The world grieved Monday as news of Elie Wiesel’s death spread, with heads of state from Israel to America to Canada to France sending out sentiments that recognized the Holocaust survivor for his spirit “to overcome the darkest of evils,” as one said.
“We bid farewell to a hero of the Jewish people and a giant of all humanity,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, NBC News reported. “Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, embodied the determination of the human spirit to overcome the darkest of evils, and survive against all the odds. His life was dedicated to the fight against all hatred and for the sake of man as created in the image of God, he was a guide for us all. One of the Jewish people’s greatest sons, who touched the hearts of so many, and helped us to believe in forgiveness, in lif, and in the eternal bond of the Jewish people. May his memory be a blessing, everlastingly engraved in the heart of the nation.”
Wiesel, who overcame the Holocaust and went on to pen a poignant memoir about the horrors of the concentration camps and dedicate his life to fighting against inhumanity the world over, died over the weekend at his home at the age of 87 and was memorialized in a Sunday service in Manhattan.
“This is really the double tragedy of it, not only the loss of someone who was so rare and unusual but the fact that those ranks are thinning out,” said Rabbi Perry Berkowitz, the president of the American Jewish Heritage Organization and a former assistant to Wiesel, said during the Fifth Avenue Synagogue service, to Politico. “At the same time anti-Semitism, Holocause revisionism keeps rising. The fear is that when there are no more survivors left, will the world learn the lesson because those voices will be silenced.”
Wiesel’s book “Night” touched the world with its raw power, becoming one of the most widely read and discussed books of the 20th century.
President Obama called Wiesel, who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, “the conscience of the world” and “a living memorial.”
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wiesel “served as a ray of light” in a dark world.
“The state of Israel and the Jewish people express sorrow over the death of Elie Wiesel,” Netanyahu said. “Elie, a master of words, gave expression to the victory of the human spirit over cruelty and evil with his unusual personality and captivating stories. In the darkness of the Holocaust when our brothers and sisters perished, the six million, Elie Wiesel served as a ray of light and an example of humanity that believes in the goodness of man.”
Netanyahu also said he was “grateful for the honor” of knowing Wiesel and “learning so much from him,” and called for his “memory [to] be blessed forever.”
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, sent out a Twitter message expressing sorrow.
“Elie Wiesel spent his life in service to humanity, keeping the memory of the Holocaust’s horror alive,” he tweeted. “It is for us all to carry this torch.”
French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, spoke of the special bond between Wiesel and France.
“This universal man had a special relationship with France, where he studied after the war, where he published the first edition of ‘The Night,’ thanks to Jerome Lindon, where he created the Universal Academy of Cultures in 1992. France honors the memory of a grand humanist, tireless defender of peace.”
Others weighed in similarly:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Wiesel “one of our most poignant and passionate voices for justice, for remembrance and for applying the lessons a dark past to shape and inform a brighter future.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted: “Rest in peace Elie Wiesel. Thank you for your stories of triumph of the human spirit in the face of evil. The world will never be the same.”
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, and her former presidential husband, Bill Clinton, issues a joint statement: “We join all those around the world in mourning his loss and giving thanks for his life. … As he often said, one person of integrity can make a difference.
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said: “We have lost the most articulate witness to history’s greatest crime. Without Elie Wiesel in the world, it is up to every one of us now to stand up to the deniers.”
And even Hollywood took notice, with actor George Clooney writing: “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. To fight for the disenfranchised. To speak truth to power and to never forget how cruel man can be to man.”