Elie Wiesel on campus today

Elie Wiesel

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 8, 2005 – As part of Virginia Tech's recognition of Holocaust Awareness Week, Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel is coming to speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, in Burruss Hall Auditorium. The event has sold out, the first time a speaking engagement has sold out in the auditorium.

Wiesel, who won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote Night, the internationally acclaimed book about his experiences in the Nazi death camps.

"Last year, the Holocaust Awareness Committee was looking to make a larger impact on Virginia Tech's campus," said Jay Reid, Virginia Tech student, Holocaust Awareness Committee member, and Hillel representative. "To do this we wanted to get a premier speaker on this issue. We all brainstormed, and one name came to mind: Elie Wiesel. There isn't a more moving and powerful Holocaust speaker than Elie Wiesel."

Born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, now a part of Romania, Wiesel was 15 when he and his family were deported by Nazis to Auschwitz, where his mother and younger sister perished, but his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945; he was 17.

Wiesel has authored more than 40 fiction and non-fiction books including A Beggar in Jerusalem (Prix M├ędicis winner), The Testament (Prix Livre Inter winner), The Fifth Son (winner of the Grand Prize in Literature from the City of Paris), and two volumes of his memoirs.

Also central to Wiesel's lifetime of achievement are his teaching and human rights activities. Since 1976, Wiesel has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, where he also holds the title of University Professor. He is a faculty member in the departments of religion and philosophy and holds more than 100 honorary degrees from higher learning institutions.

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He also is the founding president of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize, he and his wife, Marion, established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity to "advance the cause of human rights by creating forums for the discussion and resolution of urgent ethical issues."

Those involved in organizing Wiesel's visit expect the event to be sold out. "My phone has been ringing off the hook, and everywhere I've been people have been very excited about meeting and hearing Elie Wiesel," said Sue Kurtz, special events coordinator for the Judaic Studies Program and director of Hillel. "Bus loads of people are already planning to come to the event."

Sponsors of Wiesel's visit include: Hillel, Multicultural Affairs, Virginia Tech Union, the President's Office, Judaic Studies, the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Holocaust Committee, Pamplin College of Business, and Virle and Al Payne Lecture of Glade Church. Other organizations from Virginia Tech and the community also have provided support.

Tickets for students are available at no charge beginning Feb. 14 through Squires ticket office. Tickets for the general public are $5 and go on sale Feb. 21, also through the Squires ticket office. Tickets can be purchased online, or you can call (540) 231-5615.

For more information, contact Kurtz at (540) 951-2060 or e-mail at skurtz@vt.edu.