SIGHET, Romania – Two days before Passover in 1944, on the night before he and his family were rounded up and forced into ghettos and later deported to Auschwitz, 15-year-old Elie Wiesel dug a hole in the garden of his home and buried a gold watch his beloved grandfather had given him.
Two decades later, after surviving the Holocaust, Wiesel returned to Sighet by himself and, under the cover of darkness, crept into the garden to see if the watch was still there.
A week ago Sunday, I sat in the house in Sighet in which he was born in 1928, and moderated an interview with him via Skype in New York. As he sat in New York, smiling with his jaw resting in his hand, I asked him where he had buried the famous watch. He laughed. “Twenty years later, when I came back to Sighet, I found where I buried my gold watch under a tree, and I put it back,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to find it.”