Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet, Transylvania in 1928. He took Jewish religious studies before he and his family were exiled to the death camps of Auschwitz during WWII. He survived the Holocaust, surviving the concentration camps of Gleiwitz, Buchenwald, Buna, and Auschwitz. He wrote about his experiences and eventually published his memoir, Night, which received international acclaim. Many other books soon followed — many of them about the Holocaust and Judaism, pointing out that everybody is morally responsible for fighting against genocide, racism, and hatred. Elie became teacher, orator, and activist; he travelled extensively all over the world to speak against injustice and persecution.
He believed that everybody must be involved, interfering when they see human dignity being jeopardized, human lives endangered, and people persecuted because of politics, religion, or race. He believes that silence and indifference are two of the greatest sins. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust.
He gained respect and recognition as an international orator and activist fighting for peace all over the world. He spoke out passionately against the perpetrated injustices in many countries, including Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, and South Africa. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him Chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust.
He was also a passionate and dedicated teacher. In 1970, Boston University appointed him Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities. He was also a professor at the City University of New York, teaching Judaic studies. He was also one of the visiting scholars of Yale.
He is the recipient of many awards recognizing his work for peace. The French Legion of Honor bestowed on him their highest decoration, the distinguished Grand Croix. The United States awarded him the distinguished U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1986, he also received the illustrious Nobel Peace Prize.
He and his wife Marion Wiesel put up the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity in the same year. The foundation holds seminars and conferences for humanists, scientists, artists, scholars, and politicians from across the world for fruitful discussions and exchange of ideas that go beyond the limits imposed by politics, culture, and religion. It holds an essay contest for undergraduates every year, awarding the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics to the most thought-provoking and well-written personal essays. It supports after-school centers in Israel — centers established to help Israeli-Ethipian children and adults accomplish educational standards critical for building productive lives.
Elie Wiesel is one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace. As such, he staunchly supports many of the organization’s causes, lending his compassionate and highly-respected voice to advocate for world peace and human rights.