Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was what the New York Times calls “an eloquent witness” for the Holocaust, has died. The writer and activist was 87. The New York Times continues:
Mr. Wiesel, a charismatic lecturer and humanities professor, was the author of several dozen books. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But he was defined not so much by the work he did as by the gaping void he filled. In the aftermath of the Germans’ systematic massacre of Jews, no voice had emerged to drive home the enormity of what had happened and how it had changed mankind’s conception of itself and of God. For almost two decades, the traumatized survivors — and American Jews, guilt-ridden that they had not done more to rescue their brethren — seemed frozen in silence. But by the sheer force of his personality and his gift for the haunting phrase, Mr. Wiesel, who had been liberated from Buchenwald as a 16-year-old with the indelible tattoo A-7713 on his arm, gradually exhumed the Holocaust from the burial ground of the history books. It was this speaking out against forgetfulness and violence that the Nobel committee recognized when it awarded him the peace prize in 1986.
The Daily Beast writes of Wiesel’s meeting with Ronald Reagan and the kind of teacher that Wiesel was:
Indeed, evil persists. But Elie Wiesel taught how to fight it. His greatness, epitomized by his confrontation with the American president, makes this European-born Holocaust refugee an all-American character, who died, poetically, on July Fourth weekend. His faith in democracy and humanity, despite being scarred by totalitarianism and inhumanity, embodies America’s legendary optimism – and reflects our country’s ongoing, magical ability to accept refugees from all over, imbue them with our spirit, and embrace them as our own.