Elie Wiesel, winner of 1986 Nobel Peace Prize
(a new translation by Marion Wiesel)
Wiesel’s book (and dedication to Holocaust memories) achieved for him a respected reputation, bringing him attention from the Nobel Peace Prize selection committee in 1986.
Wiesel’s concise writing style in the book Night has no place for fanciful words when documenting his Romanian Jewish family’s transport and existence in a Polish prisoner of war camp in 1944. Growing anti-Semitism in his home country, Transylvania, linked rumours forewarning concentration camp atrocities. No one could, or would, believe that such inhumanity existed. Jews didn’t run from the puzzling gossip and warnings, feeling relatively safe until herded into ghettos and finally transported across the border to German-run concentration camps.
At fifteen, Wiesel and his farther clung to the hope that they would survive together. They didn’t know what happened to his mother and siblings when they became separated on arrival at Birkenau and Auschwitz. Wiesel could not write about them for 10 years, but determined never to forget the hellish places of cruelty and humiliation.
For a book written in 1960 with a sparse following, Night was later translated into 30 languages. Thirty-seven years later, the book sold 300,000 copies annually in the United States alone. By 2006, about six million copies sold in the United States, possibly as a result of TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement with a new translation by Wiesel’s wife, Marion, and a new preface by Wiesel. On February 13, 2006, Night was on The New York Times Bestseller list for paperback non-fiction.
Wiesel is a scholar, a blessing attributed to his father for encouraging him to study humanism and literature. His mother encouraged him to study the Torah. For this boy to lie, cheat and beg for his life, and his father’s life, to suffer unspeakable indignities and to doubt his faith at such a young age is heartbreaking.
For those who think Holocaust stories are overdone in literature, this book serves as a reminder of what can happen when we bury our heads in the sand.
…to stand silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all …