Prof. Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate, historian and Vice Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, passed away yesterday at the age of 87 in the United States. Wiesel was born in Sighet, Romania and was eleven years old at the outbreak of World War II. In May 1944, Wiesel, age 15, was deported together with his family to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was selected for forced labor at Auschwitz III-Monowitz, a work subcamp, together with his father. In April 1945, Wiesel was liberated at Buchenwald concentration camp by the Allied Forces. He immigrated to the United States in 1955.
Prof. Elie Wiesel was an accomplished writer and humanitarian. His famous La Nuit (Night), based on his memoir Und di velt hot geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), became a top-selling book as well as tool for teaching the subject of the Holocaust to youth around the world. Wiesel won numerous awards and prizes including the Nobel Peace Prize. Together with his wife Marion, he founded the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity whose mission is to "combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality." (http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/aboutus.aspx)
Over the years, Wiesel worked closely together with Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, on many projects relating to Holocaust remembrance and education. He served as Vice Chairman of Yad Vashem Council and was involved in the planning of the Holocaust History Museum that opened in 2005 and the design of Yad Vashem's permanent exhibition "Shoah" in Block 27 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Together with Romanian historian Jean Ancel, Wiesel also led the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, established by former Romanian President in 2003. "Elie Wiesel was a loyal member of the Jewish nation," said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. "He dedicated his life to strengthening and ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people throughout the world. As a Holocaust survivor, he was devoted to bearing testimony to the atrocities he witnessed, and did so through his exceptional talents both as a writer and as a gifted orator. Elie believed to his dying day that the world must remember and study about the Holocaust as a unique event for the Jewish nation that has a universal message for all of humanity. Furthermore, Shalev reflected that "Wiesel's death is a painful reminder that the generation of Holocaust survivors is dwindling each year. Yad Vashem is committed to ensuring their legacy for generations to come."