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The Eulogizer: Hans Keilson and Milt Avruskin

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here

Hans Keilson, 101, psychoanalyst, author and Holocaust survivor

Dutch-German psychoanalyst Hans Keilson, who became an “overnight sensation” at 100 when Holocaust novels he had written more than 50 years earlier were lauded by American critics, died May 31 in the Netherlands at 101.

Keilson’s primary work in the years after World War II was studying children of the Holocaust who suffered what he called “sequential traumatization” — “the piling on of horrors, one after another.” His research was considered groundbreaking in identifying the trauma.

But he gained mainstream fame in 2010 when author Francine Prose raved about his two forgotten novels, “Comedy in a Minor Key,” from 1947, and “The Death of the Adversary,” from 1959. Prose called the books “masterpieces” and said Keilson was “a genius,” one of “the world’s very greatest writers.”

“Adversary,” which became a best-seller, is a semi-autobiographical novel that was written while Keilson was in hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland during 1942. The pages, which were buried in his garden for safekeeping for the duration of the war, were published in Germany in 1959 and in English in 1962.

The Sunday Times of London said that “Adversary” was a "brilliant, poetic novel that merits a place among the Holocaust classics."

Keilson said in 2009 that his book was ahead of its time.

“I saw, described and analyzed a problem while Germany wasn’t ready to discuss these things,” he said in a radio interview.

In 2008, Keilson won a prestigious literary prize from the German magazine Die Welt, which led to renewed fame in Germany.

Keilson was born in Bad Freienwalde, near Berlin. His father was a textile merchant and World War I veteran. He finished medical school but was unable to practice because he was Jewish. German publisher S. Fischer Verlag put out a book of his in 1933, but it was banned the next year and was the publisher’s last book by a Jewish author during the Nazi regime.

“My career is as a doctor and I write, it’s very strange,” Keilson said. “I lost both identities. I don’t know if that’s an advantage or a disadvantage.”

Keilson fled to the Netherlands and went into hiding when the Nazis occupied Holland in 1940. He worked for the Dutch Resistance using a fake ID, and counseled Jewish children across Holland who had suffered during the war. He published his dissertation in 1979, and said years later that the work was “finally saying Kaddish, the prayer for the dead.”

Keilson’s parents died in Auschwitz. They had gone to the Netherlands with him but did not go into hiding and were deported.

His first wife, Gertrud Manz, who was born Catholic, lived openly with their daughter in Holland during the war but later converted to Judaism, angered by Pope Pius XII’s failure to intervene publicly and forcefully against Hitler.

Milt Avruskin, 65, Canadian pro wrestling executive

Milt Avruskin, an announcer and promoter of professional wrestling and other television programs in Canada, died May 28 at 65.

Avruskin was well known in Canada as the announcer of programs such as “Superstars of Wrestling” in the 1970s and “International Wrestling” in the 1980s. In the 1990s he was a founder of Pro Wrestling Canada, another professional wrestling organization.

“The shows, mostly taped in Windsor, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec, are still remembered fondly by fans,” wrote Greg Oliver of the Slam Wrestling website.

Canadian wrestling promoter Gino Brito Sr. said Avruskin had a knack for knowing which pro wrestling characters would play well on TV.

"He used to kind of know which guy would get over or not, which guy to feature on TV, which guy to put in an interview,” Brito said.

In recent years, Avruskin ran Rebel Media Ventures, an independent TV program production and distribution company with titles such as “Brawl Call,” about mixed martial arts, and “Unstable,” a wrestling program, but also more serious fare such as “Boyhood Shadows,” a documentary about child abuse, and “The World Twice Around,” about a family that sailed around the world.

 

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