Aharon Appelfeld

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Aharon Appelfeld is a well-known Israeli author who has published over two dozen novels in addition to collections of poetry, essays, and short stories. He was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Eastern Europe and spent a brief period of his childhood in a concentration camp during World War II. He was present when his mother was murdered and was later estranged from his father. His work frequently explores themes of separation, resilience, and the healing power of spontaneous human connection. His writings make no explicit reference to the Holocaust. Yet, through memory and foreshadowing, the suffering, death, and abandonment of Jewish people, particularly children, resound in the background. His life has been one of survival, resiliency, and renaissance. His writings highlight how other marginalized groups in Europe—witches, prostitutes, vagrants, and criminals—aided refugees, particularly children, in their quest to flee state-sanctioned violence. Although his poems, short stories, and novels frequently reference dark scenes from his childhood, interviewees describe the writer as unusually warm, amusing, and forgiving. They find it difficult to believe he is the same person who, at the age of nine, escaped under a fence and hid in the forests of Romania and Ukraine, surviving Nazism and World War II.

Childhood & Adolescence

Ervin Appelfeld was born in Czernowitz, Romania on February 16, 1932, to Michael and Bunia Appelfeld.

Between 1940 and 1941, he was a prisoner of the Soviet Union. Romanian forces retook the territory in 1941, storming Jewish neighborhoods.

He overheard a soldier shoot and kill his mother in their home. He was deported to a concentration camp in the Romanian-occupied region of Transnistria with his father.

He escaped the concentration camp and spent three years hiding in the forests, where he met peasants, prostitutes, criminals, and vagrants. In 1944, he joined the Soviet Army as a kitchen boy.

Following the war’s conclusion, he traveled to Italy with other children and teenagers to a displaced persons camp, where he studied French and Italian under the tutelage of Catholic monks. He immigrated to Palestine in 1946 and served from 1948 to 1950 in the Israeli Army.

Career of Aharon

Despite the fact that he had received no formal education since the age of nine, he eventually graduated from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he studied with Max Brod, Martin Buber, and Gershom Scholem.

He taught high school after graduating from Hebrew University. He began publishing poetry in 1959, expanding to short stories in 1962 with ‘Smoke’ and novels in 1971 with ‘The Skin and the Gown’.

In 1977, he was appointed as a literature professor at Beersheba’s Ben Gurion University. He achieved international acclaim as a writer in the late 1970s for his examinations of the Holocaust. Nonetheless, he prefers to identify as a writer of Jewish stories who grew up during that era.

Although German is his native tongue, he also speaks Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian, English, and Italian. He writes in Modern Hebrew, the language of his adopted country, Israel, despite the fact that he only learned it as a teenager.

He has published over twenty-five books in Modern Hebrew, but he frequently feels as though he is writing in a foreign language. This, according to critics, is part of his work’s singularity.

Numerous works of his, including seventeen of his novels, have been translated into languages other than Modern Hebrew.

His first work to be translated into English was his novel ‘Badenheim 1939’ in 1980. He lectured and discussed his books and contemporary Jewish literature extensively throughout Europe and the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

He is now Ben Gurion University of the Negev’s Emeritus Professor of Hebrew Literature.

Works of Significant Value

Appelfeld’s first work translated into English was the novel ‘Badenheim, 1939’ published in. The novel is an allegorical satire that tells the story of a fictional Jewish resort town in Austria just before its residents are deported to Nazi concentration camps.

He published a memoir, ‘The Story of a Life,’ in 1999, detailing his childhood escape from a Ukrainian labor camp, his continued evasion of capture throughout the war, and his eventual emigration to Palestine.

His 2006 novel ‘Blooms of Darkness’ is about a young Jewish boy who finds refuge in a brothel in Ukraine during World War II.

Distinctions & Honors

He was awarded the 1979 Bialik Literature Prize (jointly with Avot Yeshurun). He received the Israel Literature Prize in 1983.

In 1989, for his novel ‘Badenheim 1939,’ he received the National Jewish Book Award for fiction. In 2004, he won the Prix Médicis in the category of foreign works for his autobiography, ‘The Story of a Life: A Memoir.’

He was presented with the city of Dortmund’s Nelly Sachs Prize in 2005. He was the 2012 winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in the United Kingdom for his novel Blooms of Darkness.

Personal History and Endowment

Appelfeld discovered his father’s name on a Jewish Agency list of immigrants scheduled to arrive from Eastern Europe in 1960, when he was twenty-eight years old. He then tracked him down in Be’er Tuvia, Israel, in a refugee camp.

In 1964, he married Judith, a native of Argentina. They are the parents of three children: Meir, Yitzak, and Batya, as well as a number of grandchildren.

He continues to empathize with refugees and frequently speaks with Ethiopian and Russian Jewish immigrants who live in an absorption center near his home.

Appelfeld’s blond hair and blue eyes helped him pass as non-Jewish following his concentration camp escape. “Janek” was his given name.

In 2012, he became the oldest recipient of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Estimated Net Worth

Aharon is one of the wealthiest novelists and is ranked as one of the most popular novelists. Aharon Appelfeld’s net worth is estimated to be around $5 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.