Slovenian novelist and concentration camp survivor Boris Pahor has died

Slovenian author and Nazi concentration camp survivor Boris Pahor died aged 108 on May 30. Pahor was best known for his novel Necropolis (1967). The autobiography was a chronicle of his days at the concentration camp where he was housed twenty years before the book’s publication.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella paying tribute to Pahor hailed the famous author as “a witness and victim of the horrors caused by war, by exacerbated nationalism and totalitarian ideologies”. Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini also paid tribute by calling Pahor a “giant of the 20th century”, who did not hesitate to write about dark times with “skill, lucidity and without forcing”.

Pahor was born on August 26, 1913 in Trieste, a coastal city in northeastern Italy, which was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Pahor and his relatives were all Slovenian minorities in Trieste. The city was annexed by Italy in 1918 after the fall of the Danubian Monarchy. In 1918, after the fall of the empire, Benito Mussolini took power in Italy. However, he was a fascist and minorities were suppressed under his rule, forcing Pahor’s father to earn a living as a street vendor. After being drafted in Libya as a soldier in the Italian army in 1940, he graduated from high school.

In 1943, during World War II, Pahor fought the combined forces of Italian fascists and Nazis before being captured by the Domobracen militia in January 1944. He was deported to Dachau concentration camp and four other camps afterwards. After surviving a long detention of 15 months in 5 different concentration camps, Pahor was released in April 1945. Pahor then traveled to Paris where he recovered from tuberculosis.

Pahor’s books Necropolis and A Difficult Spring (1978) were based on the events of the concentration camps and his time in Paris respectively. Pahor wrote many of his books between 1953 and 1975. He taught as a primary school teacher in Slovenia before retiring in 1975.

Boris Pahor has always spoken out against totalitarianism, fascism and dictatorship. The Holocaust chronicler left behind a plethora of books that chronicle the atrocities faced by minorities in Italy and the rest of Europe under Fascist and Nazi regimes. His books will never let future generations forget important events in history that remain as a shocking memory of catastrophic human suffering.

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