May 30, 2000 -- (BRONX,NY) -- Birgit H. Satir was a little girl when the Germans invaded Denmark in 1940, but she can still recall the mandated blackouts, the sounds of bombs bursting and windows breaking, and the bullet that passed between her father's legs one summer evening, fired by Nazi soldiers when he and a group of friends failed to disperse by the imposed 8 p.m. curfew.
Now, many years hence, Dr. Satir, a professor of anatomy & structural biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, has been presented the Year 2000 Rescue Award from the Samuel Friedman Foundation for her "original and significant contributions to the field of Cell Biology."
The Rescue Award was established in 1984, 28 years after Mr. Friedman first established the foundation as a tribute to the Danish people for the rescue of the Jews in October 1943.
According to the preamble for the award, "In 1943, the Danish people rose up suddenly, and seemingly overnight, snatched virtually the entire Jewish community from the grasp of the Nazis, smuggling them in a motley collection of boats across the sea to safety in Sweden. In recognition of these heroic acts, the Samuel Friedman Foundation created the Rescue Award... to honor outstanding Danish achievements in the Arts and Sciences."
The first woman to receive the Rescue Award, Dr. Satir was presented a silver medallion, a plaque, and a $12,000 honorarium. In turn, she has donated the honorarium to The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, to sponsor an annual seminar, The Birgit Hegner Satir Seminar in Ethics and Science. (Dr. Satir was elected as a foreign member of the Academy in 1996.)
When Dr. Satir first learned of her selection for the award, she was taken completely by surprise. "It is truly an honor," she said. "Once the shock wore off, I was very pleased, especially to be the first woman."
She added, "When the Germans came and wanted to remove the Jews from Denmark, it was a foreign concept to us. Among the Danish, everyone was always viewed as Danes. I'm proud of my people for the actions they took during the war, and I am deeply honored to be selected for such a touching tribute of the Danish people."