In the ceremony in New York, Wiesel's deeds were described as "leaving a mark on all of mankind. His public actions crossed borders and supplied a unique contribution to memorializing the legacy of the Holocaust and sending a message of peace and human respect to the whole world."
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Wiesel, who was born in Romania, was expelled to Auschwitz with his family in 1944, and there he survived the atrocities of the Holocaust. After immigrating to the US he became involved in memorializing the legacy of the Holocaust, and became the recognized, leading figure in the US in this field. Wiesel encouraged other Holocaust survivors to tell their stories, and Wiesel, himself, published more than 40 books. In 1986 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust.
Peres put the decoration on Wiesel and praised him: "This is a great honor and privilege for me to bestow upon you the President's Medal. The Holocaust taught us that killing isn't done just with guns and weapons, but also with apathy, and you Elie, are saving the world from that apathy. You are waving the flag of humanity, preventing bloodshed and challenging racism and anti-Semitism, as well as preventing war. You personally went through the most atrocious horrors of humanity, and as a Holocaust survivor you chose to dedicate your life to deliver the message – never again."
Wiesel thanked Peres and responded trembling: "I'm completely overwhelmed. Israel is in the center of my life, and even though I don't live in Israel, Israel lives within me. I now see myself as an honorary Israeli. Life is composed of moments, not only years, and this moment is worth an entire life."
Peres approved the decision to bestow the award on Wiesel after the advisory council, led by retired Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, brought his name forward.
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