Posts Tagged ‘Un di Velt Hot Gesvign’

My work on “Night” is featured in a talk given by Jewish Professor Alan Astro at St. Francis College in 2014

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Alan Astro PhD, Trinity University

By Carolyn Yeager

I happened upon this video and recognized my own text of Yiddish-to-French-to-English translation being used by this professor at a Catholic university in San Antonio TX. Though a native of Brooklyn, Alan Astro says he has been at Trinity University for over 25 years. His field is modern languages and literatures; one of the subjects he teaches is Yiddish culture.

His lecture, titled “Christianity and the Holocaust in Elie Wiesel’s Night” was filmed by St. Francis College and at the 6min59sec mark, he shows text from my very important 2012 article “Night #1 and Night #2—What Changes were Made and Why, Part One.” So you never know who is reading this site – a lot of people and all people who have a professional interest in Elie Wiesel.

At 6:59, Astro shows text translated by Kladderadatsch for this web site, which he calls “Where’s the tatoo?” (sic). He says that even though Yiddish was not known very well even in the Jewish world … “Holocaust deniers somehow get their hands on the Yiddish and manage to get it translated. Here is one holocaust denier or minimizer on the web who makes a whole big deal about the fact that in the Yiddish and French and English original translations Wiesel “is not quite 15” when he is arrested and sent to Auschwitz, whereas he is 15 in the newest edition and this is considered to be something that somehow questions the veracity of the whole historical knowledge of the Holocaust. But that’s another issue all together. But it does show you that things can very often have strange consequences.” (He goes quickly to something else at 8:10. So Astro has my text on the screen for one minute, 11 seconds, enough time to read it all.

This is the segment he used:

3.  Not yet fifteen … or fifteen?

UdV Page 63 : Yingl, vi alt bistu? fregt mir a heftling.  Zeyn pnym iz geven in der fintster, ober zeyn kol iz geven a mids, a varems. Nokh nisht keyn 15 yor, hob ikh geentfert.

“Kid, how old are you?” a prisoner asked me.  His face was in darkness, but his voice was tired and warm. “Not yet 15 years,” I answered.

LN Page 54:  Hé, le gosse, quel âge as-tu?  C’était un détenu qui m’interrogeait.  Je ne voyais pas son visage, mais sa voix était lasse et chaude.  “Pas encore quinze ans.” / Not yet 15 years.

SR Page 39: “Here, kid, how old are you?” It was one of the prisoners who asked me this. I could not see his face, but his voice was tense and weary. “I’m not quite fifteen yet.”

MW Page 30:  “Hey, kid, how old are you?” The man interrogating me was an inmate. I could not see his face, but his voice  was weary and warm.  “Fifteen

This very important passage was discussed above. I think the reader would agree that “not yet 15″ can mean even farther from the age of 15 than “not quite fifteen.” What is clear is that Marion Wiesel has changed the author’s original words to fit them to her husband’s age in Spring 1944.

Astro dismisses this important observation with the misrepresentation (in boldface above) that the example is intended to negate the entire holocaust story. No, it isn’t; obviously it questions the veracity of Elie Wiesel’s truthfulness in “Night” since this scene took place in April or May, and the real Wiesel’s 16th birthday was coming up on September 28, 1944. Thus Wiesel was not 14 in Spring ’44, but had already been 15 for at least 7 months. Astro is not interested in telling that to his audience or pursuing it himself. He is a professor of languages and literature, but not an expert on Elie Wiesel or the Holocaust. Far, far from it.

Another photo of Professor Alan Astro.

At 19:33, hear him pronounce Wiesel’s name as weasel (as I say it) and then quickly correct himself to the affectation Wie-zell that he used throughout the talk. This indicates that ‘weasel’ is his default way of pronouncing the name, or the way he first learned it.

At right is another photo of Professor Astro I found online that gives what might be a truer look at the man.

Where was tattoo-less Elie Wiesel in 1944 if not at Auschwitz?

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Followup of “Elie admits he doesn’t have the tattoo A7713”

By Carolyn Yeager
copyright 2016 Carolyn Yeager

Elie Wiesel's left arm in bright sunlight in a still from his own video "Elie Wiesel Goes Home" - no retouching. [courtesy Eric Hunt]

Elie Wiesel’s left arm in bright sunlight in a still grabbed from his own movie “Elie Wiesel Goes Home” – no retouching possible. [courtesy Eric Hunt]

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE, after all I’ve written, that some people are still saying to me, “You shouldn’t say Wiesel has admitted he doesn’t have a tattoo, because what if it turns out he does. Then you’ll look foolish and set back revisionism.”

Turns out? How long do we wait for something to “turn out?”

Wiesel will be 88-years-old on September 30th of this year. Very few human bodies are able to carry on after their 90th year, so, without a consensus opinion from the revisionist community, we are looking at the prospect of an eternal “We’ll never know” pasted over the Elie Wiesel tattoo question. Naturally, this is what Wiesel supporters want, but should revisionists be content with never going beyond that, continuing to fear  there will come a time he will dramatically pull up his sleeve for the cameras?

He’s already done so and we have the result in the image at right.

And what don’t people understand about logic? One doesn’t need a University course in logic to use common sense. Two plus two adds up to four – we don’t need a calculator to prove it, our fingers can tell us. What should we think of those who would say “But what if it doesn’t? What if our fingers turn out to be wrong?”

It’s the same logic we use when someone tells us he has a number tattooed on his arm that proves he was at Auschwitz in 1944 – we expect it to be shown to us. There is no reason we should have to take it on trust. Imagine yourself in a real life situation like that and you’ll get it. Those who are willing to accept a deal such as we have in the case of Elie Wiesel are either cowards, frightened serfs, or collaborators in the lie. But people are also ignorant of the facts – even though mostly through choice, and maybe also poor memory.

For this reason, I want to specifically address these persons to try to give them a little backbone … er, I mean background. You need to be clear about how Elie Wiesel got into this tattoo quandary to begin with.

To those whose reasoning goes, Why would Wiesel say he has a tattoo when he doesn’t have one? He wouldn’t be so foolish, therefore I have to assume he might have one. He also doesn’t need to have a tattoo to have been at Auschwitz, – they forget about the Yiddish book, Un di Velt hot gesvign (And the world remained silent), from which Night was taken. In that book, and carried over to Night, Eliezer and his father were tattooed on their left forearms with A7713 and A7712. It follows that if Night is Elie Wiesel’s own story, he has to have a tattoo.

On page 51, the author wrote:

The three “veterans,” with needles in their hands, engraved a number on our left arms. I became A-7713.

Now I hope you understand (and please don’t forget it again) why he has to have that particular tattoo, and why he has always said he does have it. He has no choice. The fact that it has never been shown to the public speaks volumes (never underestimate his belief in his ability to fool the public), as well as the fact that we’ve seen his uncovered left arm in photographs and there is no such number there. What more proof do you want? The final nail in the coffin is that Wiesel and the people around him remain silent about it – they will not allow the question to be asked. That is the “admitting” part.

So it’s settled – Wiesel has no tattoo, and he admits as much. He’s kept up the lying charade so long because he could! No one challenged him. Once again, I will give credit to Jew Michael Grüner for breaking this open, even though he makes up plenty of ridiculous concentration camp stories himself. But Grüner got the documents and made them public, along with explanatory letters from Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

If Wiesel is not a concentration camp survivor, we need to look into other possibilities for his whereabouts in 1944. We will not be able to prove anything – this period of time could not be more confused. Displaced persons and self-identified camp survivors were flocking into Western Europe in search of opportunities; they were creating new identities and applying to go to Israel and to America. In all of this, it’s impossible to find any kind of a trail. But some pathways are more plausible than others for the Wiesel family.

Wiesel’s family is not found in records at Auschwitz

Speaking of documents, do you know there is no record of any member of Wiesel’s immediate family at Auschwitz? That’s a fact. In addition, the only record, as far as I know, of Elie’s two older sisters being at the Dachau sub-camp Kaufering comes from a book put out by the “Central Committee of Jews in Bavaria” in 1946. They published a list of 61,387 Jews in a book named Sharit Ha-Platah (translates as “Counted Remnant”), among which are listed Hilda and Bea Wiesel. The names were collected by Chaplain (Rabbi) Abraham Klausner, who is said to have visited many of the camps in southern Germany where survivors gathered in late 1945 and 1946. You better believe the Rabbi wanted to get as many names as possible, and that there is nothing official about this list.

Bea, Elie and Hilda Wiesel in Paris after the war.

Bea, Elie and Hilda Wiesel in Paris after the war.

We first meet up with Hilda and Bea as refugees in Germany, just as we first meet up with Elie at a Jewish orphanage in France. Hilda Wiesel married an Algerian Jew and moved with him to Paris.  She has since spoken about her family’s deportation in a Shoah Foundation videotaped interview, but without details of what happened after they arrived at Auschwitz. Her sister Batya (Bea) emigrated to Canada and never spoke publicly about it at all.

Hilda’s Shoah Foundation testimony which she gave in 1995 (coincidentally the same year Elie’s official autobiography All Rivers Run to the Sea came out) differs from her brother’s story in Night in numerous details. Relevant here, she said:

We were deported on 15 May [1944]. We heard around 1943, because we had family in Belgium, we heard that they had deported a cousin, but we didn’t know where to …

I can only tell you one thing, that the third transport – we had to stand 5 by 5, five abreast – there were Hungarian gendarmes, hardly any Germans, mostly Hungarian gendarmes.

We were myself and my sister, the one who was in Canada and is now deceased; my mother; my grandmother, that is my father’s mother; and, oh … my little 10-year old sister. And we arrive in Auschwitz, the men were apart, my father with my brother.

According to the original Night and the Yiddish And the world remained silent, the family’s deportation date was June 3, 1944. In Marion Wiesel’s re-translation, it was changed to May 20. So which is correct? Most likely none.

Hilda also tells us the women and men traveled in separate cars.

My mother knew there was no hope, because she told me and my sister, always stay together, always stay together. And she said, go tell your dad to always stay together with Elie. And I ran over to him and said, Papa, stay with Elie, stay with him – like that.
Q: This was on the train, that you are describing?
A: No, it was after getting off the train.

If they were in the same train car, Mother could have told her husband herself. But Night and its Yiddish precursor describe the boys and girls having sex together in the darkness of the train, freed from following the usual rules, and Wiesel says he was traveling with his mother and sister — everyone was together. Let me make clear that I don’t have any more faith in 70-year old Hilda Wiesel Kudler’s testimony than I do Elie Wiesel’s “stream-of-consciousness” autobiography, which, as I said, coincidentally appeared at the same time in 1995. And I am not convinced by this that the family really went to Auschwitz since not one of them was registered there, nor do their names come up on any hygiene or other reports even though they were supposedly put in quarantine. We do find Lazar and Abraham Wiesel, and Myklos Grüner, his father and brother listed on a hygiene report.

I’ll also add that Mother, Grandmother and youngest sister [10 years-old according to Hilda Wiesel, but 7 years-old according to Elie in Night, where Grandmother is not included] are understood to have been sent directly to the “gas chamber” and gone up in smoke through the chimney shortly thereafter. Since homicidal gas chambers didn’t exist, all the women would have been sent to the showers, gone through the disinfection process, given new clothing and assigned to a women’s barrack, the same as Wiesel writes about Eliezer and Father. However, a grandmother and mother with a child would have been assigned to non-working barracks; the two 20-somethings to barracks for female workers.

A very odd fact is that both in Night and in the Yiddish book, Eliezer and Father never mention their wife, daughters, mothers and sisters again. They don’t look for them, talk or ask about them, as other people did. They apparently accept being told that their loved ones “went up the chimney” and immediately become concerned only for themselves. I don’t believe this; it’s not human nature, it’s make-believe.

So if not there, where else could the Wiesel family have been in 1944?

