Marti Lotman interviewed Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel for Newsmax in 2013 after the Marathon Boston bombing.
Upon interviewing Elie Wiesel I knew it would be the most meaningful interview of my career before my shaky finger even turned on the tape recorder.
Well, I thought I turned on the tape recorder.
Three questions deep, my 25-year-old self had to ask Elie Wiesel if we could please start the interview over, because we weren’t recording.
I don’t even want to know what shade of red my face was.
I'm still not sure why, of all reporters, he granted me the 20 minutes of his time. I had no honors or awards, no doctorates to my name, and no fancy education to brag of.
But thank you. Thank you for letting me feebly and inadequately tell your story.
Thank you for not hanging up on me when I asked how you wanted to be eulogized.
You said something to the effect of, "What kind of a question is that? I won’t answer that."
"I believe that to listen to a witness is to become one. And here the witness has spoken,"said Wiesel.
Thank you for allowing me to be a witness.
Treating the Boston Marathon bombers’ motives as worthy of serious thought does a disservice to their victims and civil society, the Nobel Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
“If they want to believe clearly that what they do is so unique, that it’s worth interest and consideration and study all over the world — I don’t think they are worth even such contemplation,” said Wiesel, whose impassioned first-hand account of the Holocaust won him a Nobel Peace Prize.
A professor at Boston University, Wiesel is calling for the creation of a special commission of educators, philosophers, and thinkers to consider what is happening to the country in the wake of the bombs that exploded at the finish line of the Marathon on April 15.
Turning to Syria, Wiesel believes the country is an area where the United States is currently failing to show leadership, especially in ensuring Syria doesn’t use the weapons of mass destruction in its possession.
Neutrality, when it comes to human rights, helps the oppressor — never the victim — Wiesel said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
“I wouldn’t trust Syria with such weapons. ... I’m not sure we know what to do in Syria. There are so many danger spots on the globe and I think America has to take care of all of them.”
As for whether the United States has done enough to help Israel, Wiesel believes that every American president has felt that obligation. He said he appreciated President Barack Obama’s most recent trip to the war-torn nation.
“Obama was in Israel and it was a kind of honeymoon and atmosphere in Israel — so let’s hope for the best,” Wiesel said.
The 84-year-old writer, perhaps the best-known Holocaust survivor living today, still grapples with the persistence of evil in the world, he tells Newsmax.
Wiesel and his wife Marion established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. The foundation’s mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, “is to combat injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding, and equality.”
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference,” the website’s banner reads, in a passage taken from Wiesel’s writings.
“We try to fight the anatomy of hate. Anti-semitism is stupid. It tries to teach you to believe that because I’m Jewish, I should be disdained and fought and downgraded — it’s stupid,” Wiesel tells Newsmax.
Experiencing this degradation — and bearing witness to it — has been central to Wiesel’s life and thought. He was just 15 when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. He and his father were later transported to Buchenwald. Of his family, his mother, younger sisters, and father all perished at the hands of the Nazis. Only he and his two older sisters survived.
Forgiveness in the face of such unmitigated evil is definitive for Wiesel: There is none.
“I will never forgive myself. For others — nobody has asked me. I’m still waiting for someone to come up to me and say, ‘Professor Wiesel, I did it, forgive me.’ But no one is asking me to forgive them,” he says. “To say that a person who goes through experiences should think of forgiving himself, I think is wrong. We must always judge ourselves and question ourselves.”
Despite this, after being liberated from Buchenwald in April 1945, Wiesel found his way back to the deep sense of faith with which he entered the concentration camps.
“Immediately after the war, I was in France and went to a Jewish home for children, an orphanage, and I became more religious than before. And today, of course, I want understanding — I want to know. My questions are still here. None of them have been answered.”
Wiesel says he cannot say why he lived and others perished. All he can do is bear witness.
“I believe that to listen to a witness is to become one. And here the witness has spoken. So whether it is our books, our listening to our addresses — there are witnesses.”
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