Elie Wiesel, 1928 – 2016
[guest post by Dana]
Death camp survivor, Nobel Laureate, prolific writer, and tireless fighter for human rights Elie Wiesel has died. From his obituary at the Jerusalem Journal:
Wiesel was a hollow-eyed 16-year-old when he emerged from the newly liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945. He had been orphaned by the Nazis and their identification number, A-7713, was tattooed on his arm as a physical manifestation of his broken faith and the nightmares that would haunt him throughout his life.
Wiesel and his family had first been taken by the Nazis from the village of Sighetu Marmatiei in the Transylvania region of Romania to Auschwitz, where his mother and one of his sisters died.Wiesel and his father, Shlomo, ended up in Buchenwald, where Shlomo died. In “Night” Wieselwrote of his shame at lying silently in his bunk while his father was beaten nearby.
After the war Wiesel made his way to France, studied at the Sorbonne and by 19 had become a journalist. He pondered suicide and never wrote of or discussed his Holocaust experience until 10 years after the war as a part of a vow to himself. He was 27 years old in 1955 when “Night” was published in Yiddish, and Wiesel would later rewrite it for a world audience.
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed …,” Wiesel wrote. “Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.”
It is utterly sobering to be reminded of what so many like Wiesel endured. And not just endured, but miraculously lived to tell, spending the remainder of his days confronting evil for the sake of righteousness.
He was often described as somber. An old friend, Chicago professor Irving Abrahamson, once said of him: “I’ve never seen Elie give a belly laugh. He’ll chuckle, he’ll smile, there’ll be a twinkle in his eye. But never a laugh from within.”
As his burden of pain and sorrow is lifted in passing, may he be surprised by laughter finally unloosed from the deepest reaches of his soul.