World laments death of Holocaust survivor, author Elie Wiesel
Prime Minister Netanyahu mourns the loss of 'a master of words, (who) gave expression to the victory of the human spirit over cruelty and evil'; President Obama remembers Wiesel's words to him at Buchenwald: 'Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill'
Israeli leaders past and present, world leaders, Jewish organizations and even celebrities all lamented the death of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, whose passing at the age of 87 was announced Saturday by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Wiesel "a master of words, (who) gave expression to the victory of the human spirit over cruelty and evil with his unusual personality and captivating stories."
"In the darkness of the Holocaust when our brothers and sisters perished -- the six million -- Elie Wiesel served as a ray of light and an example of humanity that believes in the goodness of man," Netanyahu continued.
"Elie's prolific creations do not just reflect the Holocaust but also the hope and optimism against the darkness of Auschwitz. Jerusalem -- the eternal capital of Israel -- represented to him our ability to rise from the bottom and reach new heights," he added.
President Reuven Rivlin bid farewell "to a hero of the Jewish People, and a giant of all humanity."
"Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, embodied the determination of the human spirit to overcome the darkest of evils, and survive against all the odds," Rivlin said. "His life was dedicated to the fight against all hatred, and for the sake of man as created in the image of God --he was a guide for us all."
"One of the Jewish people's greatest sons, who touched the hearts of so many, and helped us to believe in forgiveness, in life, and in the eternal bond of the Jewish people. May his memory be a blessing, everlastingly engraved in the heart of the nation," the Israeli president added.
Former president Shimon Peres spoke of Wiesel's legacy. "Wiesel left his mark on humanity through preserving and upholding the legacy of the Holocaust and delivering a message of peace and respect between people worldwide," Peres said.
"He endured the most serious atrocities of mankind -- survived them and dedicated his life to conveying the message of 'Never Again.' I had the honor and privilege to personally thank him for his numerous years of work and for saving the world from apathy when I gave him the Presidential Medal on behalf of the State of Israel. May his memory be a blessing to us all."
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also lamented Wiesel's passing. "Weisel, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and witnessed the cruelty of humanity’s darkest hour, chose not to surrender or despair. Instead, he delivered a message of peace and tolerance for all."
"The vast trove of Weisel’s writing, which included dozens of books and literary creations, brought him the Nobel Peace Prize, and turned him into an unofficial ambassador of the Jewish people in general and Holocaust survivors in particular," Barkat added.
"Elie Weisel was a loyal ambassador and a true friend of Jerusalem, and has demonstrated unwavering support and empathy with the people of the city. His ability to touch the hearts of so many enabled his message and life’s work for the Jewish people and Jerusalem to become global, influence millions, and change the world," Barkat continued.
World leaders remember Wiesel
US President Barack Obama also issued a statement mourning Wiesel's loss, saying he was "not just the world's most prominent Holocaust survivor, he was a living memorial."
"After we walked together among the barbed wire and guard towers of Buchenwald where he was held as a teenager and where his father perished, Elie spoke words I've never forgotten -- 'Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill,'" the US president recounted. "Upholding that sacred duty was the purpose of Elie's life. Along with his beloved wife Marion and the foundation that bears his name, he raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms. He implored each of us, as nations and as human beings, to do the same, to see ourselves in each other and to make real that pledge of 'never again.'"
Former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, issued a joint statement.
"Elie shouldered the blessing and the burden of survival. In words and deeds, he bore witness and built a monument to memory to teach the living and generations to come the perils of human indifference. As he often said, one person of integrity can make a difference. For so many, he was that difference, including at the dedication of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993 when he urged me to stop the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia; at the White House Millennium Lecture Hillary invited him to give; and in all his wonderful books and lectures."
Former President George W Bush joined the chorus of mourning, saying "I am grateful for his insight on the value of human life and for his generous spirit and big heart. He was an example of a graceful life, and that example will influence millions for generations to come."
Leaders in other world capitals expressed their condolences as well. "Elie Wiesel spent his life in service to humanity, keeping the memory of the Holocaust's horror alive. It is for us all to carry this torch." said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In Europe, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas expressed "Sadness over the death of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel. Witness of the Holocaust and chronicler of the indescribable."
French President Francois Hollande spoke of Wiesel's special ties to his nation. "This universal man had a special relationship with France, where he studied after the war, where he published the first edition of 'The Night' thanks to Jerome Lindon, where he created the Universal Academy of Cultures in 1992. France honors the memory of a grand humanist, tireless defender of peace," Hollande said.
'A message of hope and peace'
Jewish organizations around the globe grieved Wiesel's loss, including the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.
"Elie Wiesel was a loyal son of the Jewish people. He did much in his life to strengthen the continued existence of the Jewish people and the development of the Jewish creation," said Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev. "As a Holocaust survivor he dedicated his life to bearing witness to it and he did so through his extraordinary talent as a writer and speaker. Elie believed till his final day that the Holocaust must be studied and remembered as a unique event to the Jewish people that has a universal message to the entire world."
