Elie Wiesel: Leaving his mark on global Holocaust education

“Elie Wiesel’s works brought forth into the public eyes a consciousness to the Holocaust.”

Elie Wiesel (photo credit: REUTERS)
Elie Wiesel
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“Never shall I forget...”
Those chilling words, the opening to perhaps one of the most memorable passages of Elie Wiesel’s seminal work about the Holocaust, Night, has been ingrained into the global collective consciousness.
With Wiesel’s death on Saturday, people the world over reflected on his legacy as a writer, an activist and an educator, and the unique role he held in shaping the discussion surrounding one of the darkest periods in human history.
“Elie Wiesel’s works brought forth into the public eyes a consciousness to the Holocaust,” Dr. Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, said on Sunday.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Rozett discussed the significant and fundamental role Wiesel played in shaping Holocaust education.
“He was a prominent voice and always so eloquent,” Rozett said, adding that Wiesel shaped Holocaust education in three major ways.
“He always put people at the center of what he did,” he explained. “In Holocaust education, we are always talking about people, family and community and he articulated the importance of placing the individual at the center.”
Wiesel, he added, helped the world realize that “ultimately we are not talking about an abstract history” but rather about very real human suffering.
Rozett credited Wiesel as playing a central role in instilling the teaching of morals and values when educating and studying the Holocaust.
“He always talked about morality and ethics when he spoke about the Holocaust and this message has translated into Holocaust education,” he explained.
“We have to teach values, because we are learning [about the Holocaust] with the hope that we understand the values we need in order to prevent future Holocausts and genocides from happening,” he said.
Rozett added that Wiesel also “reminded people that the heart of the Holocaust was about Jews.”
Despite the atrocities of WWII and the era, the Holocaust was about the annihilation of Jews, and Wiesel ensured that they remained the heart of the subject, he said.
Now that Wiesel has died, Rozett asserted that his “legacy will live on because his works have become a part of the mainstream.”
“His book Night is the second best-selling book about the Holocaust of all time after Anne Frank’s Diary and it will reverberate for a long time,” he said.
Still, Rozett said Wiesel’s death is “one more sign to all of us that we are already into an age of trying to teach about the Holocaust where we have fewer and fewer survivors.
“And, so, it becomes more and more our responsibility – the generation after and the generation after that – to keep working on the subject and understand it, teach about it and draw some wisdom to help us face what is going on in the world today,” he said.
We shall never forget.