"No one alive has done more to teach the world about the Holocaust or to help us address the underlying conditions that lead to such atrocity. Elie Wiesel's lecture perfectly complements and concludes the College's Norton Center exhibit of 'Voices of Darkness,' on display since last November."
The exhibit was curated by the Norton Center for the Arts in conjunction with the Auschwitz Museum in Poland, Terazinstadt Memorial Museum in the Czech Republic, The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art in Tulsa, Okla.
The exhibit focuses on the profound effect the Holocaust had on arts and culture. The exhibit will close Monday.
Wiesel, who will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters Sunday from Centre, won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986. He has received numerous other awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award, and the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor.
The author and teacher says winning the Nobel Peace Prize was a life-changing event.
"It's something that happens once in a lifetime," Wiesel explains. "It would be silly on anyone's part to say it doesn't mean anything. It means something. It meant a lot of things. It was an important moment in my life."
Winning the prize made his schedule more busy, Wiesel says. He received numerous invitations from around the world, all of which he could not accept. Winning also came with inherent responsibility. "It's not there just to enjoy."
A professor at Boston University, Wiesel is the author of more than 40 books, the most famous of which is "Night," a novel that draws on his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. A native of what is now part of Romania, Wiesel, born in 1928, and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz when he was 15 years old. His mother and younger sister perished there; his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died.
Holocaust has "practical lesson"
He says the Holocaust has a "practical lesson" aspect to it: that it happened once, and it could happen again.
"Simply because, one hand, there are the haters," Wiesel adds. "The hater has power. ... All we can do is oppose it, or one becomes an accomplice."
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became the founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He is also the founding president of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures and the chairman of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization he and his wife created to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice.
In addition to "Night," which has been translated into more than 30 languages, Wiesel's books include "A Beggar in Jerusalem," "The Testament" and "The Fifth Son." His most recent novel, "The Time of the Uprooted," has just been published.
A variety of people and leaders have influenced him, Wiesel says, including his grandfather, father and first teachers.
"And the old teachers who lived 3,000 years ago," he adds. "Isaiah the prophet on one hand, Socrates on the other. They were almost contemporaries."
Wiesel is a longtime, devoted supporter of Israel. In an editorial published Sunday in The New York Times, he wrote about the evacuation of Israelis from the Gaza Strip, "On a strictly military level, the operation is a success. For that, and for his brave decision to pursue peace even at present political cost, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon deserves praise. But starting now, Israelis and Palestinians must face the question: What next?"
He answers that question, both in the editorial and in the interview. "I hope the Palestinians have the same courage (Sharon) has shown now," Wiesel says. "The communities should live in peace."
The Nobel Peace Prize winner says the key to humane, peaceful living in the 21st century is "to be sensitive," something he emphasizes to those he teaches. "Students should know indifference is never an option."