Elie Wiesel: A Survivor and Advocate

Every individual on Earth has their own unique story to share. We all have various roles and experiences that shape our lives. Whether you are a child, student, sibling, friend, or team member, these roles contribute to the narrative of who you are.

Elie Wiesel, a remarkable individual, fulfilled multiple roles throughout his life. He was a son, brother, husband, and father. In addition, he was a journalist, author, teacher, philosopher, and activist. However, Wiesel’s most notable role was that of a survivor. He endured the Holocaust, and his harrowing experiences greatly influenced his story, which he recounted repeatedly.

In 1944, at the age of 15, Wiesel and his family, consisting of his father, mother, and three sisters, were forcibly removed from their home in Sighet, Romania, by the Nazis. They were transported in cattle cars to Auschwitz, a death camp, where his mother and youngest sister tragically lost their lives. The remaining family members were subjected to grueling labor in the camps, with Elie working in a rubber factory.

Eventually, Wiesel and his father became part of a group of prisoners who were forced to embark on a death march. Nazi soldiers compelled them to run for days, until they were finally transported by train to Buchenwald, another Nazi camp. Once again, the prisoners were subjected to unimaginable conditions and forced labor. Sadly, Wiesel’s father perished from hunger and dysentery. However, on April 11, 1945, when American soldiers liberated the camp, Elie Wiesel miraculously survived.

After the war, Wiesel was sent to France, where he was eventually reunited with his sisters, Beatrice and Hilda, who had also survived Auschwitz. Wiesel enrolled in the Sorbonne, a university in Paris, where he pursued studies in literature, philosophy, and psychology. For over 10 years, he chose not to speak or write about his Holocaust experiences.

In 1954, while working as a journalist, Wiesel interviewed Fran├žois Mauriac, a French writer, who convinced him to share his story. This led to the creation of his memoir, “La Nuit” (“Night” in English). Wiesel wrote, “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.” In his book, he vividly describes his experiences during the Holocaust when he was between the ages of 15 and 16. “Night” became his most renowned work, translated into over 30 languages and selling millions of copies worldwide.

As a survivor of the Nazi death camps, Wiesel demonstrated immense resilience. He continued to share his story, urging people to remember the Holocaust and learn from it. Wiesel relocated to the United States, where he became a professor of Judaic studies and humanities. He authored more than 40 books, including nonfiction texts and stories featuring Jewish characters who endured the Holocaust. Additionally, Wiesel played a leading role in establishing the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. His powerful words are engraved at its entrance: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

Wiesel’s activism extended beyond the Holocaust. He spoke out against all forms of oppression and advocated for treating every human being with dignity. He firmly believed in confronting hatred. In recognition of his work, Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, honoring him as a “messenger to mankind.”

Elie Wiesel, a strong advocate for human rights, understood the immense power of words. He believed that every individual had the ability to speak up and bear witness against injustice. In today’s world, there are numerous injustices that we can observe. It is important to find our voice and take a stand when we witness others being treated unfairly.

To delve deeper into this topic, here are some activities you can try out with a friend or family member:

1. Reflect on Elie Wiesel’s quote, “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” What do you think Wiesel meant by this statement? Write a reflection exploring the quote and its meaning. Support your thoughts with examples from your own life experiences. Share your reflection with your family or teacher.

2. Explore the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a trusted adult. If you are unable to visit in person, you can still tour their Online Exhibitions from the comfort of your device. Discuss your feelings about the exhibits with the adult accompanying you.

3. Share your own story. Think about a significant day or moment in your life. Write a short story describing what happened and how you felt during that time. Share your story with your friends.

Here are some sources to learn more about Elie Wiesel and his work:

– Britannica Dictionary (accessed 8 May, 2023): https://www.britannica.com/dictionary

– Nobel Prize website (Peace Prize, 1986, Elie Wiesel facts) (accessed 17 Apr., 2023): https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1986/wiesel/facts/

– Britannica Kids (Elie Wiesel) (accessed 17 Apr., 2023): https://kids.britannica.com/students/article/Elie-Wiesel/277737

– United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (accessed 18 Apr., 2023): https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/elie-wiesel

– Jewish Virtual Library (accessed 19 Apr., 2023): https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/elie-wiesel

– Kiddle (Elie Wiesel) (accessed 19 Apr., 2023): https://kids.kiddle.co/Elie_Wiesel

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