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December 7, 2021

Elie Wiesel memorial plaza opens in Bucharest

An eponymous memorial plaza opened in Bucharest on Monday to the memory of Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

Attending the opening ceremony were the ambassadors to Romania of Israel, the US, China, Italy and Austria, officials of the Elie Wiesel Institute and of the Federation of Romania’s Jewish Communities (FCER) as well as Bucharest District 1 Mayor Dan Tudorache.

Opening the Elie Wiesel memorial plaza were Bucharest City General Mayor Gabriela Firea, FCER Chairman Aurel Vainer and Chief Rabbi of Romania Rafael Schaffer.

“I have submitted to the General Council a draft motion under which this so beautiful central space becomes a landmark, a commemoration area that will make people remember the personality of Elie Wiesel, a man who fought for human values, for humanitarianism, justice, truth freedom and democracy, and do so not only when we pass by, but at any moment. The horrors that happened in the world should never repeat. That dark era of history could repeat itself, unless we today take care of the human values that we have to bequeath to the future generations. There is an added duty we have to fulfil, of telling the true story of this country, of this city, of Europe’s states, the history of America; school children should know,” said Firea.

She also mentioned a project for the construction of Romania’s Museum of Jewish History and Holocaust Remembrance. “The building standing at 18-20 Lipscani Street will be turned into a Holocaust Museum, and I am honoured to be part to this highly ambitious project. (…) It is only by solidarity, commitment and the consciousness of humankind that we can overcome together all the difficult moments, only by learning the true history, so that the bleak moments full of shadows will no longer repeat themselves,” said Firea.

US ambassador Hans Klemm said he is honoured to attend the event, thanking the Bucharest officials for their commitment to this initiative to the memory of Elie Wiesel.

The ambassador said Wiesel was born in Romania but he became a US citizen, having spent his childhood in the town of Sighetul Marmatiei, were his world concentrated on Jewish religious education and community. Wiesel’s deportation during WWII, said the ambassador, changed his life forever. In 1944 Wiesel and his older sisters survived the Auschwitz extermination camp, where his mother and younger sister died. Remarkably, the ambassador added, he also survived the Buchenwald camp, where his father died before the camp was freed by the Allies in 1945. Klemm said Wiesel’s mission was to make sure the world remembers the Holocaust, and he did so simply and directly, by telling his story and the story of other victims. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Klemm also said that Wiesel would repeatedly say in his works that he will never forget. Many did not survive the Holocaust, but Wiesel did, and through his actions he taught others to survive, the ambassador added. He said that although Wiesel died in July 2016, his legacy will go on, wishing for the memorial plaza to bear testimony to how people remember Elie Wiesel, whose name became synonymous with faith, hope and trust.

FCER Chairman Aurel Vainer underscored in his turn the importance of the opening of the Elie Wiesel Plaza. “A plaza in the heart of Bucharest City, in the most select of the city’s quarters, is dedicated to the memory of Elie Wiesel and that is amazing. (…) This is how we take over a testament of his that says we will never forget and we should not forget the horrors of the Holocaust, but at the same time, you can rest assured that we can never forget Elie Wiesel. He is the one to reside over a famous, very busy committee on Holocaust studies in Romania and based on its final report the Romanian Government adopted this openness toward recognising the Holocaust in Romania and created October 9 as a Holocaust remembrance day, because it is the date when Bukovina’s Jews started being deported to Transnistria,” said Vainer.

Elie Wiesel Institute Director Alexandru Florian underscored in his turn the importance of the memorial plaza opened in downtown Bucharest. “This is for the first time in 75 years that a public organisation – the Bucharest local administration – takes the initiaitve, a first, opening and supporting this event that inaugurates a public space signifying the memory of the Holocaust victims and of all those who in the contemporary history of Romania have advocated by their projects the respect of citizens’ rights and freedoms. The National Instituted for Holocaust Studies in Romania considers Elie Wiesel to be first of all a personality of the world who fought his entire life for the preservation of the Holocaust memory and who would send messages to the world’s most powerful people urging them to respect human rights and freedoms,” said Florian.

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