Grynberg, Henryk 1936-

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GRYNBERG, Henryk 1936-

PERSONAL: Born July 4, 1936, in Warsaw, Poland; immigrated to the United States, 1967; son of Abraham (a dairy merchant) and Sofia (some sources say Sura; maiden name, Stolik) Grynberg; married Ruth Maria Meyers, January 24, 1964 (divorced, 1966); married Krystyna Walczak (an actress), July 30, 1967 (divorced, 1981); children: (second marriage) Deborah Maria, Adam. Ethnicity: "Polish-Jewish-American" Education: University of Warsaw, M.A. (journalism), 1959; University of California, Los Angeles, M.A. (Russian literature), 1971. Religion: Jewish

ADDRESSES: Home—6251 N. Kensington St., McLean, VA 22101. Agent—Alan Adelson, Jewish Heritage Project, 150 Franklin St., #1W, New York, NY 10013. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Jewish State Theatre, Warsaw, Poland, actor and translator, 1959-67; Union of Workers of Culture and Art, secretary, 1966-67; U.S. Information Agency, journalist, editor, and translator working primarily for Voice of America, 1971-1991; freelance writer.

MEMBER: Union of Polish Writers Abroad, Polish Film and Theater Artists Association, Polish Authors Union, PEN (American Center), Polish Authors Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Annual literary prize of Kościelski Foundation, Switzerland, 1966, for Zydowska wojna; Tadeusz Borowski fellowship, Polish Authors Union, Poland, 1966; Wiadomości award, London, England, 1975; A. Jurzykowski Award, 1990; S. Vincenz Award, Krakow, Poland, 1991; Koret Jewish Book Award, fiction, 2002, for Drohobycz, Drohobycz and Other Stories: True Tales from the Holocaust and Life After; recipient of other major Polish literary prizes, including the Kultura, and the Karski and Nireńska; Nike prize nomination, for Drohobycz, Drohobycz and Other Stories and Memorbuch.


Ekipa "Antygona" (short stories), Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (Warsaw, Poland) 1963.

Swieto kamieni (poems), Instytut Wydawniczy "Pax" (Warsaw, Poland), 1964.

Antynostalgia (poems; title means "Anti-Nostalgia"), Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy (London, England), 1971.

Zycie ideologiczne (title means "Ideological Life"; also see below), Polska Fundacja Kulturalna (London, England), 1975.

Zycie osobiste (sequel to Zycie ideologiczne; title means "Personal Life"; also see below), Polska Fundacja Kulturalna (London, England), 1979.

Zycie codzienne i artystyczne (title means "Everyday and Artistic Life"; also see below), Instytut Literacki (Paris, France), 1980.

Wiersze z Ameryki (poems; title means "Poems from America"), Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy (London, England), 1980.

Wśród nieobecnych, Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy (London, England), 1983.

Prawda nieartystyczna (title means "The Non-Artistic Truth"), Archipelag (West Berlin, Germany), 1984, 4th edition, Wydawnictwo "Czarne" (Wolowiec, Poland), 2002.
Kadisz (title means "Kaddish"), Wydawnicto Znak (Krakow, Poland), 1987.

Pomnik nad Potomakiem, Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy (London, England), 1989.

Szkice rodzinne (title means "Family Sketches"), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1989.

Wrocilem: wiersze wybrane z lat 1964-1989 (title means "I Have Returned") Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (Warsaw, Poland), 1991. Zycie ideologiczne; Zycie osobiste, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (Warsaw, Poland), 1992.

Pamietnik Marii Koper, Wydawnicto Znak (Krakow, Poland), 1993.

Dziedzictwo (title means "Heritage") Aneks (London, England), 1993.

Kronika, 86 Press (Lodz, Poland), 1994.

Rysuje w pamieci (title means "Sketching in Memory"), Wydawnictwo a5 (Poznań, Poland), 1995.

Zycie ideologiczne, osobiste, codzienne i artystyczne, Świat Ksiazki (Warsaw, Poland), 1998.

Ojczyzna (title means "Fatherland"), Wydawnicto W.A.B. (Warsaw, Poland), 1999.

Memorbuch, Wydawnicto W.A.B. (Warsaw, Poland), 2000.

(With Jan Kostanski) Szmuglerzy (title means "Smugglers"), Twój Styl (Warsaw, Poland), 2001.

Monolog polsko-zydowski, Wydawnictwo "Czarne" (Wolowiec, Poland), 2003.

