Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor, Dies at 87
He survived not just one Nazi concentration camp but three — and Elie Wiesel went on to become an influential author and Nobel Peace Prize winner in the years after the Allies liberated the death camps. Wiesel passed away on Saturday, Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem announced and the Jerusalem Post reported.
Wiesel, born in 1928, wrote widely about his imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps. In 1986 he won the Nobel Prize for peace.
One his most notable literary achievements was his book “Night,” which was based on his experience as a prisoner in the Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps during the years 1944 and 1945.
Originally published in 1955, it was translated into at least 30 languages and is considered a pillar of Holocaust literature.
In 1986, Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize for what the Norwegian Nobel Committee called his “practical work in the cause of peace … atonement and human dignity” to humanity, according to the Jerusalem Post.
In “Night,” Wiesel said he “wanted to show the end, the finality of the event. Everything came to an end — man, history, literature, religion, God. There was nothing left. And yet we begin again with night,” according to the Jewish tradition of beginning a new day at nightfall.
This memorable passage from “Night” captures some of the main themes of the book, as Wiesel experienced them and as critics have noted: the death of God and innocence, and the dissolution of the self:
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
“Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
“Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
Wiesel’s parents and younger sister perished in the death camps. He and his two older sisters managed to survive.
In 1963 Wiesel became an American citizen, and in 1985 President Ronald Reagan presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal. Wiesel received many other awards during his lifetime.