Israel-Prize Laureate Aharon Appelfeld (1932–2018), Romania/Ukraine/Israel

Appelfeld, one of the post important Israeli authors, professor emeritus of Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, and currently member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Honorary Member of the CCP, received numerous awards, including the “Premio della Rosa d’Oro” of the Milanesiana (2010), the “Premio Napoli” (2007), the “Nelly-Sachs-Preis” (2005), the “Prix Médicis” (2004) and the “Israel Prize” (1983). His books were translated into many languages. Among the books translated into English are: Badenheim 1939 (1978, English translation: 1980); The Age of Wonders (1978, tr. 1981); Tzili (1982, tr. 1983); The Retreat (tr. 1984); To the Land of the Cattails (tr. 1986) (earlier published as To the Land of the Reeds); The Immortal Bartfuss (1988); For Every Sin (tr. 1989); The Healer (tr. 1990); Katerina (1989, tr. 1992); Iron Tracks (1991, tr. 1998); Unto the Soul (tr. 1993); The Conversion (1998, tr. 1999); Laish (2001, tr. 2009); The Story of a Life: A Memoir (2003); All Whom I Have Loved (tr. 2007); Blooms of Darkness (2006, tr. 2010); Until the Dawn’s Light (1995, tr. 2011).

His experiences during World War II are the key theme of his work: Appelfeld was born in 1932 into a German-speaking Jewish family in Paul Celan’s and Rose Ausländer’s native town, Czernowitz. For more information about this city, see: Czernowitz, Bukovina. He was 9 years old when Romanian fascists and German Nazis occupied this region and its capital, murdering thousands of Jews, including his mother and grand-mother. The survivors were deported in cattle wagons to death camps in Transnistria (Western Ukraine) where they died of hunger, typhoid fever, exhaustion due to forced labor or were shot dead. Among the deportees were Appelfeld and his father. In the death camp, Appelfed got separated from his father. He remained alone. Although the camp was fiercely guareded, he managed to flee the camp and hide in the woods; other outcasts helped him. Later he was picked up by the Red Army and given the possibility to work in the kitchen. At the end of the war, he walked with other orphans and displaced persons thousands of miles from the Bucovina via Romania, Bulgaria, ex-Jugoslavia and Italy in order to get to Jerusalem.


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Imagine Peace!”  –  Lecture, reading from his work, and seminar, Lugano, Switzerland, 3-4 May 2011.


Laureate of the City for the Cultures of Peace, 2011.


Photo © Aharon Appelfeld