Holocaust survivor, author, scholar, educator, agnostic, political – and above all – human rights’ and peace activist, Ellie Wiesel passed away at the age of 87.
The trauma of Holocaust (he survived Auschwitzand and Buchenwald concentration camps) during which he lost both of his parents and a sister shaped his life, work and life’s philosophy.
Ellie Wiesel shared his Holocaust experience in his gut-wrenching memoir “Night” which earned him international acclaim. More than 60 other books (both fiction and non-fiction) followed.
Since 1976, Wiesel has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. He’s been a member of the Faculty in the Department of Religion and the Department of Philosophy. Prior to his tenure at Boston University, he served as Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972-76) and the first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University (1982-83). Lifelong educator, Elie Wiesel received more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.
In 1980, he became the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and led the effort that created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Together with his wife Marion, Wiesel founded the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. The goal of the organization is to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice worldwide. In 1986 Ellie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Price.
Wiesel lived for 70 long years following the liberation of Buchenwald: years that must have been filled with pain, memories and grief. Still, in spite of his immense losses and suffering at the hands of the Nazis, Wiesel didn’t become vindictive or nationalistic. He lived with courage and dignity.
He expanded a lot of effort as an author as well as activist to ensure that the victims of the Nazis are honored and remembered; that the incomprehensible brutality of the Hitlerite tormentors is known.
Ellie Wiesel’s wisdom however lies in the fact that he drew universal conclusions from his personal experience; conclusions that can be implemented by anyone anywhere in the world to prevent, stop and fight human rights’ violations. He didn’t surrender to his personal trauma but transformed it into a new moral code for humanity to live by.
Ellie Wiesel spent the 70 years he lived after the fall of Hitler’s Germany fighting for human rights of the oppressed everywhere in the world. He also tried to awaken our collective conscience to all forms of injustice in the belief that indifference is worse than hatred.
Those best familiar with Ellie Wiesel’s body of work will elaborate on the highlights of his legacy. To me personally, this Ellie Wiesel’s quotation summarizes his contribution to humanity best:
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
(Silence is a form of complicity. “Whistleblowers” can be heroes. “See something? Say something.” holds true, right now.)
Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor / E. Elrich