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Elie Wiesel's hometown is Sighet, Transylvania (modern-day Romania; at the time that the novel opens, the town is under Hungarian control). The novel begins in 1941 when Elie is twelve years old.
Wiesel was born in what is now considered Romania, in the mountains. He was surrounded by his parents who taught him to be humanitarian and faithful. He had three sisters, only one of whom survived the Holocaust. The family spoke several languages in the house including Yiddish, Romanian, and German; Wiesel's mother encouraged him to learn Hebrew. His father once spent several months in prison for helping Polish Jews. Ultimately he and his father were sent to a camp where they lived and worked under appalling conditions until his father was sent to the crematorium.