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Norwegian Jewish politician Jo Benkow dies at 88

(JTA) — Jo Benkow, a popular Norwegian Jewish politician, writer and photographer, has died.

Benkow, a Holocaust survivor, died in an Oslo hospital on Friday. He was 88.

“Jews in Norway have lost a wise role model,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wrote Saturday on Facebook.

Benkow survived the Holocaust by fleeing Norway and its pro-Nazi government with his father and brother into neutral Sweden in 1942. The women of his family stayed behind and were murdered in Auschwitz that year.

The Trondheim native, born Josef Benkowitz, returned to Norway and in 1965 was elected to parliament as a representative of the Conservative Party, which he later headed for four years, beginning in 1980. Benkow resigned in 1993, several years after he was elected parliament speaker.

His 1985 autobiography, “From the Synagogue to Lovebakken,” became a best-seller and broke the sales record for Norwegian nonfiction books.

Benkow, who in recent years had been a frequent defender in the media of Israel, had told the Dutch Jewish journalist Maurice Swirc that he had decided to “stay out of discussions about Israel” until 2000, when he “came to the conclusion that it was no longer possible … because of the biased manner in which Israel was portrayed.”

“He was a force in the Norwegian society and a good representative of the small Jewish community of Oslo,” said Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community in the Norwegian capital.

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