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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Elie Wiesel is probably the best known author of Jewish holocaust literature. He was born in Sighet, Romania on September 30, 1928. Named Eliezer, he was the third of four children of Shlomo Wiesel, a respected grocer, and his wife, Sarah. As a child, Elie was serious and scholarly. Fascinated with the Jewish religion, he studied the Cabbala and the Talmud.
Elie was twelve years old when the German Nazi army occupied Sighet in 1941. The soldiers immediately began to close down Jewish shops, offices, and synagogues. Soon news spread of Jewish people being arrested and sent to concentration camps. In 1944, Elie, his father, his mother, and his older sisters were arrested and deported to Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland. There Elie was tattooed with the number A-7713 and subjected to torture and witnessed the horrible deaths of many of his fellow Jews. After a few months, he and his father were transferred to Buna and then Buchenwald; during the journey to Buchenwald, his father grew gravely ill and died shortly after his arrival. When the Allied forces finally arrived to free the prisoners from Buchenwald in April of 1945, Elie was a shattered man, both physically and emotionally and had to be hospitalized.
After his recovery, Elie became a newspaper correspondent for a Yiddish journal, traveling throughout Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. He was also reunited with his two older sisters, Hilda and Bea, who had also survived the concentration camp. In 1947, he entered the Sorbonne University in Paris, studying literature and philosophy. To support himself, he continued his work as a correspondent and also tutored part time and served as the director of a choir. He also began to write, publishing various autobiographical essays, non-fiction articles, and short pieces of fiction.
In 1956, Wiesel moved to the United States and devoted
himself full-time to his writing career and to working for humanitarian causes.
With the encouragement of Francois Mauriac, a French writer who won the Nobel
Prize for Literature, Wiesel decided to write about the holocaust. His first book
on the subject, entitled Night, was written in Yiddish and published in
1958; it was dedicated to his parents and his younger sister, who did not survive
the war. In 1960, the book was translated into English and published in America.
Other non-fiction works include:
In 1963, Wiesel became an American citizen and still resides in New York. In April of 1968, he married Marion Rose, a writer, editor, and survivor of the holocaust; they had one son, Shlomo Elisha, born in 1972. From 1980 - 1986, he served as chairman of the U.S. President's Commission on the Holocaust. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Prize.