NEW YORK, July 2, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is deeply saddened by the death of Elie Wiesel. He was 87 years old. A Holocaust survivor, best-selling author, and professor, Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
"The world has lost a unique voice and moral conscience from the darkest chapter of human history, but Elie Wiesel's legacy, through the power of his many books, speeches and actions, shall live forever," said AJC CEO David Harris. "Wiesel's life was an inspiring, indeed towering, example of an individual's willpower to overcome the worst of human evil, keep alive the memory of six million murdered Jews, and stand guard throughout against the dangers of extremism, indifference and historical amnesia."
"And who can ever forget how he spoke truth to power, when he appealed directly to President Ronald Reagan to reconsider his planned visit to the military cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, where Nazi officers were buried?" Harris added.
AJC interacted regularly with Wiesel, a child survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, after he moved to the United States in 1956. He addressed a number of AJC audiences over the decades.
In his seminal roles fighting to free Soviet Jews from the Kremlin's oppression, speaking out against genocides in Bosnia and Darfur, helping found the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, defending the miracle of Israel's rebirth and well-being, and confronting escalating anti-Semitism, AJC was an admirer and supporter.
His earliest AJC encounter was with the late Abraham Karlikow, who served as an AJC staff member for 35 years, first in Europe after the war and, later, in the U.S. Karlikow helped thousands of refugees and Holocaust survivors, including Elie Wiesel, to rebuild their lives in Europe.
In 2013, Karlikow's widow, Joanne, recalled when Wiesel approached her husband at a conference in France in the early 1990s. "Wiesel hugged Abe and told him how happy he was to see him again. Then Wiesel told me that when he was a refugee in 1949 and went to the AJC for help, Abe found him a job, a place to live, and they became friends. Wiesel also told me how he appreciated Abe's work to help so many Jews from around the world," she told the Forward.
AJC honored Wiesel with the global Jewish advocacy organization's highest honor, the American Liberties Medallion, in 1972.
"Elie Wiesel believed that being Jewish means not necessarily seeking to make the world more Jewish, but rather more human," said Harris, who knew Wiesel for years. "That is the goal animating our people, through good times and bad, from the very beginning of this extraordinary historical journey to the present day. Elie Wiesel powerfully helped advance that aim during his extraordinary life of courage, purpose and meaning. May his memory always be for a blessing and an inspiration!"
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SOURCE American Jewish Committee