In an age where survivors of the Holocaust are few-and-far-between, one of the most vocal and public survivors in Elie Wiesel has passed away at age 87. The Romanian-born American activist was a survivor of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp who dedicated the rest of his life to writing and speaking about his experiences. The news was reported by Israel’s Holocaust memorial’s Yad Vashem (via Huffington Post) on Saturday afternoon and confirmed by the New York Times.
Wiesel is best known for his novel based on his real-life experiences, Night, which has been translated to over 30 languages and serves as a cornerstone for Holocaust Literature to this day. While many have had difficulties in explaining exactly what it was — be it a novel, historical fiction, an autobiography, a semi-fictional novel or as Wiesel called it, his deposition — it has become a crucial work from that time period and one of the definitive accounts of World War II by a Jewish person. The book documented the author’s experiences, everything from being arrested and herded into different camps to the passing of his family members. It is an incredibly difficult book to read, even though it clocks in at just over 100 pages, but a must-read for anyone looking to understand humanity’s sordid history.
Wiesel penned over 57 books throughout his career and was a well-known political activist and speaker, being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work. With so few survivors left from the Holocaust, Wiesel proved to be one of the most accessible and well-known voices from the time period, but continued to push for political change into the later stages of his life as well. He forged strong relationships with heads of state and policymakers across the world, including President Barack Obama, who offered words of condolences earlier this afternoon.
His work has already stood the test of time, proving to be inspirational, shocking and haunting, while his words have helped other generations to understand what it meant to live through one of history’s greatest atrocities. The loss of Elie Wiesel is a tremendous loss for humanity, but his work will continue to inspire and educate for many years to come.