Elie Wiesel: Mes­sen­ger for Peace

Heather Lehr Wagner
  • Review
By – April 2, 2012
When Elie Wiesel was 15 years old — a shel­tered, stu­dious ado­les­cent, his life changed rad­i­cal­ly. This was Hun­gary; its head of state was an Axis part­ner who had refused to turn over his Jews to Hitler, although Hun­gary had plen­ty of its own Nazis. Still, when the fam­i­ly was offered hid­ing by their faith­ful house­keep­er, they polite­ly refused her help; his father think­ing that the trou­ble would pass and the war would soon be over. Not soon enough, for the Hun­gar­i­ans, although the last to die, were shipped to the slave labor and killing camps as fast as Eich­mann could man­age it. Sev­er­al of Wiesel’s fam­i­ly mem­bers were killed imme­di­ate­ly. Wiesel spent 11 months at Auschwitz, where he expe­ri­enced tor­ture, abuse, vio­lence and where his father died. It took 10 years, how­ev­er, for Wiesel to write about his expe­ri­ences in the famous mem­oir, Night. Since then, Wiesel has found his méti­er as a spokesper­son against injus­tice, serv­ing as a pow­er­ful voice for vic­tims of racism, hatred and repres­sion through­out the world. He has been chair­man of the President’s Com­mis­sion on the Holo­caust and a win­ner of the Nobel Prize. What is excep­tion­al about this book is that not only does it cov­er all of Wiesel’s accom­plish­ments but also con­tains a human­ized por­trait of the man, with a for­mat that is attrac­tive to young read­ers. The print is slight­ly larg­er; there is ample white space between lines, lots of pho­tographs (both black and white and col­ored) with high­light­ed infor­ma­tion set off by a dif­fer­ent col­ored paper. There is also a prodi­gious amount of ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al list­ed: appen­dix, chronol­o­gy, notes, bib­li­og­ra­phy, fur­ther read­ing and index. For ages 11 – 15.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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