Elie Wiesel became Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in 1980. Here, he speaks at a ceremony held during the Tribute to Holocaust Survivors, one of the Museum's tenth anniversary events. Flags of US Army liberating divisions form the backdrop to the ceremony. Washington, DC, November 2003.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
From Elie Wiesel, Night (New York: Bantam, 1982), p. 32. This quote also appears in the Permanent Exhibition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet, Romania, on September 30, 1928.
A Nobel Peace Prize winner and Boston University professor, Wiesel has worked on behalf of oppressed people for much of his adult life. His personal experience of the Holocaust has led him to use his talents as an author, teacher, and storyteller to defend human rights and peace throughout the world.
A native of Sighet, Transylvania (Romania, from 1940-1945 Hungary), Wiesel and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz when he was 15 years old. His mother and younger sister perished there, his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died.
After the war, Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist in that city, yet he remained silent about what he has endured as an inmate in the camps. During an interview with the French writer Francois Mauriac, Wiesel was persuaded to end that silence. He subsequently wrote La Nuit (Night). Since its publication in 1958, La Nuit has been translated into 30 languages and millions of copies have been sold. In Night, Wiesel describes his experiences and emotions at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust: the roundup of his family and neighbors in the Romanian town of Sighet; deportation by cattle car to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau; the division of his family forever during the selection process; the mental and physical anguish he and his fellow prisoners experienced as they were stripped of their humanity; and the death march from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the concentration camp at Buchenwald.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him Chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Wiesel is also the founding president of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures.
Wiesel's efforts to defend human rights and peace throughout the world have earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award, the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor, and in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. He has received more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.
Three months after he received the Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel and his wife Marion established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Its mission is to advance the cause of human rights and peace throughout the world by creating a new forum for the discussion of urgent ethical issues confronting humanity.
His more than 40 books have won numerous awards, including the Prix Medicis for A Beggar in Jerusalem, the Prix Livre Inter for The Testament, and the Grand Prize for Literature from the City of Paris for The Fifth Son. The first volume of Wiesel's memoirs, All Rivers Run to the Sea, was published in New York (Knopf) in December 1995. The second volume, And the Sea is Never Full, was published in New York (Knopf) in November 1999.
Elie Wiesel has been Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972-1976), and first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in the Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University (1982-1983). Since 1976, he has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University where he also holds the title of University Professor.
Children during the Holocaust »
Hungary after the German occupation »
Deportations to Killing Centers »
Death Marches »
What is Genocide? »
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Elie Wiesel Timeline and World Events: 1928–1951 »
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Elie Wiesel's remarks at the Museum's dedication ceremony »
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Elie Wiesel's remarks "On the Atrocities in Sudan" »
Message from Elie Wiesel, Chairman of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania (PDF) »
Elie Wiesel's remarks at the Tribute to Holocaust Survivors »
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President's Commission on the Holocaust »
Elie Wiesel Foundation (external link) »
Nobel Prize acceptance lecture (external link) »
PBS First Person Singular: Elie Wiesel (external link) »