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Elie Wiesel: a survivor of the Holocaust Essay

As a survivor of the inhumane, annihilating Holocaust, Elie Wiesel once said, “Having survived by chance, I was duty–bound to give meaning to my survival.”(“Having Survived”1). Elie Wiesel did not know at the time that he had a reason for surviving this tragedy, but soon realized that he survived to offer a story and message about the horrors of that time to a world that often seemed to block it out completely and forget (“Having Survived”1).To spread his message to the world, which is one of peace, redemption, and human nobleness, Wiesel speaks all over the world as a public orator. (“Elie Wiesel” 3). Elie Wiesel, an influential speaker and writer of the 1940s to present times, helped to render a further understanding of the abomination of The Holocaust through eloquence and deep thought, elaborate actions, and most of all, his strong traditional values.

Elie Wiesel, a strong, courageous man, was subject to onerous acts in his childhood, yet in his present day, he discusses topics, such as hatred, all around the world with teenagers and adults(“Having Survived” 1). Born in Sighet, Transylvania on September 30, 1928, Wiesel lived an unexampled childhood(Berenbaum 2). In a lecture, he once said, “When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy.. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must–at the moment– become the center of the universe”(“Having Survived” 4). This quote symbolizes Wiesel’s view of the treacherous Holocaust, an event that changed mankind(“Having Survived” 4).

As conditions of living began to change around Europe, 15 year old Wiesel’s life took a 360 degree turn for the worse when he and his family were taken to one of the many concentration camps set up by the NAZI leaders, at Birkenau and Auschwitz(Berenbaum 2). Wiesel was kept at this camp until January 1945, when at that point, he was sent with thousands of other Jewish prisoners to Buchenwald in a forced death march which was designed to kill the remaining prisoners, but ended up getting saved by the Allies(Berenbaum 2). When the war finally ended, Wiesel decided to go to secondary school in France and broaden his skills, where he studied journalism and began working for an Israeli newspaper, which helped him develop the expressiveness he has today(Berenbaum 2). Determined to get his message to the world, Wiesel began to write books about his experiences, such as his most famous work, Night, which is known today as one of the most influential books of Holocaust literature(“Elie Wiesel”2).

In this novel, Wiesel used his own experiences and memories while imprisoned to bring to life another character(“Elie Wiesel” 2). This character was a vehicle for Wiesel to express his feelings of sadness and despair because he survived, when others did not(“Elie Wiesel” 2). After the fame of his novel, Wiesel became a professor of humanities at Boston University in 1976, and began to speak to students about the struggles our world overcame(“Having Survived” 3). In a class, he once wisely said, “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future” (“Without memory” 1). Wiesel wanted to stress the idea that without memory of what happened before, the future is doomed to make the same mistakes; accordingly, Wiesel was educated in sacred Jewish texts as a child, which he spoke about often(Berenbaum 2). When Wiesel began to travel and speak to keep the memories of his experiences relevant, he became recognized worldwide and in 1986, became a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work and speech on behalf of victims, families and people everywhere(“Having Survived” 4). Wiesel used the money from the Nobel Prize to found the Elie Wiesel Foundations for Humanity in the late 80s and early 90s(“Having Survived” 4).

His foundation sponsors essay contests for college and high school students and gathers well-known people together from all over the world as one to discuss and debate many different kinds of topics such as prejudice and bias(“Having Survived 4”). Even today, Wiesel continues to travel in his old age and speak out against brutality and injustice, he has written over three dozen books(and has been the subject of at least two dozen), but even after he leaves this world his legacy will live on as being truly strong and brave(“Having Survived” 4). Wiesel originally represented just one of the victims of the problem our world faced in the 1930’s to 40’s(Koestler-Grack timeline).

