Twenty-one Chapman University freshman listened intently this week as Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Nazi death camp survivor Elie Wiesel discussed the role of religion and morality in the face of immense, terrifying evil.

Wiesel, 82, a witness to the human suffering experienced in the Auschwitz, Buna and Buchenwald concentration camps, was in his element — assuming the burden of memory for the millions who did not survive the Holocaust.

The much-honored writer and professor clearly relished the exchanges in the main library at the campus in Orange. When a student spoke to him, it was as if the two of them were the only people in the room. His words, spoken in accented English and a soft, low voice, visibly affected the students.

One wanted to know how Wiesel managed to overcome the memories of the deaths of his father, mother and sister to write his first book, “Night,” an autobiographical account of the atrocities he and fellow Jews suffered at Nazi concentration camps.

With deep sadness in his eyes, Wiesel replied, “Only those who were there know what it was like. We must bear witness. Silence is not an option.”

Another student asked, “How can this generation preserve what you learned there?”

Wiesel brightened as he said, “Listen to the survivors. They are an endangered species now. This is the last chance you have to listen to them. I believe with all my heart that whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness. Once we have heard, we must not stand idly by. Indifference to evil makes evil stronger.”

Wiesel emphasized that he holds no malice toward Germans whose parents and grandparents were Nazis. “Only the guilty are guilty,” he said. “The children and grandchildren of these killers are not killers.”

It was Wiesel’s third visit to Chapman and his first as a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at the university. During his weeklong fellowship, he visited with undergraduates in Chapman’s Holocaust history courses and other disciplines including literature, French and religious studies.

On Tuesday, Wiesel, who is a professor at Boston University, spoke on the subject of “Knowledge and Ethics” to an audience of 900 in a Chapman auditorium.

“One thing I hope comes of these visits for our students is that history will have a face, and that as a result of meeting him they will become inspired and engaged in the human story,” said Marilyn Harran, a religion and history professor who is director of the campus’ Rogers Center for Holocaust Education.