At a ceremony at the Foreign Office over the weekend, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett presented an honorary knighthood on behalf of the queen to Elie Wiesel for his unique contribution to Holocaust education in the UK.
Beckett referred to Wiesel as "an individual who survived mankind's darkest moment to become a living beacon of humanity at its very best."
Wiesel is the author of 36 educational works dealing with Judaism, the Holocaust and the fight against racism. His first book, the internationally acclaimed Night, details his own experience in the death camps and is used as an educational tool in schools all over the world.
"As a world figure, his influence and his interest extends far beyond the Jewish Diaspora. He has, in short, done more than any other person to ensure that British children learn about and learn the lessons of the Holocaust," she said.
On Friday morning, over 250 pupils from various high schools gathered at Jewish Free School (JFS) in Kenton, northwest London, for a question and answer session with Wiesel covering topics relating to Holocaust denial, Holocaust education, the question of faith and the Jewish people's relationship with Israel.
At a celebratory dinner at the British Foreign Office on Thursday night following the award, Yad Vashem UK paid tribute to Wiesel, who is vice-chairman of the Yad Vashem Council.
Over 180 guests attended the dinner, hosted by Yad Vashem UK, including Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and ambassador to the UK Zvi Heifetz.
Addressing guests at the Foreign Office dinner, Wiesel said: "I try to believe that it is because I am a Jew that I must be involved in the cause of others, as well, because when I needed them, nobody came but when they need me, I will be there."
"I am grateful for this honor and hope it will help us serve the noble and urgent cause of remembrance," he added.
Historian and author Martin Gilbert paid tribute to Wiesel, saying that Wiesel had served as the voice to British teachers, writers and students "of the need for every individual to take responsibility for the world around us."
"You were always a true gentleman - a truly gentle man - and now you are a knight as well," Gilbert added.
David Metzler, director of the UK desk at Yad Vashem, said at the event: "Elie Wiesel is a source of inspiration to us all. He became the ultimate symbol of survivor's resilience and moral strength. Rather than wallow in despair and lose faith in mankind, he embraced life and reaffirmed his commitment to mending the world.
"Elie's message combines Jewish and universal values and it is this very essence that makes the Holocaust the moral legacy of mankind."
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