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Associated Press

NEW YORK — Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was remembered Sunday at a private service in New York City.

Family and friends were gathering at Fifth Avenue Synagogue in the Upper East Side neighborhood of New York City to pay tribute to Wiesel, who died at age 87.

A hearse was seen outside the Orthodox Jewish synagogue and mourners were arriving mid-morning. Among them was Abraham Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Wiesel and his wife Marion were honored by the League with the Jabotinsky Award Courageous Jewish Leadership in 2013.

"He carried a message universally, he carried the Jewish pain, the message of Jewish tragedy to the world but he took it way beyond. He stood up for the people in Rwanda, he stood up for the Yugoslavians, he stood up for the Cambodians ..." said Foxman, who has known Wiesel for decades.

Millions learned directly about the Holocaust through Wiesel, who began publishing work in the 1950s. 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. Foxman said that in recent months he and Wiesel would reminisce, in Yiddish, and talk philosophy.

"We talked about forgiveness, we talked about God. He was struggling with it," Foxman said. "Well now he's a little closer. Now he can challenge the Almighty much closer and maybe he'll get some answers, which he asked, but never got the answers to."

Wiesel's death also was a reminder of the dwindling population of survivors of the Holocaust, which happened more than 70 years ago. Wiesel was among the first survivors to write about his experiences and he was among the last remaining authors from that time. Earlier this year, Hungarian survivor and Nobel literature winner Imre Kertesz died. Like Wiesel, he was 87.

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Associated Press writer Martin Di Caro contributed to this report.