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10-02-09, 10:14 AM
Gerhard Weinberg to Receive the 2009 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement

October 1, 2009 By CJ

On October 24 at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton, the Chicago-based Tawani Foundation will present the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing to Gerhard L. Weinberg.

The Pritzker Military Library Literature Award recognizes a living author for a body of work that has profoundly enriched the public understanding of American military history. The recipient’s contributions may be academic, non-fiction, fiction, or a combination of any of the three, and his or her work should embody the values of the Pritzker Military Library.

Mr. Weinberg was born in Hanover, Germany, on January 1, 1928. He was the son of Jewish parents. His father was a decorated Soldier who had fought in the German Army during World War I and his mother was a loving homemaker. After returning from WWI, Weinberg’s father went back to work in the judiciary, but found the atmosphere so unpleasant that he moved to the new Ministry of Finance.

In 1933, the Nazis came to power and passed a law forbidding all Jewish persons from holding civil service positions. However, German President Paul von Hindenburg insisted that Jewish Germans who fought on the front lines of WWI be granted exception from the law. When Hindenburg died in 1934, everyone exempted under the Nazi law were fired.

Weinberg’s father was unemployed – and unemployable – and decided to open an office to advise Jews leaving Germany on the constantly changing rules about what could be taken from the country. Weinberg’s living room was converted into an office and his hallway became a waiting area full of Jews waiting for quote numbers to emigrate from Germany to the United States.

After the November 1938, Quakers in England followed up on changes in the English government as a result of the pogrom. The government allowed Jews waiting to get into another country to stay in England temporarily. Weinberg’s parents shipped him and his siblings on a boat from Hamburg to England where he attended school.

During the Battle of Britain and at the beginning of the blitz, the family’s quota numbers came up and in September of 1940 they were sent to the United States on one of the last passenger ships making the trip.

Weinberg settled in Albany, NY and it was there that he began his love for education and writing. A few years earlier, he had been abruptly removed from class while non-Jewish classmates looked on. The principal walked into the classroom and read the official decree that Jews could no longer be in the school system. He and another boy were literally required to collect all their belongings on the spot and leave the room, alarmed and concerned.

Weinberg loved his American education so much that he quickly decided he wanted to become a secondary school teacher. He went on to attend New York State College for Teachers in Albany, which is now known as the University of New York at Albany.

When Weinberg turned 18, his education was interrupted as he was drafted into the Army Air Corps. After attending basic training at Camp Polk, he was sent to San Francisco and transferred to the 4th Replacement Depot at Camp Zama, Japan. Shortly after arriving in country, his education was put to good use as he was transferred to Yokohama in August 1946.

At the time, Yokohama was home to an Army Education Program School. The Army needed teachers badly and Weinberg was a perfect fit, having completed three years of college credits prior to being drafted. For the next year, Weinberg taught American History and American Government for the Information and Education Headquarters of the 8th US Army.

In 1947, the Army was discharging all its draftees. Since Weinberg had not yet attained his American citizenship, he was unable to remain in service voluntarily. After hardly more than a year of military service, Weinberg was given an honorable discharge and sent back to the United States.

Weinberg returned to the University at Albany and used his G.I. Bill benefits to receive a B.A. in social studies and an M.A. at the University of Chicago. By the time he graduated in 1951, positions in the academic world were scarcest and enrollments were shrinking as all the WWII veterans had completed or were about to complete their G.I. Bill-funded education.

He began work as a contractor for the Air Force in Montgomery, Alabama at the Human Resources Research Institute on the “War Documentation Project.” His research included sorting through captured WWII German records that were being scanned to microfiche and sent back to Germany.

Through his years of teaching, lecturing, research, and study, Weinberg has published a string of books, and longer string of reviews, article and other publications, on World War II German history. He has become a trusted source of military history that is sought out by authors, scholars, and historians alike.

For his more than 50 years of military historical research, Gerhard Weinberg will be honored with a $100,000 honorarium, citation and medallion, sponsored by the Chicago-based Tawani Foundation, which will be presented at the Library’s annual Liberty Gala on October 24, 2009. Weinberg currently lives in Efland, North Carolina, with his wife Janet.