Who is Elie Wiesel?

Niki Foster

Elie Wiesel is an American author, political activist, and Nobel Laureate in Peace. Born in Romania, he moved to the United States in 1955 after surviving the Holocaust and living for ten years in France. Wiesel's most famous book, Night, became a number one New York Times bestseller in early 2006 after Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club.

Elie Wiesel's parents encouraged him to study Modern Hebrew.
Elie Wiesel's parents encouraged him to study Modern Hebrew.

Wiesel was born on 30 September 1928 in Sighet, Romania, to Shlomo and Sarah Wiesel. Shlomo was an Orthodox Jew who supported his family through his grocery store business, was active in the community, and encouraged Elie to study literature and Modern Hebrew. He was also briefly imprisoned for helping Jews escape from Poland early in World War II. Sarah Wiesel came from a Hasidic Jewish family and inspired religious fervor in her son. Elie was an only son, but he had three sisters named Hilda, Bea, and Tzipora.

Born in Romania, Elie Wiesel became a famed American author and activist.
Born in Romania, Elie Wiesel became a famed American author and activist.

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Tragedy struck Elie Wiesel and his family on 19 April 1944, four years after Romania ceded Sighet to Hungary. All Jewish people in the city were deported to Auschwitz, where Shlomo and Elie were separated from their family. Sarah and Tzipora are believed to have died while at the camp. Elie remained with his father through a number of moves between work camps and witnessed his death in January 1945 in Buchenwald, just months before American Forces liberated the camp.

Elie Wiesel survived the Nazi prison camps, but family members did not.
Elie Wiesel survived the Nazi prison camps, but family members did not.

In the wake of the Holocaust, Wiesel entered an orphanage in France, where he was reunited with Hilda and Bea. He began a course of philosophy at the Sorbonne and supported himself by teaching Hebrew and working as a translator and a choirmaster. Wiesel began his writing career as a journalist, working for Israeli and French newspapers, but he would not write about his Holocaust experiences for ten years. In 1955, Elie Wiesel published Un di velt hot geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), the first incarnation of Night, in Buenos Aires. Wiesel's own French translation was published in 1958, and the English version first appeared in 1960.

Wiesel moved to the United States in 1955, when he was stationed in New York city as a foreign correspondent for an Israeli newspaper. He became a nationalized citizen in 1963, and soon after began developing his career as an author, professor, and political activist. Wiesel has spoken out against the oppression of Jews and other ethnic groups worldwide, advocating awareness and intervention. Along with his wife Marion, he began the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. He was also influential in the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Sculpture of Elie Wiesel.
Sculpture of Elie Wiesel.

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Discussion Comments


i think elie is a wonderful author and an amazingly strong person who survived one of the most horrific times in history. just think about how you would feel not seeing your family over a period of some years -- i would think they were dead also.

People need to be more sensible to the fact that thousands of people died in this tragedy and there are people scatered all over the world because of it. Therefore he could have some family out there but most likely he doesn't.


how was elie 100% sure his mom and tzipora died? maybe they are still alive and are some of the few women and children who escaped the gas chamber.

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