The Nobel Prize–winning author and Holocaust survivor talks about his friendship with the president
In an interview published today with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who just turned 84, reveals that “[President Barack] Obama and I decided to write a book together, a book of two friends.” Haaretz describes their friendship:
Wiesel became friends with Obama in 2009, a few months after the Democratic candidate was elected. Obama’s staff invited Wiesel to join the president on a visit to the site of Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. Wiesel had first arrived at the camp at the end of World War II, with his father and other prisoners, following a death march from Auschwitz. His mother and his younger sister were murdered there, while Wiesel and his father, who did forced labor there, survived; his father died at Buchenwald. Only Wiesel and two of his sisters were still alive at the liberation.
When Obama concluded his remarks at Buchenwald, he whispered to Wiesel, “The last word has to be yours here.” Choking with tears, Wiesel made an impromptu speech in which he said to Obama, “Mr. President, we have such high hopes for you, because you, with your moral vision of history, will be able and compelled to change this world into a better place … You are our last hope.”
Since then, he adds, the two have become good friends, and he is occasionally invited to dinner by the president: “We talk about philosophy, contemplation, thought, but never about politics. He is a thinking person, a person with depth and intellectual curiosity.”
Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at email@example.com. More Prachi Gupta.
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