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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Romanian Nobel winner returns home
Romanian President Ion Iliescu
Romania's president accompanied Elie Wiesel on his homecoming
Nobel Peace Laureate and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel has returned to his native Romania to pay tribute to Jews deported from the country to Nazi death camps.

Mr Wiesel travelled to his home town of Sighet to inaugurate a museum built in his former family home.


I have come here with no bitterness or resentment, as all that happened in 1944 is not your fault

Elie Wiesel
The town is near the Hungarian-Ukrainian border, around 560 kilometres (350 miles) north-west of Bucharest.

It had a Jewish population of 20,000 before World War II, but it was emptied of Jews during the war, at a time when north-western Romania was controlled by Hungary.

Around half of Romania's Jewish population are believed to have died in the Holocaust.

Holocaust remembered

At the ceremony, Mr Wiesel said he had returned to his home town without hatred for what happened to the Jews deported in 1944, and stressed that the people of Sighet were not responsible for what happened then.

Mr Wiesel's former family home
The government funded the restoration of Mr Wiesel's former home

"I have come here with no bitterness or resentment, as all that happened in 1944 is not your fault. I am not even sure that many of you know what happened then."

Romanian President Ion Iliescu attended the inauguration ceremony. He called for the memory of the Holocaust to be preserved.

Mr Wiesel also met Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who said that the three-day visit was a way for Romania to distance itself from "the painful heritage of the past".

Family tragedy

Mr Wiesel and his family were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. His mother and younger sister died there.

He was separated from his two older sisters at the camp. It was not until after the war that he found out that they had survived.

Sign marking Elie Wiesel's former home
Mr Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986

He and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.

Mr Wiesel has published over 40 books on Judaism and the Holocaust.

During the visit, he is also expected to receive the country's highest honour, the Star of Romania, and to be made a member of the Romanian Academy.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Middle East
27 Jan 02 | Europe
25 Jan 02 | Europe
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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