Arnošt Lustig

31.12.2008 | 22:52
Arnošt Lustig

The writer Arnošt Lustig is a next personality of our series who was arrested in the Terezín hetto duringthe Nazi occupation. He was born on December 21, 1926, in Prague-Libeň in the textile tradesman. He started his school already at the age of five, and he had to fi nish it in 1939, when Jewish origin became a stigma. And the people of this origin were degraded, humilated and lowered.

At the age of sixteen, on November 13, 1942, Arnošt with his sister and mother got on the train the destination of which was Terezín. Their father was trasported to Terezín later, in April 1943. Arnošt met Jiří and Hugo Poppers there and their brother Ota Popper – Pavel became Arnošt´s long life friend.

In 1945, he escaped from a train carrying him to the Dachau concentration camp when the engine was mistakenly destroyed by an American fi ghter-bomber. He returned to Prague in time to take part in the May 1945 anti-Nazi uprising. After the war, he studied journalism at Charles University in Prague and then worked for a number of years at Radio Prague. He worked as a journalist in Israel at the time of its War of Independence where he met his future wife, who at the time was a volunteer with the Haganah. He was one of the major critics of the Communist regime in June 1967 at the 4th Writers Conference, and gave up his membership in the Communist Party after the 1967 Middle East war, to protest his government‘s breaking of relations with Israel.

However, following the Soviet-led invasion that ended the Prague Spring in 1968, he left the country, fi rst to Israel, thenYugoslavia and later in 1970 to the United States. After the fall of eastern European communism in 1989, he divided his time between Prague and Washington DC, where he continued to teach at the American University. After his retirement from the American University in 2003, he became a full-time resident of Prague. He was given an apartment in the Prague Castle by then President Vaclav Havel and honored for his contributions to Czech culture on his 80th birthday in 2006. In 2008, Lustig became the eighth recipient of the Franz Kafka Prize.

Lustig is married to the former Vera Weislitzova (1927), daughter of a furniture maker from Ostrava who was also imprisoned in the Terezin concentration camp. Unlike her parents, she was not deported to Auschwitz. She wrote of her family‘s fate during the Holocaust in the collection of poems entitled „Daughter of Olga and Leo.“ They have two children, Josef (1950) and Eva(1956). His most renown books are „A Prayer For Katerina Horowitzowa“ (published and nominated for a National book award in 1974), „Night and Hope“ (1985) „Dita Saxova“ (1979), and „Lovely Green Eyes“(2004). In the end of the last year Arnošt Lustig celebrated his eighty-second birthday. Congratulation!

Luděk Sládek

Památník Terezín

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