Humanities & Social Sciences
Reply-To: H-NET List for History of the Holocaust
Sender: H-NET List for History of the Holocaust
June 17, 1999
Alan Jacobs suggests that subscribers go public
how they feel about Eli Wiesel, and Ursula
Duba asks, What's wrong with earning money from
Holocaust remembrance activities? Fair enough that they
should ask others to step forth. But I will add a caveat.
It is misleading, I think, to attack an individual for
their views without being able to state what views the
individual expresses, to the individual's satisfaction.
Chances are slim that Wiesel will respond to queries from
this list, so the next best thing is using what he has
said and written to understand him. I can hardly believe
that his own views are not to his satisfaction.
What I find depressing is his tendency to say one
thing in one place, but to avoid saying the same thing in
another place. I have heard him, in person, speak to a
Jewish audience and ask, "Do you think they envy us?"
("They" are Gentiles, and the remark brought down the
house. I also heard him say something similar during a
broadcast from a Jewish house of worship, in New York.)
Why has he never said this or something similar at a
televised Holocaust Museum function? I watched a TV
discussion he had with Cardinal O'Connor.
Suffering Judaism and Repentant Catholicism faced each
other across a coffee table. Both men looked saddened,
but neither said anything about envy. By the end of the
telecast, I had the uneasy feeling that they might fall
into each other's arms as they debated forgiveness and
lamented mortal sin.
On the subject of money, if someone is willing to pay
Wiesel a huge amount of money to hear what Wiesel thinks,
I believe that to be a matter between the donor and
Wiesel. But Judaism does not admit of saints.
(Recognition for the performance of mitzvoth is thought
to be enough.) My question is this: Why should someone
well-paid to express his views be elevated above the rest
of humanity to prove that it is right and reasonable for
him to be well-paid to express his views? Wiesel tells us
that only a survivor understands what the Holocaust was
about, and that the rest of us do not have that
capability. Using the same logic, neither a survivor nor
anyone too young to have derved as a soldier can
understand what the fighting was like during World War
So how do you explain Christopher Browning and
The first is not even Jewish, let alone a survivor, and
the second writes extraordinarily vivid accounts of World
War II actions, albeit he was never at any of them.
Finally, I have always been very suspicious of
symbols. The horror caused by Hitler, the symbol
of Aryan Superiority, and Stalin, the symbol of
Workers of the World, cannot be measured. The Jews have
not been without those who wanted to serve as symbols and
put their co-religionists in peril. Better to form your
own judgements about what is happening around you or what
did happen around those who preceded you, and go on from
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