Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor who would earn a Nobel Peace Prize for documenting his experiences at Auschwitz and Buchenwald and speaking out against human rights abuses around the globe, passed away yesterday at the age of 87.
Born in Romania, Wiesel’s family was living in Hungary when they were rounded up by the Nazis in 1944. Although several of his siblings survived the concentration camps, his parents and one of his sisters did not. There is a famous picture of Wiesel and other concentration camp survivors taken after Buchenwald was liberated by the U.S. Army. Wiesel is only 16, but looks decades older.
It was while living in France when Wiesel was persuaded to write about his experiences at Auschwitz & Buchenwald. The result was La Nuit which was published in 1955. In 1960, the work was translated into English and released as Night and has never been out of print. Wiesel was bestowed with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He continued to write and speak out against the evils of the world, past and present, be it Apartheid in South Africa, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia or Darfur.
Wiesel also did not hesitate to criticize American Presidents regardless of their political affiliation. He beseeched President Reagan not to go to Bitburg to lay a wreath upon an SS officer. Last year, he took President Obama for his opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address before Congress on the Iran nuclear deal and urged Obama to come with him to listen to the speech. Neither Reagan nor Obama took Wiesel’s advice, but neither can say they weren’t warned.
Now that Wiesel is gone and man’s inhumanity against man is not who among us, who among us will warn our leaders when they err in their ways and who among us will try to stop the murder of innocent people wherever they may live?