Nobel Peace Prize laureate, award-winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has died. He was 87.
Born in Romania in 1928, Wiesel was forced into Auschwitz as a teenager. After watching his father, mother and younger sister die, he wrote his now-highly acclaimed autobiography, Night in 1955.
Several U.S. presidents delivered their well wishes and appreciation for Wiesel following news of his death.
“As a writer, a speaker, an activist, and a thinker, he was one of those people who changed the world more as a citizen of the world than those who hold office or traditional positions of power,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “His life, and the power of his example, urges us to be better.”
“I am grateful for his insight on the value of human life and for his generous spirit and big heart,” President George W. Bush said. “He was an example of a graceful life, and that example will influence millions for generations to come.”
“Elie shouldered the blessing and the burden of survival,” President Bill Clinton said in a statement. “In words and deeds, he bore witness and built a monument to memory to teach the living and generations to come the perils of human indifference. As he often said, one person of integrity can make a difference. For so many, he was that difference…”
Night introduced millions of school children to a vivid, horrific account of the Holocaust from the eyes of a survivor. To date, it has sold over six million copies, as reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz which first announced Wiesel’s death.
Night was originally 800 pages and written in Yiddish. But he later wrote a shorter version in 1958 in French, titled La Nuit. Two years later, it was translated into English as Night.
When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wrote that he was a “messenger to mankind” who delivered a message of “peace, atonement and human dignity.”
Wiesel spent the latter part of his life ensuring the humanity did not just remember the Holocaust, but stop future atrocities, as well. He was outspoken on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and brought attention to the Armenian genocide. He served on the International Council of Human Rights Foundation and participated in other human rights-based projects.
Haaretz reported that the archive of his writings would go to Boston University, where he taught for many years, following his death.
Wiesel is survived by his wife Marion, their son Shlomo, his stepdaughter Jennifer and two grandchildren.