Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2, 2016. Wiesel was born in Sighet, Romania in 1928, and is best known for his voice as a Holocaust survivor and advocate for peace. Wiesel’s family was separated during World War II when the German army deported their Jewish community of Sighet to Auschwitz-Birkenau. His father died just weeks before the camp was liberated by American troops in 1945. After the war, Wiesel was reunited with two of his three sisters in France; his mother and youngest sister did not survive.
For ten years, Wiesel could not find the words to write about his experiences. Finally, a meeting with French writer Francois Mauriac convinced him to end his silence. His 900-page memoir in Yiddish, Un di velt hot geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), was condensed to 127 pages and published as La Nuit in France. When it was finally published in America as Night, Wiesel became a voice for Holocaust survivors everywhere.
Reflecting on his writing experience, Wiesel said, “I’d... say to a young writer, if you can choose not to write, don’t. Nothing is as painful. From the outside, people think it’s good; it’s easy; it’s romantic. Not at all. It’s much easier not to write than to write. Except if you are a writer. Then you have no choice.”
Wiesel’s writings and humanitarian efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He continued to advocate for the Jewish people and victims of genocide around the world.