Renowned author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel dies at 87

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Holocaust survivor and renowned author, Elie Wiesel died Saturday at the age of 87.

Wiesel’s family said in a statement that he died after a long battle with an illness.

"My husband was a fighter. He fought for the memory of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and he fought for Israel. He waged countless battles for innocent victims regardless of ethnicity or creed," his widow, Marion, said in a statement released by the writer’s foundation.

Wiesel was the celebrated author of, "Night," which is the powerful memoir of his time during World War II at the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald and death camp of Auschwitz. The memoir won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

According to CNN, Wiesel was born in Transylvania — which is now part of Romania — in 1928 and was sent to Auschwitz with his family in 1944 when he was 15 years old.

A year later, he was moved to Buchenwald camp where he was ultimately freed. He and two of his sisters were the only family members to survive.

He told The New York Times he had thought about why he lived and others didn’t.

"If I survived, it must be for some reason," Wiesel said in 1981. "I must do something with my life. It is too serious to play games with anymore, because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person. On the other hand, I know I cannot."

According to CNN, Wiesel didn’t begin writing about his Holocaust experience until 10 years after the liberation.

"Night" has been translated into 30 languages and has sold millions of copies since it’s publication, CNN reports.

"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself. Never."

According to the Elie Wiesel Foundation page, he received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, the National Humanities Medal, the Medal of Liberty, and the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor.

The Jewish Federation of San Diego released the following statement about Wiesel.

" … we mourn the death of author, Nobel laureate and treasured friend Elie Wiesel, z"l. His story and accomplishments are well known — a boy from a small town in Romania who survived one of the most horrific events in human history and went on to become a writer, activist and standard-bearer for the meaning of humanity.

Elie Wiesel spent time in the company of presidents and world leaders. Federations are honored he also spent so many years with us.

He stood with us in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall when we campaigned for the freedom of Soviet Jews. His presence transformed every Federation event he spoke at over the decades and across North America, where he reminded us what it means to be a community.

Said Richard Sandler, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, “It was only a few years ago that Elie Wiesel graced the stage of Federations’ seminal event, the General Assembly, with another great humanitarian, Natan Sharansky. I was honored to have met with Elie, as we were all moved by his inspiring remarks and his life’s wisdom. We will never forget that moment, nor him."

The world — and our community — has lost one of its heroes, an inimitable man who confronted the darkest chapter of human history and used that experience to show the world the light of our shared humanity. He is and will forever be a blessing."

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