Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor, died on Saturday aged 87. Wiesel, born in Sighet in Maramures, was deported to Auschwitz along with his family in 1944, before ending up in Buchenwald – where he was liberated in April 1945.
One of the finest human beings ever to hail from these parts, Wiesel was nevertheless hated by many Romanian extremists. It was Wiesel who for decades and above all others implored and cajoled the country into finally accepting its role in the Holocaust. As the definitive report into the Holocaust in Romania (which bears his name) concluded when published in 2004:
Of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania was responsible for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself
In recent years Wiesel was a fierce opponent of neo-fascism, his Wiesel Institute a highly effective watchdog against creeping extremism in everyday Romanian political and cultural life. This is the extremism that would rehabilitate the same Legionary scumbags (Radu Gyr, Valeriu Gafencu and their ilk) who so willingly and with great relish carried out and/or cheered the acts of utter inhumanity that Wiesel dedicated his life to ensuring were never forgotten.
Romania owes Wiesel a huge debt. In the pantheon of those who have served the country he stands as a giant, one of the greatest Romanians of them all.
For those who want to read more about Wiesel, we have gathered together a number of obituaries:
You can also read the entire report of the Wiesel Commission here.