Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, now a part of Romania. He was fifteen years old when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister perished, his two older sisters survived. Elie and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.
After the war, Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist. During an interview with the distinguished French writer Francois Mauriac, he was persuaded to write about his experiences in the death camps. The result was his internationally acclaimed memoir, La Nuit (Night), which has since been translated into more than thirty languages.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel as Chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980 he became the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He is also the Founding President of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures. Wiesel has received over one hundred honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.
A devoted supporter of Israel, Wiesel has also defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, Argentina’s Desaparecidos, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, victims of famine in Africa, victims of apartheid in South Africa, and victims of war in the former Yugoslavia.
Teaching has always been central to Wiesel’s work. Since 1976, he has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, where he also holds the title of University Professor.
Wiesel is the author of more than fifty books of fiction and non-fiction. For his literary and human rights activities, he has received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, and the Medal of Liberty Award, and the rank of Grand Officer in the French Legion of Honor. In 1986, Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for Peace. A few months later, Marion and Elie Wiesel established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.