Following a trail of possibilities

Well, we do have Shlomo and Mendel Wiesel’s first cousin Yaakov Fishkowitz filling out a Yad Vashem Page of Testimony for each of them, reporting they both died in 1943 in a “labor camp.” If Yaakov didn’t believe this were true, why would he have done this in 1957 at the same time he filled out other pages for relatives he marked as being sent to Auschwitz in 1944? He also said Shlomo was born in 1903 and Mendel in 1905.

Add to this the very weak story Elie Wiesel gives for why his family didn’t do something to protect themselves from the “Nazi menace.” On page 8 of Night, Wiesel wrote:

In those days it was still possible to buy emigration certificates to Palestine. I had asked my father to sell everything, to liquidate everything, and to leave. ‘I am too old, my son,’ he answered. ‘Too old to start a new life. Too old to start from scratch in some distant land …’

Too old at the age of 41? Fishkowitz puts his birth in 1903. Other than that, there is no official birth date for Elie Wiesel’s father. In a close family, children always know their parents’ age and birthday. Hilda said her mother was born in 1900. So Shlomo Wiesel’s age is being covered up by son Elie, who left the DoB space on the Page of Testimony he filled out for his father blank. We can say that the oldest Shlomo could have been was 48, but more likely younger. Wiesel has always made his father out to be a tired old man, especially in Night. I have distrusted this characterization and believe it was a literary device to make the story more poignant, just like turning 10 year-old Tsipora into a 7 year-old.

The following interesting passage is on page 27 of the Yiddish Un di Velt hot gesvign, but is not included in the shorter French or English Night:

We had opportunities and possibilities to hide with regular goyim and with prominent personalities. Many non-Jews from the surrounding villages had begged us, that we would come to them. There were bunkers available for us in villages or in the mountains. But we had cast aside all proposals. Why? Quite simple: the calendar showed April 1944 and we, the Jews of Sighet, still knew nothing about Treblinka, Buchenwald and Auschwitz.

Two things here. It again says it was April, not May, when the Sighet Jews first learned they would be deported. It confirms the passage on page 83 of the Yiddish book: “It was a beautiful April day,” said on one of their first days in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The other thing – it is not true the Jews of Sighet knew nothing, yet that is what Wiesel writes in his autobiography All Rivers, while at the same time he also writes of Polish Jews passing through their neighborhoods telling stories of terrible atrocities by German occupiers. He says that non-Jews offered the Wiesel family places to stay. Wiesel writes that their Christian maid Maria begged them to come to her village and she would keep them safe. How many Jews may have taken advantage of such offers? But we’re told that Shlomo Wiesel refused to accept this kindness of Christians, and Elie’s only explanation is that they still didn’t believe the stories they were hearing. Then he blames the world for not warning them! This can be found in All Rivers Run to the Sea, on page 63 and 68-69.

Isn’t is possible the reason we find mention of these offers of help in all three Wiesel books is because it was such an important part of his experience that he felt compelled to include it? His family hid out and were protected from arrest. Or … maybe only he was sent away for safety, and his mother and sisters had different experiences. His father too, unless he did indeed die in 1943.

After the war, when only Elie and his two older sisters reunited, it was convenient to say the others were “murdered” in Auschwitz. That was the preferred story at the time. After all, with an advertised death toll of four million until 1990, there was plenty of room to say hundreds of your relatives were exterminated there.

In France

Elie Wiesel is center-top with a group of friends all wearing similar berets, at Ambloy, France.

Elie Wiesel is center-top with a group of friends all wearing berets, at Ambloy, France in 1945.

Wiesel could have been sent to the home for Jewish orphans in France after the war from wherever he had been staying. In the few photographs we have, he looks cheerful and well-adjusted. He has friends, and seems to be a leader of younger boys. His hair is very long in the front, too long to have grown out from a concentration camp shaved head just a few months before.

From his very first year in France he was extremely interested in Zionism, the struggle in Palestine, and was a supporter of the Irgun, the Jewish terrorist organization in Palestine. Where did he learn all this, since he says that while in the camps he had no interest in anything. This is another reason to suspect he sat out the “Hungarian Holocaust” and was staying in a safe political environment somewhere.

I have written so many details in the various articles on this site that suggest or show outright that Wiesel has lied about many, many things – that he is faking it when it comes to so many aspects of his story. It’s not like he’s a paragon of truthfulness and I am therefore going out on a limb, or defaming him, by questioning the basics of his story. What really gives me a justification to do so comes back to – yes, that’s correct, his lack of a tattoo!

I think it shows that Wiesel and his friends know how damaging this tattoo business is by the fact they won’t speak about it – they completely refuse to deal with it. The Jewish Shoah believers in France at Enquete & Debat tried but could not get Wiesel to answer any questions about the tattoo by writing to him at his Foundation office in Romania. After a period of time they phoned there and Wiesel’s assistant hung up on them as soon as she realized what they were calling about. If holocaust-believing Jews are treated that way, it tells us just how unwelcome the topic is.

As I’ve said before, the only way to bring attention to Wiesel’s serious tattoo problem is to make a lot of noise about it – to get public attention on it. This is not happening and will not happen as long as the general response is: Forget the tattoo because it might turn out that he has one.

The cowardice in such a position leaves me flabbergasted. It’s half ignorance, as I said above, that is true, but the other half is lack of nerve. I am doing my best to dispel the ignorance. Those promoting the Wiesel legend lie, lie, lie, lie, lie and it doesn’t bother them in the least, while the truth forces are afraid of being wrong when the odds for being wrong on this are 5% or less – to me, it’s 0%. To continue to be content with just asking the question “Is it possible that Elie Wiesel doesn’t have the tattoo he said he does?” and fail to go beyond that to a declarative statement on the matter is not an acceptable outcome considering all we know.

It’s time to put all doubts aside and claim the obvious.

When did Elie Wiesel arrive at Auschwitz? Could he have received the number A-7713?

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

By Carolyn Yeager
copyright 2012 carolyn yeager

Fact is–it’s a deliberately confusing story with two distinct versions. Originally,  he was too late to be assigned that number; in a newer rewrite,  he was right on time. Which would you believe?

Above: Hungarian transport arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. Notice the casual atmosphere, the inmate-workers in striped clothing (not wielding clubs), the non-threatening guards spotted here and there (without snarling dogs), and the crematorium chimney in the distance — which is not belching smoke and fire. 

UPDATE: (Jan. 30) It’s worth taking a closer look at the female deportees in the background who are accepting the arrival process in quite a different manner than what we always hear in the official stories of the Hungarian Jews. And from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I might add, which is a big pusher of the Hungarian Jewish “extermination.”  These women don’t look too much the worse for wear from their trip. Three of them are smiling, two are also waving to someone they know, perhaps the person in the lower left questioning the officer. How can they be so cheerful, you might ask? A good question.

______________________________

 

At the very end of my recent article The Truth About Night, I wrote:

My challenge: I welcome any native Polish Yiddish speaker/reader who is also fluent in English to prove me wrong about what I have written above by providing an honest, accurate translation of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign [And The World Remained Silent] into English so it can be compared with Night. Why hasn’t this already been done? It’s natural to be suspicious of what is kept hidden. Let’s put everything on the table so that the questions I have raised can be cleared up.

Though I had no real hope of that, I was most happily surprised when a gifted linguist using the name “Kladderadatsch” appeared on the Codoh Forum with a professional translation of a  section from the Yiddish book. You can go to that thread (begin on page 4 of “Is This the End of Elie Wiesel?”) to see all the translations he has posted there so far.  I have copied his last post/translation/analysis as the main element of this article, but first I want to give a short introductory comment.

When retranslating Night for its 2006 publication, Marion Wiesel (working with Elie and whoever else) made numerous changes in the wording of the original translation. An important, but hard-to-notice change was her rearrangement of the wording for the deportation dates of the Wiesel family. She connived to move their arrival date at Auschwtiz back two whole weeks. By doing so, she made it possible for young Eliezer to be given the registration number A-7713 on May 24, 1944, the day it was given out according to the transport records published by Randolph Braham1 and available at the Memorial Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau. (More on Braham further down)

In the original LaNuit/Night published in 1958/60, and in Un di velt hot geshvign, published in 1956, the Wiesel family arrived at Auschwitz 3 days after  their departure on June 3, 1944, making it approximately June 6th, well after the registration numbers A-7712 and 7713 had already been assigned. Therefore, as the story was originally written, the going-on-15-year-old Eliezer Wiesel could not have been registered with that number.

The analysis by ‘Kladderadatsch’ posted on Friday, Jan. 13:

Dates.

According to Mattogno, citing microfilm records from the Auschwitz museum (“Liste der Judentransporte, Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, microfilm no. 727/27,” Mattogno’s footnote 15), the Auschwitz registration number A-7713 was assigned on May 24, 1944. In his article, Mattogno makes the case that this means Elie Wiesel could not have been assigned A-7713 because he would have arrived at Auschwitz after that date:

Elie Wiesel does not specify the date of his deportation to Auschwitz. His narrative starts, though, with reference to a specific date: “On the Saturday before Pentecost [“Shavuòth” in the Italian edition], in the spring sunshine, people strolled, carefree and unheeding, through the swarming streets.” (p.22-23). In 1944, this festival fell on 28 May 1944 [14], a Sunday. The day in question was thus 27 May. The first transport of Jews left Sighet on the following day, hence, on 28 May. “Then, at last, at one o’clock in the afternoon, came the signal to leave” (p.27). Elie Wiesel then speaks of “Monday” (p. 29), the dawn (p.29), the day after tomorrow (p. 29) saying, at the end, “Saturday, the day of rest, was chosen for our expulsion” (p. 33) He then speaks about the traditional Friday evening meal and goes on to say: «The following morning, we marched to the station […]» (p. 33, which means that the trip to Auschwitz began on Saturday, 3 June 1944.

The duration of the trip is not given, but transports from Hungary usually took three or four days to reach Auschwitz-Birkenau. Elie Wiesel spent the night at Birkenau and was moved to Auschwitz the following day where he was given the number A-7713, which was tattooed on his arm (p. 54). Yet, according to him, “it was a beautiful April day” (p. 51).

This schedule is pure invention. If he did leave Sighet on 3 June 1944 he could not have arrived at Auschwitz in April. Moreover, the ID number A-7713 was given out on 24 May, the day on which 2,000 Hungarian Jews were assigned the numbers A-5729 through A-7728 [15]. According to Randolph L. Braham, a Jewish transport left Máramarossziget on 20 May 1944.[16] Allowing four days for the journey, this was the transport of Lázár Wiesel who was assigned the ID number A-7713 precisely on 24 May 1944. But apparently, Elie Wiesel was unaware of all these things.

[15] Liste der Judentransporte, Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, microfilm no. 727/27.
[16] R.L. Braham, A Magyar Holocaust. Gondolat Budapest-Blackburn International Inc.,Wilmington, 1988, p. 514.

That seems pretty conclusive.

On the other hand, however, Carolyn Yeager’s article about the various Wiesel signatures makes the case that Wiesel must have been deported from Sighet on May 20, 1944:

In the “revised and updated” new translation of 2006, Wiesel gives his family’s date of deportation to the “small ghetto” as May 17, 1944. I arrive at this date because Wiesel writes that it was “some two weeks before Shavuot” (Shavuot fell on May 28 in 1944) that the deportation order was announced to his family and neighbors. [Remember, Sighet had 90,000 residents, at least one-third of them Jews, while Wiesel makes it sound like he lived in a little village.] Departures were to take place “street by street” starting the next day. That would be May 15. But the Wiesel family was scheduled to leave in the 3rd group, which left two days later, on May 17. After being marched to the “small ghetto,” they stayed there “a few days.” On a “Saturday,” they boarded trains.5 The 20th of May, 1944 was a Saturday.

