The Passing Of A Giant, Elie Wiesel, 1928-2016

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
Never.

Never Shall I Forget from “Night” by Elie Wiesel

THE PASSING OF A GIANT, ELIE WIESEL, 1928-2016

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The world lost a great and indefatigable humanitarian this week with the passing of acclaimed author, journalist, academic and human rights activist Elie Wiesel. He was 87 years old. Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who endured the notorious death camps of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, was also a prolific writer who authored some five-dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, many of which related to social justice, Israel, the Holocaust and Judaism. 

He also spoke out vociferously against world injustices such as Apartheid in South Africa as well as genocides perpetrated against minorities in Rwanda and Darfur and mass slaughter against Yazidis and other ethnic groups in Iraq. He gave voice to the voiceless and represented the conscience of the nation.

In 1985, Wiesel received the Congressional Gold Medal of Achievement, an acclaimed honor and the highest that the Government gives to civilians. At the ceremony, he pleaded with President Ronald Reagan not to lay a wreath at the Bitburg military cemetery, which along with members of the German Wehrmacht, interred some 47 members of Himmler’s notorious SS who spearheaded the Nazi genocide against the Jews as well as other minorities. 

“That place, Mr. President, is not your place,” Wiesel told Reagan at the ceremony. “Your place is with the victims of the SS,” he added. Reagan was visibly moved by Wiesel’s pleas but had scheduled the event not knowing of the presence of the SS. Cold War politics won out and Reagan – who was a strong supporter of Israel – attended the Bitburg ceremony with his German counterpart, Chancellor Helmut Kohl. But he also paid a visit to the infamous Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen where 16-year old Anne Frank was murdered.  

Wiesel was also an outspoken supporter and tireless defender of the State of Israel. He routinely highlighted the abject hypocrisy of self-styled human rights activists, who reveled in criticism of the Jewish State but were starkly mute when it came to egregious injustices committed elsewhere.

The Holocaust provided Wiesel with perspective and insight that few others possessed and was central to shaping his world outlook. He understood the importance of Israel to the world and to the Jewish people in particular.

His appreciation for the existence of Israel and recognition of its importance and centrality to the Jewish people is personified by one of his famous quotes

“There is Israel, for us at least. What no other generation had, we have. We have Israel in spite of all the dangers, the threats and the wars, we have Israel. We can go to Jerusalem. Generations and generations could not and we can.”

Of course, where there is good in this world there is there is also no shortage of evil and the anti-Semitic trolls, composed of an alliance of Islamo-fascists and radical leftists, immediately came out of the woodwork to launch vitriolic attacks against Wiesel and his great legacy.

Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the hate site Electronic Intifada noted that, “Elie Wiesel will be remembered by Palestinians for his racism and his propaganda services to their oppressors, ethnic cleansers and killers.”

Iranian-American Reza Aslan, who is considered by some in the mainstream to be the “moderate” voice of Islam and is a frequent guest commentator on various news outlets, implied on his Twitter feed that Wiesel was a liar.

And of course, no Judeophobic tirade would be complete without the voice of the notorious anti-Semite Max Blumenthal, son of Hillary Clinton’s closest adviser, Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal’s Twitter rant includes the following gem: “Elie Wiesel went from a victim of war crimes to a supporter of those who commit them. He did more harm than good and should not be honored.” It should be noted that should Clinton win the general election, the rancid Max Blumenthal will be just one degree of separation from access to the White House, something one should bear in mind before pulling the lever on Election Day.

Surprisingly, Wiesel won praise from Bahrain’s minister of foreign affairs, Khalid Bin Ahmad, who noted on his Twitter feed, “Rest in peace #ElieWiesel. Your noble legacy will survive.” He also re-tweeted several flattering comments including those of House Speaker, Paul Ryan.

Khalid Bin Ahmad’s comments could be a reflection of the growing warming of ties between Israel and the Gulf States or they may reflect genuine expressions of admiration or perhaps a combination of both. Either way, it demonstrates the positive impact Wiesel made on the global stage.

With Wiesel’s passing, the world has lost a giant among giants, a true voice of morality in a sea of immorality. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy will live on.  

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