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Israeli writer of Romanian origin, Aharon Appelfeld, dies at 85

Israeli writer of Romanian origin, Aharon Appelfeld, born Ervin Appelfeld, a Holocaust survivor, has died on Wednesday night at 85.

His work, mainly dedicated to the life of the Jews in Europe before and during Holocaust, has been translated in numerous languages.

Born to a Jew family in 1932 in a village near Cernauti, a Romanian city now on the Ukraine’s territory, Appelfeld has witnessed the Holocaust’s horrors since an early age. His mother was killed by the Nazis and he and his father were deported in a concentration camp in Transnistria whereof he escaped all by himself in 1942, despite he was only ten. He survived in the woods for three years, and he was “adopted by a gang of Ukrainian criminals”.

Later on, he joined the Soviet army as a cook. After WWII, Appelfeld spent several months in a displaced persons camp in Italy before immigrating to Palestine in 1946, two years before Israel’s independence. He was reunited with his father after finding his name on a Jewish Agency list. The father had been sent to a refugee camp in Be’er Tuvia. The reunion was so emotional that Appelfeld has never been able to write about it.

His first book, published in 1962, will be followed by over 40 novels and poetry volumes. He recounted his own experience as Holocaust survivor in his autobiography, ”Histoire d’une vie/ The Story of a Life: A Memoir” (1999).

Awarded with numerous prizes worldwide, the writer received the Israel’s state Prize in 1983 and the Médicis prize (foreign works category) for his autobiography.

In 2007, Appelfeld’s “Badenheim 1939″ was adapted for the stage and performed at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem.

Literature professor at Ben Gurion University of the Negev since 1979 until his retirement , Appelfeld had released his last novel several months ago.

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