If Mattogno is correct that “transports from Hungary usually took three or four days to reach Auschwitz-Birkenau,” which seems probable, and if Wiesel’s transport departed on May 20, then it’s entirely possible for him to have arrived on May 23, spent the night at Birkenau, and then been marched over to Auschwitz on May 24 to get his prisoner number, A-7713 . . . exactly like Wiesel has always said.2

Now I’m pretty sure Carolyn wasn’t looking to prove that Wiesel’s claim to number A-7713 is legitimate (her focus in the article is actually on discrepancies in various arrest dates in the later Buchenwald paperwork), but if her reconstruction of the deportation’s timing is correct, that’s what she’s done.

So who’s right, Mattogno or Yeager?

Both, probably. The problem, of course, is that Wiesel is a moving target. Mattogno is using the original edition of “Night,” as translated by Stella Rodway. And sure enough, in that version it says “On the Saturday before Pentecost . . . ” But the “revised and updated” 2006 translation, which Carolyn quotes in her article, says “Some two weeks before Shavuot.” Since Pentecost and Shavuot are the same thing (Rodway just uses the more familiar term for non-Jewish readers, “Pentecost” being the name of a Christian holiday as well), that means that we have two possibilities:

1) Saturday before Pentecost/Shavuot,

2) an unspecified date “some two weeks before.”

As Mattogno and Yeager both note, Shavuot was on May 28 in 1944 (it’s easy to check), a Sunday. So counting backwards, “the Saturday before Pentecost” (May 28) gives May 27, and “two weeks before” gives May 14. In one case, the dates make it impossible for Elie Wiesel to have been assigned A-7713, in the other, they line up perfectly.

 

Above Left: Original Night, 1960,  paperback. Right: Marion Wiesel’s 2006 new translation, recommended by Oprah Winfrey.

So here’s a situation where determining what the original text really says is important. Someone reading Mattogno’s article and then checking the most recent “revised and updated” edition of “Night” might just conclude that he’s dishonest–the text there doesn’t say “the Saturday before,” it says “some two weeks before.” Sheesh. And someone reading Carolyn’s article, with Mattogno’s in mind, might conclude that while she may start from the “correct” premises (again, according to the “revised and updated” version!), she really just shoots herself in the foot by proving that Wiesel left Sighet on May 20, exactly the right date for him to be on the transport recorded by Randolph Braham and to arrive in Auschwitz on May 24 to receive prisoner number A-7713. Is Mattogno lying? Can Carolyn not shoot straight?

Or could it just be that Wiesel is covering his tracks, sowing confusion among revisionists along the way?

“Un di Velt hot Geshwign,” p. 22:

Un azoy zenen teg farlofn, teg velkhe hobn aruntergerisn bleter fun kalendar un undz dernentert tsu yenem shwartsn shbth. Vos vet oyf eybik farbleybn in meyn zkhrwn, afilu ven ikh vel zeyn farmshpt tsu lebn bizn letstn tog fun ale teg, oyf der doziker tsby”wthdiker velt.

Geshen iz dos Shbth far Shbw”wth.

A friling-zun hot oysgegosn ir likht un varemkeyt iber der gorer velt un oykh iber geto. . . .

And so the days raced by, days which ripped away pages from the calendar and brought us nearer to that black Saturday [lit, black Sabbath]. Which will remain forever in my memory, even if I were condemned to live to the very last day of days on this deceiving world.

It happened Saturday [Sabbath] before Shavuot.

The springtime sun had spread its light and warmth over the whole world, and even over the ghetto. . . .

(Notice how he says he’ll never forget “that black Saturday” even if he was “condemned to live to the very last day of days.” I guess he might still mix the date up, though, right?)

Anyway, case closed? Well, there’s one last possibility. Jewish holidays are counted from the evening of the day before, and so maybe the Yiddish text is including Saturday, May 27 as part of Shavuot, thus making “Saturday before Shavuot” one week earlier, or May 20. But of course that still doesn’t fix the problem, since that date is just the starting point for the deportation process for the Jewish community: the Wiesel family isn’t relocated to the small ghetto until three days later, and not actually shipped out from Sighet until after several more. Which would mean, of course, that Elie Wiesel could not have been on the transport that left Sighet on May 20, and could not have arrived at Auschwitz by May 24 to receive prisoner number A-7713.

And somebody must have pointed that out to our friend Elie. So the whole thing gets wound backwards by two whole weeks. The text is quietly changed . . . and no one is supposed to notice.

Oh, and by the way, the original really does say “it was a beautiful April day”:

A sheyner April-tog iz es geven. A frilings-rich in der luft.

It was a beautiful April day. A scent of spring in the air.

“Un di Velt,” p. 83

Quietly changed, in 2006, to “It was a beautiful day in May.”

Do you suppose Elie reads Carlo Mattogno?

–end of post

Who is Randolph Braham and how credible is he?

Mattogno writes:Moreover, the ID number A-7713 was given out on 24 May, the day on which 2,000 Hungarian Jews were assigned the numbers A-5729 through A-7728 [15]. According to Randolph L. Braham, a Jewish transport left Máramarossziget on 20 May 1944.[16] Allowing four days (or three-cy) for the journey, this was the transport of Lázár Wiesel who was assigned the ID number A-7713 precisely on 24 May 1944. But apparently, Elie Wiesel was unaware of all these things.”

[15] Liste der Judentransporte, Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, microfilm no. 727/27.
[16] R.L. Braham, A Magyar Holocaust. Gondolat Budapest-Blackburn International Inc., Wilmington, 1988, p. 514.

Braham is a Jewish Hungarian historian whose magnum opus, according to Arthur Butz,  is his two-volume work The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary. Braham has written more on this subject than anyone else. The official story is that the entire Hungarian deportation program was carried out between May 15 and July 9, 1944. It started in Ruthenia (Carpatho-Ukraine, annexed from Slovakia) and northern Transylvania (annexed from Romania). The second location is where Sighet is found. A hundred thousand Jews remained in the hands of the Hungarians to be employed in labor battalions (in other words, were not deported).

The USHMM says this about him: Randolph L. Braham is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Director, Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and Member, Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Publication of his two-volume work The Destruction of Hungarian Jewry: A Documentary Account (1963) distinguished Dr. Braham as a pioneer scholar in Holocaust Studies. He is coeditor (with Scott Miller) of The Nazis’ Last Victims: The Holocaust in Hungary (Wayne State University Press, published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1998) as well as author and editor of more than three dozen other works on the Holocaust in central and eastern Europe.

If Elie Wiesel is not prisoner #A-7713, then who is he and where was he between the spring of 1944 and the spring of 1945?

According to all available evidence, Elie Wiesel has falsely placed himself in the concentration camps Auschwitz I, II, III and Buchenwald by assuming the identity documents of Lazar Wiesel, born Sept. 4, 1913, as his own. This cannot be glossed over as a bureaucratic error because there are too many documents involved. Kenneth Waltzer, a professor of German history and Judaic Studies who has written about Elie Wiesel, has put forth this very explanation on this website and at Scrapbookpages Blog (although not on his own websites), but we haven’t heard a word from him in many months. He becomes quieter all the time.

It has been long remarked that Elie Wiesel’s book Night is fiction and does not accurately portray the camps wherein he claims to have been detained. This fictional story is based on a 245-page Yiddish book Un di velt hot geshvign (And the world remained silent), published in 1956 by a Yiddish publishing house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Night, just 100 pages long, is a condensation of that book. The origins of Un di velt are not known at this time, but Elie Wiesel Cons The World will begin writing comparisons of the original and 2006 versions of Night – comparing them also with as much of  the true original Un di velt as we can get hold of. It’s still a very interesting journey we’re on, but the end cannot be far away.

Endnotes:

1. Randolph L. Braham, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, two vols. (Boulder, Colorado: East European Monographs, 1993 [revised edition]).

2.  In the original Night, it is actually the 2nd day after arrival that Wiesel writes he was tattooed. I will go into that in an upcoming article.

The Truth about ‘Night’: Why it’s not Elie Wiesel’s Story

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

by Carolyn Yeager
copyright 2011 carolyn yeager

Why is Grandma Nisel not mentioned in Elie Wiesel’s Night?

According to Hilda Wiesel’s 1995 “Survivors of the Shoah” testimony, Grandmother Nisel (also spelled Nissel) went with the family to Auschwitz.

According to Elie Wiesel’s 1995 memoir, All Rivers Run to the Sea1, Grandmother Nisel went with the family to Auschwitz.

But Grandma Nisel is not mentioned even once in Wiesel’s 1958-60 supposedly autobiographical Night.2

Did Wiesel simply forget about his grandmother only 10 years after the event and then remember her again in the 1990’s? Did he cut her out because he wanted to condense his book and she was peripheral to the storyline? Neither of these can be believed. In the first place, Wiesel makes it clear in All Rivers how important Grandma Nisel was to him and he writes affectionately about her. Secondly, by including his grandmother when he mentioned his mother and three sisters, he would not have added more than a few words to the deportation narrative, as we will see. Thirdly, Grandma Nisel, as a member of his family group that he says he lost at Auschwitz, could not with any decency be left out when writing about this momentous event.

And, in fact, he didn’t leave her out of his memoir, nor did Hilda leave her out of her testimony. But Night is another story (pun intended).

There is no excuse or explanation that can be given for such a lapse, and none has ever been attempted. Not one of Wiesel’s numerous interviewers, biographers, commentators or adulators have ever asked about it, or, if they did, they must have accepted without complaint a “no comment” from him. (I suspect that whenever Wiesel gives an interview or allows someone to write a book about him, he obtains an agreement in advance as to what can be discussed and what is off-limits. And I imagine probing questions about his family are off-limits … probably on the grounds that it is “too painful” for him. Wiesel is always treated with the softest of kid gloves.)

Who is Grandmother Nisel and why is she important?

Nisel Bash was the daughter of Moshe and Yehudit (or Mindil) Bash (or Basch). She was born in 1881 in Chust, Ruthenian-Czechoslovakia. She married Eliezer Vizel and lived with him in Sighet, Rumania … which later became Hungary. (This information is from the victim forms filled out for Yad Vashem by her nephew and grandson; see further below.) We don’t know the date of her marriage, but her first child may have been born in 1900 when she was 19 years old. This first child of Nisel and Eliezer was probably a daughter, either Idiss or Giza. In 1903 their first son, named Shlomo, was born. After that came another son, Mendel; then two more daughters.

Below: YV forms for Shlomo Wiesel by Son Eli and cousin Yaakov Fishkovitz. (click on picture for larger image) Below that is the 1957 YV form for Mendel Wiesel by Yaakov Fishkovitz.

 

I have reconstructed the birth dates of Nisel’s children as best I can since no reliable family genealogy has ever been made available. Sites like Rootsweb are completely useless for information about the Wiesel family. In All Rivers (p. 7), Elie Wiesel writes about his aunts:

“I also had two aunts in Czechoslovakia: Aunt Idiss in Slotvino and Aunt Giza in Ungvaer. Grandma Nissel’s other two daughters lived in Sighet. Zlati, the youngest, was called an old maid behind her back. She married late, you see—at twenty-one.”

The older of the two daughters who lived in Sighet is never named or described, yet she could not have died as a child since Wiesel speaks of her as living in Sighet when he was a boy. Did she disgrace the family in some way and so is not to be mentioned? Wiesel writes that Grandma Nisel sat at the cash register in his father’s store, but also helped out at her son Mendel’s store:

“Maybe (Grandma Nisel) was trying not to show favoritism toward any of her children. My father was the oldest, but she was just as close to my Uncle Mendel, who had a modest grocery store on the other side of town.”

From this we can understand that Shlomo was the oldest of the two sons. Among Orthodox Hasidic Jews, males are in an entirely different category of importance and expectations than females, who are only required to find a good husband and have children. Mendel married Golda Feig, the sister of Sarah Feig, making for a tight-knit Wiesel-Feig family relationship.