Uchodźcy (title means "Refugees"), Świat Ksiazki (Warsaw, Poland), 2004.

Also contributor and translator from English to Polish for Kultura Paris, France), Wiadomosci (London, England), Commentary, Midstream, Soviet-Jewish Affairs (London, England), and America Illustrated. Works have been translated into English, German, Italian, French, Dutch, Hebrew, Czech, and Hungarian.


Zydowska wojna (novella; title means "The Jewish War"; also see below), Czytelnik (Warsaw, Poland), 1965, 2nd edition, 1989, translation by C. Wieniewska published as Child of the Shadows, including The Grave, Vallentine, Mitchell (London, England), 1969.

Zwyciestwo (novel), Institut Litteraire (Paris, France), 1969, translation by Richard Lourie published as The Victory (also see below), Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1993.

Dzieci Syjonu, Wydawnicto Karta (Warsaw, Poland), 1994, translation by Jacqueline Mitchell published as Children of Zion, afterword by Israel Gutman, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1997.

Drohobycz, Drohobycz, Wydawnicto W.A.B. (Warsaw, Poland), 1997, translation by Alicia Nitecki published as Drohobycz, Drohobycz and Other Stories: True Tales from the Holocaust and Life After, edited by Theodosia Robertson, Penguin (New York, NY), 2002.
The Jewish War [and] The Victory, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 2001.


SIDELIGHTS: Fiction writer, poet, actor, and biographer Henryk Grynberg survived the Nazi occupation of Poland in hiding; forged Aryan identification papers saved his and his mother's lives. Grynberg's father was killed, "not by the Nazis but by villagers who took his money," related Michael Elkin in the Jewish Exponent. He was a victim of rampant distrust and anti-Semitism in Poland, "where hate was very much a part of the soil," Elkin remarked. After graduating from Warsaw University in 1959 with a master's in journalism, Grynberg joined the Jewish State Theater as an actor, subsequently defecting to the United States during the acting company's tour there. After earning a master's in Russian literature from UCLA, Grynberg moved to Washington, D.C., and went to work for the U.S. Information Agency, where he stayed for twenty years.

Much of Grynberg's fiction and poetry addresses issues related to the Holocaust and the traumatic after-effects of the Holocaust. "Each new book is a further record of the fates of people who have been saved from oblivion by the writer in the conviction that doing so is not only the duty of literature towards the victims of the Holocaust, but also a confirmation of the sanctity of human life itself," stated a biographer on the Polska 2000 Web site.

In Drohobycz, Drohobycz (translated as Drohobycz, Drohobycz and Other Stories: True Tales from the Holocaust and Life After), "the ordeal of Europe's Jews during and following WWII is anatomized in this chilling collection of thirteen richly developed stories" by Grynberg, wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic. Each story is dedicated to a particular man or woman whose life story served as background or inspiration for Grynberg's fictional work, noted Ruth Franklin in the Los Angeles Times. "More monologues than narratives, the extraordinary pieces in Grynberg's book are told in a rambling, conversational style that is astonishingly similar to the way many Holocaust survivors actually speak," Franklin further wrote, adding that the book's title story "appears simply to recount the family saga of one Dr. Leopold Lustig, but Grynberg has subtly shaped it into a group portrait of the Jews of the Galician town of Drohobycz." A detailed description of the occupants of a two-story house in the town mentions individual families, relatives, aunts and uncles and grandparents in an "almost Biblical catalog of ancestors and descendants," Franklin observed. But then Grynberg begins an involved description of where the residents of this building went when the Nazis arrived, concluding that "Slowacki Street 17 was a two-story house like most buildings in Drohobycz." Grynberg's "concluding sentence, an apparent non sequitur, serves as a jarring reminder that of an entire apartment building full of people, only the narrator and his Aunt Tonia have survived the war," Franklin observed. Readers of the book are "more than rewarded by the brilliance of the narrator in portraying life as it was and is," commented Jerzy J. Maciuszko in World Literature Today. "The ugly side of the human soul is shown to us by a master."

