9th Dachau Contemporary Witness Discussion with Boris Pahor

In cooperation with the Bavarian-Slovenian Society, the Memorial Site has continued its series of discussions with contemporary witnesses on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The guest for this round was the well-known Slovenian writer Boris Pahor.


A winner of many literary awards, Boris Pahor was born in Trieste in 1913, at the time part of the Austro-Hungarian administrative area of Primorska and occupied by Italy in 1919. After attending a Slovenian primary school Pahor is forbidden to speak his mother tongue due to restrictions imposed under Mussolini. In 1935 he begins to study Catholic theology, leaves the seminary however in 1940 and is drafted into the Italian Army. At his own request he serves in Libya for a year, before returning to Italy to study literature at Padua and working as an interpreter for imprisoned Yugoslav officers at Lake Garda.

Following the collapse of Italian Fascism Pahor returns to Trieste in September 1943 and at the beginning of November joins the Slovene partisan movement. On January 21 1944 he is arrested by the “Domobranzen”, the Slovene Home Guard, who hand him over to the Gestapo. He is deported to the Dachau concentration camp. By the end of the war Boris Pahor is imprisoned in four different concentration camps, finally liberated at Bergen-Belsen.

Eventually returning to Trieste he studies and completes a doctorate in Padua, before teaching at a Slovenian school in Trieste from 1953 to 1975. He tries to come to grips with his traumatic experiences in the concentration camps in novellas, out of which his award-winning novel Pilgrim among the Shadows emerges, first published in 1967. Boris Pahor has written numerous stories and novels, including the autobiographical novel Villa am See (German title, 1955) and A Difficult Spring (1958).

In 2010 a documentary film entitled Stubborn Memory was made on his life. Boris Pahor is regarded as one of the most internationally known representatives of critical Slovene contemporary literature. His reflective narratives recall the work of Primo Levi, Jorge Semprún and Imre Kertész. He lives near Trieste.