pictures added by this website]|
Wiesel, survivor; author of book:
"Night", about his horrible sufferings at
the hands of the Nazis.
fee: $25,000 per lecture plus
Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunday, March 25,
The witness who
can't stay silent
by Tim Funk
ELIE Wiesel has decided to walk
the nine blocks to his 10 a.m. TV interview at
Rockefeller Center even though it's 36
given up on the car that was expected 10 minutes
ago and is now striding down Madison Avenue, his
wild, wispy gray hair dancing in the cold wind. For
Wiesel, 78, the world's most famous Holocaust
survivor, the time he has left in this world is too
precious to be spent waiting.
The person who knows him best, his wife,
Marion, says Wiesel is speeding up at a time
in life when most people are slowing down. "As he
gets older, he has an even greater sense of
urgency," she says. "He wants to finish what he
Trying to keep up with Wiesel this morning as he
hurries past slo-mo pedestrians are a balding
bodyguard and Stephanie Ansaldo, president
of Charlotte's Echo Foundation.
Ansaldo's group was born 10 years ago, when
Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, last visited
Charlotte. Its mission: to launch projects that
echo Wiesel's message to guard against indifference
in a still-suffering world.
After years of invitations to come back, Wiesel
has finally agreed to speak -- on Tuesday -- with
students, educators, community leaders, clergy and
a paying crowd of
2,000 at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
everything else he does -- speaking to the U.N.
Security Council about genocide in Darfur, bringing
together top Israeli and Palestinian leaders at a
conference, helping to launch the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum in Washington -- the trip to
Charlotte will be Wiesel's way of keeping two
promises. He made them to himself when he was a
skinny teenager in the Nazi death camps, prisoner
A-7713. That number is still tattooed on his
He swore, first, that he would never let the
world forget the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis
-- a pledge that led to "Night," his 1958
And because Wiesel was devastated by the world's
indifference to the genocide of Jews during World
War II, he also promised himself that as an adult,
he would never be silent "whenever and wherever
human beings endure suffering and humiliation."
Hence his drive to get the United Nations, the
United States and Israel to do more to stop the
slaughter and help the refugees in Sudan's Darfur
region -- the world's new "capital of human
suffering," Wiesel says.
The fact that Wiesel -- 5 feet 7 with a slight
frame -- is traveling this morning with a bodyguard
is yet another sign to him that hate and violence
are still at large 62 years after he and others
were liberated at the Buchenwald death camp.
Wiesel added security after a peace
forum Feb. 1 in San Francisco. A man dragged
Wiesel from an elevator for an "interview" in
his sixth-floor hotel room. Wiesel started
yelling, and the man walked away.
A man identifying himself as Eric Hunt,
22, later said on an anti-Semitic Web site that
he'd been trailing Wiesel for weeks. His plan:
Videotape "the cornered Wiesel" while forcing him
to admit that "Night" -- a book that's read in high
schools all over the world -- is fiction.
After the Web posting, police arrested Hunt in
Lately, Wiesel has been plagued by nightmares.
He gets by on four hours of sleep a night and
dreams about the death camps where his family was
taken in 1944. He never saw his mother and little
sister again. And he watched his father slowly die.
Instead of fading away, the terror of his youth has
grown more vivid in his old age.
Today, he got up at 5 a.m., to work on his
latest novel. "I don't like to sleep," Wiesel says.
"It's a waste of time."A sly sense
Rockefeller Center is in sight.Wiesel breezes by
shivering fans of NBC's "Today" show who are
waiting outside for a brush with Matt, Meredith,
Ann or Al.
the long walk, Wiesel is stopped by only one fan --
a young man who simply bows, shakes his hand and
"Most of the time, they say, `You look like
somebody famous. Who are you?' " Wiesel says. "I
This figure so identified with serious causes
has a sly sense of humor.
His most revealing comic comeback during the
hike is about his hectic pace of living.
His schedule today is packed: two dinners, his
10 a.m. WNBC interview, a meeting with one of his
students from Boston University, and a sit-down
with ABC's "20/20" for a show on people who have
lived through -- and survived -- hell on earth.
He seems to have the schedule of a
"No," Wiesel says, "an 18-year-old."Battling
"Very light, please," Wiesel tells the TV makeup
artist before closing his eyes. "Very, very."
Minutes later, he's in the studio, sitting
opposite Gabe Pressman, host of WNBC's "News
Forum" and an old friend.
The two men banter as "Brownie," the stage
director, runs off to get Wiesel a coffee with milk
and five sugars.
"My throat doesn't work today," Wiesel says,
coughing. "When I write a lot, it affects my
Pressman leans in, but is having trouble hearing
Wiesel's whisper, which comes with a heavy accent
that's a blend of Yiddish, French and Romanian.
... 4 ... 3 ... ," Brownie counts down, then gives
way to Pressman's pre-taped intro, which sounds
like a promo for a moral boxing match:
"Twenty-one years after receiving the Nobel
Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel -- a survivor of the Nazi
death camps -- is fighting an unusual battle: He's
taking on the Holocaust deniers ... "
The first of the deniers: Wiesel's would-be
"I have never felt such
fear," Wiesel says. "I felt my very being
threatened. That's why I began to shout, `Help!