Grynberg's novel Zwyciestwo (translated as The Victory) contains some autobiographical elements at its base. The book tells the story of the young male narrator and his mother, who survived the war thanks to Aryan identification papers and carefully constructed denials of their Jewish heritage. The boy's father is thought to have been killed by Polish peasants, and the rest of the family sent to Treblinka. In the time between the end of the war and the Communist takeover of Poland, the narrator and his mother deal with the profoundly disturbing aftermath of the horror and brutality from the war years. The boy decides that he does not want to be Jewish anymore, and his mother copes through relationships with a Russian officer who returns to combat and a man who is ultimately sentenced to a labor camp. "Grynberg's deadpan, uninflected prose becomes wearing after a while, but the book has moments of appalling power, particularly in its scenes of violence," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Molly Abramowitz, writing in Library Journal, commented, "How people cope in the face of such tragedy and how they try to maintain a shred of dignity in their lives while grappling with difficult choices gives this book its power."

Originally published as Dzieci Syjonu, Children of Zion offers the nonfiction account of seventy-three Jewish children from Poland who lived through both the German and Soviet occupations of their country. Originally recorded in 1943 by members of the Polish government, the recollections present "the unvarnished, artless, and naive story of children who, to put it mildly, had no theory to defend," wrote Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in the New Republic. "Most of these children survived because they were in the part of Poland that the Germans first occupied and then, as border issues were ironed out to settle the Hitler-Stalin pact, they ended up under Soviet control," Goldhagen related. But no matter where they went, the children were constant witness to hatred, violence, and brutality against Jews, including such humiliating acts as beard-cutting and forcing Jews to dance in the streets while their synagogues burned. The stories form "a powerful, relentless document that bears grim testimony to the suffering endured by the children and their families as they journeyed from horror to horror," stated M. Anna Flabo in Library Journal. The children, persecuted as both Poles and as Jews, "suffered the worst imaginable fate of all Holocaust victims," remarked Alice-Catherine Carls in World Literature Today. "Their story illuminates the multifaceted nature of an evil which occurred during a time that we perhaps are in danger of stereotyping."

Henryk Grynberg once told CA: "My original writing is inspired by my being one of the very few child-survivors of the Jewish holocaust in Eastern Europe and recently by the revival of Jewish prosecution in my homeland which forced me to self-exile. My writing is concerned with ethics, including its religious and ideological aspects, problems of identity. My stories are realistic and so are my poems."



Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland, University of Nebraska Press, 2001.

Wieniewska, W., editor, Polish Writing Today, Penguin, 1967.


Booklist, November 1, 1991, review of SzkiceRodzinne, p. 497.

Forward, January 8, 1968.

Hadassah, March, 1968.

Jewish Exponent, April 21, 1995, Michael Elkin, "Poland's Killing Fields: Documentary Focuses on a Writer's Return to the Land Where His Father Died during the Holocaust," p. 8X.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1997, review of Children of Zion, p. 1827; November 1, 2002, review of Drohobycz, Drohobycz and Other Stories: True Tales from the Holocaust and Life After, p. 1567.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, May, 1999, review of Children of Zion, p. 5.

L'Arche (Paris, France), June-July, 1970.

Library Journal, May 1, 1994, Molly Abramowitz, review of The Victory, pp. 136-137; February 15, 1998, M. Anna Flabo, review of Children of Zion, pp. 155-156.

Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1967; January 12, 2003, Ruth Franklin, "A Testimony to Survival," p. R4.

New Republic, March 29, 1999, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, "Pride and Prejudice," p. 37.

New York Times, December 31, 1967.

Publishers Weekly, November 15, 1993, review of TheVictory, p. 74.

Slavic Review, spring, 1986, Madeline G. Levine, review of Prawda nieartystyczna, p. 172.

Translation Review Supplement, July, 1998, review of Children of Zion, p. 7.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 21, 2001, review of The Jewish War [and] The Victory, p. 6.

Variety, October 25, 1993, Greg Evans, review of Birthplace (documentary), p. 81.

Volksbote (Munich, Germany), May 17, 1969.

World Literature Today, autumn, 1994, Jerzy J. Maciuszko, review of The Victory, pp. 849-850; spring, 1998, Jerzy J. Maciuszko, review of Drohobycz, Drohobycz, pp. 412-413; summer, 1998, Alice-Catherine Carls, review of Children of Zion, p. 651; spring, 2001, Jerzy R. Krzyzanowski, review of Memorbuch, p. 388.

Yiddisher Kemfer, December 15, 1967.


Polish Culture, (February 2, 2003), review of Memorbuch.

Polish Writing, (February 24, 2004), biography of Henryk Grynberg.

Polska 2000, (February 24, 2004), biography and bibliography of Henryk Grynberg.

Public Broadcasting Service, (February 24, 2004), biography of Henryk Grynberg.