Jul 3, 2016 8:13 PM
CONCORD — Elie Wiesel held many titles, including author, humanitarian, professor, activist, human rights advocate, Nobel Peace Price winner, and Holocaust survivor.
Wiesel died on Saturday at the age of 87, after what sources told CNN was a long illness.
More than 70 years ago, the Romanian-born man and his family were taken to Auschwitz. He and his father were deported to Buchenwald shortly after. Wiesel was only 15 years old at the time.
After surviving his time in the concentration camp, Wiesel dedicated his life to honoring the memory of those who didn’t survive and fighting for human rights for people all over the world.
He also wrote more than 40 books, his arguably most famous titled, “Night,” which was published in English in 1960.
“Elie Wiesel was one of those beacons of light to us that helps us to remember that our job is important and we need to keep ever-vigilant in doing the things that we do,” said Denise Perron.
Perron is the executive director of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, a non-profit based in downtown Concord. It was named after former California Congressman Tom Lantos, who was the only member of Congress ever to have survived the Holocaust.
Lantos and Wiesel were friends, and Wiesel’s work continues to inspire people associated with the organization.
“To just hear him talk about his experiences, human rights issues and how important it is that we’re aware of the problems in the world and we understand that we need to help in any way that we can was incredible,” Perron said.
In 2010, Wiesel was awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize to honor and thank him for his work.
“I would go around, literally from tent to tent, barrack to barrack, listening to stories,” he said while accepting the award in New Hampshire. “I felt that maybe that is my mission, to go and collect their tears and make them into stories.”
Perron also said that for someone who was so wise, Wiesel was incredibly humble and kind.
“Maybe having experienced unimaginable unkindness in his life, he maybe figured that being kind was a good thing you could do for your fellow human beings,” she said.
Other New Hampshire residents were also touched by Wiesel’s work, especially members of the Jewish community.
“It kind of gave me a glimpse into what may have happened to my family, and that’s important because there are no stories of what happened to the people who were killed,” said Rachel Berger of Concord. “There are no last words. There’s nothing.”
Berger attends the Temple Beth Jacob and occasionally volunteers as a Hebrew school teacher there. She has taught “Night” to her students and is grateful for his lifetime of work.
“I will remember him for his focus on doing the right thing,” she said. “Speaking out when things are wrong. Not being silent. Not being indifferent.”
Perron said the foundation will likely honor Wiesel in the coming weeks, although she said she thinks he’d hope for action more than anything else.
“Any way we could honor him would pale in his mind compared to living our lives in a way that would ensure that others don’t have to suffer,” she said.
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