AIPAC joins the international community in mourning Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, who passed away on July 2 in his New York home at the age of 87.
Through his writing, speeches and political activism, Wiesel strove to ensure people remember the Holocaust and to prevent its repetition. It was he who coined the phrase, “Never Again.” He was a constant voice for human rights and dignity for people anywhere facing oppression and mass murder.
Born on Sept. 30, 1928, Wiesel grew up in Sighet, Romania. In 1944, at age 15, he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. There, his mother and younger sister were murdered by the Nazis. Wiesel and his father were later transported to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. His father died only a few weeks before Buchenwald’s liberation.
After the war, Wiesel completed his education at the Sorbonne, in France, and became an international correspondent for both French and Israeli newspapers.
For approximately 10 years, he declined to write about the Holocaust. After he interviewed French author François Mauriac for a Tel Aviv newspaper, however, he began drafting his memoir, Night. This first-person account of the Holocaust thoroughly detailed the horrific atrocities carried out by the Nazis at Auschwitz.
Although initially slow to sell, Night skyrocketed in popularity in 1960, after Israel’s capture and trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. The book has by now sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
Wiesel went on to author a total of 57 books and win numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal. In 1986, Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his testimony of the Holocaust. During the ceremony, he was deemed “a messenger of mankind” and “one of the most spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world.”
Wiesel also helped establish Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, led campaigns for victims of genocide, taught humanities at Boston University, and served as a founding member of the New York Human Rights Foundation.
For AIPAC, Wiesel was a source of inspiration, calling on its members to “speak up” and to “mobilize everything that we have” to ensure the safety and security of the United States and Israel.
“I hope that AIPAC was created so that it [the Holocaust] could never occur again,” said Wiesel in 2001. “That whenever there will be silence in the Jewish community, your voice will break that silence and speak and fight and give your words fervor and power.”
In a similar message in 2007, Wiesel said, “Now today, AIPAC is still an important voice, if not the most important voice...When Israel is alone, we must do whatever we can to break the walls of solitude surrounding her.
When Israel is abandoned by the whole world, we must say to Israel we are with you no matter what you do, where you are—we’re with you.”
Elie Wiesel will be greatly missed, but his profound lessons live on through his writings and the multitudes that he touched.
May his memory forever be a blessing.
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