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Elie Wiesel: Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month

By May 10, 2024No Comments

Elie Wiesel

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, we recognize the economic, cultural, political, and social contributions of notable immigrants and refugees who’ve helped shape America’s vibrant tapestry. Today, we spotlight Romanian American Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

Eliezer Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Romania, a brother to three sisters. The government forced his family to live in an impoverished ghetto following Hungary’s annexation of Sighet in 1940. Four years later, Nazi Germany and Hungary began deporting Jews residing in the area – forcing 15-year-old Eli and his family to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Eli and his father were sent to a labor camp and forced to work in dire, inhumane conditions. Transferred to numerous Nazi camps, Eli’s father died after a German soldier beat him less than three months before Allied soldiers liberated the camps. His mother and sister also died during the Holocaust. Elie was freed in 1945 and of his family, only he and his two older sisters survived. 

Following the atrocities of World War II, Wiesel started studying at Sorbonne University in France in 1945, embarked on Journalism, and wrote for French and Israeli publications. His 1956 Yiddish memoir about his experiences, And the World Would Remain Silent, became a critically acclaimed bestseller translated into 30 languages. In 1955, Wiesel immigrated to New York, later gaining his U.S. citizenship in 1963. He followed his memoir with over 40 books and novels, many premised on nonfiction accounts of the Holocaust. 

In 1988, he won a Nobel Peace Prize for his messages of peace and human dignity. He also was an international activist, pushing back on numerous injustices worldwide. President Jimmy Carter appointed him as Chair of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. In the mid-70s, he worked as a professor of the humanities at Boston University, which created the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies in his honor, and as a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York. He was also bestowed a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a French Legion of Honor’s Grand Croix. 

Eliezer Wiesel died in 2016 at the age of 87. 

Others we are celebrating in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month: