Elie Wiesel, the famed Holocaust survivor whose Night remains one of mankind’s most chilling windows into the horrors of Nazi Germany and the six million Jews who were killed there, has passed away at his home in New York City. He was 87 years old.
As a child, Wiesel and his family were sent to Auschwitz, the most famous of Hitler’s Nazi death camps. Wiesel and his father managed to remain together for eight months before his father succumbed to injuries sustained from an SS officer’s beating. Wiesel was freed a few months later.
Ten years after the war, Wiesel wrote Night while working as a journalist in Brazil. The book would go on to sell ten million copies, make him an international star and net him a Nobel Peace Prize. He would move to the United States and become an American citizen, eventually marrying fellow Holocaust survivor Marion and raising three daughters with her.
As a chronicler of human suffering, few could compare with Wiesel. The nightmare he survived lent him a meticulously sparse, unsentimental style that spoke worlds in between its spaces. While the Holocaust warrants lurid detail and emotion, Wiesel’s recounting was detached and bleak. Nobody could accuse him of sensationalism when the bare facts were so gut-wrenching in and of themselves. The book was, as New York Times Book Review contributor Gertrude Samuels famously described it, “a slim volume of terrifying power.” Perhaps no one did more to bring the realities of Nazi Germany from whispered rumors to widely acknowledged horror than Wiesel. As he would memorable write:
“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 the 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 long as God himself. Never.”
In his later years, Wiesel dedicated his life to advocating for justice across the globe — from Israel to Darfur — and wrote a total of 57 books. He would later write that “wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”
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To get his new album Cold Answer, (which features the three songs from him you heard on this episode), visit MPJmusic.com.
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