Uncle Mendel Wiesel was born in 1905, according to cousin Yaakov (the only source we have) and died at the same time as Shlomo in 1943. He would have been only 38 years old! Yet in Night he appears in the story at the time of the deportation to Auschwitz—Elie Wiesel’s family stays in his empty house in the small ghetto. On page 30:

“The people must have been driven out unexpectedly. I went to see the rooms where my uncle’s family had lived. On the table there was a half-finished bowl of soup. There was a pie waiting to be put in the oven. Books were littered about on the floor. Perhaps my uncle had had dreams of taking them with him?”

Nisel lived in her own house that was close to her son Shlomo’s home. Young Elie dropped in often to visit her and had quite a few stories to tell about that in All Rivers. Elie’s namesake grandfather Eliezer had been killed in the First World War in his capacity as a stretcher-bearer. Nisel related to her grandson that when she was told of his death: “I learned what catastrophe meant, and I knew my mourning would never end.” (All Rivers, p 8)

On page 9, Wiesel relates a story that when he returned to Sighet as an adult, he first went to the cemetery to find his grandfather’s grave. He spoke to his grandfather’s spirit about the deportation to Auschwitz thus: “Did you know, Grandpa, that Grandma Nisel was the only one in the family, almost the only one in the whole community, who guessed it all? She knew she would never come home. She left this wretched town in her funeral dress. Yes, she wore her shroud under her black dress. She alone was ready.”

There are two other distinct mentions in All Rivers of his grandmother taking part in the deportation-to-Auschwitz process. On Page 70 he writes that on Tuesday, May 16, they were ordered out of their houses to be sent to the small ghetto. “There was another heat wave. My little sister was thirsty, and my grandmother too.” Page 77, arriving at Auschwitz: “I stared intently, trying desperately not to lose sight of my mother, my little sister with her hair of gold and sun, my grandmother, my older sisters.”

Yet in 20 pages in the book Night of detailed description of the pre-deportation events, the trip to Auschwitz and their arrival, there is no mention at all of a grandmother. Nowhere in the entire book is there a Grandma Nisel.

Other family members place Grandma Nisel at Auschwitz.

 

 

 

Her nephew Yaakov Fishkovitz in 1957 filled out a YV form (above top) stating she died at Auschwitz in 1944. Yaakov also filled out a form for his cousin Shlomo Wiesel. A grandson, Eliezer Shlomovitz of Los Angeles CA, filled out a Yad Vashem form for his grandmother Nisel Vizel too, many years later in 1994 or 1999 (hard to read), saying she died at Auschwitz in 1944 (above). But neither Elie nor his two surviving sisters acknowledged her death at Auschwitz in this way. Although Hilda said in her 1995 Shoah testimony: “… we were, myself and my sister, the one who was in Canada and is now deceased; my mother; my grandmother, that is my father’s mother; and, oh . . . my little 10-year old sister.”

Hilda also said: “And my mother – died. She was 44 years old.” She then repeated: “And my little sister – dead at age 10.” These are assumed deaths. But if she is correct about her mother’s age in 1944, then Sarah Feig was born in 1900. Could she have been 3 years older than her husband, born in 1903 according to his cousin Yaakov? Possibly, even considering what we know about Hasidic marriages, wherein the groom is usually no more than one year older, or the same age, as the bride.3 But Hilda, being the eldest, should know her mother’s age. Right: Hilda, age 16, in 1938 with her mother Sarah Feig Wiesel, who would have been 38 in the picture if she were born in 1900.

The name Shlomo appears only once in Night at the end.

On the very first page of this famous novel it is written: “My father was a cultured, rather unsentimental man.” Right here it would have been natural to write: My father, Shlomo Wiesel, was a cultured, rather unsentimental man. But no, and throughout the book this character continues to be known only as “my father,” until page 103-4 when another prisoner, Meir Katz, addresses him by his first name. In the original edition it is spelled Chlomo; in the 2006 translation, the spelling is changed to Shlomo. The name of Wiesel also occurs only once, on page 51:

We had already been eight days at Auschwitz. It was during roll call. We were not expecting anything except the sound of the bell which would announce the end of roll call. I suddenly heard someone passing between the rows asking, “Which of you is Wiesel of Sighet?

The man looking for us was a bespectacled little fellow with a wrinkled, wizened face. My father answered him.

“I’m Wiesel of Sighet.”

The little man looked at him for a long while, with his eyes narrowed.

“You don’t recognize me—you don’t recognize me. I’m a relative of yours. Stein. Have you forgotten me already? Stein! Stein of Antwerp. Reizel’s husband. Your wife was Reizel’s aunt. She often used to write to us … and such letters!”

Let’s remember there were many Wiesel’s (Vizel’s) in Sighet, a town with a large Jewish population. For example, there are three Mendel Wiesel’s from Sighet of around the same age in the Yad Vashem databank, and there are eight Shlomo Wiesel’s recorded as succumbing in the camps. This doesn’t include all the Wiesel’s with other first names! So we can expect that the man Stein would have used the first name too, or Wiesel would have asked Stein which Wiesel he was looking for. This seems like another avoidance of using the name Shlomo, but it is strange that both the first and last name were used one time only.

On page 2, the sisters are named:

There were four of us children: Hilda, the eldest; then Bea; I was the third, and the only son; the baby of the family was Tzipora.

In the original Night (p 31), the family servant, a Christian from a nearby village, is named Martha. In All Rivers, she becomes Maria, and the name in the 2006 re-translation of Night is changed to Maria. Okay, it could have been an error.

The dust jacket on an original, hard-bound copy of Night reads: “The adolescent Elisha and his family, among hundreds of thousands of Jews […] are cruelly deported …” Elisha is not the name of the main character in the book; it is Eliezer. The first time that name is used is on page 86: “Let’s hope that we shan’t regret it, Eliezer.” On page 92: “Don’t let yourself be overcome by sleep, Eliezer.” On page 96, Eliezer is addressed by his name twice by Juliek. On page 108: ”Eliezer … my son … bring me … a drop of coffee…” Then, again, on pages 109, 110 and 112. Why is he called Elisha on the dust jacket? Elisha is the name of the main character in Wiesel’s second novel, Dawn. A little mix-up there?

In Night, Father is 50 and little sister is seven.

In spring 1944, just arriving at Auschwitz, Eliezer’s father declares that he is fifty years of age. Eliezer says he is “not quite 15.” (p 40) In the new 2006 translation (p 30), Eliezer’s age is changed to “15” but the father’s “fifty” remains the same. “Not quite 15” doesn’t equate to Elie Wiesel, whose birthday is Sept. 30, 1928, so that was an oversight in Night. Or it can also be seen as a similar situation as with Tzipora’s age: Making the young victims even younger so they will appear more sympathetic to the reader, and making some adults older. Lying about their age is a tactic used by many “holocaust survivors” in their memoirs to explain how they escaped the “gas chamber.” Arguably, this could have been done by Sarah Wiesel for Tzipora too—claiming her to be 14 instead of 10, since in the story Night, Eliezer made himself out to be 18 (3 years older that he really was) and got away with it.

Why is the father in Night fifty? Shlomo Wiesel was certainly somewhere between 40 and 44 years of age in 1944. Actually, according to his cousin Yaakov, he wasn’t even alive, having died in 1943! Moreover, Mendel died in 1943 also. One has to assume from this that they died together somehow. Yaakov filled out a form for Mendel at the same time as for Shlomo. The forms look exactly alike except for the different name and date of birth. Shlomo is shown to be born in 1903, Mendel in 1905. Keep in mind that in 1957 the book Night was not yet published in French or English and the name of Elie Wiesel was completely unknown, so Fishkowitz had no reason to lie to protect his relatives, as he might have had later.

Contrarily, on the Yad Vashem form Elie Wiesel filled out in 2004, no birth date is given for his father, nor the age at death. Did he not know? Is it possible for a son not to know his father’s age?

This photograph (left) of Shlomo Wiesel was taken in 1942 according to Hilda Wiesel. At this time he would have been 39 years old.

Further, we have no information on these details for Wiesel’s mother Sarah Feig either, and no family member (or anyone) ever filled out a YV Holocaust victim form for her or her youngest daughter who supposedly died with her at Auschwitz. (Can the reason be that they don’t want to record an age/birth date for either one?) But, as I wrote above, Hilda Wiesel Kudler said in her Shoah testimony that her mother was 44 years old when she died, and her youngest sister was ten. Is Hilda a reliable witness?

On page 30 of Night, Eliezer says: “I looked at my little sister Tzipora, her fair hair well combed, a red coat over her arm, a little girl of seven.” This is when the family was walking to the ‘small ghetto’ after being ordered out of their home in the spring of 1944, only a week or so before they arrived in Auschwitz. But Hilda said Tzipora was then ten years old. Which is correct? Or is neither? Some of my readers will tell me, “What does it matter?” Accuracy matters, because if a source is wrong in some things that can be determined as wrong, nothing from there should be depended upon.

Nowhere in All Rivers do we find Tzipora’s age given by Wiesel, even though he mentions her many times. He only wants us to know that she was young or “a child.” A ten-year-old girl is quite a bit more mature than a seven-year old. I venture to say she was given the age of seven in Night to make her appear more vulnerable, and her death even more of a barbaric crime. Also, if she were seven, there would be more reason to “exterminate” both mother and daughter, under the extermination thesis. But in truth, a 44-year-old-woman and her 10-year-old daughter could be quite useful in the labor force, and therefore could have gone on to meet some other fate. There may even be some private knowledge of that—which may be another reason no one has filled out a Yad Vashem Holocaust Victim report for these two, while two were filled out for 64- year-old Grandma Nisel.

That Shlomo Wiesel was 50 years old in 1944 can be ruled out by the fact that his mother was 64 years old in 1944, making her only 14 years older than a 50 year old. So this Father character cannot truly be the real Shlomo. The father is depicted as somewhat confused, a poor decision maker, and as having difficulty adjusting to camp life, both physically and psychologically. He appears more like a man of sixty. Eliezer is often shown to be his father’s caretaker. “My father … was running at my side, out of breath, at the end of his strength, at his wit’s end. I had no right to let myself die. What would he do without me? I was his only support.” (Night, p 90)

A fifteen-year-old with a gold crown?

How many 15-year-olds do you know who have a crown on a tooth already? Thirty-one-year-olds may, the age Lazar Wiesel was in 1944. Or the following story could be totally fabricated. Wiesel writes in Night that when he was transferred to Monowitz (Buna), he was given a physical and a dental exam. The dentist wanted to remove his gold crown; Eliezer talked him out of it. One day his work foreman, named Franek, noticed the gold and told Eliezer he wanted it. Eliezer resisted, but eventually, after suffering a series of abuses, gave up his gold tooth to Franek. In this story, he is called out for his dental appointment by his number, “A-7713.” (p 58) The number is used again on page 64 when the Kapo decides to give him a beating.

I felt the sweat run down my back.

“A-7713!”

I came forward.

Earlier, on page 51, the author wrote:

“The three “veterans,” with needles in their hands, engraved a number on our left arms. I became A-7713.”

Yet where is the number A-7713 on Elie Wiesel’s left arm?

At Buna, he worked in an electrical warehouse alongside some Polish civilians and a few French women After his beating by the Kapo, one of the French girls came over to him, “wiped his blood-stained forehead with her cool hand,” gave him a mournful smile and a bit of bread. Finally she spoke to him “in almost perfect German.” Several years later he recognized her in the Paris Metro, and prodded her memory. They went to a terrace café and she revealed to him that she was Jewish, from a religious family, and during the occupation she obtained forged papers and passed herself off as an Aryan. She was enlisted in “forced labor groups” and deported to Germany. That’s how she escaped the concentration camps.

These kinds of stories abound in Night and other holocaust-survivor books. No witnesses, no proofs, no names, just a bit of imagination. I will remind you again that the original Night was published in 1960 categorized as Judaica/Literature … in other words, fiction. When the new translation came out in 2006, it was changed to Autobiography/Jewish Interest. It is now an autobiography of Elie Wiesel, with his picture on the back cover and a special new Preface, written by him, which condemns the Germans and attempts to explain the changes he and his wife have made in the text.

