Romania’s first public Holocaust learning center has opened in the childhood home of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.
The new Holocaust Cellar center is an addition to an existing museum about Wiesel’s life in his former home in Sighet, a town in the Transylvania region of Romania. Visitors to the center will be able to research and learn interactively about the Holocaust and its 13,000 victims in Sighet.
“The house I was raised in is now a museum but to me it will always be uniquely special, eliciting the warmest of memories until the darkness of the kingdom of night befell us,” Wiesel said, speaking by video uplink to guests at the opening ceremony. “I hope that your meetings, though melancholy in nature, are fruitful, enriching and full of meaningful learning.”
The opening was the first of a series of events marking 70 years since the final deportation of the Jews of Northern Transylvania. Two days after Passover 1944, Jews living in the Hungarian-controlled area were forced into ghettos. Most, including Wiesel, were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, and 135,000 died.
“The story of the Jews who lived in North Transylvania has not been widely told until now,” said Chaim Chesler, chairman of the memorial committee of the Claims Conference, which is sponsoring the new center in conjunction with Limmud FSU. “The education center commemorates the terrible fate that befell the Jews of this area, and ensures their story will not be forgotten.”
The Sunday event drew both Jewish leaders and the Romanian government officials, including Viktor Opaschi, the Romanian minister of religious affairs, and Rafael Sheffer, chief rabbi of Romania.