Holocaust survivor, writer and philanthropist Elie Wiesel is writing a book with President Barack Obama, he tells Ofer Aderet in an interview published in Haaretz Friday:
Wiesel, who celebrated his 84th birthday on September 30, looks and sounds well and says he is up to his neck in work – despite the open-heart surgery he underwent a year ago. [...] Much of his time is devoted to writing …
He did, however, agree to disclose an interesting project that will resume after the presidential elections in the United States. “[President Barack] Obama and I decided to write a book together, a book of two friends,” he says.
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.”
(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel after Wiesel introduced him to speak at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, April 23, 2012. Obama delivered remarks on future holocaust prevention at the museum. REUTERS/Jason Reed.)