Eliezer Wiesel is not necessarily Elie Wiesel

The author of the Yiddish book is Eliezer Wiesel. The author of Night is Elie Wiesel. There is only 2 years between the publication of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign in 1956 and the French La Nuit in 1958, but in that time the author’s name had changed. When did Elie start being called ‘Elie’ rather than Eliezer or Liezer or Lazar or something else? According to some of his biographers, it was when he was still living at home with his family. As we know, there were many Eliezer Wiesel’s (Vizel’s) in Sighet, let alone in Hungary, at the time. Un di Velt Hot Gesvign, however, was written in Polish Yiddish, or at least it was published in that language. The final version of the book of 245 pages was edited by Mark Turkov who specialized in Polish Yiddish. Where the story came from, we really don’t know. That’s the bottom line. We have the preposterous story told by Elie Wiesel of writing it in a ship’s cabin on his way to Brazil at a time that he was involved in a serious love affair and embarking on an important assignment for his newspaper. Equally preposterous is his claim to have handed an 862-page manuscript over to the stranger Turkov during a chance meeting on the ship, docked at Sao Paulo, without a copy for himself or a contract or any guarantee of return – just ‘good faith.’ Being an experienced journalist at that time, he would certainly have known better. Worse than that, he says he didn’t even believe when he gave it to him that Turkov would publish it. (All Rivers, p 240-41)

We make a leap of faith to believe that Eliezer Wiesel has to be Elie Wiesel. It should also be pointed out that these survivor stories were all the rage within the Yiddish-speaking communities at the time. There were many of them in circulation, even before they were published. Elie Wiesel had cousins in Argentina whom he visited while he was there in April-May 1954; he mentioned them in All Rivers.4 It’s very likely that he was introduced to these survivor stories, and Mark Turkov’s publishing house, through these relatives and their circle. Was he attracted to a particular story by an author with his own name, Eliezer Wiesel?

More unlikely stories

Wiesel tells us another unlikely story in All Rivers (p 277) that in Dec. 1955, back in Paris, he received a copy of the published book, edited down to 245 pages, in the mail from Turkov. There are no witnesses to this. He only mentions telling one close friend, Israel Adler, who took him out for a coffee by way of celebration.(!) Shortly after that he moved to the United States. It appears from his writings that Wiesel forgot all about the manuscript he gave to Turkov until the book came to him in the mail, but he does add on that page that “they never did send back the manuscript”—to give himself a reason for not having it and not being able to say what was actually in it.

In contradiction to this story is the one wherein Francois Mauriac, whom Wiesel first meets in Spring 1955, encourages him to write about his concentration camp experiences. He doesn’t tell Mauriac he has already done so, but acts like he will think about it, later accepting the guilt-ridden, elderly Catholic’s help in getting the book published. Wiesel writes in All Rivers, p 319, that he sent a manuscript of what became La Nuit (Night) to Mauriac one year later, in 1956.

In 1957, during my convalescence, I received good news from Francois Mauriac: Jerome Lindon of Editions de Minuit was going to publish La Nuit (Night). The letter of confirmation opened a new chapter in the book of commentaries that is my life.

Lindon didn’t like the orginal title: “And the World Remained Silent.” He preferred a biblical phrase, perhaps something from the Book of Jeremiah. But after discussing various suggestions, we settled on La Nuit. Lindon also wanted me to tighten the text, given to him by Mauriac, though I had already pruned and abridged it considerably.

The text was given to the French publisher by Mauriac. In the following lines he says that he, Elie, was the one who made the drastic cuts in the original manuscript. When?!

He proposed new cuts throughout, leading to significant differences in length among the successive versions. I had cut down the original manuscript from 862 pages to the 245 of the published Yiddish edition. Lindon edited La Nuit down to 178.

What a tissue of lies. Never before had Wiesel written about the Yiddish book, but now, in 1995, he relates that it was he who cut the 862 pages to 245. Such a prodigious task would certainly not have gone unremarked upon by him! And now it is the publisher Lindon who did the final editing to 178 pages. One wonders just what part Elie Wiesel played in this group effort?

Wiesel continues with an unconvincing “explanation” of why the book’s original ending was cut out, something that was made controversial by a certain Jewish scholar. He then says, “By the time Night was published in France, I was at work on another book.” This rendition of how such an important book came about is so sloppy and insulting to the intelligence of his readers that it speaks for itself.

Both the USHMM and Wikipedia have the dates wrong.

At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Elie Wiesel Timeline: From 1952, it says Wiesel interviewed Mauriac in 1954 (it was 1955) and that Wiesel finished his “900-page Yiddish manuscript” in Brazil in 1955 (it was 1954). I believe it is backwards on purpose, in order to fit Wiesel’s lies. But this is typical of the scholarship carried out at this totally Jewish-run, but partially government-funded museum. It reads:

1954
During an interview with the distinguished French writer, Francois Mauriac, Elie is persuaded to write about his experiences in the death camps.

1955
Elie Wiesel finishes a nearly 900-page manuscript in Yiddish while on assignment in Brazil. And the World Stayed Silent is published in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1963
Elie Wiesel becomes an American citizen.

Wikipedia skips over the dates, doesn’t give any dates for the writing of the books because they don’t fit, but says that Wiesel moved to NYC in 1955.

“In 1955, Wiesel moved to New York City, having become a US citizen: due to injuries suffered in a traffic accident, he was forced to stay in New York past his visa’s expiration and was offered citizenship to resolve his status.”

Others say he moved to NYC in 1956. Since he was still in Paris in Dec.’55, one assumes he didn’t leave for the U.S. until Jan. ‘56. Wiesel nowhere gives a date, which is the reason for the confusion — his biographers have to guess. But, while he received a U.S. “green card” sometime after recovering from his accident, he did not become a citizen until 1963. Wikipedia is known to change its information on Wiesel without notice. For example, it now spells his father’s name Chlomo, whereas previously it was Shlomo.

Why did Wiesel start campaigning for the Nobel Prize the same year Mark Turkov died?

Mark Turkov, the publisher of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign (And The World Remained Silent), died in 1983, the same year Wiesel’s supporters began their campaign to get him a Nobel Prize. It is a fact that Wiesel never spoke about the Yiddish book that was the precursor to Night until after Mark Turkov’s death. As I wrote in “The Shadowy Origins of Night, Part III,” this was the time Wiesel first began to speak of being the author of the Yiddish book, which he obliquely referred to in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1986, when he said “the world did know and remained silent.”

Another reason for bringing the previously ignored Yiddish book into the light is that Buchenwald survivor Myklos Grüner began, in 1987, to claim that a different Eliezer Wiesel was the author of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign, thus making it necessary for the first time for Elie to explain just how it got written … by him. That he botched the explanation so badly in his memoir is no surprise to those who have studied the man. From the article mentioned above:

Grüner writes in his book Stolen Identity (p 50), “My work of research to find Lazar Wiesel born on the 4th of September 1913 started first in 1987, to establish contact with the Archives of Buchenwald.” He was also writing to politicians and newspapers in Sweden. This could not have failed to attract the notice of Elie Wiesel and his well-developed public relations network. Grüner tracked down Un di Velt Hot Gesvign as the original book from which Night was taken, and believed it was written by his friend Lazar Wiesel and stolen somehow by Elie. (p 43)

This could account for why Elie Wiesel suddenly began to speak and write about ‘his’ Yiddish book, published in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1956. He deals with it in his memoir All Rivers, published in 1995, after Turkov and everyone else associated with it are dead. No witnesses.

Is it too far-fetched to believe that Turkov agreed to remain silent about the real author of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign, either by being bought off, threatened, or even voluntarily? And once Turkov was safely dead, Wiesel and his supporters could breathe more easily about claiming his authorship of the book.

It is a strange fact that the title Un di Velt Hot Gesvign (or, in English, And the World Remained Silent) does not appear on the long list of “books by Elie Wiesel” at the beginning of his memoir All Rivers, nor in the original or in the new 2006 translation of Night. It also does not appear in the complete list of his books at The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. It is, however, at the beginning of the list of his books on Wikipedia. Clearly, there is uncertainty about this book, perhaps a desire by publishers not to put down in writing something that could bring them a lawsuit … or perhaps a wish by Wiesel not to stimulate questions about that book.

Conclusions

1. The characters in Night are only loosely based on Elie Wiesel and his family. Therefore it can’t be called an autobiography.

2. Elie Wiesel is the author of Night, written in French with the assistance of his editor and probably Francois Mauriac, but he is probably not the author of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign.

3. Elie Wiesel made arrangement while in Brazil/Argentina for Mark Turkov to mail him the book by Eliezer Wiesel as soon as there was a hard copy, or his relatives mailed it to him. (Elie received a copy in Dec. 1955, according to himself, but the book was not available to the public until 1956.)

4. In the winter and spring of 1956, in the United States, Elie adapted the book to a shorter version in French, which he mailed to Francois Mauriac in Paris. He inserted the names of his family members and personalized it, especially in the beginning chapters.

5. The secrecy of the birth and death dates among Wiesel’s close relatives is to keep from contradicting what is written in Night, on which his fame and fortune truly rests. Without Night, Wiesel fades into just another Jewish-Zionist writer.

6. Elie Wiesel’s failure to correct and clarify details of his family history (especially birth and death dates of his parents, sisters and other close relatives), and of the writing and publication of Un di Velt and La Nuit, mirrors his refusal to show the number A-7713 that he says is tattooed on his left arm.

7. The essential purpose for securing a Nobel Prize for Wiesel, in literature or peace, was to solidify his reputation in light of the fragility of Night as the basis of that reputation. Nobel prize recipients are a protected species by the entire “global elite,” not just the Jews. Having himself falsely identified in the Buchenwald Liberation photo served the same purpose.

My challenge: I welcome any native Polish Yiddish speaker/reader who is also fluent in English to prove me wrong about what I have written above by providing an honest, accurate translation of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign into English so it can be compared with Night. Why hasn’t this already been done? It’s natural to be suspicious of what is kept hidden. Let’s put everything on the table so that the questions I have raised can be cleared up.

Endnotes:

1. Elie Wiesel, Memoirs: All Rivers Run to the Sea, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1995. 418 pp.

2. Elie Wiesel, Night, Hill and Wang, New York, 1960. 116 pp. (Original edition)

3. “One day my father saw a beautiful young girl in a carriage and was so struck by her that he ran after her, calling out, ‘Who are you?’ Of course, she did not deign to reply, but that evening the driver gave him the answer. The girl was the younger daughter of Reb Dodye Feig, of the village of Bichkev. The following year they were married, and they had four children, three girls and a boy.” (All Rivers, p 15)

4. “In Buenos Aires my cousins Voicsi and her husband Moishe-Hersh Genuth came to meet us. I gave them some articles for Yedioth Ahronoth, unaware they would be reprinted or quoted in the American Jewish press.” (All Rivers, p 241)

More Reasons Why I Don’t Believe

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

By Carolyn Yeager

More reasons why I don’t believe Elie Wiesel is the author of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign

A dear reader has brought to my attention something that I covered in “The Shadowy Origins of Night, I, II and III”, but which deserves revisiting in order to shine a brighter light on some perhaps small, but meaningful, details that impact on the question of whether Elie Wiesel is the author of the Yiddish-language Un di Velt Hot Gesvign (And the World Remained Silent).

If we start with the map provided in “Shadowy Origins of Night, Part II,” we notice that Sighet is not in Transylvania, but in Maramures [sometimes called Marmaros], a district distinct from Transylvania. We see that Sighet is the only city shown in the eastern half of Maramures and is exactly on the border with Czechoslovakia.

 

The writer of Un di Velt describes his hometown of Sighet on the first page of the book as

the most important city [shtot] and the one with the largest Jewish population in the province of Marmarosh. Until the First World War, Sighet belonged to Austro-Hungary. Then it became part of Romania. In 1940, Hungary acquired it again.” 1

It is totally reasonable for a man born in 1913, as was Lazar Wiesel, to write such a description since, at the time of his birth, Sighet was indeed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After WWI [1919] it became part of Romania when the borders of Central and Eastern Europe were “rearranged” by the victorious powers [France, Britain, United States]. Then, in 1940, at his age of 27, it again changed rulers and borders, and became German-allied Hungary.

Lazar Wiesel lived through all these changes. He was old enough to understand them. As a man in his thirties at the end of the war, and his early forties when the book was published in 1955, Lazar Wiesel could be expected to write a comprehensive account of his experience—not only a good deal of historical/political material on his hometown and its townspeople, but covering his personal political/religious beliefs also. And this is indeed what we know is contained in the published book, Un di Velt. 2 Taking eight to nine years to complete the entire 862 pages of it, if that’s what it was, is quite reasonable, and even to be expected.

This makes a great deal more sense than Elie Wiesel’s incredible description of frantically typing 862 pages of “memory” during an ocean voyage to Brazil, without pre-planning, reference materials or access to other persons.

Returning to the location of Sighet, Wiesel, in the French and English versions La Nuit and Night, changed, on the first page, what had been described as the “most important city with the largest Jewish population in the Maramures province” to:

that little town in Transylvania where I spent my childhood.

Nothing more. Why does Elie Wiesel say that Sighet was in Transylvania? Could it be because the average person might recognize that name in association with Hungary and/or Romania, while they would not recognize Maramures or Marmarosh? And why would the author’s hometown go from the largest city in the entire province to a little town, presumably of no significance?

While it is true that more recently Maramureş, Romanian Crişana and the Romanian Banat are sometimes considered part of Transylvania,  it is not precisely so. An inhabitant who identified with his region would probably not put it that way, but someone for whom the geography held no special place in his mind, heart or memory, this kind of generalization might be preferred. For example, if I don’t want a person[s] to know much about me or ask me questions, I will say I was born in the American mid-west and hope to leave it at that. If I don’t mind more being known, I’ll say exactly where, and give some detail. I know, because I do both and it’s very clear to me why.

Whatever the reasons Elie Wiesel had to cloud the picture of his hometown, it is clear that he and his publisher wanted to emphasize some things, de-emphasize, or delete, others, and shorten, shorten, shorten. This fictionalizes the account.

For me, the crux of whether to accept Elie Wiesel as the author of Un di Velt comes down to that odd paragraph in his 1995 memoir3 describing the burst of unbelievable energy that came over him while on a ship traveling between France and Brazil, when he typed 862 pages of 9 year-old memories on a portable Yiddish typewriter within no more than a two week time period.. Think back nine years in your own life and discover just how clearly you can remember everything that took place. Yes, his was an exceptionally traumatic time, but that doesn’t necessarily make one’s memories any clearer, just that certain parts stand out from the rest. Also, for me as a writer, just that high amount of sustained, concentrated typing would be an impossible task.

Another difficulty is that Wiesel didn’t describe the writing of his original manuscript until it appeared in his memoir, where, as I continue to remind, he gave it only one short paragraph! Or, if you will, a few sentences. I said above that it is a lot to swallow. I want to make it plain right now that I cannot, and thus do not, swallow it. I am convinced Elie Wiesel did not write Un di Velt Hot Gesvign [And the World Remained Silent]. I think it remains for him to prove that he did so, since his attempts at that so far only make us doubt it the more. He can begin by answering some of the many questions put to him on this website, as they are not frivolous or unfair.

 In the remainder of this article, I will point to further items of interest and fact that, while not individually conclusive, bolster my position “not to believe.”

Night is a work of fiction

We must remember that Night was classified as fiction when it was first published. Today, there is a good deal of embarrassed uncertainty as to how to categorize it. The original English-language Hill and Wang publication in 1960 listed the book as Judaica/Literature. The new translation from the same publisher issued in 2006 says it is Autobiography/Jewish Interest. On the Wikipedia page for Night,4 it is called “Autobiography, memoir, novel”—all three. Words lose their meaning when dealing with Elie Wiesel, and we’re familiar with his professed difficulty with “the limitations of language.”

On that same Wikipedia page, we read:

[I]t remains unclear how much of Wiesel’s story is memoir. He has reacted angrily to the idea that any of it is fiction, calling it his deposition, but scholars have nevertheless had difficulty approaching it as an unvarnished account.

Most who write about Wiesel are not scholars or, if they claim to be, they don’t live up to the title. Ruth Franklin, though an avid apologist for Wiesel, admits that the original Yiddish author blames the Jewish concept of “chosenness” as the source of the Jews’ troubles, and she accepts that Wiesel is the author.5 Yet this is an idea that Wiesel would never entertain for an instant. Franklin writes:

The Yiddish version was an historical work, political and angry, blaming the Jewish concept of chosenness as the source of the Jews’ troubles. Wiesel wrote in the 1956 Yiddish version: “In the beginning was belief, foolish belief, and faith, empty faith, and illusion, the terrible illusion. … We believed in God, had faith in man, and lived with the illusion that in each one of us is a sacred spark from the fire of the shekinah, that each one carried in his eyes and in his soul the sign of God. This was the source—if not the cause—of all our misfortune.

Naomi Seidman, professor of Jewish culture at the Graduate Theological Union, whose article 6 I have referred to above and quoted in “Shadowy Origins,” documented the transition from a historical account of events to an autobiographical novel, concluding that Night transforms the Holocaust into a religious event, the abdication of God, with the witness [Eliezer] both priest and prophet. Wiesel himself has said that Auschwitz is as important as Mount Sinai—where in the Bible the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God.7

On the Internet, we find various sites that still call Night a novel. At the website About.com: Secondary Education, Night is called “A novel by Elie Wiesel.”

At the website Yahoo!Answers, the question is asked: Discuss the significance of “night” in the novel Night by Elie Wiesel?

In 2006, Alexander Cockburn wrote 8:

Amazon.com […] had been categorizing the new edition of Night under “fiction and literature” but, under the categorical imperative of Kakutani’s “memory as a sacred act”9 or a phone call from Wiesel’s publisher, hastily switched it to “biography and memoir”. Within hours it had reached number 3 on Amazon’s bestseller list. That same evening, January 17, Night topped both the “biography” and “fiction” bestseller lists on BarnesandNoble.com.

In the same article, Cockburn tells of an interview with Eli Pfefferkorn of Toronto, who related this story:

“In 1981, Wiesel invited me to give a talk to his seminar students at Boston University. In the course of my talk, I discussed the relationship between memory and imagination in a number of literary works. I then pointed out the literary devices he used in Night, devices, I stressed, that make the memoir a compelling read. Wiesel’s reaction to my comments was swift as lightning. I had never seen him as angry before or since. In the presence of John Silber, the then President of Boston University, and my own Brown University students whom I invited, he lost his composure, lashing out at me for daring to question the literalness of the memoir. In Wiesel’s eyes, as in the eyes of his disciples, Night assumed a level of sacrosanctity, next in importance to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. In terms of veracity, it is a factually recorded work, virtually meeting Leopold von Ranke’s benchmark of historical accounts: Wie es eigentlich gewessen, how it really was.

Examples of fiction in Night

Beyond all the well-known fictions in Night, there are some that may have gone largely unnoticed. For example, another dear reader pointed out that on page 68 of the 1960 edition,10 a hanging is described as taking place at Buna [Monowitz].

The head of the camp began to read his verdict, hammering out each phrase:

“In the name of Himmler … prisoner Number … stole

[…]

 prisoner Number …is condemned to death.”

The reader commented, “The person who wrote that could never have been around any SS officers. Heinrich Himmler was only referred to as Reichsfüher.” He further points to the fact that in the new 2006 translation of the book, the passage was changed [on page 62] to:

In the name of Reichsführer Himmler …

Someone obviously pointed out the error to Wiesel or his editors. But this doesn’t fix it either, because not even a lowly camp inmate would be sentenced to death in the name of the second in command. The order would have to read: In the name of the Führer …

Says my reader: This is enough in itself to prove that Wiesel had never been around any SS personnel.

There is another similar incident in Night that is widely considered to be fiction, in full or in part. This is the 3-person hanging scene, also known as the “Crucifixion” scene. It appears on page 70 in the 1960 edition:

One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all round us, machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains—and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel.

The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him.

This time the Lagerkapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.

The three victims mounted together onto the chairs.

The three necks were placed at the same moment with the nooses.

“Long live liberty!” cried the two adults.

But the child was silent.

“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked.

At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over.

Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting.

“Bare your heads!” yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping.

“Cover your heads!”

Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive …

For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed.

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:

“Where is God now?”

And I heard a voice within me answer him:

“Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows …”

Except that there was no child. And probably no crucifixion-style hanging at all.

Alexander Cockburn writes in the article referenced above that after hearing several Jews express doubt about the story, he called Raul Hilberg, author of a standard work on the Holocaust, who was at that time 80, at Hilberg’s home in Vermont. [I have added the underlining]

“From a purely academic viewpoint”, Hilberg began, “it would be interesting to have a scholarly edition, comparing the Yiddish version with subsequent translations and editions, with appropriate footnotes, Wiesel’s comments etc. He was addressing two entirely different audiences, the first being the Yiddish-speaking Jews, members of the world of his youth whom he addressed in nineteenth-century terms. There’s more detail, more comment. I made that suggestion to Wiesel and he didn’t react favorably.”

 Hilberg turned to the crucial scene: “I have a version of the hanging from an old survivor with the names of all three adults.” That survivor had said that there was no boy among the three. Hilberg mentioned this in a review of Night, in which, he told me, “I made no secret of our differences. But whereas it [the age of the central figure in the hanging] may seem somewhat small, it makes a very big difference to Christians, particularly Catholics, because it’s very clear that mystics are intensely interested in the scene because it seems to replicate the crucifixion. It made a considerable impact. So the fact that this figure may not have been a boy at all is disturbing.”

“It would appear”, Hilberg went on, “from the record I have, that some witnesses have questioned whether this scene took place at all. I have a long statement by an older man, a man whom I judge to be quite trustworthy, though one must always remember that things are sometimes observed or heard about later. I talked recently to a survivor of that section of the camp who said it [the hanging of the three] didn’t take place, but maybe it took place earlier. I don’t know. Dating these things is hard for survivors. Some have doubted this would have taken place. Buna was a work camp, so this other survivor, a PhD in history and a very intelligent man, didn’t believe it. I said to him, ‘How do you know this didn’t happen?’ I consider it not only a possibility but plausible. But age is a big issue to some people. That’s something [Wiesel] did not discuss in the new edition of the book.” 11

Arthur Butz reminds us12 that Bruno Dössekker, who never came near a German concentration camp in wartime, published an acclaimed purported memoir of the ordeals of a certain Jew, Binjamin Wilkomirski, at Majdanek, Auschwitz, and other camps. When he was exposed as a fraud, many important supporters remained loyal to him, on the grounds, roughly speaking, that his account sounded powerful.

Age Confusion 

 Continuing on with the issue of age and the part it plays in Elie Wiesel’s credibility as a holocaust survivior—so very related to his credibility as the author of Un di Velt—we go to page 39 in the original 1960 edition of Night. Eliezer and his father have just arrived at Birkenau and been separated from the women and children into the men-only group. A prisoner speaks to him.

“Here, kid, how old are you?”

It was one of the prisoners who asked me this. I could not see his face, but his voice was tense and weary.

“I’m not quite fifteen yet.”

“No. Eighteen.”

“But I’m not,” I said. “Fifteen.”

“Fool, Listen to what I say.”

Then he questioned my father, who replied:

“Fifty.”

The other grew more furious than ever.

“No, not fifty. Forty. Do you understand? Eighteen and forty.”

He disappeared into the night shadows.

