Continued from page 1

As he was wheeled away toward the operating room on a gurney, he recalls in an interview, “I saw my son and my wife, and all of a sudden, a question ran through me, ‘Maybe it’s the last time?’”

That moment reminded him of the day in Buchenwald when he saw his ill father for the last time, before he was beaten to death by a Nazi guard. His mother and sister perished earlier in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

Mr. Wiesel set his just-published latest novel, “Hostage,” in Brooklyn, the New York borough with the largest concentrations of Jews outside Israel. A Holocaust survivor is held by two terrorists, one of Arab origin, the other Italian, in scenes that probe how humans negotiate their differences under duress.

Mr. Wiesel was himself targeted in 2007, attacked and dragged out of a San Francisco hotel elevator by a 24-year-old New Jersey man authorities said was a Holocaust denier.

Mr. Wiesel says another Holocaust denier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should be arrested and charged with crimes against humanity. “Does anyone doubt that if he had a nuclear bomb, he would not use it?”

Mr. Ahmadinejad “is a dangerous man,” says Mr. Wiesel, and he should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for the deaths of thousands of Iranians and for helping make this “the most dangerous time since World War II.”

Mr. Wiesel has read the Koran, which he notes has been used by terrorists and suicide bombers as “an appeal to violence.”

“But it can also have marvelous things said about humanity and morality; it depends how it is being used,” he says.

Mr. Wiesel’s seminal work, “Night,” originally written in Yiddish and first published in Paris in 1956, is found on many required reading lists in U.S. schools.

It’s the book that ended Mr. Wiesel’s decade-long, self-imposed silence about the horror he left behind when he was liberated at 16 by the U.S. Army in April 1945.

Before he was freed, Mr. Wiesel responded to a questionnaire issued by the American military to every inmate asking, among other things, why he was arrested and imprisoned.

For “being a Jew” was his response, like so many others.

In “Night,” he describes his youthful disgust with humanity.

“Here there are no fathers, no brothers, no friends,” a prisoner supervising others in exchange for survival tells the teenage Mr. Wiesel. “Everyone lives and dies for himself alone.”

And yet, in the end, Mr. Wiesel says he believes in human redemption, to be explained in the next of his more than 50 books. He won’t reveal more details of the novel, titled “Redemption”; he never does, till it’s done.

Story Continues →