Elie Wiesel (1928–2016)

Elie Wiesel survived the Holocaust as a teenager and went on to build a substantial body of literary work centered on his experience. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his commitment to peace, reconciliation, and human dignity. He taught as a university lecturer at Boston University.


When we speak of this era of evil and darkness, so close and yet so distant, responsibility is the key word.

Elie Wiesel, 2006

Short Biography

2. Juli 2016
Elie Wiesel dies after a severe illness
Speech at the Buchenwald Memorial

Wiesel presents a speech to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela
Merkel, and President of the United States, Barack Obama on their
joint visit to the Buchenwald Memorial.

Speech at the German Bundestag

Wiesel presents a speech to the German Bundestag commemorating the victims of the Holocaust on January 27, 2000, the day of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

The committee justifies the award by saying, "Elie Wiesel is one of
the most important leaders and guides of our time. His words
proclaim the message of peace, reconciliation, and human dignity."

Appointed as president of the United States Memorial Council

By the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

Named professor’s chair at Boston University

Wiesel is named professor’s chair in the Humanities, Department
of Religion, Literature, and Philosophy at Boston University.

Birth of Son Shomo Elisha & Proffesor’s chair in the Department of Jewish Studies at the City University of New York

Department of Jewish Studies

Marriage to Marion E. Rose

Wiesel marries Marion E. Rose, a fellow Shoah survivor and future
translator of Elie Wiesel's written work.

First honorary doctorates at American universities & stay in Israel

In time of the Six-Day-War.

Visit to the USSR,

To claim the human rights of Russian Jews.

Release of Abridged and translated version of Un die Welt hot geschwign as La Nuit (Night)

Elie Wiesel’s survival report, Night, quickly earned notoriety and
cemented his success as a writer.

Publication of Un die Welt hot geschwign

Elie Wiesel came to the United States and became an American
citizen in 1963.

1948 - 1951
Attends University at the Sorbonne in Paris

Wiesel studied philosophy, French literature, and psychology
while working as a reporter for the United Nations and a journalist
for Israeli newspapers and magazines.

April 11, 1945
Liberation of the Buchenwald camp

Elie Wiesel is taken to France by the Children's Fund. In Paris, he
reunites with his two older sisters.

Spring 1944
Deportation of the Wiesel family

After Sighet is established as a ghetto, the Wiesel family is
deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau alongside the entire Sighet Jewish
community. Wiesel’s mother and younger sister, Tsiporah, are
murdered in Auschwitz. His father dies shortly before the end of the
war in Buchenwald, where he and Elie are deported in early 1945.

School Years

Elie Wiesel attends the Cheder, a religious Jewish "elementary
school" where he gains an introduction to Hebrew and the Torah,
then the Yeshiva, a secondary school that focuses on studying the
Talmud. Outside of school, Wiesel studies Kabbalah and the
teachings of the Hasidic masters.

September 30, 1928
Born in Sighet (Transylvania, today Romania)

Elie Wiesel is born into a Hasidic family, the son of Shlomo Wiesel
(merchant) and Sarah Wiesel, née Feig.

Obituary of Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, then Hungary, (now Romania) to Jewish parents. He spent his childhood and adolescence engrossed in studying the Torah and the other sacred texts of the Jewish tradition. When his studies were cut short by the war, he drifted from his religious roots. Only after the war, was he gradually able relearn the alphabet of life and faith. While Wiesel’s access and understanding of God and the Jewish tradition were shaken by the events of Auschwitz and the evil it represents, this source of identity never faded — not even during the "kingdom of night," as he called the death camps.
Postwar France became his second home, and Wiesel quickly adopted the language. Up until the end of his life, he wrote his central works in French. Among his body of work are more than a dozen novels, books on biblical, Talmudic, and Hasidic traditions, autobiographical writings, and countless articles and essays. His work largely revolves around the importance of memory for the present day and future generations.
Wiesel's best-known and most important novel was also his first. More than a novel, Night stands as a testimony of the harrowing experiences Wiesel experienced during his deportation from Sighet and time in the camps. Night quickly became one of the most essential documents of Holocaust remembrance worldwide and its importance to Wiesel’s own work cannot be overstated. His later writings revolve around Night, as if in concentric circles. His writings on the Jewish tradition, the question of God in the face of suffering, and themes of human dignity, hatred, and peace are all fed by the memory of his experiences in the Holocaust, the culmination of inhumanity. In Wiesel’s novels and dramas, the main characters seek ways to continue living with the memory of persecution and death, to build a good life from and with their memories. In his writings on Jewish tradition, Wiesel tries to connect to the old traditions "across the abyss of fire and tears." His essays, in particular, are documents of human dignity that exist contrary to the suffering in his past. In writing on modern-day issues such as racism, the violation of human rights, war, hunger, expulsion, and flight, the Auschwitz survivor interprets the present as a reflection of the past.His written commitment to social justice went hand in hand with his concrete actions against injustice: protesting apartheid in South Africa, standing against anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, fighting against the extermination of indigenous populations in South America, working to solve hunger problems in Africa, and vehemently advocating against wars in Cambodia, Serbia, and other parts of the world. In 1986, Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his actions in the name of peace, reconciliation, and human dignity. His goal was a humane future in which all people are respected, regardless of origin, religion, skin color, or social affiliation:

"It's true, we have no power against death; but as long as we help a man, a woman, a child, live an hour longer in safety and dignity, we affirm the human right to life."