‘Plunder,’ Menachem Kaiser’s memoir about reclaiming his family’s Polish home, wins Sami Rohr prize


(JTA) – The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, an annual award that comes with $100,000, this year went to Menachem Kaiser for his nonfiction book “Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure.”

In his debut book, Kaiser recounts his efforts to use the Polish legal system to reclaim ownership of a building that belonged to his grandfather prior to the Holocaust. The book also details a community of Nazi treasure hunters in Eastern Europe, whom Kaiser joins up with as part of an effort to learn more about his own family history.

In an interview with the New York Jewish Week, Kaiser said that writing the book didn’t bring him any closer to his grandfather. But he found that the story of the treasure hunters resonated with his own search for a valuable lost past.

The Rohr prize, named after the Jewish philanthropist and distributed in partnership with the National Library of Israel, is handed out in alternating years to fiction and nonfiction authors. Among this year’s finalists were Ethiopian Jewish journalist Danny Adeno Abebe and his translator Eylon Levy for “From Africa to Zion,” a memoir of Abebe’s family’s migration to Israel. Ayala Fader was another finalist, for “Hidden Heretics,” a study of haredi Orthodox Jews who lead secret double lives online.

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