Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet, Transylvania on September 30, 1928. The town of Sighet is located in present-day Romania, although at times in the past it was considered to be part of Hungary too. Wiesel had two older sisters and a younger sister. Wiesel's childhood, like that of most European Jewish children at the time, revolved around family, community, religious study, and worship.
In 1944, Elie (15 years old), his family, and all the other Jews in the town were deported to concentration camps in Poland. Wiesel and his father were taken to Auschwitz, where they became separated from Elie's mother and younger sister Tzipora. Wiesel later learned that his mother and sister were cremated in the ovens of Auschwitz.
During the following year, Elie was moved from Auschwitz to the concentration camps at Buna, Gleiwitz, and Buchenwald. He managed to stay with his father the entire time until his father's death from dysentery, starvation, exposure, and exhaustion at Buchenwald.
After experiencing forced labor, forced marches, starvation, disease, beatings and torture, Elie was liberated in April 1945 from Buchenwald by the United States Third Army.
Wiesel spent a few years in a French orphanage. In 1948, Wiesel (20 years old) began to study at the Sorbonne in Paris. He became involved in journalistic work with the French newspaper L'arche. He met and befriended Nobel laureate Francois Mauriac, who eventually influenced Wiesel to break his vowed silence and write of his experiences. Wiesel was the first to give the name "Holocaust", which literally means destruction by fire, to the experience of European Jews in World War II.
In 1955 Wiesel wrote a 900-page book in Yiddish called And the World Remained Silent. In 1957, a compressed 127-page French version called La Nuit (Night) was published. In this memoir, a scholarly, pious teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the Holocaust, which had consumed his family. While remembering the nightmare world of the death camps, he asks himself how the God he once so fervently believed in could have allowed these monstrous events to occur?
Summary and Analysis of Night
Due to a car accident in New York, Wiesel spent a year confined to a wheelchair. During this year Wiesel decided to become a U.S. citizen. In 1963 Wiesel became an American citizen. He has been an active figure within American society, while still fulfilling his role in Jewish politics around the world.
- In 1969, Wiesel married Marion Rose. In 1972, his son Elisha was born. In 1978 he was appointed Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter. In 1985 he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Achievement by President Ronald Reagan. In 1986 Wiesel received the Nobel Prize for Peace. Wiesel has published over thirty books.
Elie Wiesel's Bibliography
- "...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all..."
- "Let us remember, let us remember the heroes of Warsaw, the martyrs of Treblinka, the children of Auschwitz. They fought alone, they suffered alone, they lived alone, but they did not die alone, for something in all of us died with them."
"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."
Source: Passage from Night