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July 7, 2016

Remembering Elie Wiesel --- Prolific Author, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Human Rights Activist and Holocaust Survivor

"I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. And anyone who does not remember betrays them again.”

Elie Wiesel --- the man who gave voice to the voiceless, urged us toward understanding, reminded us to remember, fought for justice, inspired us to act bravely, and astonished and taught us with his unforgettable, poignant and absolutely indispensable works of literature --- died on July 2, 2016 in New York at the age of 87.

It is not for nothing that most American readers first tackle the horrors of the Holocaust through a reading of Wiesel’s essential memoir, NIGHT. The slenderness of the volume does not diminish the power of the narrative or the genius of its author. Because for so many Wiesel’s book opens the floodgates of the Nazi atrocities, the news of his passing has shaken the world.

Eliezer Wiesel was born in 1928 in Romania, and was just 15 years old when he, his family and all the Jews of his town were rounded up by the Nazis and eventually taken to Auschwitz. Though he lost his parents and one sister in the Holocaust, and witnessed the destruction of the Jews of Europe, Wiesel himself survived his imprisonment in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald. While he was a professor, an activist, a Nobel laureate, an award-winning humanitarian and a “witness,” Wiesel was also the author of more than 60 books, including AFTER THE DARKNESS, SAGES AND DREAMERS, TELLING THE TALE and A MAD DESIRE TO DANCE.

Told in a sparse and powerful style, NIGHT follows Eliezer from the time his studies are interrupted by the Nazi occupation of his Romanian town, through the atrocities he witnesses and the cruelty he experiences in a concentration camp, the death march he endures toward the end of the war, and the liberation of the camp that comes too late to save most of the Jews, including his father. Wiesel eloquently and passionately expressed anger and sorrow: “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 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.” And thus Wiesel added his voice to those shouting, crying, “Never again!”

But NIGHT and Wiesel’s other books aren’t important just because they capture the harrowing events of the Holocaust. They’re essential due to his willingness to discuss them with candor, as well as his ability to achieve a delicate and difficult balance of emotion and reason, and his insistence that questions should be asked, even when no answers were forthcoming. Above all, Wiesel was not without hope in humanity’s ability to be better, kinder, more creative and more compassionate. “Hope is like peace,” he asserted, “It is not a gift from God. It is a gift we can only give one another.”