Holocaust educators in Britain have paid tribute to “a giant amongst men” after the death of Auschwitz survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.
The author, who detailed his time in the camps, most notably in his book ‘Night,’ died aged 87 at his home in New York City on Saturday, and was laid to rest on Sunday.
Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, who met Wiesel during his work on the Holocaust Commission, said he was “struck by the power of his prose and by his devotion to ensuring that Never Again is not merely a watchword”.
Adding that the Jewish people had “lost one of its great moral advocates,” Davis was one of many who took to quoting Wiesel, saying: “Elie called for us never to stand idly by in the face of injustice, for ‘neutrality helps the oppressor’ and ‘silence encourages the tormentor’.”
A Romanian Jew, Wiesel was deported aged 15. His mother and sister were killed immediately, but he survived Auschwitz, Buna and Buchenwald, his father dying just weeks before liberation. He later wrote about his experiences, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1986.
His wife Marion this week said: “My husband was a fighter. He fought for the memory of the six million Jews. He fought for Israel. He waged countless battles for innocent victims regardless of ethnicity or creed.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, who recalled his many conversations with the Boston University professor, said he was “honoured and deeply humbled to call him a dear friend,” adding that Wiesel was a “living memorial” and “the conscience of the world”.
Even in the Arab world, Wiesel was honoured, with Bahrain’s foreign minister saying: “Rest in peace. Your noble legacy will survive.” Wiesel had, in recent years, said the civil war in Syria was “a tragedy and a scandal”.
Labour MP Luciana Berger called him “an inspiration,” while former British foreign secretary David Miliband tweeted: “#ElieWiesel told me that while the word refugee may not be popular, everyone needs refuge. Extraordinary man, great humanitarian.”
Former chief rabbi Lord Sacks said Wiesel was “a great survivor, a great Jew,” adding: “He gave voice to the voiceless victims of the Holocaust… His was the voice of memory when others sought to forget, and of defiant hope in the face of despair”.
Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Education Trust said: “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… We have lost a giant amongst men. He will never be forgotten.”