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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, October 23, 2017

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The final bow: Holocaust survivor and human rights champion Elie Wiesel passes away

Nobel Laureate who had was sent to the Nazi concentration camp

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NEW YORK, U.S. - Yad Vashem, a spokesman for Israel's Holocaust memorial has announced the death of holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel who reportedly died at the age of 87 on Saturday. His family revealed that the actor passed away after suffering long from an illness.> Big News Network

The former Nobel Laureate who had was sent to the Nazi concentration camp at age 15, had been a champion for human rights and peace.

He wrote the "Night" published in 1960 (in U.S.) which is considered a classic, recounting the horrors of the Holocaust during the World War that claimed many Jewish lives.

Unlike Anne Frank's innocent account of the days leading to her family's tenure in the deadly concentration camp, Wiesel's was a first hand narration of the raw memories of the atrocities that he witnessed during the holocaust. The writer, who had managed to survive because of a lie he told about being 18 years so that he could be made to work instead, would go back to remembering his days in Auschwitz and his tale, in his own words "to this day, (is) a source of shock and astonishment." (as told to CNN in a previous interview)

In another interview to New York Times in 1981, the writer had said, "If I survived, it must be for some reason. I must do something with my life. It is too serious to play games with anymore, because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person. On the other hand, I know I cannot."

Wiesel was born in Romania and had been 15 when he was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland with his family in 1944. He was later moved and ultimately freed from the Buchenwald camp in 1945, being the only survivor alongside two of his sisters.

In 1963, he became a U.S. citizen and six years later, he married a fellow Holocaust survivor, Marion Rose, who translated some of his books into English. They had a son, Shlomo and a daughter Beatrice.

Based in New York, Wiesel taught philosophy, literature and Judaic studies in Boston University for almost three decades. He later also taught at Yale University and the City University of New York. Wiesel had also been a journalist in Paris and then New York.

He wrote over 40 books, but his most famous work has been "Night" which was translated into 30 languages. The book was written ten years after World War II was published initially in French as "La Nuit" in 1958.

One of the popular, haunting passages from the book, which summed up Wiesel's first feelings upon arrival in Auschwitz was:

"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. ... Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."

Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, being hailed 'a spiritual leader' by the then committee.

The writer became a social activist, voicing his sentiments on various occasions in regards to many issues. Wiesel had defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua's Miskito Indians, Ethiopian-born Israeli youth, Argentina's "Disappeared," Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, and victims of famine and genocide in Africa, apartheid in South Africa and war in the former Yugoslavia.

He had famously also pressurised U.S. Presidents on numerous accounts against their hard core foreign policies and instead asked them to focus on humanitarian and peaceful measures.

His widow, Marion, said in a statement released by the writer's foundation, "My husband was a fighter. He fought for the memory of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and he fought for Israel. He waged countless battles for innocent victims regardless of ethnicity or creed."

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said he was privileged to have known the writer and learned from him.

Netanyahu said, “He gave expression through his exceptional personality, and fascinating books about the victory of the human spirit over cruelty and evil. In the darkness of the Holocaust in which our brothers and sisters - 6 million - were murdered, Elie Wiesel was a ray of light and greatness of humanity who believed in the good in man.”

The family informed that his funeral will be a private affair. However, a public memorial will be held for his well wishers, although it is yet to be scheduled.

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