Prof. Jens Reich – Bundesverdienstorden

German President honors Jens Reich with Order of Merit

Professor Jens Reich, one of the best-known civil rights activists in the former East Germany, is a molecular biologist, physician, bioethicist, and – still to this day – a formative researcher and ombudsman at the MDC. On October 2 he was awarded the Federal Republic of Germany’s Order of Merit.

Under the motto “Courage for the Future: Overcoming Borders,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier honored 25 men and women, including Professor Jens Reich and his wife Eva Reich, with Germany’s Federal Order of Merit for their contributions in the fields of art, culture, and science. “Some of you are with us today,” said Steinmeier in his speech during the awards ceremony at Bellevue Palace. “Women and men who helped overturn the GDR dictatorship and break down the German-German border, not only in the historic years of 1989 and 1990, but also much earlier in what Jens Reich once described as a ‘decades-long feud’ against the ossified power structure.” Together, Eva and Jens Reich courageously pressed for change in the GDR. 

“We hold Jens Reich in high esteem because of his integrity and humanity. He is a role model for many MDC employees and for others as well,” says Professor Thomas Sommer, interim Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC). “We warmly congratulate him and Eva Reich on receiving the Germany’s Order of Merit.” 

In the presentation speech, Jens Reich was described as a voice that is listened to in both East and West. As a civil rights activist in the GDR he helped found the Neues Forum, a movement that played a key role during the peaceful revolution in bringing about the so-called Wendeor “turning point.” He assisted in preparations for German reunification as a member of the only freely elected parliament in the GDR, and sat for many years on the German Ethics Council. At the MDC, he headed a medical genome research group from 1992 until his retirement in 2004. He has received many awards for his scientific and sociopolitical contributions. Reich still serves as an MDC ombudsman to this day, assisting researchers in situations of conflict.

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