(JNS.org) Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz, a Holocaust survivor who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature for his fiction work, died on Thursday, March 31 in Budapest at age 86.
Kertesz was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland in 1944, at age 14. He survived both the Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps until he was liberated in 1945.
“I am a non-believing Jew,” Kertesz once said in an interview. “Yet as a Jew I was taken to Auschwitz. I belong to those Jews whom Auschwitz turned into Jews.”
After the war, Kertesz stayed in Hungary, where he was distrusted by the then-Communist government. He published the novel Fateless, which highlighted Hungary’s totalitarian Communist system, in 1975. The book, along with some of his other works, would go on to earn him the Nobel Prize in 2002. At that time, many in Hungary resented the fact that the prize went to a Jewish author, but in the years since Fateless was incorporated into Hungarian school curricula. Kertesz was awarded a number of official state honors.
“Kertesz’s significance was that in some sense he formulated the essence of totalitarianism,” said Gabor T. Szanto, a writer and editor of the Hungarian Jewish cultural magazine Szombat.