Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 87

Updated: Jul 03, 2016 10:45 AM ET | Originally published: Jul 02, 2016

Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor who wrote the internationally acclaimed memoir Night, died Saturday at the age of 87, according to reports.

His death was met with an outpouring of remembrances, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling him "a ray of light and an example of humanity that believes in the goodness of man."

"By bearing witness, he revealed evil many avoided facing," wrote Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "By never giving up, he made this world better." President Barack Obama called him "one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world."

Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, which is now part of Romania. In his memoir, which has been translated into dozens of languages, Wiesel detailed his experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was sent with his family at the age of 15. The memoir has since come to be seen as essential reading in understanding the horrors and history of the Holocaust.

An outspoken human rights activist and advocate for Holocaust education, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. The committee praised him as "one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world."

"Undeniably Elie Wiesel was a powerful witness," said filmmaker Steven Spielberg in a statement. "He took us back to the Holocaust and through his personal survivor narrative he relived the horrors over and over again in the hope that we could imagine the unthinkable and join our voices with his in proclaiming 'never again.'"

A portrait of Elie Wiesel, the writer Nobel laureate in 1986, in Paris on Nov. 30, 2011.
A portrait of Elie Wiesel, the writer and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, in Paris on Nov. 30, 2011.Serge Picard—Agence VU/Redux
A portrait of Elie Wiesel, the writer Nobel laureate in 1986, in Paris on Nov. 30, 2011.
Inmates of the Buchenwald camp inside their barrack, a few days after U.S. troops liberated this concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, on April 16, 1945. The young man seventh from left in the middle row bunk is Elie Wiesel.
Children and other prisoners liberated by the 3rd U.S. Army march from Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, in April 1945. The freed prisoners are walking to an American hospital to receive treatment. The tall youth in the line at left, fourth from the front, is Elie Wiesel.
Elie Wiesel after he was awarded top French literary awards in Paris, on Nov. 25, 1968. Wiesel won the Prix Medicis for his novel ìLe Mendiant de Jerusalemî (The Jerusalem Beggar), which was written in French.
President Jimmy Carter left, and Elie Wiesel, chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust, watch as Cantor Isaac Goodfriend, and former Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg, right, light a menorah during a ceremony in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust in Washington on April 24, 1979.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel kisses his wife, Marion, as they greet the press after the Nobel announcement in their apartment in New York City on Oct. 14, 1986.
Elie Wiesel speaks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10, 1986.
Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee Egil Aarvik, right, with Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, his wife Marion and son Elisha after Wiesel received the award on Dec. 10, 1986.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel greets Gen. Vasily Petrenko, one of the Soviet liberators of Auschwitz in 1945, in Moscow on Oct. 22, 1986.
Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, points to himself in a photo of prisoners at the Buchenwald concentration camp a few days after U.S. troops liberated it, at the Holocaust Memorial in Lyon, France, on June 2, 1987.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, right, and Bosnian President Ali Ja Izetbegovic, left, look at war-torn ruins in the old part of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on Nov. 29, 1992. Wiesel, seen here wearing a U.N. peacekeeping force helmet and flak jacket, was making a four-day tour of the war zone.
President Bill Clinton, center, along with Bud Meyerhoff, left, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Council, and Elie Wiesel, founding chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, pause after lighting an Eternal Flame during the dedication ceremony for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on April 22, 1993.
Delegates stand at the main entrance of the Auschwitz concentration camp, after the official ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the camp's liberation by the Red Army, in Poland on Jan. 27, 1995.
President Barack Obama presents the 2009 National Humanities Medal to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Feb. 25, 2010.
Elie Wiesel stands after he was recognized during the address of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to a joint session of the United States Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 2015.
President Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel turn to leave after lighting candles in the Hall of Remembrance as they tour the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on April 23, 2012.
A portrait of Elie Wiesel, the writer and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, in Paris on Nov. 30, 2011.
Serge Picard—Agence VU/Redux
1 of 16

In an interview with TIME in 2006, Wiesel discussed his goal of advocating for peace and humility, especially among world leaders.

"My mission has not changed, because I don't think the world has changed," he said. "In the beginning, I thought, Maybe my witness will be received, and things will change. But they don't. Otherwise we wouldn't have had Rwanda and Darfur and Cambodia and Bosnia. Human nature cannot be changed in one generation."

Wiesel's death was reported Saturday by media outlets including the New York Times, which cited a friend. The Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem also reported Wiesel's death.

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.