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Press Information published by the International Auschwitz Committee


Award for outstanding commitment to psychosocial support for Holocaust survivors

Dr. Giselle Cycowicz (psychologist, AMCHA therapist and Shoah survivor), Dr. Martin Auerbach (National Clinical Director at AMCHA Israel). Image credit: Florian Krauss for AMCHA Deutschland, private, collage IAC Berlin.

Dr. Giselle Cycowicz (psychologist, AMCHA therapist and Shoah survivor), Dr. Martin Auerbach (National Clinical Director at AMCHA Israel). Image credit: Florian Krauss for AMCHA Deutschland, private, collage IAC Berlin.




The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany is awarded to Dr. Giselle Cycowicz and Dr. Martin Auerbach.

On the initiative of the German President Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the psychologist and Shoah survivor Dr. Giselle Cycowicz and the Clinical Director at AMCHA Israel, Dr. Martin Auerbach, were awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on Thursday 24 June 2021. The awards were presented in Tel Aviv by Susanne Wasum-Rainer, Germany’s Ambassador to Israel.
Lukas Welz, chairman of AMCHA Deutschland:
“The Federal President’s award gives not only special recognition to the services of Giselle Cycowicz and Martin Auerbach. It is also an expression of high regard for the many decades of dedicated work by AMCHA with survivors of the Shoah and their descendants, who often needed psychosocial support to cope with the traumatising experiences. Indeed, many of them even found the strength to become witnesses of the times and speak out about their experiences in Germany as well.

This was the case with Giselle Cycowicz, who herself survived Auschwitz and raised the awareness of hundreds of young people from Israel and worldwide with her first-hand accounts of the crimes committed in the Shoah. Like no other, she stands for the psychosocial self-help that was so urgently needed by Shoah survivors, because for many years there was no adequate support for the special needs of those who had endured torture, violence, persecution, and flight during the years of Nazi terror. To this day, she who personally survived Auschwitz is still the trusted confidante for other survivors. Without her professional help, many survivors would still be unable to open up and receive help. Another major aspect of her therapeutic work is devoted to people suffering from dementia.

In contrast, Martin Auerbach stands for members of the second generation after the Shoah, whose families have been affected by the traumatizing past. As a psychiatrist, therapist, and clinical director, he has significantly shaped AMCHA’s support for survivors and their descendants and has successfully achieved improvements in psychosocial support at the interface between human rights and remembrance work as well as in healthcare policies.”

Over the past 34 years, AMCHA has enabled thousands of survivors to confront their traumatizing past and find a good way to cope with it in everyday life. The Federal Government began providing support for descendants in 2021.


Dr. Giselle Cycowicz was born on 25 February 1927 as Gisela Friedmann in Chust, in present-day Ukraine. At the age of 18, soon after the occupation of Hungary in March 1944, Giselle Cycowicz was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May together with members of her family. Her father, who was ordered to carry out forced labour in Auschwitz Buna-Monowitz sub-camp, was murdered in October in Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the same time, Giselle Cycowicz was deported to Mittelsteine slave-labour camp together with one of her sisters, while her mother remained in Auschwitz.

The three sisters and their mother survived and eventually found each other again. In 1948 Giselle managed to immigrate to the USA where she married in New York in 1957. At the age of 42, after having three children, she began studying psychology and gained her doctorate in New York in 1978.

After her husband died in 1992, Giselle Cycowicz followed her children to Israel. In Israel she started working for AMCHA and, in the spirit of the organization’s founding idea of mutual self-help by survivors for survivors, she provided psychosocial and therapeutic support. Now, at the age of 94, she is still involved and accompanies survivors of the Shoah who often have trust in her alone. She lives in Jerusalem and is happy to have 21 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

In January 2020 she met the German President during his visit at the AMCHA Center in Jerusalem (link).The book by the journalist Sabine Adler about the Shoah survivor Giselle Cyocwicz “Weiterleben ohne Wenn und Aber. Die Shoah-Überlebende Giselle Cyocwicz” was published in 2018.


Dr. Martin Auerbach is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He was born in Vienna in 1958 as the child of Shoah survivors. After completing his medical studies in Vienna he moved to Israel in 1983. He became clinical director at AMCHA in 2007. In this position, he has significantly advanced AMCHA’s psychosocial support for survivors of the Shoah, their descendants, and further groups who had to endure collective violence experiences. Achievements under his leadership include the development of psychosocial support for refugees who are living in Israel and have survived war, torture, and escape. The newly reshaped programme, financed by the Israeli government, is offering many of these people psycho-therapeutic support for the first time. Psychosocial support for the descendants of Shoah survivors is also currently being significantly developed and extended under his leadership.
Martin Auerbach worked for two years in leading positions in communal centers for mental health in Jerusalem. His professional fields include trauma, trauma therapy, anxiety disorders, and numerous psychotherapeutic approaches. He has been working as psychotherapeutic advisor at AMCHA Jerusalem since 1993. From 2008 to 2014 he represented AMCHA on the board of the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC).


AMCHA – facts and figures 2020
- AMCHA was founded in 1987 as a mutual self-help organization by Holocaust survivors in Israel who recognized that they and their families needed forms of specialized support, which had not been taken into account by the healthcare services up to then.

- Amcha (Hebrew: your people/one of us. Also: grassroots/the masses/ordinary people) During the years of Nazi persecution this was also used as a password by Jews to identify one another.

- 15,646 people were supported in 2020 by AMCHA with psychotherapies and social activities in Israel, to help them live their lives in dignity, despite their often severe traumatization. This is almost double the number of people receiving support compared with ten years earlier.

- 8,623 of these people are Holocaust survivors, and 440 people are members of the following generations. The remaining groups are people traumatized from other contexts and who are seeking help (7,140 people).

- The number of therapy hours rose from 127,972 in 2010 to 242,998 hours in 2020.

- AMCHA is one of the largest support organizations in the world dedicated to benefitting the mental health of traumatized survivors of collective violence.


For further Information

Christoph Heubner

Executive Vice President
International Auschwitz Committee
Phone ++ 49 (0)30 26 39 26 81