Activist and memory keeper for Holocaust victims Elie Wiesel, also a Nobel laureate, died July 2 at age 87 at his home in New York, as confirmed in a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Millions of people around the globe have read Night, in which he tells his story at the concentration camps where he had to watch his parents and younger sister die.

The philosopher, playwright, professor, and speaker was widely known by a line from Night that reads: “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and was considered as a prominent spiritual leader and guide in the context of a world where violence, repression, and racism were still reigning.

Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, a prolific author, and an outspoken activist for peace and human rights. Credit: Boing Boing

President Barack Obama recalled in a statement, in which he described Mr. Wiesel as “a dear friend,” a walk the two had had together among Buchenwald’s barbed wire and guard towers. He had seen his father perish while he was being held there as a teenager. The president said Mr. Elie’s words had been memorable to him: ‘Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.’

“Elie Wiesel was one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world,” Obama expressed, as quoted by The Washington Post.

But the close friendship did not prevent Wiesel from criticizing U.S. policy on Israel, as he openly expressed being for Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and urged world powers, including the United States, to take stronger measures against Iran’s nuclear program. In 2015, he had the opportunity to attend the joint session of the U.S. Congress when Netanyahu addressed the dangers Iran’s program represented.

The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee called Mr. Wiesel a “messenger to mankind” during a meeting with presidents who summoned him to the White House, where human rights abuses in Iraq, Bosnia and elsewhere were discussed. Mr. Wiesel took advantage of his moral authority to call attention on atrocities committed worldwide.

Mr. Wiesel, who was born in Romania, emerged from Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945 and at that time it seemed unlikely that Holocaust survivors would have such a strong voice in the world. In fact, only a few of them dared to speak publicly about the Holocaust but were often ignored. However, Mr. Wiesel helped force the public to speak openly about the war decades before Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List was released and a Holocaust museum was opened in Washington.

Night’s first draft was written when he was in his 20s, after about a decade of silence about the war. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank might be the only Holocaust-related volume that can be compared to Mr. Wiesel’s diary, which ends just days before Anne and her family was arrested by the Nazis.

Elie Wiesel: “If I survived, it must be for a reason.”

He said that in a 1981 interview with The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani. Mr. Wiesel dedicated his after-Holocaust life to tell the world that such atrocities should not be allowed ever again. He wrote novels, books of essays and reportage, two plays and two cantatas. Most of his work was based on the Soviet Jewry or Hasidic master, but all of his books contained profound questions about the horrors of the war. The answers were not numerous, but his intention was to raise awareness on the urgency of taking actions to prevent future persecutions to people because of their faith, race or ideology.

“I must do something with my life. It is too dangerous to play games with anymore, because, in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person. On the other hand, I know I cannot,” he said, according to a report by The New York Times.

Source: New York Times