Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Wiesel is not only a prizewinning novelist, dramatist, and religious philosopher, but by writing and speaking out on behalf of the world’s victims, he has become the conscience of modern times. For his work in this area he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Elie Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928, in Sighet, a small town in the Carpathian Mountains, in an area that belonged to Hungary during World War II but that was Romanian territory before and after the war. Wiesel’s father, though a practicing member of the Jewish religious community, questioned traditional Judaism; a tolerant humanist, he emphasized the modern world at large and the need to be a part of it. Wiesel’s mother had a lasting and, probably, deeper influence. A devout woman steeped in Hasidism, she hoped that her only son would become a rabbi. To that end, Wiesel studied the Torah and the Talmud in a local yeshiva known for its ascetic mysticism and Cabbalist teachers. This sheltered, bookish existence was irrevocably shattered in the spring of 1944, when the Nazis invaded Hungary and rounded up all its Jews, including Wiesel, his parents, and three sisters.
The fifteen-year-old Wiesel, along with his father, was sent first to Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald, from which he was liberated by American troops on April 11, 1945. (His two elder sisters survived as well.) The horrors he witnessed there, the...
(The entire section is 1629 words.)
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No other individual is so identified with the Holocaust—its memory and its prevention—as Wiesel. He was born in 1928 in Sighet, Romania, to Shlomo (a grocer) and Sarah Wiesel. His parents were part of a Hasidic Jewish community and encouraged him in his religious studies. Growing up, young Wiesel "believed profoundly" and felt it his duty to pray. In 1944, the distant threat of Hitler invaded the community, and his family was deported to a concentration camp. A few years after the war, Wiesel was reunited with surviving family members—two sisters.
At the war's close, Wiesel hoped to emigrate to Palestine which would see the declaration of the state of Israel in 1947. Being an orphan, however, placed him with other children enroute to Belgium. General Charles de Gaulle intervened and brought the train to France. Wiesel finished his teens in Normandy and won entrance to the Sorbonne in Paris. After completing his studies he became a journalist. After a decade of living in France he moved to the United States and eventually gained American citizenship. In 1969, he married Marion Erster Rose. She is also a survivor of the camps and a writer in her own right. She became his English translator.
In 1954, while working on assignment for a Tel Aviv newspaper, he interviewed Nobel Laureate Francois Mauriac. When the discussion turned to the suffering of Jesus Wiesel angrily burst out that nobody was speaking of the suffering just a few years before. Mauriac suggested he break the silence. The result was the first of many works, an eight hundred-page memoir in Yiddish, Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (1956), which detailed his experience of losing his family and friends to the concentration camps. This work became the famous La Nuit (1958), or, in English, Night (1960).
At the time of the book's completion, nobody wanted to be reminded of the Holocaust. In fact, the publishing world felt Anne Frank's Diary of a Little Girl was a sufficient memento of the horror. A tiny firm disagreed and managed to pay $250. Today, annual sales of the work in the United States exceed 300,000 copies.
Despite the book's lack of commercial success, Wiesel was defined by it. He has spent his life, ever since, as a vocal champion of human rights. His eloquent moral voice has often been compared with that of Albert Camus. Wiesel hopes that his stories will prompt a reflection that leads to a more humane future. In 1986, Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
For the last decade he has advised the U. S. Congress on memorials, religion, and the Middle East. He has served as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and is the Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at Boston University. In May 1997, Wiesel was appointed to head the Swiss Holocaust Fund. This was in "recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments and his respected moral guidance," said Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti.
Biography (World Philosophers and Their Works)
Article abstract: Wiesel, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, published numerous works of philosophy, drama, and fiction based on his experiences. By writing and speaking out on behalf of the world’s victims, he became a significant voice of conscience.
The journey that took Elie Wiesel through the Holocaust, the systematic destruction of nearly six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, began in the town of Sighet, now part of Romania, where he was born on September 30, 1928. Raised in a religious home, Wiesel was the third child and only son born to his parents, Shlomo and Sarah Feig Wiesel. Sighet was in the northern area of a region known as Transylvania. Once a part of the Austrian Empire, it was ceded to Romania after World War I and then came under Hungarian control during World War II. During Wiesel’s boyhood, Sighet’s residents included some ten thousand Jews, about 40 percent of the population, and most of them were religiously Orthodox.
Sighet’s Jews were subjected to Hungary’s anti-Jewish policies, which included socioeconomic discrimination and deprivation of basic civil rights. Wiesel’s father, a shopkeeper in Sighet, was jailed for a time because he helped rescue Polish Jews who had found their way to Hungary....
(The entire section is 2533 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Eliezer Wiesel, the third child and only son of Shlomo and Sarah Wiesel, was born in the village of Sighet, in Transylvania, Romania, on September 30, 1928. He had two older sisters, Bea and Hilda, and one younger one, Tzipporah. His parents were Orthodox Jews. As a child, Eliezer was a profound believer in God and spent his days in religious studies. His father, though religious, was a man of culture and a rational humanist. He taught his son to believe in humanity and saw to it that he learned secular subjects, such as Latin, mathematics, and physics, as well as religious ones. His mother was more spiritual. She taught her son a love of God. The constant argument in the Wiesel home was whether their son should be a professor or a rabbi.
Wiesel’s maternal grandfather, Dodye Feig, was a Hasid. The young boy would visit with his grandfather to listen to the tales of the Hasidim and the miracles wrought by the rabbis. Eliezer’s talent as a storyteller had its beginnings in the stories told to him by his grandfather. He also evinced an appreciation for music and took violin lessons at an early age. After the war, he earned his keep as a choirmaster. His cantata, Ani Maamin, with a musical score by Darius Milhaud, is one of the most moving works to be produced about the Holocaust. At the age of twelve, he studied the Kabbala under the tutelage of his master, Moshe. Wiesel’s first literary work, Night, commences with the serenity of his...
