Interview with Elie Wiesel
The following comments were made by Elie Wiesel in an interview with Christianbook.com on November 15th, 1999.
CBD As one who believes in remembering, what would you say to people in the Jewish, Christian, or secular world, who say that we should move on from the Holocaust?
Elie Wiesel How does one move on? How does one say goodbye? I don't know, it is impossible I think. That doesn't mean that the Holocaust should invade our lives. I don't think it should dominate us. Nor do I think it should make us a morbid generation. But simply to say move on, just forget: that would be a disgrace!
CBD Why is it important to remember?
Elie Wiesel Why is it important? Because to forget the victims means to kill them again. To forget also means to get Alzheimer's disease. Ultimately, you end up forgetting everything.
CBD What ought to define Judaism? How should Jews deal with intolerance and Anti-Semitism?
Elie Wiesel A Jew is a Jew! [laughs] A Jew is human, and as members of the human family, we fight against whatever upsets the human family. We do it as Jews. Catholics do it as Catholics, Protestants do it as Protestants, Moslems as Moslems, and atheists as atheists! I don't see any difference between us. For me as a Jew, the Jewishness is very important. It is from my Jewishness, from inside my Jewishness, that I can try and offer something to others who are not Jewish—who have all the right in the world to say that they are trying to do it their way—but I want to do it my way.
CBD What would you consider to be your most important mission on your life at this time?
Elie Wiesel I don't know. I don't like such pompous words as mission. I simply follow my vocation. I work as a writer, I teach as a teacher, and I try to be a good father—and whatever else is not for me to say.
CBD As a professor and international lecturer on issues relating to the Holocaust and human rights, how do you see the state of affairs in terms of Anti-Semitism, racial intolerance, and blind hatred in the world and in the United States?
Elie Wiesel Unfortunately they are all growing. Fanaticism is growing, Anti-Semitism is growing… and to me, of course, it is a source of great anguish and incomprehension. I though it would all end in 1945. That the world would know what the consequences of Anti-Semitism are. It didn't stop! I thought that would end racism in the world, because we know that Anti-Semitism is part of racism. I thought intolerance was wrong and people should know that! Look, there are 60 or 70 groups in America who are imbued with Racist ideology. In Austria, Italy, Switzerland, xenophobia became an important issue, and so the second largest party is Switzerland is one that proclaims xenophobia as their banner. So what's happening in the world? In India, you have persecution of Christians. You have religious persecution in Kosovo and Sarajevo, and I believe we are not finished with this… What is going on?
CBD How do you see dialogues and discussions that are currently developing between various groups in promoting a role in progress in areas of Anti-Semitism, racism, and intolerance?
Elie Wiesel I think it is important. Never before has there been such dialogue, or so many dialogues in Jewish history. Never before has there been such an openness towards Christianity. Never before has there been such an openness in Christianity towards Jews. So that is positive.
CBD In the Jewish-Christian dialogue, there is currently a lot of talk concerning corporate repentance in terms of identifying together concerning the past history between Jews and Christians. How do you see that as being a bridge of hope?
Elie Wiesel If it is sincere then it is good. If it is false, then it shouldn't happen! Those people, until now, who have spoken concerning the need to fight Anti-Semitism have been very sincere. When I hear Cardinal O'Connor speak or when I see his writings, I am touched by his readiness to accept responsibility as a Christian—although he personally is above all that; he has never done anything to offend a Jew. But it depends. Some people say just to get rid of it (the history of Anti-Semitism) and turn the page. Again, to certain people who would say "Therefore, since we have already apologized let's forget it," I would say: thank you, keep your apology!
CBD Do you think that in the current rise of racism and Anti-Semitism, that the current dialogues offer a ray of hope?
Elie Wiesel Dialogue is good. Not only here. How did the end of Apartheid occur? A dialogue between Mandela and the Apartheid people. Actually it began with the conference that we had—my little foundation organized—in Oslo. Mandela came there. We invited him a few weeks after he was liberated. We also invited a minister of the Apartheid government, and at one point in his speech, the minister said, "Nelson, we have never met, and all my life I have lived in Apartheid. Now my dream is to attend its funeral!" That was moving. It led to the process which culminated in the abolition of Apartheid. Then you have Rabin and Arafat—look what it has produced! So nothing can replace dialogue!
CBD Monsieur Wiesel, thank you for taking time for this interview!
Elie Wiesel My pleasure!
Books by Elie Wiesel Go to the Jewish Thought Page.