Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate, and author of Night, his memoir of being a prisoner in the Holocaust, died this weekend. Mr. Wiesel, besides being an extraordinary writer, whose work brought the experience of the evil of the Holocaust to the forefront of many readers, was also one of the most powerful moral voices of our time.
I read Mr. Wiesel’s book Night as a teenager, and I was deeply struck by the power and the messages it contains. I made a connection with the horror of the Holocaust and the hope of humanity through this text. I will keep the discussion of my personal impact of this book short, because it is so deep and so complex that I could write forever on it. But, it was another lesson that we are all connected and must remember this joint humanity–always.
Mr. Wiesel argued powerfully that it is not enough to simply not do evil, but that it is the moral responsibility of people to oppose it wherever it exists. He said, “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, we must always take sides.” and “As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs. (From his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.)
President Obama, in speaking of him, said of Mr. Wiesel, “Elie Wiesel was one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world.”
We should honor his work and commitment to justice, and we should remember, especially in our turbulent times, often filled with hatred and bigotry, that we are morally compelled to oppose injustice and bigotry.
Rest In Peace, Elie Wiesel. The world will miss you.