Scoop: Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel remembered at private service

A man kisses Elie Wiesel's coffin after a private service for the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York on Sunday. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Elie Wiesel was memorialized Sunday at a private service in Manhattan, as family and friends gathered and praised the endurance and eloquence of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and mourned him as one of the last firsthand witnesses to the Nazis’ atrocities.

“This is really the double tragedy of it, not only the loss of someone who was so rare and unusual but the fact that those ranks are thinning out,” Rabbi Perry Berkowitz, president of the American Jewish Heritage Organization and a former assistant to Wiesel, said before the service at Fifth Avenue Synagogue. “At the same time anti-Semitism, Holocaust revisionism keeps rising. The fear is that when there are no more survivors left, will the world learn the lesson because those voices will be silenced.”

Millions first learned about the Holocaust through Wiesel, who began publishing in the 1950s, a time when memories of the Nazis’ atrocities were raw and repressed. He shared the harrowing story of his internment at Auschwitz as a teenager through his classic memoir “Night,” one of the most widely read and discussed books of the 20th century.

The Holocaust happened more than 70 years ago and few authors from that time remain. Another Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Hungary’s Imre Kertesz, died earlier this year. Like Wiesel, he was 87.

While Berkowitz and others worry that the Holocaust’s lessons will be forgotten, some note that Wiesel himself worked to make memories endure. Abraham Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said before the service that Wiesel had written dozens of books. Sara Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., credited Wiesel with making organizations like hers possible.

‘Deer Hunter’ director dies

Michael Cimino, the Oscar-winning director whose film “The Deer Hunter” became one of the great triumphs of Hollywood’s 1970s heyday and whose disastrous “Heaven’s Gate” helped bring that era to a close, has died.

Cimino died Saturday at age 77, Los Angeles County acting coroner’s Lt. B. Kim told The Associated Press. He said Cimino had been living in Beverly Hills but did not yet have further details on the circumstances of his death.

Eric Weissmann, a friend and former lawyer of Cimino’s, said friends had been unable to reach Cimino by phone for the last few days and called the police, who found him dead in his bed. He said Cimino had not been ill that he had known of.

Cimino’s masterpiece was 1978’s “The Deer Hunter,” the story of the Vietnam War’s effect on a small steel-working town in Pennsylvania. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Cimino. It helped lift the emerging-legend status of Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Christopher Walken also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

“Our work together is something I will always remember. He will be missed,” De Niro said in a statement Saturday.

Despite controversy over its portrayal of the North Vietnamese and use of the violent game Russian roulette, the film was praised by some critics as the best American movies since “The Godfather” six years earlier.

Happy birthday

Actress Daniela Nieves is 18. … Rapper Fredo Santana is 20. … Actress Angelique Boyer is 27. … Reality star Mike Sorrentino is 34. … Rock singer Gackt is 43. … Actor Neil Morrissey is 53. … Musician Jeremy Spencer (Fleetwood Mac) is 67. … Former football player Floyd Little is 73.

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