Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor who became an eloquent witness for the six million Jews slaughtered in World War II and who, more than anyone, seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world’s conscience, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.
Menachem Rosensaft, a longtime friend and the founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Survivors, confirmed the death in a phone call.
2016 is deadly.
Aren’t all years or are more humans dying this year?
On the day of Wiesel’s death, I am ashamed to live in a country where one of the two major political parties is about to nominate an avowed racist, misogynist, nationalist, pro-torture narcissist and rapist for president.
An extraordinary man with a moral blind spot the approximate size of New Jersey.
Iowa Old Lady
@Trentrunner: The battle is never fully won. We have to fight it over and over again.
J R in WV
He also survived Buchenwald, as well. Not to mention post-apocalyptic Europe as a death-camp survivor.
But then in “civilized” New York city, he fell prey to Bernie Madoff, who evidently has the ethical parameters of Donald Trump, willing to steal from everyone, anyone at any time.
ETA fix a typo.
Not to mention resurrecting one of the oldest Jewish canards on the very day he died.
@Gator90: Some of his writings may have approached the sublime, but his politics blew chunks.
@debbie: I’m sure Trump will make a very sensitive statement about Elie’s passing.
He was a remarkable man who shared his stories, so that we’d never forget.
Sorry, CNN, that Weisels death cut into your marathon reporting on Hillary. Since when did an interview become a “grilling.” Gah.
@Trentrunner: I hear you. That’s why we need a landslide win.
Yeah, I’m not sure what he did that seems to have aggravated some people, but he was the conscience of humanity. For all the good that’s done us.
I teach 10th Grade English and Night has been in my list of required reading for a long time. Powerful and horrifying, it’s one of the most important, first-hand accounts of the holocaust ever. Year after year, watching students react in horror to it is… well.. it’s not a happy thing, but I feel like it’s one of the most important things we do.
And I think he did make a difference.
Well, the least of my gripes about him is that he criticized Obama (a sin hereabouts) for telling Bibi to back off stealing West Bank land (my words) from the Palestinians.
I don’t find it surprising that a Holocaust survivor would support Israel and even Netanyahu. But he and Obama were friends before that and after that.
I grew up around a couple of survivors. Like Weisel, they lost their faith, but not their attachment to the state of Israel. I gave them a pass.
@Trentrunner: But I look at our other candidate, and feel inspired that our first woman President will have overcome this vile creature, as she has so many other vile things, and continue to make the sort of progress an Obama presidency would be proud of. I like to think Wiesel would like that.
Adam L Silverman
@Keith G: Not surprising given what he experienced. Natan Sharansky in Israel is the same way. And I’ve had several children of Holocaust survivors tell me they are control freaks and prefer conservative political appeals because it helps to allow them to try to control everything. Given that most of the children of survivors I know tend to not have those attributes and attitudes, and how anecdotal the samples are, I’m thinking they were just trying to self justify decisions they’d made and beliefs they hold.
Adam L Silverman
I’ll just put this here in memory of Mr. Wiesel:
Speaker for the dead. And how.
–from Night (1958)
Adam L Silverman
@debbie: His politics, especially in the later years of his life, were a bit reactionary.
@debbie: In 2014, as Israeli bombs were blowing up Palestinian kids in bunches, Wiesel blamed these tragic deaths on the alleged Palestinian practice of “child sacrifice.” He was a great dude in a lot of ways, but that was ten kinds of f—d up.
My best friend grew up on the Grand Concourse. Holocaust survivors wandered in shame and terror in that neighborhood. Elie and others carried a burden that no one should ever again suffer. But I have my fears. But survival does not an impure Saint make. His work was amazing. But like so many others, one need not agree with all he came to support to understand his story for all.
I think it’s morally worse for Bibi to exploit the fears of Holocaust survivors for his own gain than it is for Holocaust survivors to have those fears, but YMMV.
I knew this was going to happen here. You people attacking THAT man on the day of his death are assholes, plain and simple.
You don’t get to judge the fucking POLITICS of someone who survived what he did. You just don’t.
@Adam L Silverman:
Aging is a bitch.
Becoming a bitter, hateful old man scares me worse than infirmity or even death.
And if Elie Wiesel could not escape that trap, how good are my chances?
Adam L Silverman
@Timurid: I would think, without knowing much other than your nym and some comments here, that Wiesel experienced, suffered, and survived things that you haven’t. And that, likely, will make the difference. Also, don’t watch cable TV news or listen to talk radio. That should help too.