During this time, the people of Sighet, Transylvania happened to be improvident to what was occurring in the world. In a lecture, Elie Wiesel stated, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest,” which is ultimately what the people of this time were going to be forced to do(“There may” 1). This problem served as a major political issue, though the results were social. When Hitler rose to power in 1933, nobody knew or even thought that his dictatorship would lead to the deaths of over fifty million people(“When Adolf” 1). In 1939, Germany sparked World War II with the invasion of Poland, and Hitler developed his desire for power(Koestler-Grack timeline). His “ethnic cleansings,” also known as genocide, led to what we know as “The Holocaust,” which occurred between 1933-1945(“Having Survived” 2).

With the help of Hitler’s Nazi association, Germany systematically and slowly murdered millions of innocent people, like Jews and Gypsies(“Having Survived” 2). The Nazis’ overall plan was to take control of the majority of Europe and wipe out all of the European Jews in existence so he could bring out his new race of all blonde-haired, blue eyed citizens(“Having Survived”1). In the spring of 1944, the people of Sighet had their lives changed forever with the arrival of Adolf Eichmann to their town(“Having Survived” 2). Eichmann, the man who made all of the killing happen with his German policy, wrote that Jews in conquered countries could be taken without consent to concentration camps where people who held the title “enemies of the state” remained hostage and often ended up killed(“Having Survived” 2). Eichmann had orders from Hitler to extinguish an estimated 600,000 Romanian Jews in six weeks or less(“Having Survived” 2). By the end of those six weeks, the entire population of 15,000 Jews in Sighet were taken to camps, and Elie Wiesel contributed to that population(“Having Survived” 2).

After surviving the war and the devastation, Elie knew that he had to make his voice heard about the horrors and his experiences; consequently, nobody in the world seemed to want to accept the fact that it had happened.(“Having Survived” 3). As he travels around the world today, he constantly says, “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”(“No Human” 1). Elie uses his skills as a speaker and orator to make the tragedy and truth known, for he brings out empathy for injustice during the process. As a social activist, through his writing and his speech, Wiesel used his work to solicit for Jews and for all of humanity(“Berenbaum 3). Wiesel survived, and uses his experiences to make the facts known so we never face a problem like this one again; moreover, his works speak of the need for people to feel compassion and gratitude for other human beings(“Having Survived”3). When Wiesel speaks, he constantly says the same thing again and again:

There is no compensation for what happened {in The Holocaust}. But at least a certain balance can be established that opposing fear there is hope, hope that when we remember the fear.. our memory becomes a shield for the future (“Elie Wiesel” 3). Wiesel firmly believes that the efforts he has made and the efforts that others have made to keep the education of The Holocaust alive will prevent a devastation of that kind from happening again(“Elie Wiesel” 3). His silence originally broke in the mid 1950s in an interview with Francois Mauriac, who was a novelist(“Having Survived” 2).While listening to his story, Mauriac felt moved and ultimately urged Wiesel to speak out and tell the world what he had seen and heard(“Having Survived” 2). Elie Wiesel serves as a major public orator and influential writer(Berenbaum 3).

In addition to his writings and speeches regarding the persecution of the Jews, both in the past and in the present, Wiesel has made an effort to speak out on behalf of all races, genders, religions and national origins that have been persecuted(“Elie Wiesel” 4). As a result and for times yet to come, Wiesel has been quoted saying, “There I am an optimist. I think it cannot happen again. I think the Holocaust was a unique event, therefore it will remain unique.”(“Elie Wiesel” 4). In 1978, Wiesel was asked by U.S President Jimmy Carter to be the head of his group that became known as the U.S Holocaust Memorial Council, which met with European officials to find information about other victims, visited concentration camps, and was responsible for the creation of the U.S Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C(“Having Survived” 4).

Elie Wiesel’s words and novels act as a palliative to those who were subject to this historical event, and his words will continue to live on as a reminder in history. Through inspiration and eloquent speech and writing, Elie Wiesel continues to discern the disloyalty and cruelty of The Holocaust. Proudly, Wiesel travels the world giving life lectures, which have impacted and influenced the lives of many. His experiences help America, as an international unit, to prevent events like The Holocaust from repeating. As the years pass, Wiesel ages, yet his legacy will continue throughout the future generations.


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