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Rabbi Joachim Prinz, an anti-Nazi activist in Germany and a civil rights activist in the United States, died on this date in 1988. Prinz spoke at the 1963 March on Washington immediately before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and declared that “the most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.” Arrested several times by the Gestapo for his early, vocal activism against the Nazis, he fled Germany in 1937 and took up a pulpit in Newark, New Jersey, where he served for forty years. Prinz was president of the American Jewish Congress from 1958–1966, during its heyday as a dedicated ally of the civil rights movement.
“[I]t is not merely sympathy and compassion for the black people of America that motivates us. It is above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience.” —Joachim Prinz
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.