The Power Blog: Elie Wiesel’s Roadmap for Humanity by David Weiss
The world lost a true hero this week with the passing of Holocaust survivor and author, Elie Wiesel. An extraordinary communicator, Wiesel spent his life fighting for peace, human rights and human decency. Although remembered as a “survivor”, Wiesel was also a fearless fighter.
Wiesel’s incredible message and talents almost went entirely unnoticed. Even after surviving the Concentration Camps, Wiesel was silenced by the world’s indifference to the Holocaust. “The truth is in the 1950s and in the early 1960s there was little interest and willingness to listen to survivors,” said Wiesel’s longtime friend Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, who had read a copy of “Night” in Israel in the early 1960s. The book had languished, barely selling any copies at all. “In 1963, someone told me this author is alive and well in New York City and I somehow managed to find him and go see him.”
Wiesel was working as a freelance reporter for a French newspaper, an Israeli newspaper and a Yiddish newspaper, barely making a living even with all three jobs. His friend Rabbi Greenberg said “He had this magnetic presence. He was quiet but with tremendous force and he felt the vividness the Holocaust had a message.” Without Rabbi Greenberg forcing Wiesel’s writing to the forefront, the world never would have known about this incredible person and his tragic Holocaust journey.
I believe that the quest to challenge indifference wasn’t just the indifference that the world showed before and during the Holocaust. It was also the indifference that Wiesel felt afterward.
Elie Wiesel’s stature continued to grow throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1986 Wiesel started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. One year earlier he adamantly criticized President Reagan’s trip to the Bitburg Cemetery which was the resting place for 49 of Hitler’s most prized SS war criminals. He also became an advocate for Ethiopian and Soviet Jews, Bosnian victims of genocide and those suffering from Human and Civil Rights abuses in Argentina, South Africa, Nicaragua, Cambodia and dozens of other places around the world. Besides criticizing President Reagan, Wiesel also spoke out against President Obama’s stance opposing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He spoke out against Hungary, even returning the “Great Cross Award” he received from their nation’s leader. He felt betrayed that Hungarians had engaged in historical revisionism about the Holocaust in their schools.
Wiesel had the opportunity to be a loved-by-all scholar and author, but he chose to speak out, even at the risk of making enemies. He criticized the most powerful people in the world when he felt that they were wrong. Elie Wiesel’s voice could never be silenced. How can we make sure that Elie Wiesel’s voice continues to enrich our world? We need to engage in wide reaching scholarly endeavors, remembrance of past injustices and human rights advocacy.
As the grandson of four Holocaust Survivors, I am especially thankful to Mr. Wiesel. Just ten years after being liberated, he was able to describe his experiences, emotions and show the world a path forward. A brilliant man, Elie Wiesel could have avoided his past and never spoke about his experiences during the Holocaust. Nobody would have blamed him. Instead, he spent his life sharing his story and focusing millions of people on the importance of remembrance and standing up to injustice.
Elie Wiesel’s great gift to the world is the road map he left us with. Never Forget and Never Stay Silent.
David Weiss was born, raised and still lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Being the grandson of four Holocaust Survivors has always been an integral part of his identity and life. David earned a Bachelors of Arts in Education from Cardinal Stritch University and a Masters of Arts in Education from Viterbo University. He spent eleven years as a second and third grade teacher before starting his own promotions business. David is also an author and teaches at the college level. David and his wife are the proud parents of a six year old daughter.
Read Additional Power Blogs by David Weiss HERE.
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Purchase the author’s book “Czech Mates: Holocaust Legacy”
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Learn more at www.HolocaustLegacyBooks.com
Read more about David Weiss’ new book HERE.