at Deutsche Welle

Krüger said the Federal Agency for Civic Education would still strive to nurture east-west solidarity

The other prize winner in that category was the Lew Kopelew Forum, which works to improve relations between ordinary people in Germany, Russia and other Eastern European nations. The prize for the forum was picked up by former director of the German broadcaster WDR, Fritz Pleitgen.

Individual efforts honored

In the people category, Sibylle Plogstedt - whose recent book looked at the need for better treatment of former political prisoners from East Germany - picked up an award. The other winner was György Dalos, for his work to enhance relations between Germany and its eastern neighbors.

In the category of youth there was a prize for the project "20 years of German Unity - Witness interviews in North-Rhine Westphalia."

Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, which provides young people with the chance to volunteer for social and educational activities in other countries, was the other winner. The organization aims to build cultural bridges and offers opportunities in 11 European countries as well as the USA and Israel.

Author: Rachel Y Baig / rc
Editor: Mark Hallam

DW.DE