Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel dies at 87

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, the Romanian-born Holocaust survivor whose classic Night became a landmark testament to the Nazis’ crimes and launched his long career as one of the world’s foremost witnesses and humanitarians, has died at 87.

His death was announced by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

Mr Wiesel summed up his mission in 1986 when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, saying: “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides.

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

US president Barack Obama said: “As a writer, a speaker, an activist, and a thinker, he was one of those people who changed the world more as a citizen of the world than those who hold office or traditional positions of power.

"His life, and the power of his example, urges us to be better.”

For more than half a century Mr Wiesel voiced his passionate beliefs to world leaders, celebrities and general audiences in the name of victims of violence and oppression.

He wrote more than 40 books, but his most influential by far was Night, a classic ranked with Anne Frank’s diary as standard reading about the Holocaust.

Night was his first book and its journey to publication crossed both time and language.

It began in the mid-1950s as an 800-page story in Yiddish, was trimmed to under 300 pages for an edition released in Argentina, cut again to under 200 pages for the French market and finally published in the United States, in 1960, at just over 100 pages.

Mr Wiesel began working on Night just a decade after the end of the Second World War, when memories were too raw for many survivors to even try telling their stories.

It was so bleak that publishers doubted it would appeal to readers. In a 2002 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Mr Wiesel recalled that the book attracted little notice at first.

“The English translation came out in 1960 and the first printing was 3,000 copies. And it took three years to sell them. Now I get 100 letters a month from children about the book. And there are many, many million copies in print,” he said.

Night was based directly on his experiences, but structured like a novel, leading to an ongoing debate over how to categorise it.

Wiesel was deported from Hungary, which had annexed his native Romanian town of Sighet, to Auschwitz.

Tattooed with the number A-7713, he was freed in 1945.


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