Ephraim Kishon, a Holocaust survivor who became one of Israel’s best-known humorists with his satirical books and movies, died in Switzerland on Jan. 29 of an apparent heart attack. He was 80.
Kishon was born in Hungary and survived a Nazi concentration camp during World War II before immigrating to Israel in 1949 while in his mid-20s.
He swiftly emerged as one of Israel’s best-known writers, producing newspaper essays, plays and novels. He established a theater company and also wrote and directed films, some of them considered classics in Israel.
His best-known film was “Sallah Shabati,” the tale of a poor Jewish immigrant from North Africa battling prejudice and bureaucracy as he tried to assimilate into the young country dominated by Jews of European descent. The movie was nominated for a foreign film Oscar and tied for the foreign film Golden Globe in 1965.
His film “Ha-Shoter Azulai,” released in the United States as “The Policeman,” about a frustrated policeman on the verge of retirement, was also Oscar nommed and won a Golden Globe in 1972.
Kishon wrote dozens of books that were translated into more than 30 languages, and his popularity in Europe was particularly strong in Germany.
He received the Israel Prize, the country’s most prestigious honor, in 2002 for lifetime achievement. The judges described him as “a light rescued from the fire of the Holocaust, who scaled the heights of satire in the world.”
Kishon was born in Budapest, and various biographies say his given name was Ferenc Kishont or Ferenc Hoffmann. He changed his name after arriving in Israel.
He is survived by wife Lisa and three children.