A Holocaust survivor who was trying to make sure the world never forgot what happened fell short of finishing his life’s work.
Alter Wiener, a 92-year-old from outside Portland, Oregon, was struck and killed by a car on Tuesday evening, Hillsboro Police said.
Wiener had been walking just before 5 p.m. when a driver hit him, Hillsboro Police Sergeant Eric Bunday said Wednesday. He was walking outside the crosswalk and wearing dark clothing on the rainy night and the driver didn’t see him. The driver will not be charged or cited, Bunday said.
“I’m just very sorry. He was an incredible man with one impressive legacy,” Bunday said.
A life of struggle turned into a legacy
Wiener had been the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
His father was killed when he was 13, according to his autobiography. He spent three years in concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz camp. When he was liberated in 1945, he weighed only 80 pounds.
CNN profiled him in September.
Wiener detailed his experiences in a 2007 memoir, titled “From A Name to A Number: A Holocaust Survivor’s Autobiography.”
Wiener was one of the last remaining survivors in the Portland area, where he had lived since 2000. He shared his life story with nearly 1,000 groups at schools, churches, synagogues and more.
He was working to persuade Oregon state legislators to create and pass a bill that would mandate educators teach students about the Holocaust and genocide. It was dubbed the Genocide Curriculum bill.
Wiener recently shared his desire to educate, inspire and spread love throughout America with the Oregon State Senate Education Committee.
“Be better, rather than bitter,” Wiener told the committee in September.
A community in mourning
Cynthia Peterson, an outreach librarian in Hillsboro, said she had the pleasure of knowing Wiener for the past decade. She brought books to him at his home.
“I’m devastated. It’s hard when we lose any of our patrons, but Alter was an author and he has a huge story to tell and he wanted it told,” Peterson said. “It meant the world to him to educate all of Oregon. We all adored him, and this is a huge loss.”
“To me he’s immortal because he has left these pieces for us and we must use them to educate the next generation,” she added.
The Hillsboro Public Library also shared a tribute to Wiener, who spoke at the library many times, most recently in May 2016.
“His story is at once moving, heartbreaking, and hopeful, and should be watched and shared by everyone. Rest in peace, Alter,” the library wrote on Facebook.
The Jewish Family & Child Service of Portland said Wiener was a beloved member of its Holocaust survivor community.
“His passing is a great loss to the Jewish community. Alter was one of only a small number of lasting Holocaust survivors in the greater Portland area,” the group wrote on Facebook.
The Facebook page for Wiener’s memoir shared a moving tribute from Alter’s family.
“At 92 and with so many ailments we did not expect dad to be immortal but are still reeling from the shock of the way that he did leave this earth,” his son wrote. “His reputation in the community preceded him; the officers who called me from the Hillsboro PD were very compassionate and one even commented ‘it’s hard to believe he survived the concentration camps only to die in this way.'”
A memorial service for Wiener has been set for Friday at Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland.