Elie Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928, in Sighet, Romania. He was the son of observant Jewish parents, and spent his youth pursuing a Hasidic Jewish education.
As described in his semi-autobiographic and most famous novel, Night, Elie Wiesel was 15 in 1944, when Nazi Germany invaded his town. All of the Jewish inhabitants were shipped to concentration camps. Although Wiesel managed to stay with his father, they were separated from his mother and youngest sister, whom he never saw again. Over the course of the war, Wiesel was a prisoner in three concentration camps—Buna, Buchenwald and Gleiwitz. Near the end of the war, Wiesel's father died. In 1945, Buchenwald was liberated by Allied troops.
After the end of World War II, Wiesel studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and worked for a time as a journalist. Although Wiesel decided early in his career to be a novelist, he was unable for many years to put his Holocaust experiences down on paper. Instead, he wrote briefly under the pen name Elisha Carmeli.
In 1956, Elie Wiesel was finally convinced by his friend, the writer François Mauriac, to write about his experiences. His first work was entitled And the World Remained Silent and was originally published in Yiddish. This story evolved to form the trilogy of Night, Dawn, and The Accident, which were published successively in 1956, 1958, and 1960, respectively.
In 1969, Wiesel married Marion Erster Rose, with whom he had a son, Shlomo Elisha Wiesel. Marion is also a Holocaust survivor and helped to translate many of Wiesel's books into English. Most of his manuscripts were written in French; his earliest works were written in Yiddish.
In addition to writing many novels, Elie Wiesel has been a professor at several universities, including Yale University and Boston Unviersity. He was appointed the chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Wiesel has devoted a great deal of his time to lecturing on behalf of Jews and other minorities who are or have been persecuted.
In 1986, Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Elie Wiesel died in his Manhattan home on July 2, 2016, at the age of 87.