@Gator90: The Palestinians are not considered people. They can be sacrificed because of the holocaust. Every group of people in human history who fought for their rights engaged in some form of terrorism but somehow, Palestinians are unique. They are not allowed to fight and no one is allowed to speak on their behalf.
@eemom: Yes we do. That is what happens in communities where free thought is encouraged.
As well you should. Their relative obscurity demands that.
When one chooses to enter and influence the political though of my country, they deserve no such pass. They deserve the respect to be scrutinized and held accountable for their thoughts just as any other political actor.
deleted, can’t edit.
@Adam L Silverman: What’s your recommendation about Balloon Juice?
BTW did you see that India just granted its Jewish citizens minority status.
Save that kind of criticism for the following generations, not the generation of survivors.
Oseh shalom bim’romav hu ya’aseh shalom
He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace,
aleinu v’al kol Yis’ra’eil v’im’ru
upon us and upon all Israel. Now say:
That’s very undemocratic of you. Wiesel’s comments didn’t impact his friendship with the president, so why do you continue to hold it against him?
I have to say I find pretty reprehensible this idea/expectation that a holocaust survivor has to always act/speak consistently with person x’s conception of all that is right and good, and that failing to live up to this expectation is such a moral failing that it merits mention on the day that person has passed.
@debbie: I am not speaking about that generation. I am speaking in general. What’s our politicians, journalists, thinkers and general public’s excuse?
Adam L Silverman
@schrodinger’s cat: To answer your first question, provided you take the correct safety precautions. Like these:
(My understanding is this is likely to be a Cole selfie…)
I had not seen that. Its interesting. The communities in Cochin/Kerala are quite old, but dwindling. Most of the members of both groups – the White and Black Jews of Cochin (which, as you know, had nothing to do with complexion) – largely either immigrated to Israel or to the US, Britain, or Commonwealth countries.
Night is one of the most haunting books that I have ever read.
He used his life for good.
@debbie: No. Wrong is wrong, no matter the previous suffering.
I have read the writings of Survivors who came to opposite conclusions of Wiesel. We must give them the dignity of recognizing their own agency in developing and communicating their moral thought. And with that goes the ability to fairly evaluate the words or actions.
@Keith G: On your head be it.
@Keith G: I was going to call this condescending but that doesn’t really do it justice. The good holocaust survivors are the ones who agree with Keith G. Then there are the morally deficient holocaust survivors who don’t.
He was a good man, whom I didn’t always agree with but his positions in Israel were shaped by life experiences that I cannot fathom.
So of course on the day that Drump tweets anti semitism his fans are shitting all over this man. Per Steve M,
Haters gonna hate.
@debbie: I do not care about Obama’s circle of friends. That is his choice.
I do care about those who choose to exert influence over policy. And as I said, once they make that choice to enter the political space, their efforts deserve the same scrutiny as any other participant in our politics – from Pope to POTUS friend; from raging capitalist to Nobel Laureate.
@Emma: Amein, indeed.
Let the man be judged according to his actions and his words, but we can also pay tribute to a man who turned his time living with the furnaces of a hell on earth into a beacon for millions.
Geeze, he was 87.
The number 2016 contains nothing intrinsically lethal.
Well, isn’t that magnanimous of them. As if such a thing must be “granted.” What were they granted previously? Status as non-persons?
@dedc79: Crimimy…can you be this dense? I am sure not.
Wiesel chose to attempt to influence US policy. Fair enough. It is also fair enough that his ideas get to be vetted as Yossi Sarid did several years ago:
@Keith G: You don’t care what Obama thinks/said about wiesel and i don’t care what yossi sarid said about wiesel.
There’s that great hillel quote – If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?
If Wiesel, whose life made Job’s look like a walk in the park, didn’t live up to this high standard, then nobody did. That’s my view. You’re free to differ.
There are issues in which I didn’t see eye to eye with wiesel on israel (or Iraq), but i didn’t live through what he did, and not only won’t I fault him for his views, I’m not even prepared to say his reflective defense of israel is wrong. It might be wrong for me, but it isn’t necessarily wrong for him.
Fuck you, you smug, entitled asshole.
Thank you. That is a polite version of what I think (as are your other comments).
It is BEYOND reprehensible, in my opinion, for anyone who never experienced the literal hell on earth that EW endured, to presume to judge him, about fucking ANYTHING. Much less any asshole who grew up here in the good old USA, whose worst nightmares could never even come close.
We are in agreement. Of course it is not wrong for him. And he was free to feel and chat away in any manner that pleased him.
