Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: 'We are their trace'

Story highlights

  • Elie Wiesel once said of getting involved in fighting injustice: "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim"
  • In his famous book "Night" he wrote of the horrors of concentration camps in Nazi Germany

(CNN)Elie Wiesel moved his readers with his words. In his books and in his speeches, he eloquently spoke for a generation of wounded people, the traumatized survivors of the Holocaust.

The author was also teacher and he tried to instill in people the desire to fight indifference, to fight for justice.
    Here are quotes from Elie Wiesel's writings and remarks. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust activist died Saturday at the age of 87.
    "Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere." -- from "Night," published in France in 1958 as "La Nuit"
    "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself. Never." -- from "Night," first published in the United States in 1960
    "We were masters of nature, masters of the world. We had forgotten everything -- death, fatigue, our natural needs. Stronger than cold or hunger, stronger than the shots and the desire to die, condemned and wandering, mere numbers, we were the only men on earth." -- from "Night"
    "How does one mourn for six million people who died? How many candles does one light? How many prayers does one recite? Do we know how to remember the victims, their solitude, their helplessness? They left us without a trace, and we are their trace." -- 2001 address at the Day of Remembrance, an annual commemoration of the Holocaust
    "Let us remember those who suffered and perished then, those who fell with weapons in their hands and those who died with prayers on their lips, all those who have no tombs: our heart remains their cemetery." -- Day of Remembrance address, 2004
    "How can a citizen of a free country not pay attention? How can anyone, anywhere not feel outraged? How can a person, whether religious or secular, not be moved by compassion? And above all, how can anyone who remembers remain silent?" -- Darfur Emergency Summit, a meeting in 2004 organized by the American Jewish World Service and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Renowned holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel dead at 87
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    "Can history ever correct the extraordinary, profoundly disturbing injustice done to my people, the Jewish people, and to all the other victims? It could; has it? Will the world ever learn? We thought that if only we could speak, people would change. Not enough." -- Day of Remembrance, 2009
    "Was it yesterday or eternities ago, that some of us have realized that human beings are capable of unspeakable brutality, that for killers it was human to be inhuman? Are we, therefore, to give up on humanity? Was it the men that we are? The human beings that we are? Were we God's victims or God's failure? Are we God's prisoners? Are we God's orphans? I believe that, every day, it is incumbent upon us to choose anew between deadly warfare among adults and the right of children to grow up without fear, with a smile on their face; between ugly hatred and the nobility of opposing it; between inflicting pain and humiliation and inventing a beginning of solidarity and hope." -- Day of Remembrance, 2009
    "I believe in language, although it has been distorted, corrupted, and poisoned by the enemy. I still cling to words, for it is we who decide whether they become spears or balm, carriers of bigotry or vehicles of understanding, whether they are used to curse or to heal, whether they are here to cause shame or to give comfort. I believe that ultimately it is we who decide whether words are to be turned into poisonous adders or into peace offerings. I belong to a generation that has learned that whatever the question, despair is not an answer; whatever the experience, indifference is not an option." -- Day of Remembrance, 2009
    "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must -- at that moment -- become the center of the universe."-- Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1986
    "Do I have the right to represent the multitudes who have perished? Do I have the right to accept this great honor on their behalf? I do not. No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions. And yet, I sense their presence. I always do -- and at this moment more than ever. The presence of my parents, that of my little sister. The presence of my teachers, my friends, my companions. ... This honor belongs to all the survivors and their children and, through us, to the Jewish people with whose destiny I have always identified." -- Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1986