TWO people from Oxford have been honoured by the German government for commemorating a man who died after an attempt to assassinate Hitler.
Dr Elaine Kaye and the Rev Geoffrey Beck were awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany at a ceremony at Mansfield College in Oxford.
Dr Kaye, who was headteacher of the Oxford High School in the 1970s, and the Rev Beck, who was minister at the Summertown Congregation in the 1950s, founded and championed the Adam von Trott Memorial Appeal Project.
Adam von Trott was one of the leaders of the plot to assassinate Hitler and was arrested and hanged for treason in 1944.
Von Trott was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, studying at Mansfield College in 1929 and Balliol College in 1931-33.
As part of the Adam von Trott Memorial Appeal Project, a commemorative plaque was erected at Mansfield College, an annual memorial lecture series was started at the college, and the Living Memorial Scholarship was founded.
Funded by donations, the scholarship allows a German student to come to Mansfield College every two years to study for a masters degree in politics.
The Rev Beck, 95, said of his interest in Von Trott: “I was aware of him from the end of the war, but much, much later in 1980 I got to know a German couple.
“We started swapping books on German opposition to Hitler, and she eventually tracked down the widow of Adam in Berlin.
“When I found out about his links with Oxford, it seemed inappropriate that there was no mention of him in the city.”
Dr Kaye, 84, added: “There is still prejudice between Germans and British people and we wanted to overcome that.
“People are still very surprised that there were any good Germans who supported the British troops during the war.”
The pair were given the Cross of the Order of Merit – the highest honour the German Government can bestow – for their work for British-German relations.
In a presentation ceremony on January 20, Chargé d’Affaires Dr Rudolf Adam said: “This is a highly deserved recognition of the outstanding contribution you have made to remembrance and education, to reconciliation and understanding between Britain and Germany.”
Dr Kaye said that the award came as a shock: “I was very surprised.
“You don’t do it to get a medal. You do it because you want to.”
The Rev Beck, who now lives in Sussex, added: “It was quite out of the blue.”
The memorial scholarship has already seen one student graduate with a distinction, with a second due to follow this year.
A third scholarship is set to be offered in the autumn.