And when he decided to enter public political argumentation, it became okay to evaluate both the form and substance of those political formulations. I have never critically evaluated any of his writing, statements, or activities other than those immediately focused on influencing US policy.
@NotMax: There are some legal benefits, much as being a member of a recognized tribe in the US has importance.
If it pleases, m’lady. Your wish….
@Keith G: Evaluation without context is the worst sin of a historian. Judgment without mercy is inhuman. But worst of all is unkindness. Let it go at least until they fill the grave.
Poor example, unless India now gonna create reservations (read: ghettos).
The last time I stepped in it like this was when Helen Thomas died. I wondered in some blog comment section if she would tell Saint Peter to go back to Germany or Poland. People called me an asshole then too. I guess I am, sometimes.
@Emma: So, I can’t say that he was wrong about his view of what was a just outcome for the Palestinians? Today? Last week?
Let me repeat what Yossi Sarid wrote a while back.
@Keith G: You must be a scream at family parties.
Strange, ritualistic expectations seem to crop up at times like this.
Its like all the agnostics, atheists, Anti-papists, and Druids that collect here have suddenly become 14th Century true believers.
Unless the corpse in question belongs to Antonin Scalia, then all bets are off.
For the fucking record…I am not comparing the two….Okay.
@Emma: My family?
You know nothing Emma Snow.
The last time we had a get together, my brother was in a coffin, looking a bit unwell. We had a great time…as was his wish…and he, in repose, supplied the booze. Being a then dead Republican, I gave him much shit.
J R in WV
No doubt true about 2016 and the numerals in that year.
But I’m being really careful. I really ought to clean the windows in the solarium, on top of a 24-foot extension ladder. There’s a layer of pollen, stuck to the glass with, I dunno, sap?
It really needs washed, to look anything like as good as it should.
But I feel like someone needs to watch me, with the phone in hand to dial 9-1-1 if I go down…
@Keith G: Emma Snow? Sorry reference went over my head. As my comments have gone over yours. You’re one of those people who preen about always telling the truth as if that were an unalloyed good at all times. The idea of decency and kindness doesn’t register.
Karma will be a bitch.
@NotMax: Huh? FYI, India has never persecuted people of the Jewish faith. The west coast of India (Maharashtra and Kerala) have had thriving Jewish communities for millenia. Mumbai has 3 synagogues. Since the formation of Israel their numbers have dwindled.
Here is the relevant NYT article. Indian Jewish Congress petitioned the government of Maharashtra for this special status.
Quite hope it’s a dude.
If not, then it really would be a bitch.
Am I allowed to type that?
@NotMax: There’s more to being a member of a recognized tribe than mere reservations, if I understand the status correctly. See also why Warren gets yelled at about for Pocahantus so often.
olev hasholem Elie Wiesel
Oh, but Helen Thomas was wrongly attacked by Israel apologists using that tired old “anti-Semitism” schtick — as though anti-Semitism were even a THING anymore, which of course it’s not.
Whole different situation, because anyone who speaks against Israel couldn’t possibly be anti-Semitic, or anything other than the righteous defender of the Palestinians…..who, btw, per “Anya” above, get a pass for all acts of terrorism…..because everybody does it, or something.
That’s entirely different from a man who survived the extermination of 6 million Jews including his entire family being a tad touchy about people who vow “death to Israel.” No excuse for THAT. None at all.
Oops….forgot to mention that Jews don’t really have any right to even USE the term “anti-Semitism”, because they’re not even Semites.
@Adam L Silverman: There are still a few thousand Bene Israel Jews in Mumbai. They speak Marathi. One my mother’s mentors, her science and math teacher in school was a Bene Israel Jew. Her mentor later on became the principal of the school, the oldest girls schools in Mumbai.
mike in dc
Michael Cimino, director of the Deer Hunter, has also died. He was 77.
Not following the reasoning here. Wiesel suffered in the Holocaust, therefore his publicly expressed political opinions over half a century later are not amenable to evaluation and criticism? Why would that be?
Frankly, that “reasoning” is what has contributed to the moral blind spot the American public has had about Israel for decades now. Nobody, not an individual, and not a State either, should get a “pass,” when it comes to vicitimizing others, even though they themselves were victims before.
@Keith G: well said.
Adam L Silverman
@schrodinger’s cat: I think it has to do with being able to tap government funding/grants to protect the remaining synagogue in Kerala. I saw something a few months ago about how there’s only a handful of families left and that the group that has been formed to preserve the synagogue actually has more non Jewish Keralans on it than Jewish ones.
