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Bust of Elie Wiesel unveiled as Romania marks Holocaust remembrance day

A municipal worker carries flowers next to the bust of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.
AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Romania commemorated its national Holocaust remembrance day on Tuesday with the unveiling of a bust of Romanian-born writer and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel in the country’s capital.

The bust was unveiled in a small square in Bucharest named for Wiesel, in a ceremony attended by the director of Romania’s National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, the mayor of Bucharest, and the US and Israeli ambassadors to Romania.

Wiesel was born in northern Romania in 1928 and was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, along with his family, after Germany occupied Hungary. At the time Sighet was under Hungarian control.

His sister and mother were gassed on arrival at the camp, and his father also died shortly after being moved to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Wiesel later went on to become a world-famous political activist, authored more than 50 books and befriended the world’s political and cultural elite. He was perhaps best known for his memoir "Night" detailing his experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Wiesel received the received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his campaigning for remembrance of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sudan and the Armenian genocide.

He died in 2016, aged 87.

Wiesel, who settled in the United States after the war, helped challenge the widely held assumption in Romania, following decades of communist rule, that the Germans alone were responsible for the Holocaust.

In 2003 he headed a panel of experts that found that between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews, as well as 11,000 Roma, perished on Romanian soil under dictator and Nazi ally Ion Antonescu.

Wiesel’s son Elisha said in a statement that his father didn’t “believe in guilt being passed down the generations,” but he added that Romanians had “a responsibility for what happens now, and for how you raise your children,” the Associated Press reported.

There are now around 5,700 Jews living in Romania, down from some 800,000 before World War II.

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