There are various definitions of the word history. Many scholars have tried to define this term over the years. However, it has been seen that the true definition of history depends on the understanding of an individual. In my opinion, history is the chronological record of factual events that took place in the past. These events could be either about an individual, state, region or any other thing in this universe. This is why everything is said to have its own history.
History includes of a mixture of events, some pleasant and others bad. The combination of these different events makes up the history about the things under question. One particularly notable negative event is the holocaust. The term holocaust is of Greek origin and is translated as ‘sacrifice by fire’.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, he believed that the Germans were racially superior and the Jews were looked down upon as inferior. The inferiors also included groups like homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses and other groups that Nazis despised. The Nazis believed that the Germans were the most superior in Europe and thus, best suited to lead the continent.
The holocaust was in fact state-sponsored persecution and murder. It is known as a period when many atrocities were committed against the humankind. It took place in the German controlled regions of Europe, largely in the German mainland.
During the holocaust, millions lost their lives and many more lost their family members, homes and their source of livelihood. The German leader at that time was known as Adolf Hitler. He was a visionary leader who envisioned a German controlled European economy. He was a totalitarian leader who ruled with an iron fist.
Hitler, also referred to as the Furher, was set on conquering and controlling the whole of Europe. When he assumed leadership of the German people, he started by building roads, hospitals, schools and machinery. His leadership saw the transformation of Germany from a simple country into an industrial and economic powerhouse.
At the beginning of the fascist regime, the government set up concentration camps to detain ideological and political opponents. As the persecution of the Jews gradually increased, German officials used these camps to hold the Jews and other groups considered as minorities. During the Second World War, the Nazis created transit camps and forced labor camps for the Jews. These were meant to monitor the Jewish population and also facilitate deportation.
The conditions worsened with the introduction of extermination camps where the Jews and other groups considered as inferiors were murdered. The extermination of the Jews was done in specially developed gassing chambers.
The holocaust came to an end with the subsequent end of the Second World War. Over the final months of the war, Allied forces liberated many Jews trapped in the concentration camps and even those facing deportation. The end of the holocaust came with the surrender of the German armed forces to the Allied forces.
The end of the holocaust saw the emigration of the Jews to Israel as well as to other countries like the United States. A great number of Jews moved to other states so as to start over anew.
One of the holocaust survivors is Elie Wiesel. Eliezer Wiesel, born on the 30th of September, 1928, in Sighet, Transylvania, which is today a part of Romania, the holocaust survivor lived to tell his story through a series of books.
He grew up in the Jewish community who spoke Yiddish at home but used German, Hungarian and Romanian to conduct their everyday business. He began religious studies in Classical Hebrew at a tender age. He enjoyed the mystical tradition and folk tales of Judaism, the religion of his mother. His father encouraged him to learn Modern Hebrew.
The initial years of this war saw Sighet largely unaffected. For some time, the community thought that they were secure from the suppressions occasioned on the Jews in Poland and Germany. The arrival of the Nazis in Sighet in 1944 saw the end of their imagined safety. Thousands of Jewish people were deported to the Polish extermination camps.
Elie Wiesel got separated from his family, that is his sister and mother no sooner had they arrived at Auschwitz. He never met them again. For the next year, he went with his father through the suffering they endured in various concentration camps. They went through starvation, extreme slavery, constant beating and absence of healthcare.
As the war neared the end, his father died from starvation, dysentery, and torture. Ellie and his two sisters survived the Holocaust. Unfortunately, other members of his family were not as lucky.
After the war, Ellie, who was still a teenager, moved to France. He embarked on a mission to master the French language and culture. He studied Philosophy at Sorbonne, and acted as a choir master and Hebrew teacher. He decided to become a professional journalist and started writing. He started by writing for the Israeli and French newspapers.
For a decade after the end of the war, Elie Wiesel remained silent and did not write any new works about his war time experiences. In 1955, he gave in to the urging of his lifelong friend, Francois Mauriac, who was a Catholic writer.
His first publication was in Yiddish. It was a book entitled Unddie Welt hotgeshvign (And the WorldKept Silent) and it consisted of 900 pages. It was first published in Argentina. Later a French adaptation of 127 pages was published, and it later came to be acknowledged to be one of his greatest works. This book was named La Nuit. The first publication of the book did not receive much acclamation.
