Michel Laub and Thomas Harding win JQ-Wingate Prize for books on the Holocaust


Michel Laub has won the prestigious JQ-Wingate Literary Prize for fiction for his Holocaust memoir, Diary of the Fall, while the non-fiction award has gone to Thomas Harding's The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz.

In a departure from recent tradition, the award was split into fiction and non-fiction sections.

At a ceremony on Monday evening, Mr Laub and Mr Harding beat competitors from four continents to share the £4,000 prize. The award is given annually to authors judged to have best translated the idea of Jewishness to their audiences.

In front of an audience of 80 people at JW3, in London, judge Devorah Baum said the way Mr Laub explored the concept of Auschwitz was "extraordinary".

She said: "Knowledge is played with in this book, and the way in which Auschwitz has become a literary conceit, a literary cliché. It is about the globalisation of the Holocaust and that history."

Mr Harding's story was of two opposing but parallel lives: his great uncle Hanns, a German Jewish Nazi hunter, and Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz.

George Szirtes, one of four judges, said about Mr Harding's work: "The book is about actions: actions born out of circumstance. It is not a literary book where style becomes meaning; it is a thriller."

Those who lost out in the race for what has been described as the Jewish version of the Man Booker Prize included bestselling Israeli author Zeruya Shalev and satirist Gary Shteyngart.

Ms Shalev received the nomination for Remains of Love, a fictional work focusing on a Jerusalem family which has been translated in dozens of languages.

Little Failure, which takes its title from the nickname Mr Shteyngart’s mother gave him, reflected the rise in memoirs on this year’s list, with the Russian-born writer describing his emigration to America as a child in stark, self-deprecating terms.

Completing the nominees were Antony Polonsky’s three-volume study on co-existence, titled Jews in Poland and Russia, Hannah Krall's best-selling Auschwitz memoir Chasing the King of Hearts and Dror Burstein’s Netanya, about a cosmological meditation on an Israeli beach.

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