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Wiesel was a famous Jewish thinker, he became a living icon, a symbol of suffering, survival, and faith in terrible conditions. The mention of his name in any context immediately gave that context significance. People unconsciously, automatically treated him with respect and even awe, because of his biography, because of the tragic aura that emanated from him. It has also served as a shield against painfully sharp memories, an anesthetic buffer that numbs the pain of the Holocaust, a golem of grief that sits in the endless shiva instead of us. He earned this respect for his role in the post-war decades when there were no Holocaust memorials on every corner, and in every school curriculum, a block of lessons on the Shoah. Wiesel was then a personified museum of the Holocaust, a man who single-handedly demanded from the world of memory and respect for all the victims, the dead, and the survivors.
Elie Wiesel was born in the Transylvanian town of Sighet, survived as a teenager in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and later became a world-famous writer and human rights activist. In March 1944, Nazi Germany occupied its ally Hungary, between May 15 and July 9, 1944, the Hungarian and German authorities jointly deported about 440,000 Jews, mainly to Auschwitz, where most of them were killed. Among the first to be deported were the Jews of Sighet, including Wiesel, his parents, and three sisters (“Elie Wiesel”). Hence, Wiesel had a largely first-hand experience of the Holocaust surviving nearly all the horrors Nazi Germany inflicted upon the Jewish people of the world. His works are often regarded as strong genocide awareness messages for a reason.
The Wiesel family was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, both a concentration camp and an extermination camp. Upon arrival, Wiesel's mother Sarah and younger sister Tzipora were included in the number of those doomed to death and killed in the gas chamber. His two older sisters, Beatrice and Hilda, were sent to forced labor and survived the war. Wiesel and his father Shlomo were also sent to work. Later, they were transported with their father from Auschwitz to Buchenwald, where Shlomo died (“Elie Wiesel”). The latter incident would strongly inspire Wiesel for the rest of his life as he apparently felt guilty for letting his father die in a concentration camp.
After World War II, Wiesel became a journalist, writer, professor, and human rights activist. He was a Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies at the City University of New York (1972-1976). In 1976, Wiesel became the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Department of Humanities at Boston University, where he was also a professor. In the 1982-83 academic year, Wiesel became Henry Luce's first visiting faculty member at Yale University's Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (Machajewski 73). Wiesel’s first-hand experiences attracted the minds of many researchers and philosophers who attempted to do everything in their power to prevent disasters similar to the Holocaust in the future.
For almost a decade, Wiesel remained silent about his experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps. He was persuaded to break his silence by the French writer François Mauriac, whom Wiesel interviewed in 1954. Wiesel later wrote a book titled Night showing all his experiences to the world and painting the face of the Nazi regime at the time. Since its publication in 1958, the book has been translated into 30 languages and sold millions of copies. In Night, Wiesel described the ordeal he experienced during the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis (Machajewski 78). This would later garner large media attention, making Wiesel one of the most credible and respected Holocaust survivors and speakers of all time.
Elie Wiesel is one of the most famous Holocaust survivors, world-famous writer, and human rights advocate. In his first book, Night, he talked about his experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he ended up in his youth. The book was included in the golden fund of literature about the Holocaust. Wiesel tirelessly reminded people of the Holocaust and its lessons as well as initiated the creation of the American Holocaust Memorial Museum. His own experience as a victim of genocide prompted him to speak out in defense of the oppressed around the world. The Nobel Committee awarded him the Peace Prize as "a messenger who conveys to mankind the lesson of peace, redemption, and dignity."
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"Elie Wiesel". Biography, 2019, https://www.biography.com/writer/elie-wiesel.
Machajewski, Sarah. Elie Wiesel. Rosen Publishing, 2014.
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