CINCINNATI – Cincinnati’s Jewish community was celebrating the legacy of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Weisel Sunday.
Weisel, a Nobel Laureate, died over the weekend after a life spent sharing the story of his and others’ experiences at Nazi concentration camps. He wrote dozens of books about the Holocaust and living in Nazi Europe.
In 2002, he visited Cincinnati to help create the local Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. Center Executive Director Sarah Weiss said Weisel was a “moral compass” who talked about the importance of speaking up when witnessing injustice.
“He really is, in many ways, responsible for changing the status of Holocaust survivors from being victims to being witnesses who have a message and a lesson for humanity,” Weiss said. “And so it was really him and his willingness to speak, first with ‘Night’ and then using his memoir to go on to write other books and then go on to speak and share his stories; I think he had the courage to share and gave that courage to other survivors.”
In 2012, Weisel gave one of his last big community talks on the Holocaust in the Cintas Center at Xavier University.
“In my adult life, written or spoken, my words have a goal,” Weisel said during that talk. “Not to separate people, but to bring them together, and certainly never to oppose segments of society but, on the contrary, to prove that we are all human beings made by God.”
Weiss recalled meeting Weisel before his talk.
“He was much more like a wise uncle or sage than a celebrity, and really warm,” she said. “While he’s a man who’s written dozens of books and given hundreds – maybe thousands – of lectures, what struck me was that he was actually very quiet, very introspective. … Being around him, you felt you were with somebody who thought in a way that is not usual.”