Nobel Peace prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, has died in his Manhattan home at the age of 87.
In 1944, Wiesel and his family were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Of his three sisters, only two survived the war. His mother was sent to the gas chambers upon arrival at Auschwitz; his father would die at a second camp, Buchenwald, mere months before the camp was liberated in 1945.
Wiesel’s memoir, Un di velt hot geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), was first released in Yiddish in 1956. An abridged version, La Nuit was released in French in 1958. Two years later, the English translation, Night, was published. Millions of copies were sold in the United States alone, and it was translated into over 20 languages.
Never shall I forget that night that first night in camp that turned my life into one long night. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Those moments that murdered my god and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never.
After the war, Wiesel would go on to write numerous books, and would also teach at several universities in the United States. He was a political activist and educated many on the Holocaust- a term whose meaning is often credited to Wiesel. He would go on to receive many awards, including the Nobel Peace prize and -perhaps most noteworthy- The Congressional Gold Medal.
Wiesel delivered a moving acceptance speech, with a call to “take sides.” He went on to note the importance of helping the oppressed, and how just one person of integrity can make a difference.
As the world reels from this incredible loss, we’re reminded of the life that Elie Wiesel lived. He was called a messenger, a spiritual leader, and guide. His message was one of justice, one of peace. We’re reminded of his words on the night of his Nobel Prize acceptance:
As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs…Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.