The Jerusalem Post on Monday obtained an exclusive letter from German President Horst Köhler criticizing the decision to award Germany's highest medal of honor - the Federal Cross of Merit - to anti-Zionist attorney Felicia Langer.
Dr. Gert Haller, the highest ranking state secretary in Federal President Köhler's office, issued a letter dated September 4 to Arno S. Hamburger, the head of the Nuremberg Jewish community, describing the process to award Langer as "terribly unfortunate."
Hamburger returned his Federal Cross of Merit on September 1 to protest the lack of response from the Federal government to his letter of complaint in July.
The German government's backpedalling comes as a result of a wave of protests from Jewish organizations and Israel's Foreign Ministry over the July award to Langer, who frequently compares Israel with Nazi Germany and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. Haller wrote in his letter that "the massive criticism of the award to Mrs. Langer led to an immediate examination of the matter of the award."
Haller wrote to Hamburger that "the award you criticized upset many people whose concerns for peace and justice cannot be doubted. That is terribly unfortunate. None of the officials of the Federal and State government intended that, as I know from my discussions with people involved. Everyone is, in fact, deeply distressed and wish that the disturbance could be undone."
Haller wrote to Hamburger that "he (the German president) appreciates your clear, firm statements" in connection with the Langer matter.
However, the state secretary said the "legal situation "was carefully examined and entailed a great amount of time to examine the "accusations." He added, however, that "there is no basis" to rescind the award.
Reached in Nuremberg, Arno Hamburger, told the Post on Monday that the president's letter was "excellent" because Köhler expressed that "the award upset " people who are "concerned with peace." Hamburger, who consulted with the authorities about the legal basis to revoke the award, said Köhler could only strip Langer of her award if she was convicted of a criminal offense and issued a sentence of one year without probation.
Hamburger said he was very pleased that the letter stated in clear terms "Germany's solidarity with Israel." According to the letter, in light of the Langer award, "it is even more important to place events in perspective. Germany's solidarity with Israel and the Jewish peoples is unalterable."