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Biographical background on 2006 Dartmouth honorary degree recipientsELIE WIESEL(Doctor of Humane Letters)

Posted 05/01/06 • Roland Adams (603) 646-3661

Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is best known for his work and writings in the service of human rights and resistance to oppression, for which he was honored in 1986 with the Nobel Peace Prize. A Holocaust survivor whose memoir of that experience, Night, has been translated into 30 languages and sold millions of copies, Wiesel served as President Carter's Chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust. Wiesel went on to become the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Currently, he is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at Boston University with appointments in both the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Religion.

Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania (now Romania). At the age of 15, he was deported, with his family, to the death camps at Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. His parents and younger sister perished. After the liberation of the camps, Wiesel studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, later becoming a journalist. In 1958, he broke his silence about his experience during the Holocaust, producing his internationally acclaimed memoir, Night.

As both a writer and a teacher, Wiesel has been an outspoken advocate for oppressed peoples. A devoted supporter of Israel, he has also spoken on behalf of Soviet Jews, the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua, the Desaparecidos of Argentina, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, famine victims, apartheid victims and war survivors.

Wiesel is the recipient of countless awards, honors, and honorary degrees and affiliations. Author of more than 40 books, he was awarded the Prix Médicis for A Beggar in Jerusalem, the Prix Livre Inter for The Testament, and the Grand Prize for Literature from the City of Paris for The Fifth Son. In 1985, he was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal and in 1986, President Reagan presented him with the Medal of Liberty Award. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush in 1992, the year in which he also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Wiesel is the founder and president of both The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the Académie Universelle des Cultures. A member of numerous professional organizations, Wiesel also holds seven honorary editorial advisory board seats. He is the subject of 56 books and the recipient of more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.

Wiesel, who has lived in New York since 1956, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1963. He and his wife, Marion, have one son.

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