Eliazer “Elie” Wiesel, imprisoned as a child (15) and orphaned (and lost his younger sister) during the Holocaust died on Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 87 and was buried on Sunday, July 3, 2016. Leading world political and humanitarian leaders have continued to pay tribute to this Great Soul and his legacy, with President Obama referring to him as ‘the conscience of the world.’ Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, said, ‘tonight we bid farewell to a hero of the Jewish People, and a giant of all humanity.’ The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said, ‘Elie Wiesel served as a ray of light and an example of humanity that believes in the goodness of man.’ According to Melinda Gates, ‘deeply saddened by the passing of Elie Wiesel, who remained optimistic in the darkest days and pushed us to see beauty in humanity.’ George Clooney, commented on the Wiesel’s death, “we had a champion who carried our pain, our guilt and our responsibility on his shoulders for generations. Now he’s gone. It’s hard to fathom. So I guess it’s up to us now,”
Though Wiesel was a global citizen, he was Romanian-born American Jewish. He was a man of so many parts. He was a prolific writer, who authored 57 books, a professor, political activist, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate. He won countless and meaningful awards and global recognitions for his immeasurable and selfless contributions to the defence of human rights.
Of great interest to me today is his effective activism and the prodigious legacy thereof. Of greatest interest to me is the role of Wiesel’s upbringing and family value system, in who he later became in life.
With his bestselling book, Night, based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, he broke the silence about the Holocaust. He made an unashamed attempt to bring the lessons of the Holocaust to the fore, hoping that the lessons will propel our world to prevent a reoccurrence of a pogrom of such magnitude, lesser or greater. Thus he campaigned for victims of oppression in South Africa and Nicaragua. He publicly condemned genocide in Sudan and the Armenian genocide of a century ago.
While being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee aptly referred to him a ‘messenger to mankind,’ who by his ‘practical work in the cause of peace’, borne out of humiliating holocaust experience delivered a message ‘of PEACE, ATONEMENT and HUMAN DIGNITY’ to all of humanity. He is ‘one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world,’ said the Nobel Committee. The Los Angeles Times once described him as ‘the most important Jew in America.’
Wiesel in his response summed up his philosophy thus ‘I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented…Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.’ Wiesel was never silent till his breath was silenced by the dictate of nature on Saturday, July 2, 2016.
According to Wikipedia, Wiesel’s ‘parents were Sarah Feig and Shlomo Wiesel…Wiesel’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of Dodye Feig, a celebrated Vizhnitz Hasid and farmer from a nearby village. Dodye was active and trusted within the community.’
Wikipedia further revealed, ‘Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, instilled a strong sense of humanism in his son, encouraging him to learn Hebrew and to read literature, whereas his mother encouraged him to study the Torah. Wiesel has said his father represented reason while his mother Sarah promoted faith.’ On Oprah Winfrey show he said, of his relationship with his father, ‘my father and I were so close.’
Wiesel had a strong family heritage, culminating in a purposeful upbringing, which instilled in him strong, positive and godly values, which the harrowing and excruciating sufferings of his holocaust experience could not erode…The lesson is very true that when you train up a child the way he/she should, come what may, he/she will never depart from it. He/she will not succumb to peer pressure but will become the pressure point for entrenching the right values.
The seed, carefully planted by his father and the mother, who he watched tortured to death in Hitler’s gas chambers at 15, found the inspiration to germinate into unusual blessing to humanity when few years after Wiesel met French author François Mauriac, a devout Christian and the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature. He did not only encourage him to tell his story, he became a great and eternal influence in Wiesel’s life.
Wiesel was not only a proud product of a strong and positive family values, he was also a family man. It was reported, ‘not only did Wiesel have a fascinating life story, but he also had a fascinating family.’ This was evident in that fact that he promoted the sanctity of one male man and one female wife, having been married since 1969 to his wife, Marion Erster Rose till his death. His wife, with whom he shared the common experience of being a Holocaust survivor, was not only his indispensable soulmate but also his most faithful comrade in his fight for the sanctity of the human life and indomitability of the human spirit. Together, they founded Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity to ‘combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.’
His son, Elisha Wiesel, summed up his legacy thus, ‘my father raised his voice to presidents and prime ministers when he felt issues on the world stage demanded action. But those who knew him in private life had the pleasure of experiencing a gentle and devout man who was always interested in others, and whose quiet voice moved them to better themselves. He concluded in a statement issued, ‘I will hear that voice for the rest of my life, and hope and pray that I will continue to earn the unconditional love and trust he always showed me.’
The life of man often speaks for itself, so are his/her values. Strengthened Family is not only the foundation for raising protected, morally and emotionally strengthened children but also the inevitable foundation for building an enduring and strengthened society. I hope the lessons from the life of a great soul like Elie Wiesel again drums the lessons home just once again. Do have an INSPIRED week
I am Taiwo ‘ODINAKACHUWU’ AKINLAMI, I am The Preacher of the Gospel According to Child Protection and CHILDHOOD PRESERVATION CULTURE in the defense of the precious African child and I remain Sober on my knees TODAY.
C) 2016 by Taiwo AKINLAMI..All Rights Reserved
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