Heralded writer and human rights activist Elie Wiesel has passed away at 87 years of age. The 1986 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was championed by the Norwegian Nobel Committee as a hero who struggled with his own life and then turned it around to make a difference for others who were suffering.
Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928 in Sighet, Kingdom of Romania. His father encouraged him to study literature and learn Hebrew, while his mother encouraged him to study Torah. Later Wiesel would state that his mother taught him to have faith, while his father taught him to have logic. Together, the blend would serve him well.
In 1940, at just 15-years old, Wiesel and his family were placed in the Sighet ghettos. On May 6th, 1944 German pressure caused Sighet residents to be transported to Auschwitz, an internment camp. Though Wiesel was separated from his mother and three sisters, he remained in the same camp with his father. Two weeks prior to liberation, his father was send to the crematorium.
Post-war, Wiesel worked as a choirmaster and wrote for French and Israeli newspapers. From 1946 on, he began looking for ways to join with humanitarian efforts, though not as formal as he would find in his later years. Initially he determined not to write about his experience in concentration camps but after meeting with Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson he changed his mind. He wrote “Night”, a book about the Holocaust.
It sold just over 1,040 copies in its first year-and-a-half of print but soon started garnering him attention from the press. He was in demand for both television interviews, and radio shows. Soon after, his book went to an additional 3,000 prints.
In 1986 he was nominated for, and won, the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to speak against racism, repression and violence. He also garnered the Congressional Medal of Honor, the International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence and the Presidential medal of Freedom. By 1997 his book “Night” went to print for an additional 300,000 copies in the US. By 2006, over 6-million copies sold.
In addition to “Night”, Wiesel also penned “The Painted Bird” and two volumes of memoirs. He remained a prolific speaker and humanitarian throughout his lifespan, which is evident in his memoirs.
Throughout the time of “Night”, Wiesel became a powerful activist and speaker on the Holocaust. He advocated for the plight of Ethiopian Jews and the Soviet, along with South African victims of apartheid. In 2006 he was knighted in recognition for his extensive work to educate people about the Holocaust within the United Kingdom.
July 2, 2016 Mr. Wiesel died. After 87 years of experiencing pain, joy, success and failure, he showcased the souls ability to persevere.