On September 30, 1928, one of the most recognized Jewish personalities of the 20th century was born in Transylvania, more precisely in Sighet, a city that was part of Hungary between 1940 and 1945 and currently belongs to Romania: Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel. Outstanding writer, who made his testimony about the Shoah known in his work, and also wrote about Jewish identity. In 1986 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The only son of an observant family of Judaism, his education was aimed at training him to be a rabbi, and in 1941, when he was 12 years old, his knowledge of traditional Judaic texts allowed him to begin studying Kabbalah.
In 1944 the Nazis deported the Jews residing in Hungary and the Wiesel family was part of the contingent sent to Auschwitz, where his mother, Sarah, and the youngest of his sisters, Judith, were exterminated.
At the beginning of January and before the proximity of the Soviet ‘Red Army’, Elie and his father, Shlomo, were transferred to Buchenwald, where the latter died. “The day he died was one of the blackest of my life. He called out to me, but he was too scared to move. We were all too scared to move. And then he died. He was present when he died, but in reality, he was not present”, he recalled years later.
Like his sisters Hilda and Bea, Elie Wiesel survived the Shoah and after the Second World War he lived for a short time in a French orphanage before settling in Paris, where he studied Literature and Philosophy at the Sorbonne between 1948 and 1952, at the time I started working as a journalist.
In 1949 he traveled to the State of Israel for the first time, and three years later he became a European correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. In mid-1954, Wiesel interviewed the famous French writer François Mauriac, who convinced him that he should publicize his experience in the death camps. The following year he finished the 900-page Yiddish manuscript “The World Was Silent.”
Based in New York since 1956, in addition to continuing his work as a correspondent for foreign media, Wiesel began to write essays and novels about the Shoah. Two years later he published “La noche” in French, the first part of a trilogy in which he describes the drama of the Shoah, which is completed with “El alba” and “El día”, edited in 1960 and 1961 respectively and published in Spanish. under the title of “Trilogy of the night”.
But Wiesel also wrote on issues related to Jewish identity and those who are persecuted and/or subjugated on racial grounds. At the beginning of the 1960s, he became interested in the situation of the Jews living in the Soviet Union, where he traveled to make personal contact with various scattered communities, in an experience that turned into “The Jews of Silence” (1966), a book that not only had an impact in the community spheres, but also reinforced the campaign for the Soviet authorities to allow Jews to emigrate to the State of Israel.
In 1969 Wiesel married Marion, with whom three years later he had a son, Elisha Shlomo.
While continuing to write and publish, he began teaching Judaic Studies at the universities of New York, until 1976 when he was appointed Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities, and Boston, where he joined the faculty of the Departments of Religion and Philosophy.
Wiesel visited Argentina twice: in the mid-1970s, invited by the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, and at the end of 1995, to participate in activities organized by the Holocaust Memorial Foundation/Museum of the Shoah.
In 1978, US President Jimmy Carter appointed him as head of the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust, in public recognition of his educational work to spread what the Shoah meant for humanity. In 1982 and 1983 Wiesel was the first visiting professor at Yale University’s Henry Luce Center for Humanities and Social Thought.
Since he began to write about the Shoah, his intention was to avoid a repetition of a barbaric situation like the one produced in the Nazi concentration camps, for which he devoted himself permanently to practicing the exercise of memory and reaffirming the life’s sense.
Wiesel also intervened in international forums on human rights, in order to achieve brotherhood among the world’s inhabitants, all of which led to his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Months later, he and his wife created the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, dedicated to fighting indifference, bigotry, and injustice.
In addition, he received a hundred distinctions, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the United States Congressional Gold Medal; the Medal of Freedom Award; the rank of Grand-Croix of the French Legion of Honor; the Ingram Merill Award; the Jewish Heritage Award, from the University of Haifa; the Holocaust Memorial Award, from the New York Society of Clinical Psychologists; the SY Agnon and Jabotinsky medals from the State of Israel; The Star of Romania; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Man of the Year award; the Light of Truth award from the International Campaign for Tibet; and this year he will be awarded the Israeli Presidential Medal.
In 2004, the Magyar government presented him with the Commander’s Cross of the Republic of Hungary, which Wiesel returned last year, in disagreement with the rehabilitation of far-right politicians from the Nazi era promoted by the Hungarian state.
He published more than 40 books, such as “The city after the wall” (1964), “The gates of the forest” (1966), “Legends of our time” (1968), “A beggar in Jerusalem” (1970), “A generation later” (1970), “Biblical Celebration. Stories and legends of the Old Testament” (1972), “The testament” (1981), “Twilight” (1988), “From the kingdom of memory” (1990), “The wise men and their stories. Portraits of Biblical, Talmudic and Hasidic teachers” (1991), “All rivers go to the sea” (1995), “Against melancholy” (1996), “And the sea is never full” (1999), “The time of the uprooted” (2005) and the children’s “King Solomon and his magic ring” (1999).
On July 2, 2016, at the age of 87, one of the most recognized Jewish personalities of the 20th century, Elie Wiesel, passed away.
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September 30, 1928: Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is born – CCIU