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Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel KBE (/ˈɛli viˈzɛl/, Hebrew: אֱלִיעֶזֶר וִיזֶל, ’Ēlí‘ézer Vízēl September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016) was a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor. He was the author of 57 books, written mostly in French and English, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet (now Sighetu Marmației), Maramureș in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. His parents were Sarah Feig and Shlomo Wiesel. At home, Wiesel’s family spoke Yiddish most of the time, but also German, Hungarian, and Romanian. Wiesel’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of Dodye Feig, a celebrated Vizhnitz Hasid and farmer from a nearby village. Dodye was active and trusted within the community.
Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, instilled a strong sense of humanism in his son, encouraging him to learn Hebrew and to read literature, whereas his mother encouraged him to study the Torah. Wiesel has said his father represented reason while his mother Sarah promoted faith. Wiesel was instructed that his genealogy traced back to Rabbi Schlomo, son of Yitzhak, and was a descendant of Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Abraham Horovitz ha-Levi, an author.
Wiesel had three siblings—older sisters Beatrice and Hilda, and younger sister, Tzipora. Beatrice and Hilda survived the war and were reunited with Wiesel at a French orphanage. They eventually emigrated to North America, with Beatrice moving to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Tzipora, Shlomo, and Sarah did not survive the Holocaust.
In 1955, Wiesel moved to New York as foreign correspondent for the Israel daily, Yediot Ahronot. In 1969, he married Marion Erster Rose, who was from Austria, who also translated many of his books. They had one son, Shlomo Elisha Wiesel, named after Wiesel’s father.
In the U.S., he went on to write over 40 books, most of them non-fiction Holocaust literature, and novels. As an author, he has been awarded a number of literary prizes and is considered among the most important in describing the Holocaust from a highly personal level. As a result, some historians credited Wiesel with giving the term “Holocaust” its present meaning, although he did not feel that the word adequately described that historical event.
In 1975 he co-founded Moment with writer Leonard Fein.
The 1979 book and play The Trial of God are said to have been based on his real-life Auschwitz experience of witnessing three Jews who, close to death, conduct a trial against God, under the accusation that He has been oppressive of the Jewish people. Regarding his personal beliefs, Wiesel calls himself an agnostic.
Wiesel also played a role in the initial success of The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski by endorsing it before revelations that the book was fiction and, in the sense that it was presented as all Kosinski’s true experience, a hoax.
Wiesel published two volumes of memoirs. The first, All Rivers Run to the Sea, was published in 1994 and covered his life up to the year 1969. The second, titled And the Sea is Never Full and published in 1999, covered the years from 1969 to 1999.
Wiesel died on the morning of July 2, 2016 at his home in Manhattan, aged 87
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
January 27, 2018