Eliezer Wiesel is a Jewish American professor, writer and political activist. He was born in Sighet, Transylvania, Maramures, and Kingdom of Romania on 30th September 1928. In 1986, recognizing his struggle for peace, atonement and human dignity Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him The Nobel Peace Prize. He is also famous for his arguably most powerful and renowned book in Holocaust literature, “Night” which is inspired by his personal experience as a prisoner in Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Since Elie Wiesel’s early age his father implanted in him a sense of humanism. Wiesel recalls that his father always taught him reasoning, his mother on the other hand represented faith. Growing up in a tiny village, his only affection was his family, religious study and community. His father always encouraged him to study the Modern Hebrew language and concentrate on his literature.
In 1944 Nazis invaded Sighet and destroyed the once secure childhood world of Wiesel. All the Jewish families were placed in concentration camps in Poland. Wiesel and his father were separated from his mother and sisters. They were forced to work almost to death and were shuffled between different camps mostly bare footed without food or proper clothing in driving snow. He lost his father on January 29th 1945 only months before the US army rescued him from the camps.
After the war Wiesel, reunited with his two surviving sisters, settled in France. There he taught Hebrew and mastered the French language. He also studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. He became professional journalist and wrote for newspapers both in France and Israel. In 1955, after ten years of utter silence about his experience in the camps and war in general, Wiesel met Francois Mauriac, a Nobel Prize awarded French author who later became his close friend for life. Mauriac is credited to have encouraged Wiesel to write about his experiences. “La Nuit” was the result of this persuasion which was later translated in English Language as “Night”. Wiesel had to struggle several years to find a publisher for his book and even when he did only few copies were sold initially. However, as yet, Night has been translated in more than 30 languages and by 1997 the book was selling over 300,000 copies annually in the US alone.
In 1956, Wiesel visited New York for his report on United Nations. During his visit, he was struck by a cab driver and was confined to a wheelchair for nearly a year. He applied for the renewal of his French permit which had allowed him to travel, upon denial of his request he successfully applied for US citizenship.
He started his career in US as feature writer for The Jewish Daily Forward. Wiesel used his international fame earned by his publications, to win justice for oppressed people and societies in different parts of the world. In 1978 he was appointed Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter.
1985 brought him Congressional Medal of Freedom, followed by the Nobel Prize of Peace in 1986. Wiesel has given may guest appearances and lectures in a number of universities all over the world. Despite his growing popularity as a humanitarian, Wiesel has not discarded his passion for fiction and continues working on his books and semi auto-biographical novels.