August 07, 2007

Holocaust memoirs author, Lundholm, dead at 89

One of Germany’s most prominent Holocaust survivors, Anja Lundholm, whose books recounted the horrors she experienced in a Nazi camp after she was allegedly denounced by her own father, has died aged 89, her publisher said Monday.

The Munich-based publishing house LangenMueller said Lundholm died Saturday in Frankfurt. It did not release the cause of death.

Lundholm published a series of books written in a chillingly distant tone about her time at the Ravensbrueck women’s concentration camp in eastern Germany, including her 1988 memoir "Hoellentor" ("Hell’s Gate").

As a political dissident and the daughter of a Jewish woman, Lundholm fled Nazi Germany for Italy with a fake passport in 1941 and joined the anti-fascist resistance there.

In 1943, six months after the birth of her daughter, Lundholm was denounced -- by her SS officer father, she said -- and arrested.

She was sent to Ravensbrueck the next year at the age of 26 where she became a slave labourer in degrading conditions including random punishment at the hands of merciless guards, hunger and a terrifying loneliness made vivid in her books.

In April 1945, shortly before the war ended, she joined thousands of other emaciated prisoners on an evacuation march and only returned to Germany in 1953, when she began to write to come to terms with her trauma.

She later contracted multiple sclerosis, which she blamed on the monstrous medical experiments to which she was subjected in Ravensbrueck.

After the war she worked in Brussels, Stockholm, Rome and London as a translator and journalist.

"Hollentor" was recently re-published to glowing praise.

"Anja Lundholm has a surreal life behind her, she had to face a fate that could hardly have been more inhumane," the broadsheet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote.

"Anja Lundholm found a language for the unspeakable, " public broadcaster WDR said.

Lundholm won several of Germany’s top literary prizes for her novels and memoirs. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1974.

She told the daily Frankfurter Rundschau in an interview in 2003 that her work had sought an answer to one question: "What turns a friendly, helpful neighbour into a psychopath?"

Rest in peace.