Dr. Kurt Bigler / Bergheimer Preis

How and why the Prize honoring Dr. Bigler/Bergheimer was established

It was the wish of the late pedagogue and holocaust-survivor Dr. Kurt Bigler (whose original family name was Bergheimer) to create a foundation to financially support projects or activities of a scientific, pedagogical, social or psychological nature examining the causes of the Holocaust as well as its aftermath, of anti-Semitism and/or racism. In addition the Prize should be awarded to work which has the excellence and capacity to be applied in schools, high schools, as well as universities and other institutions of higher learning in order to raise awareness for the causes of these enormous societal problems as well as to research preventive measures or coping strategies to overcome them.

The mandate of the foundation is going to be commited to the Zurich University of Teacher Education (PH Zurich) in the end of the year 2014. The prize will be granted twice.

For the press release and the photographies of the symbolical committal click here.

A brief biography of Dr. Kurt Bigler

Born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1925 as Kurt Bergheimer, and experienced a happy childhood until the persecution of the German Jews under the Nazis began in 1933 reaching a nationwide low point in the pogroms of the “Reichskristallnacht” in November, 1938. Subsequently the widescale deportations to concentration and then death camps began. In 1940 the Jewish residents of the region of Baden in southern Germany were deported to southern France where Kurt and his parents experienced the horrors of two concentration camps, Gurs and Rivesaltes. He had the good fortune in the fall of 1942 to be able to escape and flee successfully to Switzerland where he was interned beginning in 1943 in the southern part of the country in the labor camp “Davesco” for young people. After the end of World War II, a teacher named Berta Bigler, who lived in Wabern near the capital city of Berne, adopted him. Swiss law required that he take on the name of his adoptive family. Kurt Bigler studied and was awarded both a doctorate and a degree for teaching at the high school (Gymnasium) level. Immediately after obtaining Swiss citizenship, Kurt was hired to teach German, French and history in Berne. Following twelve years of teaching and shortly after his marriage to an attorney from the eastern part of Switzerland, Kurt was elected to the faculty of the teacher training institution in Rorschach, in the Canton of St. Gallen. In addition to teaching, Kurt was active both in politics and journalism. He died after a long and difficult illness on July 18th 2007 in Lausanne before he could realize the dream which he and his wife shared, of creating a foundation to support Holocaust and anti-Semitism and antiracism education. His widow, Dr. Margrith Bigler-Eggenberger has continued the fulfillment of this commitment, in cooperation with TAMACH.

The Second Prize Ceremony

The second awards ceremony is planned for January 27th 2009, International Holocaust Memorial Remembrance Day. The winner will be the high school student
Nathalie Gelbart, who wrote a book about her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, as a school project. The outstanding and unusual nature of this project persuaded the Prize committee to make an exception by accelerating the awards process.

The First Prize Ceremony

The first prize will be awarded on the evening of November 29th 2008 in connection with the Symposium honoring the 10th anniversary of TAMACH. The recipient will be Dr. Nathan Durst, former clinical director of AMCHA in Israel.