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He had two older sisters (Bea and Hilda) and one younger sister (Tzipora), and with his parents Shlomo and Sarah they all lived in a largely Jewish neighbourhood.
The town was part of Romania, but in 1940 it was incorporated into Hungary.
At the time that Elie was a boy Sighet had a sizeable Jewish community, with around 15,000 Jews living in the town. His father Shlomo ran a local business and was well-known and well-respected as a leading figure in the town. As a result Elie had a safe and secure upbringing, receiving a good education and proving that he had talent in studying religious scholarship.
Both Shlomo and Sarah hoped that Elie would put his academic ability to good use.
In May 1944, following the German occupation of Hungary and the creation of ghettos, the Jews of Sighet were deported to Auschwitz. Elie – who was fifteen at the time – was included in this action, together with the rest of his family. After arriving in Auschwitz, Elie and his father were separated from his mother and his sisters; he would later discover that his mother Sarah and sister Tzipora were gassed almost immediately after arrival.
Elie and his father Shlomo both spent their time at Auschwitz working in the Buna camp before the pair were transported to Buchenwald. Just months before the liberation of Buchenwald, Shlomo died.
After liberation, Elie went first to Belgium and then on to France where he was put in a home for orphans.
In the aftermath of the war, he was reunited with Bea and Hilda, who unbeknown to him had managed to survive the war. In time, Elie moved to Paris where he found work as a journalist. After moving to New York in the 1950s Elie began to write about his experiences, which were first published as the memoir Night in 1958. The book went on to become an international bestseller, and was followed by a number of other works. At the same time Elie became an active campaigner for a number of good causes, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Today, Elie is one of the best known Holocaust survivors in the world.
Photo credit: “United States Holocaust Memorial Museum”