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Mourning Elie Wiesel

Last Saturday, Elie Wiesel passed away at the age of 87. The Holocaust survivor and writer was regarded as a significant voice of remembrance for the victims of the Shoah. Wiesel had survived the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps and, to the end of his days, was a committed activist in confronting racism and violence. For this he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. The International Tracing Service (ITS) holds documentation of his path of persecution and on his time spent as a Displaced Person (DP) following the liberation.

“We mourn the passing of an ambassador of humanity”, says ITS Director Floriane Hohenberg. “Elie Wiesel was not only one of the most prominent and dedicated voices standing up for the victims of the Holocaust. With his resolute commitment to peace and tolerance he provided an invaluable service for today’s and future generations.” In numerous publications and speeches, the writer, who had been living in the United States since the mid-50’s, kept alive the remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust. His autobiographical novel “Nuit” (Night), first published in 1958, is one of his most famous works. Originally written in Yiddish as a witness testimony, Wiesel’s story is an emphatic account of his persecution experience.

Persecution and Liberation: Documents in the ITS Archive

Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 in the Romanian city of Sighet. In spring 1944, the National Socialists deported him to Auschwitz, along with his parents and his sisters. His mother and the youngest of his sisters were murdered there. His father died in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp; Elie Wiesel survived to experience the liberation of Buchenwald by members of the US army in April 1945.

The ITS archive holdings include documents on incarceration and slave labor, as well as the most comprehensive documents collection world-wide on DPs – for example, registration cards, interviews with unaccompanied children, and medical records. Documentation on Elie Wiesel is also found in the collections: e.g. a prisoner registration card from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and a DP registration card, which the Allies prepared in May 1945 for the liberated youth. This card contains information concerning name, date and place of birth as well as the names of the parents. In addition to these personal details, the destination of choice of the then 17-year-old is also given: Palestine. The ITS archive also preserves the “Concentration Camps Inmates Questionnaire” of the Allies, which Wiesel completed in May 1945.

“For the Dead and the Living, we must bear witness

Up until his death, Elie Wiesel was committed to fighting racism and intolerance. Together with his wife he created the “Elie Wiesel Foundation For Humanity”. The Foundation project pursues the goal of fighting indifference, intolerance, and ostracism by engaging in dialogue with young people. As Chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council, he came to be one of the founding fathers of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington. The entrance to the museum shows Elie Wiesel’s programmatic warning: “For the Dead and the Living, we must bear witness”. He died on 2 July 2016 in New York.