In the late 1950’s, while being in the United States, he got hit by a taxi. The injuries he sustained were serious enough to put him on a wheelchair for the next year. This rendered him unable to renew his French travel documents. He applied and was successful in acquiring American citizenship. When he recovered, he remained in New York and became a writer for the local Yiddish newspaper.
In 1960, Hill & Wang agreed to publish the book in English. Over the next few years, the book’s sales figures rose from a few thousand copies to few hundred thousand copies. The book has grown more popular and has seen millions of copies sold to date.
He continued to write books in French, and his works included books like L’Aube(Dawn), and Le Jour (translated as The Accident). These other books drew widespread attention to the writer’s works, which were real in the way he brought out the details of holocaust experiences. Wiesel became the icon representing holocaust survivors. He also took an interest in the plight of the persecuted Jews in the Soviet Union. He travelled to the USSR and reported the experiences encountered during his travels in a book titled The Jews of Silence. He also wrote of the Arab-Israeli conflict that resulted in the six day war in a book titled A Beggar in Jerusalem. He also has written and published two mementos. The first, titled All Rivers Runto Sea, 1964, covers his life in Sighet and also talks a little about his experiences in Auschwitz. It also talks about his life as a student in France after the war and also his move and new life in New York. The second book, titled The Sea is Never Full, 1969, talks about his life between 1969 and 1999. It covered his life in New York as well as his undying fight for justice for the oppressed all over the world.
As his name earned him enormous respect in the international circles, Elie used his fame to speak out for various groups that were oppressed. These included the people in Vietnam, Bangladesh and the apartheid stricken South Africans.
His relentless fight for justice for the oppressed groups all over the world has seen him gain world recognition. His hard work has not passed unnoticed. In 1985, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Later on, in 1986, Elie Wiesel got the Nobel Peace Prize, owing to his efforts in speaking out for the people suffering from oppression, violence and discrimination.
He has received many more awards over the past few decades. He is now known to millions across the globe for his efforts in human rights activism. He still writes, and his latest material includes the fictional novels A Mad Desire to Dance (2009) and The SonderbergCase (2010), which have a modern setting. He still writes his books in French but has his wife, Marion Wiesel, translate the books for him.
He is fond of teaching and he lectures as professor of Humanities in Boston University. He is a known across the United States.
In 1978, Elie Wiesel was appointed as the Chairman to the President’s Commission on the Holocaust; this was by President Jimmy Carter. In 1980, he founded the United States Holocaust Memorial Council as the Chairman. He currently is the president of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which is an organization for fighting indifference, injustice and intolerance. Elie Wiesel has been awarded over 100 honorary degrees by the various institutions of higher learning. He resides in New York City together with his wife Marion and is a recognized scholar.
Wiesel has established his home of residence in New York City, where currently he is a United States citizen. Also, he has been a visiting intellectual at Yale University, again he is a Distinguished Professor with City College of New York in the field of Judaic Studies, moreover, from the year 1976, he has served as Andrew W. Mellon Professor teaching Humanities at Boston University, and there he specializes in “Literature of Memory.” Chairperson to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in 1980 – 1986, he also performs in various boards of advisors and trustees.
Elie Wiesel survived the horrors of the holocaust to emerge as one of the most respected human activists in the world. His story is one that not only inspires people considered inferior, but also creates awareness on how poor leadership can destroy lives of whole generations.
He is a perfect example of how just an ordinary human being can influence the lives of billions across the globe through writing. Writing is a humble profession that has its full potential untapped, and Elie Wiesel showed that it can be utilized in the fight opposing oppression and injustices against human life.
The holocaust nightmare plagues many people in the world. Though they have not yet told their stories like Elie, they teach those close to them how to respect everyone around them, irrespective of their ethnicity, political or religious beliefs. The lessons learnt from the activities that took place during the holocaust teach us how to live with others and help in preventing the occurrence of another similar happening.
The happenings of today will determine the future tomorrow. History will always be there to analyze our errors and learn from our mistakes. History teaches lessons that cannot be ignored for the sake of preserving a bright future for the generations to come.