Henry Tylbor, one of the youngest survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and a survivor of Budzyn and other camps, died February 24 of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 79.
According to his wife, Wendy Gittler, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 15 years ago.
Born in Warsaw, Tylbor was 13 years old in April 1943, when residents of the Warsaw Ghetto staged an armed revolt against Nazi troops, the largest single revolt by Jews against the Nazis during WorId War II. During the uprising, Tylbor stayed in underground bunkers for nine days. He survived, only to be transported to Auschwitz and satellite camps of the Majdanek concentration camp. Eventually, the French liberated him and his father.
After the war, he separated from his father, with whom he was never close, and resettled in New York, taking odd jobs to make a living. Having spent his teenage years as a peripatetic, having been moved around Europe to different concentration camps, he had a penchant for languages and spoke about 7 fluently. He became interested in linguistics after sitting in on classes of the influential Russian linguist Roman Jakobson at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was persuaded to study linguistics with Professor A.J. Greimas at the University of Paris.
“He was a polymath,” said Gittler, who added that he took an interest in neuropsychology and was fascinated in particular with problems of aphasia and memory loss.
Tylbor traveled to Europe many more times in the course of his work as a book reviewer, combing bookstores everywhere from France to Turkey in search of foreign books to review for the American publishing companies Basic Books, HarperTorch and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. He also translated books, taught sociology and linguistics, and lectured about his Holocaust experiences at universities around the country, including Duke University, Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania. He co-authored an important article on language and culture in the book “Dialogic Emergence of Culture.”
“He had a restless spirit of constant movement, and in that, the desire for constant knowledge. His only real world was his books, because everything else was perishable,” Gittler said. “When we took our trips to Europe, he took an enormous duffel case with him and it was filled with books.”
He is survived by his wife, whom he met in 1976. The couple has no children.