(The entire section is 1667 words.)
Elie Wiesel’s sheltered, bookish adolescence was forever shattered in 1944, when the Nazis invaded Hungary and rounded up all its Jews, including the Wiesel family. The fifteen-year-old Elie was deported to Auschwitz and Buchenwald, from which he was liberated in April, 1945. The horrors he saw there, the despair he felt, the anger he directed at God were later themes in his literary and nonfiction writings.
Shortly after the war, Elie went to France, where he learned the language and developed a lifelong passion for philosophy and literature. When, in 1955, French novelist François Mauriac urged him to bear witness to the six million Jews murdered in Europe’s concentration camps, Wiesel wrote the acclaimed Night. First published in Yiddish, then French, then English, the book began as an eight-hundred-page manuscript but was cut to about one hundred pages of terrifyingly bald description of what happened to Wiesel. Night is a wrenching account of evil and a terrifying indictment of God.
He next published novels presenting the anguished guilt of those who survived the mass slaughter. Central to the protagonist’ conduct and outlook is the belief that every act is ambiguous and implies a loss of innocence. By rejoining the religious community, however, the survivor may finally transform despair into joy.
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Biography (Ethics (Ready Reference series))
Wiesel’s writings have made him the messenger of the Jewish Holocaust dead and the prophetic muse of the post-Auschwitz age. This fact may explain why he wrote his first published memoir, Night, in Yiddish, the lingua franca of the murdered Jewish people, rather than in French, the language in which he wrote all of his other works. Wiesel writes masterfully, with a Kafkaesque pen, and his themes include pogroms, the destruction of the shtetls (Jewish villages), songs of mourning and exile, the madness of the Messiah, divine love and silence, and the guilt and obligation of survival, all of which are interwoven with threads of Hasidic tales, Kabbalistic mysticism, talmudic wisdom, and pietistic folklore. Theologically, Wiesel’s testimony is a continuous Din Torah (a disputation based on the judgment of the Torah) with God, who allowed Auschwitz to occur, and with radical dehumanization, the existence of which raises the possibility that the world is either not listening to or does not care about the lessons that can be learned from the Shoah. Wiesel has done more than anyone to establish “Holocaust” (a word that invokes images of fire and burnt offerings) as the accepted term for the Judeocide that occurred during World War II. Because the term is associated with the akedah, or “binding,” of Isaac in the biblical story in which Abraham is tested and Isaac is victimized (Gen....
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The journey that took Elie Wiesel (vee-ZEHL) through the Holocaust, the systematic destruction of nearly six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, began in his native Romania, in Sighet, where he was born on September 30, 1928. Reared in a religious home, Wiesel was the third child and only son born to his parents, Shlomo and Sarah Feig Wiesel. Sighet, his hometown, was in the northern area of a region known as Transylvania. Sighet’s residents at that time included some ten thousand Jews, about 40 percent of the population, and most of them were religiously Orthodox.
Sighet’s Jews were subjected to Hungary’s anti-Jewish policies, which included socioeconomic discrimination and deprivation of basic civil rights. Wiesel’s father, a shopkeeper in Sighet, was jailed for a time because he helped rescue Polish Jews who had found their way to Hungary. Nevertheless, the young Wiesel’s worlds of study, faith, and Jewish tradition remained relatively undisturbed until the Germans occupied the territory of their faltering Hungarian allies in March, 1944. Within a few weeks, the Jews of Sighet were ghettoized and then deported to Auschwitz in four transports between May 16 and May 22. Wiesel survived the shattering experiences of that German death camp and went on to write about them in his classic memoir Un di Velt hot geshvign (1956;...
(The entire section is 1031 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
“It is given to man to transform divine injustice into human justice and compassion,” Elie Wiesel says in Celebration biblique (1975; Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits and Legends, 1976), his recounting of Bible stories about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many more. Like Wiesel himself, these biblical messengers understood that thought and action have abused the freedom to choose that makes life human. They also wrestled with the fact that human existence neither accounts for, nor completely sustains, itself. Their dearly earned reckoning with that reality led them to a profound restiveness. It revealed, in turn, the awesome injunction that God intends for humankind to endure hard, even impossible, moral work until and through death.
One may not see life the way Wiesel’s biblical messengers saw it. Whatever one’s choices in that regard, it is nevertheless as hard as it is inhuman to deny that injustice too often reigns and that moral work is indeed given to humanity. Wiesel presumes neither to identify that work in detail for everyone nor to insist, in particular, where or how one should do it. Those questions, however, remain the right ones to ask. All of Wiesel’s writings urge people to explore them, in friendship, with the care that they deserve.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel (vee-ZEHL) received his early education completely within Jewish tradition; he attended a religious primary school (heder) and then went to a local yeshiva for Torah and talmudic studies. In 1944, at the age of fifteen, he was interned in several German concentration camps, where his parents and his younger sister all perished. Upon his release from Buchenwald in April, 1945, he went to France as a displaced person. Within three years, after working as a choir director and Bible teacher, he was able to begin university studies at the Sorbonne, where he majored in philosophy, literature, and psychology.
Wiesel first worked in journalism. As a writer for French newspapers covering Israel’s 1948 war for independence and related Middle Eastern events, he traveled extensively. These travels eventually brought him to the United States in 1956. In the same year Wiesel published his first literary work, a massive autobiographical account of his experience of the Holocaust, Un di Velt hot geshvign (and the world remained silent). From this work, written in Yiddish and published in Argentina, Wiesel quarried the book that made him famous: Night, a brief but unforgettable Holocaust memoir, written in French and soon widely translated.
Because of visa complications Wiesel was unable to return to...
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