18 Elie Wiesel Quotes We All Desperately Need Right Now

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elie wiesel quotes

Every year on January 27, the United Nations General Assembly commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of prisoners held at Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

One of the most inspiring human beings of the last century — and one of the far-too-huge list of remarkable people who passed away in 2016 — was author, professor, political activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. So on this day, and in times like these when antisemitism is terrifyingly on the rise, it feels fitting to remember some of his most important and meaningful quotes.

Photo: David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wiesel, who was born on September 30, 1928, and passed away on July 2, 2016, at the age of 87, was remarkable not only for having survived one of the most brutal and tragic world events of all time as a suddenly orphaned boy at the young age of only 15, but for his ability to capture and translate the experience of the Holocaust in a way which brought both healing and empathy to people all over the world.

Photo: By Private H. Miller. (Army) - This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 535561., Public Domain

Given his prolific writing, you might think that speaking out about the horrors of the Nazi regime was something Wiesel felt immediately compelled to take on. The truth is that he refused to speak about his experiences at all for the entire first decade after he was liberated by U.S. troops and moved to Paris. There his friend, distinguished French Catholic writer Francois Mauriac, persuaded him to write, and his legendary memoir — Night— was born.

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” ― Elie Wiesel, Night

In 1955, Wiesel moved to New York City, where he married Marion Erster Rose, who translated many of his books. They had one son, whom they named Shlomo Elisha Wiesel after Elie’s father.

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There is a mystical tradition of numerology in Judaism known as Gematria, in which each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is assigned a numerical value.

The Hebrew word for "life" — chai — is composed of the letters chet (ח) and yud (י), which together add up to the number 18. For this reason, the number 18 is associated with long life, good luck and all things positive and hopeful.

And for that reason, I have gathered here 18 Elie Wiesel quotes it seems clear to me the world could use now more than ever before.

18 Best Quotes From Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel

1. "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." — Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered on December 10, 1986

2. "Someone who hates one group will end up hating everyone — and, ultimately, hating himself or herself." — Elie Wiesel

3. "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." — Elie Wiesel

4. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

5. "No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them." — Elie Wiesel

6. "Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other." — Elie Wiesel

7. "When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude." — Elie Wiesel

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8. "Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing." — Elie Wiesel

9. "Human beings should be held accountable. Leave God alone. He has enough problems." — Elie Wiesel

10. "Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings." — Elie Wiesel

11. "Not to transmit an experience is to betray it." — Elie Wiesel

12. "Once you bring life into the world, you must protect it. We must protect it by changing the world." — Elie Wiesel

13. "Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds." — Elie Wiesel

14. "Look, if I were alone in the world, I would have the right to choose despair, solitude and self-fulfillment. But I am not alone." — Elie Wiesel

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15. "In any society, fanatics who hate don't hate only me — they hate you, too. They hate everybody." — Elie Wiesel

16. "Religion is not man's relationship to God, it is man's relationship to man." — Elie Wiesel

17. "Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories." — Elie Wiesel

18. "Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe." — Elie Wiesel

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Deputy Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, holds a Masters Degree in Judaic Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and is a former family law mediator, divorce coach and recognized expert on love and relationships. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN, Bustle, Parents and more. You can follow her on Twitter for more.