Today is Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, and what better way to mark it than taking a moment to remember Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor who went on to become a tireless human rights activist and prolific writer? Wiesel is also the subject of my third portrait in my painting series of civil rights leaders.
Wiesel, who died just last year at age 87, was born and raised in Romania. He and his parents and three sisters were sent to Auschwitz and then Buchenwald during the Holocaust. Only he and two of his sisters survived. Night, his memoir of the time he was imprisoned in concentration camps during the war, is a ghastly account of the tragic events that unfolded there.
Although his life was profoundly affected by the horrors of this war, Wiesel went on to be one of the most inspirational figures in all of history, not only not succumbing to Nazi brutality, but in fact flourishing, becoming a journalist, translator, professor, author, activist, husband, father and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
He founded Moment Magazine, an independent Jewish publication, and also started his own foundation, which bestows awards on those who dedicate their lives to fighting hatred, bigotry and genocide. He was a founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which raised the funds for and conceived and built the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum’s academic and research department maintains a vast collection of Holocaust documents, photos and other archival items, many available online.