Renowned Holocaust Survivor Shares Peaceful Message
Viterbo was privileged to welcome the world’s most respected voice on the Holocaust, Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who shared his message of hope with almost 1,700 people in the Fine Arts Center main theatre in September as part of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership’s fall lecture series.
The record crowd also filled the Fine Arts Center lobby, La Croix Black Box Theatre, and several classrooms, where audience members watched the presentation on closed circuit television. The message from Wiesel, a powerful and highly-sought speaker, was also rebroadcast in its entirety on local television and prompted page one headlines and editorials in the local daily newspaper.
“To the young—you have inherited this century,” Wiesel told the audience. “We are here to help you. My generation had the reasons to give up faith and hope. We resisted the temptation to invoke violence and instead embraced our pain and suffering.”
Wiesel is the author of Night, his famous memoir of his terrifying and tragic experiences during the Holocaust. He was 15 years old when he and his family were deported to Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp and symbol of genocide and terror. His mother and younger sister died there, while his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.
“It was a real privilege to have Elie Wiesel come and speak to the citizens of western Wisconsin,” said Rick Kyte, director of the Reinhart Institute. “His message of respect for fellow human beings in the context of racial and religious conflict was urgently needed.”
Wiesel’s internationally acclaimed Night has been published in more than 30 languages. He has received more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He has also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, and the Medal of Liberty Award.
Shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize, he and his wife, Marion, established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization dedicated to combating indifference, intolerance, and injustice through international dialogues and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding, and equality.
Each year, Wiesel receives thousands of invitations to speak and he is only able to accept a few due to his health and advanced age. He indicated that he chose Viterbo because of the excellent planning and response the university has been receiving for its year-long education on the Holocaust. He accepted a personal invitation from Darryle Clott, history instructor, to speak at Viterbo. Clott led the effort to bring Wiesel to the university.