Adam L Silverman
@schrodinger’s cat: Yep. As I put in comment 72, I saw a news report a few months ago about how the numbers in Kerala have dwindled to a few families. As you’ve noticed, there are still a chunk in Mumbai, bet even a few thousand isn’t that many comparatively speaking.
@Adam L Silverman: My mother’s teacher still lives in Mumbai. She is married to a Konkani Muslim man but their mother tongue is Marathi. India is such a mosaic.
Wiesel lived in a world where his tribe/people/whatever you wish to call them had been relentlessly persecuted for centuries and were now being annihilated with no hope of rescue and you actually expect him to have an objective and reasoned outlook on Israel and Palestine? How facile.
Oh, look — a self-hating Palestinian!
@debbie: Are you at all capable of not making strawman arguments? Because that’s what you’ve done in every single post you’ve made on that subject. If you can’t stop putting words in people’s mouths, then do us all the favor of shutting yours.
I have only one comment to make: EW was a stupid man when he invested the whole treasury of his Foundation with Bernie Madoff. I was still working in fundraising when Madoff exploded and I couldn’t believe that Wiesel did not have his own financial advisor on the Foundation board. In fact, we just about to send a report on the previous year to Ruth Madoff and ask her to renew her grant to us. I was I was reading the news and pointed it to my boss that we might not be getting Madoff money that year.
Just when it seemed the level of ugliness amongst “respected” commenters on this blog on the day of this man’s death could not possibly sink any lower.
You might have meant to direct that at me, in which case: none of the statements I characterized were inaccurate representations of what’s been said on this post, and on many, many other posts on this blog on the topic of Israel. So take your “strawman,” and shove it up your ass.
@debbie: I don’t “expect” anything. But if Wiesel supported racism and oppression, and I believe he did, I don’t think that is excused by the factors you mention. I would also point out a couple more things….plenty of other Holocaust survivors did not and do not subscribe to an “Israel right or wrong” or an “Israel is never wrong (even when it is)” outlook. So, no, it is not inconceivable to think that Wiesel could have been more fair and objective than he was. Frankly, I find the notion that the Holocaust provides a “get out off the obligation to be fair, forever, and even viz a viz groups and issues that had nothing to do with it” card to be rather disturbing, and, in your words, rather “facile,” too.
And, to repeat, that view, writ large, has a lot to do with many Americans’ (and others’) moral blindness when it comes I/P issues. It is not exactly news that the Holocaust has been used as a club to beat the Palestinians with for decades. That Wiesel lent his name, which is forever linked with Holocaust remembrance, to the oppression of Palestinians is a part of that. And is not to his credit.
“Wiesel lived in a world where his tribe/people/whatever you wish to call them had been relentlessly persecuted for centuries and were now being annihilated with no hope of rescue and you actually expect him to have an objective and reasoned outlook on Israel and Palestine? How facile.”
I actually find this to be a little facile too. The history of Judaism is a lot more than simply a story of “relentless” persecution. And Wiesel lived in the “world” for a long time after the end of the Holocaust. You are painting a picture of the Jews as eternal victims, which is exactly how the Holocaust (and the other persecutions that the Jews have suffered) is often misused to justify/excuse current, ongoing oppression of the Palestinians, and other Israeli misdeeds.
Excellent point. The “persecution” narrative totally leaves out the fact that Jews have always controlled all the banks, financial markets, mass media, every lever of power in every government….and continue to do so, except that currently, here in the US, they’ve adopted the clever disguise of calling themselves AIPAC.
Wasn’t aware that assuming Jews had individual moral agency, were complicated and prone to blind spots along with brilliance and were more than inerrant representatives of the narrative of subjugations was heretical. Well, the things one learns.
It’s always others who have to abide by higher standards, amirite?
Thomas Jefferson was one of the most brilliant voices ever to advance the cause of human liberty. He was also a slave-raper. People is complicated.
Ugh, and into the I/P swamps the thread descends.
I’ll say only one thing– the same one I always have said– on the topic: two wrongs don’t make a right.
That said, the world is complicated, 1948 and 1967 were a long time ago, and the reality is what it is. We have to figure out a way forward and stop the bloodshed.
RIP to Weisel. The power of his writing and his experience speaks for itself.
Weisel’s work was not political, it was human. I’d prefer to remember him at the time of his passing by his work, and not by his politics.
Big Picture Pathologist
His seminal work apparently has some accuracy issues: