Elie Wiesel's statement, "...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all..."stands as a succinct summary of his views on life and serves as the driving force of his work. Wiesel is the author of 36 works dealing with Judaism, the Holocaust, and the moral responsibility of all people to fight hatred, racism and genocide.
Born September 30, 1928, Eliezer Wiesel led a life representative of many Jewish children. Growing up in a small village in Romania, his world revolved around family, religious study, community and God. Yet his family, community and his innocent faith were destroyed upon the deportation of his village in 1944. Arguably the most powerful and renowned passage in Holocaust literature, his first book, Night, records the inclusive experience of the Jews:
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.And Wiesel has since dedicated his life to ensuring that none of us forget what happened to the Jews.
Wiesel survived Auschwitz, Buna, Buchenwald and Gleiwitz. After the liberation of the camps in April 1945, Wiesel spent a few years in a French orphanage and in 1948 began to study in Paris at the Sorbonne. He became involved in journalistic work with the French newspaper L'arche. He was acquainted with Nobel laureate Francois Mauriac, who eventually influenced Wiesel to break his vowed silence and write of his experience in the concentration camps, thus beginning a lifetime of service.
Wiesel's job as chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust was the planning of an American memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The Report to the President on the President's Commission on the Holocaust focuses on memory. Wiesel writes that the reason for creating the museum must include; denying the Nazi's a posthumous victory, honoring the last wish of victims to tell, and protecting the future of humanity from such evil recurring. Always maintaining his dedicated belief that although all the victims of the Holocaust were not Jewish, all Jews were victims of the Holocaust, Wiesel advocated placing the major emphasis of the memorial on the annihilation of the Jews, while still remembering the murder of other groups.
Guided by the unique nature of the Holocaust and the moral obligation to remember, the Commission decided to divide and emphasize the museum into areas of memorial, museum, education, research, commemoration and action to prevent recurrence. In order to come to these decisions, a group of 57 members of the Commission and Advisory Board -- including Senators, Rabbis, Christians, professors, judges, Congressmen, Priests, Jews, men and women -- traveled to Eastern Europe, Denmark and Israel to study Holocaust memorials and cemeteries and to meet with other public officials. The emotional pain and commitment required by such a trip is remarkable, and Wiesel's leadership is undeniably noteworthy.
Let us remember, let us remember the heroes of Warsaw, the martyrs of Treblinka, the children of Auschwitz. They fought alone, they suffered alone, they lived alone, but they did not die alone, for something in all of us died with them.