Elie Wiesel (1928-)


wiesel.jpg (14212 bytes)Romanian-born American writer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986. Basis for Wiesel's work is his own experiences and personal testament of the destruction of Jews during World War II. A survivor of the horrors of the Holocaust, Wiesel represents the conscience of the Jewish people throughout the world. Central themes in his fiction, memoirs, and essays are "man's inhumanity toward man", and silence versus verboseness.

"How can we imagine what is beyond imagination... How can we retell what escapes language?"

Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet, Hungary (now Romania), a center for Hasidic Jewish learning, where Wiesel spent a happy childhood. He learned Yiddish from his mother and father, and studied biblical Hebrew in school. In 1944 all Jews from the town were moved to Auschwitz, where his mother and younger sister were killed. Wiesel was sent to Buchenwald, where his father was killed.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."

In April 1945, having miraculously survived, Wiesel was liberated by the U.S. Third Army. After the war Wiesel settled in France, and studied at Sorbonne literature, psychology, and philosophy. He started to write for the Franco-Jewish newspaper L'Arche. In 1952 he became a reporter for the Tel Aviv newspaper Yediot Ahronot. In 1956 he was sent to NewYork to cover the United Nations, and seven years later he was naturalized.

In his new home country, which he has shared with France and Israel, Wiesel gave thousands of lectures at college campuses. He taught at City College of New York and at Boston University, where he was Andrew Mellon Professor of the Humanities. In 1969 Wiesel married Marion Erster Rose, a survivor of the German concentration camps.

In 1992 he was invited by presidents Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Milosevic of Serbia, to observe the war ravaged cities. Wiesel's honors include Congressional Medal of Achievement he received from President Ronald Reagan in 1984. He has received honorary doctorates from dozens of universities, and he is Commander of the French Legion of Honor.

wiesel (april 16, 1945) Buchenwald, Germany.jpg (22021 bytes)Although Wiesel yearned to be a writer after the war, he could not gather the courage to recount what he had witnessed in the concentration camps. In France he was encouraged by novelist Francois Mauriac to write about his experiences. This resulted in 1956 to the publication of Wiesel's first book, an 800-page work And the World Remained Silent, written originally in Yiddish. The semi-autobiographical story appeared two years later abridged as La nuit (Night). It became an international best-seller, recapturing the horrors in the camps. Wiesel later said, that "not to transmit an experience is to betray it." In 1960 appeared L'aube (Dawn), a story of a survivor of the Nazi terror, who seeks to kill the enemies of the nascent Jewish state of Israel. Le jour (1961, The Accident) was about another survivor who must deal with the guilt at staying alive while his family had perished at Auschwitz. Through self-examination, the protagonist finds that the life's significance lies in questions rather than answers.

In his works Wiesel has drawn on his early theological training and incorporated traditional Jewish approaches to understanding the human dilemma. He has used the Hasidic tradition that places more stress on eyewitness testimony than accurate documentation to establish truth. The central conflict in the novels, which usually deals with the ramifications of God's involvement with human affairs, challenges the reader to form his own opinion, as in Le jour.

Most of Wiesel's novels take place either before or after the events of the Holocaust. "When I see that it becomes tolerable, I don't speak about it. That's why I have written so little about the Holocaust." La Ville de la chance (1962, The Town beyond the Wall) deals with the silence of non-Jewish in front of the Holocaust. Le mendiant de Jerusalem (1968, Beggar of Jerusalem) is about the Six-Day War. Le Cinquième fils (1983, The Fifth Son) is an exploration of good and evil. Le Crépuscule, au loin (1987) asks the question, were the cultured henchmen of the Nazi era truly sane people, and L'Oublié (1989, The Forgotten) is a story of a journalist, who explores his own and his family's past. The central characters are Elhanon Rosenbaum, a survivor badly scarred by the Holocaust whose memory ha begun to fade rapidly, and his intellectually curious son, Michael, who penetrates into his father's past.

Wiesel other works include Célébration hasidique (1972), a collection of Hasidic tales, Célébration biblique (1975, Messenger of God), a collection of biblical stories, Silences et mémoire d'hommes (1989, Sages and Dreamers), and anthologies of varied essays dealing with collective and individual quilt, post-World-War-II Germany, the Klaus Barbie trial in France, the evils of racism, and the Jewish faith. In 1985 appeared a three volume collection of his essays, entitled Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel (edited by Irving Abrahamson).

Most recently Wiesel has devoted much of his time to the publication of his memoirs and to organizing and participating in a number of prestigious international conferences and events. The first part of his memoirs, All Rivers Run in to the Sea, appeared in 1995.



Note:  This is not an original bio, it was lifted from somewhere on the web.  I would credit the author, but I have no idea where it came from.