In Memoriam

Elie Wiesel (1928 –2016)

Elie Wiesel, the world’s most famous holocaust survivor who gave witness and a voice to those who did not survive while also promoting tolerance worldwide, has died at the age of 87.  Born in Romania,Wiesel was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 15 but, unlike most of his family members, he managed survive.
He told the New York Times he had thought about why he lived and others didn’t.
“If I survived, it must be for some reason,” Wiesel said in 1981. “I must do something with my life. It is too serious to play games with anymore, because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person. On the other hand, I know I cannot.”

A Voice of Conscience

Wiesel wrote 57 books, most notably Night, his memoir of his experiences during the holocaust.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, with the Nobel Committee heralding him as a “messenger to mankind,” stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler’s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”, Wiesel had delivered a message “of peace, atonement and human dignity” to humanity.
His words and legacy and now left to us, to bear witness as he did so remarkably.

WITNESS

For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. (1)

TOLERANCE

No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them. (3)

No human being is illegal. (2)

INDIFFERENCE

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death. (4)

INJUSTICE

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe. (2)

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. The Talmud tells us that by saving a single human being, man can save the world. We may be powerless to open all the jails and free all the prisoners, but by declaring our solidarity with one prisoner, we indict all jailers. None of us is in a position to eliminate war, but it is our obligation to denounce it and expose it in all its hideousness.  . . . Mankind must remember that peace is not God’s gift to his creatures, it is our gift to each other. (2)

(1) Night

(2) Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

(3) “Have You Learned The Most Important Lesson Of All?”, published in Parade Magazine (24 May 1992).

(4) US News & World Report (27 October 1986).

 

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