Former U.S. Representative and Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations Nita Lowey was presented with the 2020 Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance for her lifetime of work combating antisemitism. The Anne Frank Award, created by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, honors an American who has demonstrated a commitment to fighting intolerance, antisemitism, racism, or discrimination.

Incidents of antisemitism continue to take place in the United States. In 2020, despite the pandemic, according to the Anti-Defamation League, 2,024 antisemitic incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism were recorded in the United States.

Chairwoman Nita Lowey delivers her speech after accepting the Anne Frank Award. Photo by Stephen Voss

Chairwoman Lowey, who represented New York congressional districts in the House of Representatives from 1989-2021, dedicated her career to fighting antisemitism. Her legacy as a public servant includes helping relaunch the House Bipartisan Task Force on Combating Antisemitism, as well as introducing or supporting legislation related to the Holocaust to ensure that it never happens again.

On receiving the Anne Frank award, Chairwoman Lowey said, “I admit by the time I retired from the Congress after 32 years, I really had hoped that fighting the scourge of antisemitism would be a thing of the past. The challenges we face today are as pressing and virulent as ever before.”

The Chairwoman added, “I do believe that the fight for truth and a shared belief in our collective humanity are the single most important challenges we face today. When we deny the humanity of any group of people, we threaten the humanity and safety of all. That principle is at the core of how I have tried to live my life and has guided me during my 32 years in Congress.”

The ceremony took place in the Members Room of the Library of Congress and featured several members of Congress including: Representative Kay Granger (TX-12th District), Republican leader of the House Committee on Appropriations, who introduced the Anne Frank Award; Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22nd District), member of the Dutch Caucus, who gave the welcome message; and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23rd District), member of the Anne Frank Advisory Committee, who provided closing remarks.

In a surprise moment, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi joined the event to honor Chairwoman Lowey.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks about her longtime friend and colleague Nita Lowey. Photo by Stephen Voss

“Nita Lowey has devoted her life to building a world free from fear of violence, discrimination and persecution, and she is deeply deserving of the esteemed Anne Frank Award,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Today, it was an honor to celebrate her legendary career in Congress, where, as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, she ensured federal spending aligned with our national values.  She was also an important voice in the fight against antisemitism as a Co-Chair of the House’s Bipartisan Task Force on Combating Antisemitism.  And, in one of her last acts in Congress, she lived up to the spirit of this award by advancing dignity and confronting intolerance with her Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, which became law in 2020.  With the alarming rise of bigotry, antisemitism and hate here at home and around the world, Congress and the country are grateful to leaders like Nita and the diplomats of the world, led by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as we all strive to keep alive Anne Frank’s spirit and build a more peaceful future.”

On the occasion of the awards ceremony, Dutch Ambassador André Haspels said, “We must remember the atrocities of the past so we can prevent similar horrors in the future. We must honor the people and organizations who continue to fight discrimination and antisemitism today. We must continue to listen to the words of Anne Frank and learn from the lessons she teaches us.”

Violins of Hope

Avshi Weinstein, co-founder of Violins Hope, accepts the Anne Frank Special Recognition Award from Ambassador André Haspels. Photo by Stephen Voss

The nonprofit organization Violins of Hope (of Tel Aviv) was presented with the 2020 Anne Frank Special Recognition Award for its mission to call attention to the victims of the Holocaust and the resiliency of survivors. Each note played on a Violins of Hope instrument tells the story of a life taken during the Holocaust, as well as those who survived against all odds. All instruments in the collection were donated by or bought from Jewish survivors of World War II. Violin makers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, father and son, lovingly restore each instrument, so they can be played by professional musicians in concerts around the world. Avshalom Weinstein accepted the Special Recognition Award on behalf of his father.

The Special Recognition Award was presented by Rachelle Blaine, the daughter of Holocaust survivor Joyce Vanderveen. Miss Vanderveen, a neighbor of Anne Frank, was a teenage violinist when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Mrs. Blaine donated her mother’s violin to Violins of Hope during the event.

As part of the ceremony, Michael Shaham, a protégé of Itzhak Perlman, played the “Theme from Schindler’s List” on the newly donated violin.

The Anne Frank Award ceremony is a collaboration among the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Congressional Caucus on the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect USA, the Anne Frank House Amsterdam, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, and Freedom House.

Previous Anne Frank Award recipients include:

  • In 2019, Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials
  • In 2017, Father Leo O’Donovan of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
  • In 2015, Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist
  • In 2014, Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein