Posts Tagged ‘Palenstinians’

Elie Wiesel flops at Kent State Convocation Center

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

By Carolyn Yeager

Elie Wiesel in the Kent State Univ. auditorium. Photo by Bob Jacobs

Wiesel demonstrates he has nothing to say to the world when the only news outlet to write anything at all about his speech is the Cleveland Jewish News.

This much-ballyhooed return visit to Kent State University on the April 11 anniversary of the “Buchenwald Liberation” in 1945 proved to be as  “much ado about nothing” as the earlier event 68 years ago really was in retrospect.

Wiesel, 83, looking tiny and munchkin-like sitting in a big yellow chair on the stage, uttered the same phrases we’ve heard for decades and they are sounding more hollow than ever. At kentwired.com, [www.kentwired.com/latest_updates/article_25df8c65-c166-57b2-9a99-b89175cd7a3c.html] a University website, we find this summing up of the speech:

One of the major themes of Wiesel’s speech was the importance of having hope and his struggle with believing there is such a thing.

“Where there is no hope, our road and our path is to invent it,” Wiesel said. “I am here to teach you my hope because without it, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Invent it. That’s what Wiesel is good at: inventing things. He offered other similar thoughts that Kentwired considered worthy of quoting but are, in my opinion, devoid of any relevance when pondered for a few seconds, such as:

“For every word that a holocaust survivor writes, there are 10 more that haven’t been written,” said Wiesel. “Whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness.”

My comment on the first sentence: This is true of everyone’s written words. On the second: This well-worn phrase of his might be what is engraved on his tombstone – he has used it so often. Of his supposed liberation by U.S. soldiers at Buchenwald, he said:

We had lost every concept of how to feel. We did not know what it was like to be free.

“I believe in the virtue of gratitude,” Wiesel said. “Simply to say to each other, thank you.”

The first is patently false. It discounts all the uprisings that supposedly took place, all the resistance activity in the camps, and the fact that Wiesel only claims to be a detainee for one year. One doesn’t lose memory of freedom in one year. The second bit of wisdom takes care of not answering questions about Buchenwald nicely, doesn’t it.

At the Cleveland Jewish News (CJN), reporter Carlo Wolff (cwol[email protected]) tries to build up the importance of Wiesel’s utterances by writing that he  “delivered a lesson in history, literature, philosophy and morality, demonstrating his didactic prowess and his belief in the power of continuity.” I must not be intelligent enough to grasp the greatness of this speech, which Wolff tells us was appreciated by “a rapt, sell-out audience of 5000” … mostly fellow Jews, I would say. I’m convinced that Jews from all around the broader area drove to Kent to see, hear and support one of their own, who has always fought for Jewish and Israeli  interests.

No one noticed Wiesel’s mic was off for first 20 minutes

But Wolff had enough of the journalist in him to tell us about the following screw-up that must have embarrassed Kent State President Lester Lefton, also a Jew and the man who invited Wiesel to the campus.

The first 20 minutes of Wiesel’s April 11 talk almost fell on deaf ears because his microphone wasn’t turned up; most followed his eloquent words as they scrolled out on giant screens flanking the stage.

According to Wolff, Wiesel didn’t refrain from his familiar finger-pointing at the Germans.

He remains appalled by the Nazis. “The enemy managed to push its crimes beyond language,” he said, explaining the difficulty he has (and the obsessions that dog him) in telling a story that can never ultimately be told.

“They had education. They had degrees. So what happened?”

What happened? Their education helped them see clearly that Jews were a danger to their German social order – and so they were, and are. It is really only Jews who commit crimes “beyond language,” if such a thing exists. It is Jews in Israel that force pornography into Palestinian homes via their television sets, at the same time they are attacking them militarily. Only Jews would dream up something like that. Likewise, only Jews would dream up the kind of concentration camp atrocity stories they tell, atrocities that Germans, Nazi or not, would never think of themselves, and therefore never do.

Tweeting the most pithy remarks of the evening

Kentwired had someone tweeting the highlights of the evening as it progressed. Here is an example of the “best of Elie Wiesel”:

  • “My first passport was an American one. It’s still a symbol of human passion,” said Wiesel. “I owe America.”
  • “Remember there will always be questions that have no answer,” Wiesel speaking about his experience as a Holocaust survivor.
  • “I believe in memory because without it nothing is possible.”
  • “The moment we stop remembering, we stop believing.”
  • “Could humanity get Alzheimer’s? Could history get Alzheimer’s?”
  • “History has gone beyond its limits and therefore forget it no more,” Wiesel says on making sure people don’t forget.
  • “The love of children is the purest of all,” says Wiesel on trying to understand why children were killed during holocaust. [Wiesel had one child who grew up to go to work for Goldman Sachs – cy]

The following were probably answers to softball questions from the audience:

  • “History has not found balance,” said Wiesel on all the chaos in the world. “We are still waiting for redemption.
  • “I simply feel, again, that I have done something,” said Wiesel on his many honors and awards
  • “I couldn’t be who I am if not for those books,” said Wiesel on the many books he’s written

Have you had enough? It doesn’t get any better. And it all sounds very similar to Wiesel’s speech last year at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.  To sum up, Wiesel is a fading star who may not last much longer. What can last is the incredible mythology built up around him unless we work very hard to separate reality from nonsense. This takes a consistent effort, not once-in-awhile comments about the same old themes. As we can see, that is actually Wiesel’s style and it’s not very effective. When it comes to the Elie Wiesel myth, it’s the media that has done all the heavy-lifting, not E-lie himself.

This time, even the media didn’t have an appetite for  it.


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