Signet, Maramures County, Romania
September 30, 1928
Elie Wiesel was born in a small town of Transylvania, where many different languages were spoken and various cultures practiced. Wiesel knew many languages including Yiddish, German, Hungarian, and Romanian and used them in his everyday living activities. Religion was his main focus, as he enjoyed learning the history of his practiced religion, Judaism. His family felt safe from the disturbing violence of World War II until 1944.
In 1944, all of those who practiced the Jewish religion living in Wiesel’s town were taken the the concentration camps in Poland. Wiesel, who was 15 years old at the time, was transported to Auschwitz and immediately split from his mother and sister who he never saw again. Managing to stay with his father for the following year, he was exposed to near death experiences as he was beaten, physically worn, undernourished, and transported like cattle to different camps. Wiesel’s father did not survive the last months of hardship, and Wiesel had to find a way to make it on his own.
After his liberation from the concentration camps, Elie moved to France to study the language as well as philosophy, working as a choir master and educator of Hebrew. His journalism career began here, as he wrote articles in French and Israeli newspapers. However, he wrote nothing of his experiences in the concentration camps for years until 1955, when he wrote, in Yiddish, a 900 page work, the title translated “And the World Kept Silent”. This writing was then downsized and titled “La Nuit”, or Night. Wiesel finally found a publisher after many attempts, however, sold very few copies at first. “Night” is now a well known publication throughout the world.
After moving to New York City, Wiesel became a U.S. citizen and continued to write for newspapers and publish many books, essays, short stories, and plays. He is now a professor at Boston University and continues to reside in New York City. He has been a chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and his awards include the Congressional Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize.