Gaming the Nazis, and Chess


You don’t often hear of concentration-camp inmates using their chess skills to win favor with Nazi guards before managing to escape. Nor do you hear of Hungarians learning Hebrew as adults and then becoming celebrated satirists in their adopted tongue.

Ephraim Kishon (1924 – 2005) was known for just those things. After moving to Israel in 1949, his writing career thrived: he became a syndicated columnist and published 39 books, 9 plays, and 5 feature films, which he also directed and produced.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Kishon took a renewed interest in the hobby of his youth, particularly in its new computerized forms. Working with German manufacturer Hegener & Glaser, Kishon designed the Kishon Chesster, a chess machine that features humorous sound bites written by the satirist himself.

Notably, Kishon had no qualms about his popularity in Germany. As his son told Galei Tzahal, Israel’s army radio station, “This is a great feeling, that the children of my hangmen are my admirers.” Or, in other words, “Schachmatt, Nazis!” (That is, checkmate.)

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