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Remembering Elie Wiesel, In His Words


A number of influential people died in 2016, and we're taking a moment now to remember one of them, a man who dedicated his life to making sure the world would never forget.


Elie Wiesel survived concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He was 16 when he was liberated, bearing the tattoo A7713 on his arm and the horrors of the Nazis in his memory. He wrote dozens of books. He gave hundreds of lectures. He spoke out for those who were hated and persecuted.

SHAPIRO: During an interview with WHYY's FRESH AIR in 1988, Elie Wiesel explained to Terry Gross why he chose to make that his life's work.


ELIE WIESEL: What else could one do having gone through certain events? I believe a human being - if he or she wants to remain human, then he or she must do something with what we have seen, endured, witnessed. I mean naturally the human being wants to forget pain.

In this case, all those or most of those who went through the experience during the war - they want to remember more and more and more. It's never enough because we feel that we have to tell the story, and no one can tell the story fully.

TERRY GROSS, BYLINE: Did you know when you got out of the camps that you wanted to write?

WIESEL: Oh, I knew that I was going to write before I entered the camps. I knew I would have to bear witness. Everyone who was there is a witness, and everyone who was there is a true witness. Others who are trying to speak about the subject occasionally are false witnesses. And I felt that I had to be a true witness, and therefore, I decided to wait for 10 years, not to speak about it or to use language related to these experiences until I knew that the words were true words.


SIEGEL: Holocaust survivor, human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel - he died in July at his home in Manhattan at age 87. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.