Obituary: András Mezei

Born Budapest, December 23, 1930. Died Budapest, May 30, 2008, aged 77.


A major chronicler of the Holocaust, András Mezei was a poet, novelist and editor.

He was a literary journalist most of his life. After the collapse of Communism, he founded Budapest City Press and the literary-political journal CET that forged a leading role in the debate and reconstruction of Eastern Europe.

As a child, he survived the Nazi attempt at the "ethnic cleansing" of Europe in the Budapest ghetto where some 17,000 souls perished around him from hunger, disease and the whim of uniformed bandits.

Unlike other great poets of the Holocaust - Paul Celan, Primo Levi and Miklós Radnóti - Mezei declined to come to terms with death. Indeed, his work is a celebration of the unconquerable spirit of his people. And unlike Anne Frank, he had the luxury of time to give voice to the concerns of the victims at the height of his literary powers.

In two lines he summarised a survivor's nightmare:

How many nights must come before
I need not wake up any more?

He was published in several European languages as well as Hebrew.

He is survived by the poet Judit Tóth, his companion over the past 15 years; their daughter, Anna; and his son, Gábor, from his late wife, Magda Székely, another noted Holocaust poet.

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