Activist, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, died on  Saturday at the age of 87.

Born Eliezer Wiesel on September 30, 1928 in the Romanian town of Sighet, Wiesel’s family life was greatly disrupted after the massive enslavement of Jews began in the 1940s when the Nazis forced his entire Jewish community of Sighet to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Over the next few years, teenage Elie and his father were transferred to a series of concentration camps where they were forced to work.

It was in one of these camps that his malnourished and dysentery-stricken father, Shlomo Wiesel died on January 29 1945, after being beaten by a German soldier.

The holocaust also claimed the lives of Elie’s mother, Sarah and younger sister Tzipora.

The only surviving members of his immediate family were his older sisters Beatrice and Hilda, with whom he reunited after spending a few years in an orphanage in Écouis, France, where he was placed at the end of the war.

Wiesel pursued studies in literature, philosophy and psychology at the Sorbonne, but never completed them. He became a prolific writer, journalist and author.

Wiesel also had a distinguished academic career as a professor, lecturing at the City University of New York, Boston University, Yale University and at Barnard College of Columbia University on courses ranging from Philosophy and Religion to Judaic Studies.

Wiesel was best known for his role in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive and for promoting  education about it.
In 1978, U.S. President Jimmy Carter appointed him as chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust (later renamed the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council), a role in which he served until 1986.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, after which he and his wife established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity to combat intolerance and injustice around the world through dialogue in general, and via programmes for youth.

Wiesel was survived by his widow, Marion, their son Shlomo Elisha Wiesel, his stepdaughter Jennifer and two grandchildren.


Author: Aderonke Adeleke

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