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Elie Wiesel in a seminar with students of Boston University, 1982

Photo: Boston University Collection

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Elie Wiesel lecturing to students in Boston, 1990

Photo: Boston University Collection

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Elie Wiesel in conversation with Nelson Mandela, 1990

Photo: Boston University Collection

Biographie of Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet (in Transylvania, now a part of Romania) on 30 September 1928 and grew up in a Chassidic – and thus Orthodox Jewish – family.

In the spring of 1944, the German occupying forces first established a ghetto in Sighet; then the Wiesel family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Elie’s mother and younger sister were murdered there in the gas chambers. At the end of January 1945, Elie Wiesel and his father managed to join an evacuation transport to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, where they were committed to the “Little Camp”. His father died in Buchenwald shortly after their arrival. Barrack 66, a shelter for children and adolescents set up at the behest of the political inmates, was where Elie Wiesel was liberated on 11 April 1945.

The sixteen-year-old Elie Wiesel went to Paris with the children’s fund; there he was reunited with his two older sisters who had likewise managed to survive. He went on to study philosophy, French literature and psychology at the Sorbonne.

In the capacity of journalist for Israeli newspapers he travelled, also working as a correspondent for the United Nations and thus making the acquaintance of influential intellectuals and politicians. It was not until the mid 1950s that he first recounted his experiences of persecution and the concentration camps in writing: the testimony Un di Velt Hot Geschvign (written in Yiddish) was published in 1956. The summarized version of this story – entitled Night – established his fame as a writer and was translated into more than thirty languages. Elie Wiesel has lived in the U.S. since 1956 and written novels, plays, and theological and political essays in commemoration of the victims of the Shoah, primarily in French. He is the author of more than forty books.

Wiesel attained American citizenship in 1963. He has been a supporter and advocate of the State of Israel throughout his life. Since 1972 he has taught Jewish studies and various subjects of the humanities at a number of American universities.
As chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council from 1980 to 1986, Elie Wiesel made a major contribution to encouraging a critical examination of the Shoah by the American society.

In 1986, Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifework and his commitment to the struggle for human rights and peace.