Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel didn’t live to see his countrymen march in honour of the memory of the 14,000 Jews who were deported from his hometown Sighet in May 1944.
But on Sunday evening, some 1,500 locals and international visitors marched along the very same route that those Holocaust victims had been forced down. Starting from the Wiesel family home, the participants marched through the town past the Holocaust Memorial and ended at the railway station, where a ceremony was held and a plaque unveiled, renaming the station after Wiesel.
Wiesel’s family was among those who were marched to the train station and sent to Auschwitz, where most of the deportees were gassed on arrival.
It had been important to him to see the people of his birthplace recognise what had happened to the town’s entire Jewish population before the eyes of their fellow residents, FSU Limmud Founder Chaim Chesler told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Two years ago, Wiesel began discussing plans with Limmud FSU, March of the Living and the Claims Conference to hold an event on the anniversary of the deportation. After Wiesel’s death in July 2016, Chesler was determined that the event would go ahead as planned, to honour Wiesel’s memory by realising his vision.
“This was the will of Eli Wiesel and we had to see it through,” Chesler said.
The event was held in collaboration with the Jewish community of Romania and the World Zionist Organization. It was attended by dignitaries from Romania, Israel, Europe and the United States as well as locals and 80 students who travelled to the event from Bucharest. Many of the guests were friends of Wiesel and shared personal stories about him during a weekend spent in Oradea ahead of Sunday’s march.
“We have come here to honour Eli Wiesel, z”l, a dear man whose private memory has become the collective memory of an entire nation,” said Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid on Saturday evening at a ceremony held at the central synagogue of Oradea. Lapid’s late father, Tommy Lapid, was a Holocaust survivor and friend of Wiesel. “We are here to honour him for his contribution to the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against antisemitism for his activity for the state of Israel.”