FOLCS is deeply saddened to hear that Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2, 2016, at age 87. Wiesel was an inspirational Auschwitz survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and remarkable novelist.
Wiesel was born in Sighet, Romania, where he lived with his parents and three sisters. In March 1944 when Germany occupied Hungary extending the Holocaust into it, Wiesel was only 15 years old. At this time, Wiesel, his family, and the rest of Sighet’s Jewish population were placed in one of the two confinement ghettos set up in Máramarossziget (Signet). In May of 1944, Wiesel and his family, along with many others in the Jewish community, were deported by the Hungarian authorities to the Auschwitz concentration camp. There, his mother and younger sister were killed. Wiesel and his father were later transferred to Buchenwald, where his father passed away several weeks before the camp’s liberation.
After surviving the Holocaust and obtaining his freedom, Wiesel moved to France to study literature, philosophy, and psychology at Sorbonne. By age 19, Wiesel was teaching Hebrew, working as a choirmaster, and writing for an Israeli-French newspaper. Despite Wiesel’s initial reluctance to write about his experiences during the Holocaust, he chose to write a 900-page memoir titled “Un di velt hot geshvign” (And the World Remained Silent), which was originally published in Yiddish. Wiesel wrote 57 novels, including his most famous work, Night (La Nuit), which is a shortened version of his memoir. The night was translated into 30 languages and sold ten million copies in the U.S. alone.
Wiesel moved to New York in 1955 as a correspondent for the Israeli Daily. While in the U.S., Wiesel continued to write, becoming an acclaimed Holocaust author and political activist. In 1986, Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against violence, racism, and repression. Wiesel and his wife, Marion, used the prize money to fund the founding of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, to combat injustice and promote equality.
Wiesel was a friend and memorable past guest of FOLCS. He attended the 2012 FOLCS Film Festival screening of The Truce and engaged in a post-screening discussion. Wiesel was an excellent addition to our program, and we are honored to have had him as a guest. He will be deeply missed as we continue to celebrate and honor his brave and inspirational life. Our condolences go out to Wiesel’s wife, Marion, and the rest of his family.
See below for highlights from our conversation with Wiesel.