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Elie (Eliezer) Wiesel (1928-2016) was a Romanian-American Jew, Holocaust survivor, writer, professor, philosopher, journalist, essayist, and human rights activist. Of the 57 books he wrote, the Night is the most well-known and has been popular with the public since the beginning.

The volume Night reflects his experience as a prisoner in Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps. In the volume’s pages, we find an autobiographical description of life in the camps.

Elie Wiesel was also chairman of the Advisory Board of the Algemeiner Journal. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, being called a “messenger for humanity” by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. This is because, through his struggle to come to terms with his “personal experience of total humiliation and utter contempt for humanity displayed in Hitler’s concentration camps,” as well as through countless “practical works in the cause of peace,” Wiesel conveyed a powerful message “of peace, atonement and human dignity” to mankind. In 1996, he was appointed a Romanian Academy of Art and Literature member.

Sighetu Marmatiei, September 30, 1928. Two different elements, but they have something in common: Elie Wiesel.

Sighet, the city where he was born and lived until the age of 15, was the one who would become an important man of culture and a tireless militant for human rights, the fight against racism, antisemitism, and denial.

September 30, 1928, the date Elie (Eliezer) Wiesel was born, being the only boy and at the same time the third child among the four of Sara and Shlomo Wiesel. The Wiesel family was in trading, having a grocery store, which was their source of income. The town of Sighet, at that time, had a Jewish majority of 38.6%.

Elie Wiesel started from childhood, at the suggestion of his father, to learn Hebrew. It was significant as since he was a child, he followed religious studies, which were done exclusively in Yiddish and Hebrew. In the Wiesel family, they spoke in Yiddish, often read the press written in German, and at the family grocery store, depending on how the situation dictated, Hungarian and Romanian were spoken.

The Vienna Dictatorship of 1940 was one of the defining moments in Elie Wiesel’s life. When the Romanian Gigurtu government gave up the Northwest of Transylvania, in other words, the region where the Wiesel family lived became part of Hungary.

Another moment that left its mark on Elie Wiesel was when he was expelled during his secondary school studies in Oradea due to antisemitic laws in Hungarian public education.

At the age of 15, his identity was associated with the number A-7713. What does this thing mean? In April 1944, Elie, together with his entire family, was imprisoned in a concentration camp. A month later, on May 16, 1944, they were all transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, where the number A-7713 was tattooed on their left arm.

In the camp, women were separated from men, and immediately after arriving there, his mother and sister, aged 7, were separated from the rest of the family. Elie and his father stayed together and were forced to work in the factory that belonged to the Auschwitz III Monowitz complex, Buna-Werke. Later on, he found out that the two were exterminated.

Elie Wiesel’s father did not last long, and as the Red Army marched towards Auschwitz and the Jewish prisoners were sent on the “Death March” to the Buchenwald camp, he died of exhaustion, dysentery, and starvation.

Elie, however, survived, and on April 11, 1945, gravely ill, hungry and depressed, he was released by the American army. He settled in Paris, studying literature, psychology, and philosophy at the Sorbonne. He supported himself by teaching Hebrew lessons and directing a synagogue choir all this time. Also in Paris, he made his debut in journalism, initially in the print media and in Jewish-French newspapers, then became a reporter, in Hebrew, at the largest Israeli newspaper. Paris also meant for Elie Wiesel the reunion with his two older sisters, who were in a French orphanage.

Elie Wiesel and one of his sisters settled in America and the other in Montreal, Canada.

Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel was always one of the first to condemn the criminal actions of non-democratic governments and to stop the actions of destroying ethnic communities in Europe, Africa, or Asia.

After 1990, he wanted to contribute to the correct rewriting of the tragedy of the Jews in Romania, to get involved in diminishing the negationist message in the public space. He was also with those who proposed bringing our country into the Western space, not only institutionally but, first of all, through the reconstruction of mentalities.

The “Elie Wiesel” National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania reiterates today that the personalization we obtained through Elie Wiesel’s agreement honors us and, at the same time, forces us to be consistent and creative to achieve our goals. In this sense, we are fully available to develop local, regional or international projects with any Institution or persons who wish to do so, so that the memory of the Holocaust victims stimulates the dialogue of diversity and cements responsible and democratic civic attitudes.

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