At the age of 87, holocaust survivor and prolific writer Elie Wiesel passed away on Sunday. He was memorialised by family in a private service in Manhattan on Sunday, and world leaders have come out to praise his passion for human rights and his strength as a person.
Born in Romania in 1928, Wiesel was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland at the age of 15. He survived through the help of an older Jewish boy, who convinced the Nazis that Elie was 18 and as such, fit to work rather than being sent straight to death. He was liberated from Buchenwald by American forces in 1945, but had lost both parents and his younger sister during the war.
Following his liberation, Wiesel went to France and studied literature, philosophy and psychology. For many years he refused to talk about or write on his experiences in the war, but in 1955 was convinced to write and publish his now world renowned book Night. Although originally unsuccessful, Night has become a prolific story of the experience of Holocaust survivors, along with the personal diary of Anne Frank, both of which narrate personal experiences through the war in emotionally raw, vulnerable ways.
Wiesel focused on healing rather than hate, and throughout his life continued to fight against all injustices in this world. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his voice against violence, repression and racism. His incredible eloquence allowed him to be a constant reminder of the world of what can happen when good people allow bad to happen. In his acceptance speech for the peace prize he said,
“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”
The world is mourning his loss, and many world leaders have made statements thanking him for his contribution toward the effort for peace throughout his life.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 2, 2016
His wife Marion, also a Holocaust survivor, released a statement reminding us of how brave, powerful and strong Wiesel was – “My husband was a fighter. He fought for the memory of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and he fought for Israel. He waged countless battles for innocent victims regardless of ethnicity or creed,”
Elie Wiesel was the voice for all of those lost who couldn’t talk. He was a reminder to Jews and Romanians around the world that they are stronger than the Nazis, that they survived. His voice was undeniably one of the most important in remembering the Holocaust, and his survival is a story of hope that we can all appreciate.
If you haven’t read Night, or any other pieces of his work, I encourage you to find it and read it as soon as you can.
Rest in power Eliezer, and thank you for all you have done for this world.