Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
"The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference"
(For a perspective on Wiesel's "last years," see below)
The 1986 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "who used his moral authority to force attention on atrocities around the world" (as Emily Langer puts it in her WaPo obit), in 2004
Eye-Witness and Messengerby Ken
The Jewish author, philosopher and humanist Elie Wiesel has made it his life's work to bear witness to the genocide committed by the Nazis during World War II. Today he is the world's leading spokesman on the Holocaust.
After Hitler's forces had moved into Hungary in 1944, the Wiesel family was deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland. Elie Wiesel's mother and younger sister perished in the gas chamber there. In 1945 Elie and his father were sent on to Buchenwald, where his father died of starvation and dysentery. Seventeen-year-old Elie was still alive when American soldiers opened the camp.
For the world to remember and learn from the Holocaust is not Elie Wiesel's only goal. It is equally important to fight indifference and the attitude that "it's no concern of mine". Elie Wiesel sees the struggle against indifference as a struggle for peace. In his words, "The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference".
Copyright © The Norwegian Nobel Institute (1986)
Considering how long a time frame there has been for preparing, you'd think a person would be prepared to say something on learning of the death of Elie Wiesel, which was confirmed yesterday by his son, who asked that in consideration of shabat the family be allowed to mourn privately the rest of the day. Yet I find myself all but speechless, given the extent to which he, a survivor himself, came to personify the victims of the Holocaust (which number included his mother, his father, and his younger sister; two older sisters also survived), tracking world events from the perspective of his unquietable awareness of the atrocities humans are capable of.
There will be no shortage of full-fledged obits (like, for example, Joseph Berger's in the NYT, Mary Rourke and Valerie J. Nelson's in the L.A. Times, and Emily Langer's in the Washington Post), not to mention encomia. So I thought we would go instead, despite its outdatedness, with the bio written for his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize (with, as noted, a couple of 1999 updates from the laureate; click on it to enlarge it a bit).
I imagine Elie Wiesel thought he was living his life the only way he could, and doubt that he thought of himself as a moral force. I'd like to think he was the only one who thought so.
AN ADDED VIEW: "He spent his last years inciting hatred, defending apartheid and palling around with fascists"
As Howie puts it, Max Blumenthal (@Max Blumenthal) "has been tweeting up a storm" about Elie Wiesel. To wit:
[Click to enlarge.]