Is it possible to not hate after seeing what the darkest depths of human nature have to offer? Learn more about the ways that Elie Wiesel overcame the trauma of the Holocaust’s concentration camps and went on to live a loving, productive life as an author and humanitarian.
The conditions in the prison camps were intolerable. To torture Wiesel as well as the millions of many other Jews who were incarcerated in the camps was a regular occurrence.
The brief period that Wiesel & his father was able to remain together was the only solace he ever received.
Wiesel lost his father to camp-related causes like illness and malnutrition. Below is a picture of Wiesel and other slaves working in the Buchenwald detention camp.
To begin with, Elie Wiesel’s life was very typical. He was born into an Orthodox Jewish household on September 30th, 1928, in the Romanian city of Sighet.
His parents ran a supermarket, and he had two elder and one younger sibling. Wiesel took an early interest in religion and began learning Hebrew & studying the Torah and Talmud.
When Wiesel became fifteen years old, in March of 1944, his life was forever altered. The Jews of Sighet were compelled to sport yellow stars after Nazi soldiers took the town. Almost immediately, Jewish businesses were shut down, ghettos were established, and homes were invaded.
After then, deportations of Jews started. The Wiesels’ Christian maid offered to hide them in the mountains at her house, but the family ultimately decided to stay with her Jewish community.
Wiesel and her family were deported to the Polish concentration camp Auschwitz in June that same year. Eighty individuals were packed into a single cattle car. When Wiesel was a child, his parents and younger sister was murdered in the gas chambers.
The only reason Wiesel was able to escape the gas chambers was because he lied about his age and claimed to be an eighteen-year-old farmer in peak physical condition. Slavery was the fate of both him and his father.
Freeing People From Oppression
The US armed forces arrived and freed the detainees on April 11, 1945. A group of orphans, including Wiesel, were brought to France. After the liberation, he was ill and spent time in the hospital recording his thoughts and feelings about his time in the concentration camps.
But, he had previously promised himself that he would wait 10 years before attempting to publicize his memories, so he did not do anything with the papers he had taken at the time.
After he got better, he went to France to finish his education, and although having ample reason to have her religious beliefs broken, he nonetheless continued to learn about and observe Judaism.
One lucky break in 1947 reconnected him with her elder sister, who had additionally managed to stay alive. She contacted him after seeing his photo in the article.
Wiesel quickly found work contributing to a local publication. As early as 1954, he conducted an interview with a Catholic author who, unsurprisingly, brought up Jesus.
Unable to contain him, Wiesel screamed ‘… 10 years ago, not too distant from here, I met Jewish children and each of them suffering a thousand years greater, six million time more, then the cross of Christ.
Not only do we avoid talking about them, but we actively avoid thinking about them. Then Wiesel fled out of the room, but really the writer followed him and urged he write about the Holocaust.
Though it was incredibly challenging for him, Wiesel agreed. undergoing treatment in the hospital, he began to update and expand upon the notes he had previously written regarding his recollections.
Having spent time in a concentration camp, he wrote about his time there in the book titled “Night,” which was released in 1960. In doing so, it has helped millions of people understand about and reflect on the Holocaust.
A Writer, Professor, And Activist For Social Justice
A lot of Wiesel’s work can be found in libraries. He has published more than forty books, plays, memoirs, and essays, including Night.
As Wiesel said to John Friedman of The Paris Review, “All my writing is born out of fury,” he felt it necessary to elaborate on the connection between his emotions and the motivation behind his writing. I needed to put it down on paper to keep it at bay. I would have blown my top if I hadn’t written this down.
Wiesel not only writes but also teaches in Boston. Equally, he fights for the rights of the oppressed and those who are victims of genocide. Killing members of a specific ethnic, racial, economic, or cultural group en masse is known as genocide.
Wiesel was shocked to learn that many individuals throughout the Holocaust ignored the atrocities being committed right under their noses. For this reason, he has made it his mission in life to speak out against abuses of human rights.
He participated in demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa and brought food to impoverished Cambodians. Through his work in academia and literature, he championed human rights, earning him the prize for peace in 1986.
The world actually knew (about the Holocaust), yet stayed mute, he stated in his Nobel Prize for Peace acceptance address. Because of this, I made a promise to myself that I would never remain silent again whenever and wherever people were being subjected to cruelty and debasement.
We are in a position where we must choose a side. In all situations, neutrality benefits the oppressor and never the oppressed. A victim’s silence only serves to embolden their abuser. In such cases, it is necessary for us to step in.
Wiesel is a role model not just because he fights for the rights of others, but also because he has managed to find thankfulness and joy in the face of unspeakable horrors.
The man once told Oprah Winfrey, “For me, each hour is grace,” in a 2000 interview. And every time I get to chat with a new person and see a happy expression on their face, I am filled with appreciation.
Nonetheless, he has kept his humanity and the capacity to love & feel joy despite the difficulties he has encountered as well as the family and friends he has lost. He is an advocate for human rights, a professor, and author of more than 40 books. As a result of his efforts, he was given the Peace Prize by the Nobel Committee in 1986.