 In May 1944, Elie Wiesel, born Sept. 30, 1928, was 15 years old; his 16th birthday was still four months away. So what does it mean for the star “witness” of the story, Eliezer, to say he is 14, going on 15? If this is Wiesel’s “deposition”, why would he make himself months younger than he really was?  Does he want to emphasize his tenderness and vulnerability? Or was he simply careless, forgetting what his age would have been and what season of the year it was?

Once again, the error was corrected in the 2006 new translation—there he answers that he’s fifteen, not “going on fifteen.” The prisoner tells him to say he’s eighteen.

On page 41:

We continued our march toward the square. In the middle stood the notorious Dr. Mengele […]

I was already in front of him:

“How old are you? He asked, in an attempt at a paternal tone of voice.

“Eighteen.” My voice was shaking.

“Are you in good health?”

“Yes.”

“What is your occupation?”

Should I say that I was a student?

“Farmer,” I heard myself say.

Apparently, this means that Eliezer and his father are accepted to be 18 and 40 years of age. Eliezer is adding three years to his stated age of 15. This forces us to ask once again those never-satisfactorily answered questions: Were the Germans so easily fooled or were they not? Did they or did they not keep careful records? Did they follow their policies to the letter or were they sloppy at times? It seems to depend on what’s most convenient for the camp survivor’s story—on one occasion they lie about their age and get away with it; on another, the SS keep impeccable records and know everything.

According to holocaust historiography, if, upon arrival at Birkenau, you were too young or too old to work [or were a woman with young children], you were sent immediately to the gas chamber. [Although in Night no such name is used; it is always called the crematoria.] Thus, we are to believe that Eliezer and his father were saved from that fate by lying about their ages.

The problem with this explanation comes later at Buchenwald, when Eliezer’s father dies shortly after arrival, on January 29, 1945. On page 114, Elie Wiesel writes:

I had to stay at Buchenwald until April eleventh. I have nothing to say of my life during this period. It no longer mattered. After my father’s death, nothing could touch me any more.

I was transferred to the children’s block, where there were six hundred of us.

If Wiesel had been entered into Birkenau as an 18-year-old, he would now be listed as 19—not a child. Why would he have been assigned to the children’s block after the death of his father? It’s true it was later called the orphan’s block by some, but that term may have come about later when the underage inmates who could not be reunited with a family member were sent to an orphanage in France.

We have no records for the death of Shlomo Wiesel at Buchenwald nor a registration [entry] number for either Shlomo or Eliezer Wiesel. But whatever the facts are finally determined to be, according to Elie Wiesel’s later writing he was there and was once again sixteen years old. And, in fact, the birth date on the transport list to France for the person of the mysterious Lázár Wiesel was 1928.

Wiesel describes his own book

Wiesel has said of Night:

 …my first narrative was an autobiographical story, a kind of testimony of one witness speaking of his own life, his own death. All kinds of options were available: suicide, madness, killing, political action, hate, friendship. I note all of these options: faith, rejection of faith, blasphemy, atheism, denial, rejection of man, despair and in each book I explore one aspect. In Dawn I explore the political action; in The Accident, suicide; in The Town Beyond the Wall, madness; in The Gates of the Forest, faith and friendship; in A Beggar in Jerusalem, history, the return. All the stories are one story except that I build them in concentric circles. The center is the same and is in Night.13 

“Night was the foundation; all the rest is commentary. In each book, I take one character out of Night and give him a refuge, a book, a tale, a name, a destiny of his own. 14

First, he calls his book an autobiographical story, a kind of testimony. These are modifiers indicating it is not a true autobiography, or a true testimony. Then, he saw options in it for further exploitation. From this story—Un di Velt Hot Gesvign as the original treasure-trove?—he can get a whole career-ful of books. Wiesel has authored nearly 40 books, all given credence and believability because of this one Yiddish original.

He also calls it “one witness speaking of his own life, his own death.” Of course, Eliezer didn‘t die, but Wiesel is referring to his spiritual death after undergoing the horrors of the holocaust, as he describes it. However, and this is very important, the author of Un di Velt was not a “corpse” looking back at himself in the mirror at the end of the book, but a revitalized man [not a child] looking forward to his regained health, his freedom, and the opportunity to give his account of it in his own way.

This is a huge point that all pro-Wiesel “scholars” downplay or completely ignore. Only Naomi Siedman addresses the questions it raises, but then she also lets it lay. Another opportunity for scholars that is not taken advantage of is Wiesel’s insistence that the “Holocaust” is the private domain of the “survivors.” Typical of his statements is this one:

The Holocaust cannot be described, it cannot be communicated, it is unexplainable. To me it is a mystical event. I have the feeling almost of sin when I speak about it.15

This rings false coming from someone who has made a 50-year career and gotten rich out of writing and speaking about “The Holocaust.” If it “cannot be described,” this releases him from accurate description and covers for the sense we all get that he is not speaking from first-hand experience. If it is “unexplainable,” that can explain his contradictory and foolish statements. Elie Wiesel hides dishonesty in mysticism, which is what Alfred Kazin meant when he criticized Wiesel publicly by calling him “a mystifier.”16

And isn’t it a strange choice of words for Wiesel to confess to a “feeling of sin” when he speaks about the holocaust. It’s a psychological truism that we’ve learned watching TV crime shows, if nowhere else, that the criminal has an urge to confess and therefore will often admit the truth without admitting it. [Larry Silverstein of 9/11 fame confessing to the “pulling” of Bldg. 7 comes to mind.]

To another writer,17 Wiesel said:

I knew the role of the survivor was to testify. Only I did not know how. I lacked experience, I lacked a framework. I mistrusted the tools, the procedures. Should one say it all or hold it all back? Should one shout or whisper? Place the emphasis on those who were gone or on their heirs? How does one describe the indescribable? How does one use restraint in re-creating the fall of mankind and the eclipse of the gods? And then, how can one be sure that the words, once uttered, will not betray, distort the message they bear? [my added underlining]

This passage now reverberates very strongly to me that Wiesel is confessing his uncertainty as to how to construct a holocaust survivor story that will be convincing. He lacks experience—not in writing, but as a camp inmate. He lacks a framework—that would be the personal experience that he doesn’t have. He doesn’t know how to tell it, not because he lacks writing expertise, but because he lacks first-hand knowledge.

He doesn’t want to do it wrong and be found out to be someone who wasn’t there … a fraud! Later, he decided to describe it as indescribable. Not having suffered all that much, he decided to project overwhelming suffering for every inmate.  The very fact that he calls it “the fall of mankind and the eclipse of the gods” tells us—screams at us—if only we will listen, that what he describes doesn’t exist in our real world. Wiesel continues with this:

So heavy was my anguish that I made a vow: not to speak, not to touch upon the essential for at least ten years. Long enough to see clearly. Long enough to learn to listen to the voices crying inside my own. Long enough to regain possession of my memory. Long enough to unite the language of man with the silence of the dead 18

This, of course, doesn’t make sense; it’s nonsense talk. Wiesel decided to wait until he could learn more about it, read what others wrote, talk to survivors. Then, lo and behold, he found a manuscript that he could claim to be his very own, and his real career was launched.

Endnotes:

  1. Un di Velt Hot Geshvign, Eliezer Wiesel, page 7, translated by Naomi Siedman in “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage.”
  2. “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage,” Naomi Siedman, Jewish Social Studies, Dec. 1996.
  3. Elie Wiesel, All Rivers Run to the Sea, Knopf, New York, 1995.
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_(book)
  5. “A Thousand Darknesses”, Ruth Franklin, The New Republic, March 23, 2006.
  6. Siedman, ibid.
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_(book)#Memoir_or_novel
  8. “Truth and Fiction in Elie Wiesel’s Night: Is Frey or Wiesel the Bigger Moral Poseur,” Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch.com, April, 2006. Found online at http://www.rense.com/general70/elie.htm
  9. In the New York Times for January 17 [2006], Michiko Kakutani wrote in her usual plodding prose, with her usual aversion to any unconventional thought, that “Mr. Frey’s embellishments of the truth, his cavalier assertion that the ‘writer of a memoir is retailing a subjective story,’ his casual attitude about how people remember the past — all stand in shocking contrast to the apprehension of memory as a sacred act that is embodied in Oprah Winfrey’s new selection for her book club, announced yesterday: Night, Elie Wiesel’s devastating 1960 account of his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.” From Cockburn, see footnote 8.
  10. Elie Wiesel, Night, Hill and Wang, New York, 1960.
  11. Cockburn, ibid.
  12. “Historical Past vs. Political Present,” Journal of Historical Review, vol 19, Nov/Dec 2000. Online at http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v19/v19n6p12_Butz.html
  13. Harry James Cargas, In Conversation with Elie Wiesel, Paulist Press: New York, 1976, p. 86
  14. Cargas, ibid, p. 3
  15. ”Elie Wiesel: Out of the Night,” Morton A. Reichek, Present Tense. Spring 1976, p, 42
  16. Cockburn, ibid.
  17. Wiesel, “An Interview Unlike Any Other,” in A Jew Today, trans. Marion Wiesel (New York, 1979), p.15.
  18.  “Interview,” ibid.

The Shadowy Origins of “Night” II

Friday, August 20th, 2010

By Carolyn Yeager
copyright 2010 Carolyn Yeager

Part Two: Can the books Night and And the World Remained Silent have been written by the same author? What one critic reveals.

We know a lot about the man who calls himself Elie Wiesel from his own mouth and pen, but we know of the Lazar Wiesel born on Sept. 4, 1913 only through Miklos Grüner’s testimony, and of the author of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign (And the World Remained Silent) through the work itself. So let’s consider what we know of these two men before we look at their books.

The city of Sighet can be seen in the purple-colored Maramures district on this map of Greater Romania in the 1930’s.


 

Who is Elie Wiesel?

Elie Wiesel says in Night that he grew up in a “little town in Translyvania,” and his father was a well-known, respected figure within the Hasidic Orthodox Jewish community. However, Sanford Sternlicht tells us that Maramurossziget, Romania had a population of ninety thousand people, of whom over one-third were Jewish.15 Some say it was almost half. Sternlicht also writes that in April 1944, fifteen thousand Jews from Sighet and eighteen thousand more from outlying villages were deported. How many with the name of Wiesel might have been among that large group? I counted 19 Eliezer or Lazar Wiesel’s or Visel’s from the Maramures District of Romania listed as Shoah Victims on the Yad Vashem Central Database. Just think—according to their friends and relatives, nineteen men of the same name from this district perished in the camps in that one year. It causes one to wonder how many Lazar and Eliezer Wiesels didn’t perish, but became survivors and went on to write books, perhaps.

Lazare, Lazar, and Eliezer are the same name. Another variation is Leizer (prounounced Loizer). A pet version of the name is Liczu; a shortened version is Elie.16 In spite of having a popular, oft-used name, Elie Wiesel describes a unique picture of his life. The common language of the Orthodox Hasidic Jews of Sighet was Yiddish. Wiesel has said he thinks in Yiddish, but speaks and writes in French.17

In his memoir, he admits that he was a difficult, complaining child—a weak child who didn’t eat enough and liked to stay in bed.18 He comes across as definitely spoiled, the only son among three daughters.

According to Gary Henry, as well as other of Wiesel’s biographers and Wiesel himself, young Elie Wiesel was exceptionally fervent about the Hasidic way of life. He studied Torah, Talmud and Kabbalah; prayed and fasted and longed to penetrate the secrets of Jewish mysticism to such an extreme that he had “little time for the usual joys of childhood and became chronically weak and sickly from his habitual fasting.”19 His parents had to insist he combine secular studies with his Talmudic and Kabbalistic devotion. Wiesel says in Night that he ran to the synagogue every evening to pray and “weep” and met with a local Kabbalist teacher daily (Moishe the Beadle), in spite of his father’s disapproved on the grounds Elie was too young for such knowledge.

Of his elementary school studies, Wiesel writes: “[My teachers] were kind enough to look the other way when I was absent, which was often, since I was less concerned with secular studies than with holy books.” 20 And “in high school I continued to learn, only to forget.”

