Noble Laureate Elie Wiesel (born Eliezer Wiesel) was in 1928 Sighet, Romania. His father, Shlomo was a farmer of Hungarian descent. Wiesel had three sisters; Hilda, Bea and Tzipora. Tzipora later died in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, so did Wiesel’s father.
Author of over 40 books, Wiesel is best know for his memoir, Night, which describes his Holocaust experience. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work on peace, justice and greater understanding among nations.
After the Second World War ended, Wiesel who had lost his father, mother and sister, was placed in the care of a French orphanage. During his years in the orphanage he learned French and in 1948 he joined the famed Sorbonne as a student of philosophy. He was reunited with his sisters Bea and Hilda while he was at the orphanage.
Wiesel started working a professional journalist in France, after a brief stint as a Hebrew teacher and a choirmaster. During his years as a journalist and before that, he never talked about his Holocaust experience. The events and the loss of his parents and sister were so profound that he actually refused to discuss the matter for 11 years after the war. Eventually he agreed to write about it, when insisted by French writer Francois Mauriac.
His memory of Holocaust was first published in Yiddish in Buenos Aires. Wiesel later rewrote the memoir in French and published it titled as Night.
Elie Wiesel has been greatly acclaimed for his work on peace and justice in conflict areas worldwide. He spoke for the persecuted Jews in the erstwhile USSR, he was voiced his concern for justice for people of Vietnam, Burma, Bosnia and Bangladesh. In 1986 after he won the Nobel Prize, Wiesel established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity with is wife Marion.
The Foundation is dedicated to work for justice for oppressed and poor, for peace and to further understanding between different cultures and nations. Every year the Foundation organizes The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest for college juniors and seniors in USA. The Foundation also bestows The Elie Wiesel Humanitarian Award to deserving candidate. Past winners include First Lady Laura Bush.
Wiesel, who will be 80 in two years, has shown no signs of slowing down. Recently he has joined the movement to save the refugees in Darfur, Somalia who are suffering form hunger, diseases and are targeted by armed militia.
Like many other famous personalities, Elie Wiesel has his share of criticisms and detractors. He has been accused of turning a blind eye to the suffering of people in Palestine and supporting Israel even when it is being unjust to the nation’s Arab population.
Wiesel lives in New York, with his wife Marion and son Elisha. He is an Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at Boston University. You can learn more about him and his work at his website: http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/AboutUs/index.html.