Home Foreign Obama hails Elie Wiesel as ‘conscience of the world’ amid leaders’ tributes

Obama hails Elie Wiesel as ‘conscience of the world’ amid leaders’ tributes


The Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, who died on Saturday at age 87, is praised by world leaders past and present, including the Clintons and Netanyahu

Barack Obama led tributes to the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who died on Saturday at the age of 87, saying the author had been “a living memorial” and a clear voice against injustice in the world.

“Elie Wiesel was one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world.” Obama said. “He raised his voice, not just against antisemitism but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms.”

In 2009, Obama traveled with Wiesel and German chancellor Angela Merkel to the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald.

“After we walked together among the barbed wire and guard towers of Buchenwald where he was held as a teenager and where his father perished,” Obama said, “Elie spoke words I’ve never forgotten: ‘Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.’

“Upholding that sacred duty was the purpose of Elie’s life.”

On Sunday, Wiesel was remembered at a private service in New York City. Among the mourners at Fifth Avenue Synagogue on the Upper East Side was former national director of the Anti-Defamation League Abraham Foxman. In 2013, Wiesel and his wife Marion were honored by the ADL with the Jabotinsky Award Courageous Jewish Leadership.

Wiesel spent decades advocating for human rights in his books, university classrooms and the world stage. In 1985, he confronted Ronald Reagan for his decision to visit a German cemetery that contained the remains of SS officers. In 1993, he urged Bill Clinton to action on the mounting atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.

“Elie shouldered the blessing and the burden of survival,” said the former president and his wife Hillary Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

“In words and deeds, he bore witness and built a monument to memory to teach the living and generations to come the perils of human indifference. As he often said, one person of integrity can make a difference.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, praised Wiesel’s books as an “expression to the victory of the human spirit over cruelty and evil”.

“In the darkness of the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said, “Elie Wiesel served as a ray of light and an example of humanity that believes in the goodness of man.”

Born in Romania and for years an expatriate, Wiesel spent most of his life primarily in the US, but married in Israel and was active in the nation’s politics. He told an interviewer in 2014 that Netanyahu had urged him to run for president.

Tonight we bid farewell to a hero of the Jewish People, and a giant of all humanity,” Israeli president Reuven Rivlin said on Saturday. “Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, embodied the determination of the human spirit to overcome the darkest of evils, and survive against all the odds.”

He added: “May his memory be a blessing, everlastingly engraved in the heart of the nation.”

“We have lost the most articulate witness to history’s greatest crime,” said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress. “Without Elie Wiesel in the world, it is up to every one of us now to stand up to the deniers.”

Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel for the WJC, remembered his late friend’s expansive interests and great generosity.

“He had an encyclopedic knowledge of literature and philosophy coupled with a seemingly inexhaustible intellectual curiosity,” Rosensaft wrote in Tablet magazine.

“He often said that he could not, would not speak on behalf of the dead. He did, however, speak forcefully, eloquently for the collectivity of the survivors, and they revered and loved him for it.”

Wiesel received awards from all over the world, including the Nobel peace prize, presidential medal of freedom, congressional gold medal and an honorary knighthood.

He published the first edition of his best known work, Night, in France, where he was awarded rank of Grand-Croix in the Légion d’Honneur. President François Hollande said his country “honors the memory of a grand humanist, tireless defender of peace”.

The American diplomat Madeleine Albright, herself an immigrant from central Europe, recalled Wiesel’s relentless pursuit of justice.

“Elie Wiesel taught us never to be silent wherever and whenever there is suffering,” she said. “May his memory, like his life, be a blessing to us all.”

The author is survived by his wife, a stepdaughter and a son, who also released a statement in honor of his father.

“My father raised his voice to presidents and prime ministers when he felt issues on the world stage demanded action,” Elisha Wiesel said.

“But those who knew him in private life had the pleasure of experiencing a gentle and devout man who was always interested in others, and whose quiet voice moved them to better themselves.” (Theguardian.com)

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