Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet, Transylvania on September 30, 1928. The town of Sighet is located in present-day Romania, although historically the area has been claimed by the people of both Hungary and Romania. Elie (short for Eliezer) grew up speaking Yiddish at home, and Hungarian, Romanian, and German outside. He also learned classical Hebrew at school. Elie's mother's family was part of the Hasidic sect of Judaism, and Elie loved the mysticism and folk tales of the sect as a child. He devoted the early years of his life to religious studies although his father encouraged him to study modern Hebrew and secular subjects also. He had two older sisters and a younger sister named Tzipora.
During the early years of World War II, Sighet remained relatively unaffected by the war. Although Sighet became controlled by the Hungarians instead of the Romanians, the Jews in Sighet believed that they would be safe from the persecution that Jews in Germany and Poland were suffering.
In 1944, however, Elie was fifteen years old when he and the rest of the Jews in the town were deported to concentration camps in Poland. Elie and his father were taken to Auschwitz, where they became separated from Elie's mother and younger sister Tzipora. Elie, who was fifteen at the time, never saw them again.
During the following year, Elie was moved to the concentration camps at Buna, Gleiwitz, and Buchenwald. He managed to stay with his father the entire time until his father's death from dysentery, starvation, exposure, and exhaustion at Buchenwald. Finally, in April 1945, Elie was liberated from Buchenwald by the United States Third Army.
After the war, Elie learned that his mother and younger sister had died in the gas chambers, but that his two older sisters had survived. Elie...