What happened next troubled Wiesel just as
"Many people heard my screams," he tells
Pressman. "When I ran down to security, they told
me that three people called. But not one door
"Interesting," Pressman responds, "in view of
the fact that you devoted a big part of your life
to writing against the `sin' -- as you put it -- of
"Exactly, exactly," Wiesel says, like a teacher
happy that his student has grasped the larger
lesson. "There must have been at least 20 or 30
people who heard my screams. I have never screamed
as loudly as that. And not ... one ... door ...
Pressman then asks about Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who staged a
two-day conference in Tehran last December that
questioned whether the Holocaust happened.
Every country should declare him persona non
grata, Wiesel says, and indict him for
attempted crimes against humanity.
When Pressman mentions Ahmadinejad's threat
to wipe out Israel, Wiesel again sees an
opportunity to teach and to be a witness:
"We have learned from history -- and especially
we Jews, and not only Jews -- we have learned that
when the enemy of humankind threatens, we should
... take ... his ... threats ... seriously."A man in
This time, the car is waiting, ready to take
Wiesel back to the offices of the
Elie Wiesel Foundation for
Humanity.It's a place stuffed with reminders
of just how busy Wiesel stays these days -- as well
as with hints as to why he never slows down.
First, there are the books. Rows and rows of
Wiesel has written more than 40 books. And he's
working on two more: one fiction, one nonfiction.
He's too superstitious to say what they're about --
only that, as always, he's writing them in French.
With a pen. Wiesel prefers that to a computer,
never uses e-mail and goes on the Internet only to
read Hebrew newspapers.
On the shelves in his cluttered but majestic
office sit the English, French and Hebrew
translations of his books -- including the spare
Wiesel gets more than 100 letters a month from
teenagers who've read "Night," most of them wanting
to tell him how affected and haunted they were by
his story of surviving the death camps as a
teenager. Every letter is answered, Wiesel
"They should know that their words were not
wasted," he says. "They spoke or wrote and somebody
Down the hall: A signed photograph/greeting from
King Abdullah of Jordan. In May, he and
Wiesel will host a conference for Nobel laureates
on the Middle East.
Wiesel has his critics. Some say his support of
Israel has blinded him to the suffering of
Palestinians. He says he's waiting for Palestinians
to affirm Israel's right to exist and condemn
Others fault Wiesel for
supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He
acknowledges the situation in Iraq is a mess but
says he, like much of the world, believed U.S.
intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons
of mass destruction.The past,
and the future
On Wiesel's desk, there's a snapshot of his
1-year-old grandson, Elijah -- the person most
likely to bring a smile to Wiesel's somber,
Another photo, much larger, is of the small
house where Wiesel was born. It was in Sighet,
Transylvania, now Romania, and it looked for a time
as if Eliezer Wiesel, a pious Jewish student, would
grow up there to be a Talmudic scholar.
But the Nazis took him and his family away. He
was robbed of his last years of childhood, but
today he's filled with a passion to see that other
children get to keep theirs.
In his 1986 Nobel acceptance speech, Wiesel
talked about his promises to the boy he once
"And now the boy is turning to me. `Tell me,' he
asks, `what have you done with my future, what have
you done with your life?' "Wiesel says that boy
remains inside him, still guiding him, still asking
those questions, as the man he has become tries to
combat genocide and anti-Semitism and
"First, I don't want to. And then, I cannot. I
cannot slow down. I walk fast. There are so many
things to do, really. And little time. There are so
many things to do."
- WHAT: Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's speech:
- WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
- WHERE: Belk Theater, Blumenthal Performing
Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon St.
- DETAILS: www.carolinatix.org or
Night-Night, Elie: Wiesel
survives assault in San Francisco hotel
elevator - attacker accuses him of lying in
memoirs, Night |
| World safe again ADL
reports Arrest in Elie Wiesel Assault Case
Hitchens asks in The Nation, "Is there a more
contemptible poseur and windbag than Elie
Elie Wiesel index . . .
we need more, more, more!
Jacobson asserts Hungarian Jews were dealt with
at five locations at Auschwitz in 1944
footnote: Elie Wiesel even
claims to be one of these prisoners at
The US Signal Corps picture was posed by US
troops soon after they entered the Buchenwald
camp near Weimar. In fact Signal Corps recpords
show the photo was taken on a date in April 1945
when Wiesel, according to his own memoirs, was
in a US hospital. Another lie. Have readers any
other information on the picture?
Heath (of Poland)
responds (9.2.01): "The person in the top right
hand corner whose face only is visible is Mel
Mermelstein who recalls how it was taken in his
book By Bread Alone." Our comment: Mermelstein
and Wiesel both claim to have shared
bunks at Buchenwald? Some people just want to be
the corpse at every funeral and the bride at