Today the world mourns the passing of Elie Wiesel, one of the most distinguished and respected people to speak and campaign for those who suffer oppression. He was considered to be the voice of those who must never be forgotten, the millions who were murdered in the WW2 death camps.
Elie Wiesel survived the holocaust despite having been held at both Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. He lost his mother and sister who were sent to their deaths at Auschwitz after which he and his father were moved to the camp at Buchenwald. His father died there just before the liberation of the camp.
He was highly regarded by so many, including world leaders and presidents. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986 and is the author of over sixty books. The first and probably most widely read is 'Night', his poignant account of his time in the Nazi concentration camps. He died at his home in Manhattan, July 2nd, aged 87.
Born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, now part of Romania, he was taken along with his family to the death camp at Auschwitz when he was fifteen years old. After experiencing the horrors of Auschwitz and then Buchenwald he was to survive the harsh treatment, near starvation and mental torment.
When liberation came he was put on a train with others orphans and sent to Paris. He lived in a home under the care of a Jewish organisation.
Wiesel became a journalist but, his most important role was as a witness to the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust and a voice for those who didn't survive. He spoke in to the emptiness to let us hear and be reminded 'never again'.
It is a sad loss that his voice as a witness to the suffering of the Holocaust and as a survivor of the harshest of treatment, is no more. He spent his life speaking out against violence and oppression. His audience over the years was made up of world leaders, celebrities and people from every walk of life.
"Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
Along with the loss of his constant defence of those who are persecuted, is the loss of one who is prepared to speak out. He famously said "Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." (1986).
In an age where continuing anti-semitism is becoming acceptable there is a worrying trend emerging of Holocaust Deniers. We must hold on the account of people like Elie Wiesel and others, who were there in the midst of the suffering. We must not forget what took place and never allow it to be dismissed as time seeks to dilute its potency or even to erase it altogether.
Eli Wiesel was a man who bore immense pain and personal suffering. He used his experience and his survival for the good of all mankind. He spoke out in order to alert the world to oppression and suffering.
Global indifference was his enemy. He did all he could to speak on behalf of those whose voices had been silenced, those whose voices were shouted over and drowned out.
"The opposite of love is not hate but, indifference." Words spoken by Wiesel visiting Auschwitz in later life, which are as applicable now as ever. Indifference made the suffering and atrocities of the Holocaust possible and it still makes possible the growing persecution and anti semitism.
I am challenged and humbled by this man and I pray that his memory will continue to inspire and urge us to carry on his campaign.
We must not be silent, ambivalent onlookers of similar suffering. God's chosen people, the Jewish nation are still facing persecution and it is widely condoned through the excusing of it or glibly explaining it away.
Elie Wiesel was a courageous voice in a generation of increasing indifference. May his legacy inspire us to follow his example and raise our voices on behalf of the silent.