In Memoriam Elie Wiesel

On July 2, 2016, the world lost one of the great personalities of our time, when Elie Wiesel passed away at his home in Manhattan. In the name of the Freibergs family, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Marion, his son and his numerous friends and I share the sorrow of his loss with his countless admirers across the world.
As a young woman in the 1960s, I first encountered Elie Wiesel’s extraordinary eloquence and depth as a thinker in his book La Nuit, which gradually made him world famous as an author and a humanist. Eventually translated into 30 languages and sold in millions of copies, this landmark book vividly captures the horrifying memories of a soul deeply traumatized by the harrowing experiences of the death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. It also reveals a stunning message of recovered serenity after years of acute emotional anguish as a survivor and of grief for those whose lives were brutally destroyed in the Holocaust. This book was followed by many others which, along with his work as a journalist and as an activist for Jewish causes, led to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Throughout his active and courageous life, Elie Wiesel was much sought after as a speaker, an advocate for many worthy causes and an inspiring University lecturer.
It was a distinct privilege to encounter Elie Wiesel in person during his regular participation in the World Economic Forum in Davos and to find him and his charming wife Marion so open to new friendships, so warm and so totally unpretentious. His presentations in Davos revealed him as a superb raconteur, moving his audiences to tears and to laughter, very much in what he called a “rabbinical style”: being highly entertaining, but definitely carrying a strong moral message. Later, my husband Imants and I also had the pleasure of meeting Elie and Marion at the home of our common dear friends George Schwab and Sheila Robbins in New York. Elie and I had an appointment: he would have liked to come to Riga and to visit the former Jewish ghetto with me as a guide. That never came to pass, but he will remain present in our memories as a great soul and a wonderful human being.