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said, "Elie Wiesel was the collective moral compass of the Jewish people. He was the first to break the silence surrounding the plight of Soviet Jewry, and he accompanied our struggle until we achieved victory. We will miss him deeply."
World Jewish Congress leader Ronald S. Lauder lamented the loss of "the most articulate witness to history's greatest crime. Without Elie Wiesel in the world, it is up to every one of us now to stand up to the deniers. With his passing, we will all have to work a little harder because we will no longer have Elie to remind us of what happens when the world is silent and indifferent to evil. It is now our job, and that of our children and grandchildren, to pick up the baton and to relay Elie's message of hope and peace to the world."
The The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) mourned the passing of "a courageous crusader against forces of hatred and intolerance and a voice of conscience who repeatedly reminded the world of the moral imperative to prevent mass genocide from happening again."
"In his writings, Elie Wiesel eloquently bore witness to the dehumanizing acts of anti-Semitism and hatred that came about during Hitler’s reign in Germany and that led to the death of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust," said Marvin D. Nathan, ADL National Chair, and Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO.
"His written works about the Nazi genocide were unforgettable, but his passion in speaking out repeatedly against anti-Semitism and in defense of the Jewish state as a home for dispossessed Jews around the world made him one of the great Jewish voices of conscience for his generation.
"We will never forget his warmth, his generosity of spirit, his humanity, and most of all his astute wisdom, which informed and inspired the work of the Anti-Defamation League for many years.
"Elie’s courageous voice against anti-Semitism and intolerance is now silent. But his writings, his speeches and his memory will live on to be a blessing for many generations to come."
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin also issued a statement, greiving the loss of Wiesel, "whose writing gave voice to the millions who perished in the Shoah, and to the millions of Soviet Jews seeking freedom to emigrate. Eminent thinker and author, his books and lectures taught us with power and grace, but served also, in our own times, to teach us the lessons of history's darkest moments.His passing leaves the world bereft of a profound moral conscience."
Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, said, “Elie Wiesel dedicated every waking moment to Holocaust commemoration and to preserving the memory of those darkest of times for future generations. As burdened as he was with his own suffering and that of all of the victims of the Shoah, he was living proof of the capacity of the human spirit to heal and overcome evil. He constantly reminded us that the 'opposite of love is not hate but indifference' and challenged all of humanity to be accountable for their fellow man and to defend the weak and the oppressed. Elie called for us never to stand idly by in the face of injustice, for 'neutrality helps the oppressor' and 'silence encourages the tormentor.'
“I had the privilege of meeting Elie in my capacity as Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission. I was struck by the power of his prose and by his devotion to ensuring that 'never again' is not merely a watchword. Today, the Jewish people have lost one of its great moral advocates."
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said, "After surviving the depths of inhumanity, Elie Wiesel spent his life ensuring the world understood what happened during the Holocaust and vowed 'Never Again'. His seminal book 'Night' exposed to the world the reality of the Holocaust through one man's experience in the most powerful, harrowing and vivid of ways. He said 'Whoever hears from a witness, becomes a witness' - we honour his memory by ensuring that future generations become the witness and carry his legacy. We have lost a giant amongst men - he will never be forgotten."
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis and Chief Rabbi of Moscow said: "We mourn together with the whole world the passing of Elie Wiesel. He was a dear personal friend, involved for years in the Freedom For Soviet Jewry struggle. His first stop after his release from the concentration camp was the Jewish Orphanage in Versailles, headed by my uncle Felix Goldschmidt. I will always remember listening attentively when he lead prayers at the Fifth Ave Synagogue in NY, when he used the melodies of his hometown Sighet bringing back memories from the past. For more than a generation he was the most important spokesperson for all the survivors and victims of the Holocaust, awakening the conscience of the world to past and present moral deficiencies."
Michael Zank, director of Boston University's Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, mourned the loss of "an iconic teacher who brought an incredible intensity to every encounter with students and colleagues. It was a privilege to know and work with him."
"Deeply saddened by the passing of Elie Wiesel, who remained optimistic in the darkest days and pushed us to see beauty in humanity," said Melinda Gates, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Celebrities also remembered Wiesel and lamented his loss. "We had a champion who carried our pain, our guilt and our responsibility on his shoulders for generations," said actor and filmmaker George Clooney. "Now he's gone. It's hard to fathom. So I guess it's up to us now. To fight for the disenfranchised. To speak truth to power and to never forget how cruel man can be to man. In memory of Elie it's the least we can do."
"So sorry to hear of Elie Wiesel's passing. I knew him well. He was a great man and a wonderful writer. Rest in peace," said television and radio host Larry King.