'Conscience of the World' Elie Wiesel Passes Away at 87

Elie Wiesel stands after he was recognized during the address of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress on March 3, 2015. (Rex Features via AP Images)

Elie Wiesel, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and became a champion for human rights and the state of Israel, died today at age 87.

The Nobel Peace Prize recipient wrote in his Holocaust memoir Night that “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” The book has been translated into more than 30 languages.

“Through his unforgettable books, moving words and personal example, Elie personified the triumph of the human spirit over the most unimaginable evil,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Out of the darkness of the Holocaust, Elie became a powerful force for light, truth and dignity.”

“His life and work were a great blessing to the Jewish people, the Jewish state and to all humanity. I feel fortunate to have known him and to have learned from his prodigious wisdom… May the memory of Elie Wiesel, a towering spirit who taught us all to remember, be forever blessed.”

Wiesel received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1984 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.

President Obama called Wiesel “one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world.”

“Like millions of admirers, I first came to know Elie through his account of the horror he endured during the Holocaust simply because he was Jewish.  But I was also honored and deeply humbled to call him a dear friend. I’m especially grateful for all the moments we shared and our talks together, which ranged from the meaning of friendship to our shared commitment to the state of Israel,” Obama said.

Wiesel was an open critic of Obama’s Middle East policies. In February 2015, he implored Congress to not ditch Netanyahu’s address about the dangers of the Iran nuclear deal. In March 2015, Wiesel appeared on Capitol Hill for a briefing urging that the nuclear deal not be approved.

“I learned to rely not on the promises of our friends but the threats of our enemies,” Wiesel said. “When our enemies make threats, take them seriously… When evil begins its work don’t give it another chance.”

Obama noted that Wiesel “raised his voice not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms.”

“We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering. Just imagine the peace and justice that would be possible in our world if we all lived a little more like Elie Wiesel,” the president said. “…May God bless the memory of Elie Wiesel, and may his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee remembered Wiesel as a “moral witness to evil and an eloquent spokesman for humanity who instructed us all about the profound meaning of the pledge ‘never again.'”

“He was a powerful defender of Israel and a proponent of the humanitarian and democratic values that bind together the Jewish state and America,” AIPAC said in a statement. “His wise voice will be deeply missed, and all that he taught us must never be forgotten. May his memory forever be a blessing.”

In his 1986 Nobel acceptance speech, Wiesel stressed that he had “faith in God and even in His creation.”

“Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all,” Wiesel said.

“…One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.”