Steven Spielberg Calls Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel “Powerful Witness” Who Re-Lived Horrors “So That We Could Imagine The Unthinkable”

AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky

UPDATED Director Steven Spielberg, who founded the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education in 1994, released this statement about Elie Wiesel, who died yesterday: “Undeniably Elie Wiesel was a powerful witness. He took us back to the Holocaust and through his personal survivor narrative he relived the horrors over and over again in the hope that we could imagine the unthinkable and join our voices with his in proclaiming ‘never again’.”

PREVIOUS Spielberg joins a growing roster of Hollywood talent remembering Wiesel. “Unless you’re 88 years old most of us have not lived in a world without Elie Wiesel. We had a champion who carried our pain, our guilt and our responsibility on his shoulders for generations,” said George Clooney about the Holocaust survivor, Nobel laureate and acclaimed author. “Now he’s gone. It’s hard to fathom. So I guess it’s up to us now. To fight for the disenfranchised. To speak truth to power and to never forget how cruel man can be to man. In memory of Elie it’s the least we can do. Rest in peace my friend. You brought us this far. We’ll take it from here.”

Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama said that Wiesel was a “great moral voice” and “a conscience for our world… He was also a dear friend,” the President noted. “We will miss him deeply.”

The death at 87 of Holocaust survivor, Nobel laureate and acclaimed author Wiesel drew swift, poignant and reverent response from Hollywood and New York’s entertainment industries, as well as politicians and journalists.

Vice President Joe Biden called Weisel, along with his own father, one of “the two people in this world who did more than anyone else to awaken my conscience to the horrors of the Holocaust—and to the obligations we all bear as a consequence.”

“When I first read Night I never dreamed I would meet Elie, much less that we would become friends,” Biden added in a statement released this afternoon. “And I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to get to know him and to continue learning from him on a personal level. Throughout my career, I relied on his friendship and his counsel. And I will never forget the generosity of spirit he showed to my family and me.”

Elie implanted in my soul an unwavering insistence that we must educate every successive generation to exactly what happened, so that we can never forget the horrors of the Shoah. It was Elie’s life-long work to make sure each of us carried in our hearts that promise—never again.

It was also Elie who taught me to understand the incomparable resilience of the human spirit—our capacity to overcome virtually anything. And because he had seen the depths of the darkness that we are capable of inflicting on one another, his belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity—his decision to live with purpose and kindness and respect toward all—was all the more inspiring.

Elie once said: “Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.” Throughout his life, Elie never stopped fighting for what he believed was right. He never gave in to despair. And he made the world better for all the children of this earth.

Jill and I are heartbroken by the loss of such a great man and good friend. Our deepest condolences go out to Elie’s wife Marion and their children and grandchildren. And we join people all around the world in honoring the indelible mark that Elie Wiesel has left on so many of us.

The Romanian-born Wiesel’s 1956 memoir Night (first published in English in 1960) was an uncompromising account of his imprisonment at 16 in Auschwitz and Buchenwald during 1944-45. Wiesel’s father was beaten to death at Buchenwald a month before the camp’s liberation by the U.S. Army.

Night re-entered the sales charts in 2006 when it was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club.



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