Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

A Hungarian Jew Who Survived Auschwitz Wins Nobel for Literature by Agnes Bohm

October 11, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An Auschwitz survivor who recently was criticized for defending Israel became the first Hungarian to win the Nobel prize for literature.

The award to Imre Kertesz, 72, was announced Thursday. Hungarian Jews said the prize was gratifying to the entire community, while Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told Kertesz that because of him, “the citizens of Hungary can be proud to be Hungarians.”

Kertesz was deported from Budapest to Auschwitz and from there to Buchenwald, where he was liberated in 1945. His books, all of which deal with the Holocaust, have been especially popular in Germany.

Among his most popular books is “Without Fate,” an autobiographical account of his experiences in the Holocaust, and “Kaddish for a Child Not Born,” in which he condemned a world that permitted the Holocaust.

Kertesz has been a frequent target of the Hungarian far-right. Far-right writer Istvan Csurka condemned Kertesz for saying that “my luggage is never unpacked, waiting in my house to leave Hungary.”

Kertesz has been an outspoken critic of the far-right, often writing in Hungarian newspapers to condemn the anti- Semitism espoused by the nation’s extremists.

This spring, after Kertesz visited Jerusalem for a conference of Holocaust survivors sponsored by Yad Vashem, he was criticized in a Hungarian literary journal for writing a pro-Israel article.

That criticism came from left-wing intellectual Istvan Eorsi, another Hungarian Jewish writer.

Kertesz on Thursday told Hungarian radio that his life will not change because of the Nobel. He currently is on a one-year scholarship in Berlin, where he is working on a new novel.

Recommended from JTA