Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, dead at 87


02/07/16

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and author who fought for peace, human rights and simple human decency, has died at the age of 87, a spokesman for Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, said Saturday.

His family said he died peacefully Saturday after a long 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, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, recounted his family being sent to the Nazi concentration camps in his first book, "Night," which was published in France in 1958.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Wiesel as a "master of words."

"(He) gave expression through his exceptional personality, and fascinating books about the victory of the human spirit over cruelty and evil. In the darkness of the Holocaust in which our brothers and sisters -- 6 million -- were murdered, Elie Wiesel was a ray of light and greatness of humanity who believed in the good in man," Netanyahu said.

"I was privileged to know Elie and to learn so much from him."

Born in Romania, Wiesel was 15 when he was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland with his family in 1944.

The future writer was later moved and ultimately freed from the Buchenwald camp in 1945. Of his relatives, only two of his sisters survived.

Wiesel told CNN last year that Auschwitz was "to this day, a source of shock and astonishment."

Wiesel survived because an older Jew told him to tell the Nazis he was 18, old enough to work.

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."

He was a "messenger to mankind"

He broke his silence on his Holocaust experience 10 years after the liberation with the acclaimed memoir "Night," originally published in French as "La Nuit," which has been translated into 30 languages and has sold millions of copies since its publication.