But his plans to become a pious, learned Jew came to an end with the deportation of Hungary’s Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Wiesel has told this story both in his first book Night and in his memoir All Rivers Run to the Sea, and in many talks and lectures.

After liberation, in France, Wiesel met a Jewish scholar and master of the Talmud who gave his name simply as Shushani or Chouchani.21,22 In his memoir, Wiesel wrote:

 It was in 1947 that Shushani, the mysterious Talmudic scholar, reappeared in my life. For two or three years he taught me unforgettable lessons about the limits of language and reason, about the behavior of sages and madmen, about the obscure paths of thought as it wends its way across centuries and cultures.23

 Wiesel describes this person as “dirty,” “hairy,” and “ugly,” a “vagabond” who accosted him in 1947 when he was 18, and then became his mentor and one of his most influential teachers. Reportedly, when Chouchani died in 1968, Wiesel paid for his gravestone located in Montevideo, Uruguay, on which he had inscribed: “The wise Rabbi Chouchani of blessed memory. His birth and his life are sealed in enigma.” According to Wikipedia, Chouchani taught in Paris between the years of 1947 and 1952. He disappeared for a while after that, evidently spent some time in the newly-formed state of Israel, returned to Paris briefly, and then left for South America where he lived until his death.24

 This could be important because it links up with Wiesel’s visits to Israel and his trip to Brazil in 1954. While the common narrative of Elie Wiesel’s post-liberation years focuses on his being a student at the Sorbonne University, Paris and an aspiring journalist, these sources reveal that he was still deeply into Jewish mysticism and involved with the Israeli resistance movement in Palestine.

Wiesel received a $16-a week-stipend from the welfare agencies.25 In addition, he worked as a translator for the militant Yiddish weekly Zion in Kamf.  In 1948, at the age of 19, he went to Israel as a war correspondent for the French-Jewish newspaper L’arche, where he eventually became a correspondent for the Tel Aviv newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.26 Shira Schoenberg at the Jewish Virtual Library puts it this way: “he became involved with the Irgun, a Jewish militant (terrorist) organization in Palestine, and translated materials from Hebrew to Yiddish for the Irgun’s newspaper […] in the 1950s he traveled around the world as a reporter.”27

 The above paints a picture of a religiously-inclined personality, strongly drawn to, perhaps even obsessed with, the most mystical teachings and “secrets” of his Judaic tribe. By the age of 15, this trait was well-established. One year in detention of whatever kind (yet to be established for certain), hiding out, or other privations had no power to change these strong interests, which asserted themselves again immediately upon his “release.”

What kind of personality was Lazar Wiesel?

 We only know of the Lazar Wiesel who was born on Sept. 4, 1913 through Miklos Grüner , and of the author of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign through the work itself. Note that I’m not claiming these two are one and the same.

Grüner writes in Stolen Identity28 that after the death of his father in Birkenau “after six months,” which must have been in October or early November 1944, he

 went to see the friends of my father and brother, Abraham Wiesel and his brother Lazar Wiesel from Maramorossziget, [ …] Abraham was born in 1900 and his tattooed number was A-7712 and Lazar was born in 1913 and was tattooed as A-7713, whereas my father had A-11102, my brother A-11103, and I who stood after my brother finished up with the number A-11104. When they had heard the story of my father, they promised to take care of me and from then on, they became my protectors and brothers and an additional refuge …”  (p. 24)

[…]

About three months had passed by, in my stage of hopelessness, I was informed by my “brothers” (Abraham and Lazar) that the Russians had managed to break through and they were on their way to liberate us from “BUNA,” Auschwitz III. (p. 25)

[…]

During the long march […] the walking became difficult and it was also hard to keep up with Abraham and Lazar. That was until I reached a place 30 km from Monowitz “Buna” called Mikolow, with a huge brickyard. Tired as I was after walking under the heavy winter conditions, I fell asleep on a pallet […] When night turned to dawn, I took my time and made my attempt to find Abraham and Lazar […] Later on I managed to find them and for the next 30 kilometres I had no problem in keeping up with them […] up to the next labor camp in Gliwice. After about three days stay in Gliwice, we were ordered to climb up onto an open railway carriage, without any given destination. […] Once again I lost Lazar and Abraham, but […] I found my old friend Karl … (p. 26)

 The journey lasted about four days. On our arrival … I wobbled away to search for Abraham and Lazar. After a while, I found Lazar who told me that Abraham was having a hard time of it and he was not sure that Abraham would be able to pull through. He also mentioned that no matter what, he was going to stay with Abraham and was asking for God’s blessing. (p. 27)

[…]

When finally we were given our clothes (after showers, etc), we were registered and received new numbers that we had to memorize like children, and then we were assigned to Barrack 66. (Comment: “we” does not include Lazar and Abraham. Barrack 66 was the children’s barracks in the “small camp” at Buchenwald. Grüner was 16 yrs. old and his father had died.)

 About a week later, I couldn’t believe my own eyes to see Lazar in our Block 66. He told me that Abraham had passed away four days after our arrival at Buchenwald. He made it clear that he had received special permission to join us children in Block 66, since he was so much older than us.

 Five days before the liberation in April […] In our Block 66, attempts were made to get us to the main gate. The supervisor of our block, called Gustav with his red hair, indeed had managed to drive us out of the block and was determined to drive us to the gate. When we reached the middle of the yard, I pulled my trousers down (halfway), then ran off to the side and kept on running as fast as I could to the nearest block, which I believe was Block 57. I asked the man in the lower bunk if the place next to him was occupied, and I simultaneously took my position in the left hand corner of the bunk, where I remained until I was liberated.

 If my memory serves me correctly, on the fourth day after my liberation, AMERICAN SOLDIERS came into the block and a picture was taken of us survivors of the Holocaust. […] This picture has become famous all over the world as a memory of the Holocaust.29 After a change of clothing and a medical examination, I went to look for Lazar, but unfortunately I could not find him anywhere. (p 28)

On page 30, Grüner writes: “When the liberating American soldiers came into our barrack, they discovered a block full of emaciated people lying in bunks. In the next minute a flashlight from a camera went off, and I without my knowing, was caught on the picture forever.”

Grüner never saw Lazar Wiesel again, since, according to him, Lazar was sent to France, and Grüner to a sanatorium in Switzerland. When Grüner was contacted in 1986 about meeting the Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, he thought he was going to be meeting his old friend Lazar Wiesel.

 

What does Un di Velt Hot Gesvign tell us about Eliezer Wiesel?

 Naomi Siedman, Professor of Jewish Culture at Graduate Theological Union, is one of the few academics to delve into Wiesel’s early writings with a critical spirit. Her very controversial essay “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage,”30 written in 1996, one year after the publication of Wiesel’s memoir All Rivers Run to the Sea, examines several passages in Night and compares them to passages in the Yiddish original. Among the relevant issues she brings up is this one:

 Let me be clear: the interpretation of the Holocaust as a religious theological event is not a tendentious imposition on Night but rather a careful reading of the work.

In other words, Night presents the Holocaust as a religious event, rather than historical. In contrast, Siedman found that the Yiddish version, Un di Velt, published two years prior to the publication of Night, was similar to all others in the “growing genre of Yiddish Holocaust memoirs” which were praised for their “comprehensiveness, the thoroughness of (their) documentation not only of the genocide but also, of its victims.” Un di Velt Hot Gesvign was published as volume 117 of Mark Turkov’s  Dos poylishe yidntum (Polish Jewry) in Buenos Aires.

Siedman refers to a reviewer of the mostly Polish Yiddish series when she writes:

For the Yiddish reader, Eliezer (as he is called here) Wiesel’s memoir was one among many, valuable for its contributing an account of what was certainly an unusual circumstance among East European Jews: their ignorance, as late as the spring of 1944, of the scale and nature of the Germans’ genocidal intentions. The experiences of the Jews of Transylvania may have been illuminating, but certainly none among the readers of Turkov’s series on Polish Jewry would have taken it as representative. As the review makes clear, the value of survivor testimony was in its specificity and comprehensiveness; Turkov’s series was not alone in its preference. Yiddish Holocaust memoirs often modeled themselves on the local chronical (pinkes ) or memorial book (yizker-bukh ) in which catalogs of names, addresses, and occupations served as form and motivation. It is within this literary context, against this set of generic conventions, that Wiesel published the first of his Holocaust memoirs.

Siedman continues that “Un di velt has been variously referred to as the original Yiddish version of Night and described as more than four times as long; actually, it is 245 pages to the French 158 pages.”  But the “four times as long” was referring to the original 862 pages that Turkov cut down to 245. Siedman reminds us that Wiesel had earlier described his writing of the Yiddish with no revisions, “frantically scribbled, without reading.” She says this, and Wiesel’s complaint that the original manuscript was never returned to him, are “confusing and possibly contradictory.” She then writes:

What distinguishes the Yiddish from the French is not so much length as attention to detail, an adherence to that principle of comprehensiveness so valued by the editors and reviewers of the Polish Jewry series. Thus, whereas the first page of Night succinctly and picturesquely describes Sighet as “that little town in Transylvania where I spent my childhood,” Un di velt introduces Sighet as “the most important city [shtot] and the one with the largest Jewish population in the province of Marmarosh.” 31 The Yiddish goes on to provide a historical account of the region: “Until, the First World War, Sighet belonged to Austro-Hungary. Then it became part of Romania. In 1940, Hungary acquired it again.”

The great length of the original was no doubt due to the extensive detail it contained about the events, places and people that were the subject of the narrative. Despite the fact that descriptive detail is not a characteristic in any of Wiesel’s known writing, he would never have been able to write all that detail in two weeks in a ship’s cabin, relying only on his memory. He even says he saw no one during that time and cut himself off from everything. In the writing style of Elie Wiesel that we’re familiar with, what could he possibly have said to fill up 862 pages? Impossible!

Another point made by Siedman:  And while the French memoir is dedicated “in memory of my parents and of my little sister, Tsipora,” the Yiddish (book) names both victims and perpetrators: “This book is dedicated to the eternal memory of my mother Sarah, father Shlomo, and my little sister Tsipora — who were killed by the German murderers.” 32 The Yiddish dedication is an accusation from a very angry Jew who is assigning exact blame for who was responsible. In addition, this brings to mind the fact that Elie Wiesel’s youngest sister was named Judith at birth, not Tsipora (according to his sister Hilda’s testimony).

Siedman says the effect of this editing from the Yiddish to the French was:

…to position the memoir within a different literary genre. Even the title Un di velt hot geshvign signifies a kind of silence very distant from the mystical silence at the heart of Night. The Yiddish title (And the World Remained Silent) indicts the world that did nothing to stop the Holocaust and allows its perpetrators to carry on normal lives […] From the historical and political specificities of Yiddish documentary testimony, Wiesel and his French publishing house fashioned something closer to mythopoetic narrative.

Myth and poetry … from a very historical and political original testimony. Wiesel attempted to explain this in his memoir by describing his French publisher’s objections to his documentary approach: “Lindon was unhappy with my probably too abstract manner of introducing the subject. Nor was he enamored of two pages (only two pages?) which sought to describe the premises and early phases of the tragedy. Testimony from survivors tends to begin with these sorts of descriptions, evoking loved ones as well as one’s hometown before the annihilation, as if breathing life into them one last time.” 33 Just how convincing that is I leave up to the reader.

The most controversial part of Siedman’s essay is about the Jewish commandment for revenge against one’s enemies. The author of the Yiddish writes that right after the liberation at Buchenwald:

Early the next day Jewish boys ran off to Weimar to steal clothing and potatoes. And to rape German girls [un tsu fargvaldikn daytshe shikses]. The historical commandment of revenge was not fulfilled.” 34

This reflects the same angry, stern Jew who demands the Jewish law of revenge upon one’s enemies be followed. He does not consider “raping German girls” to be sufficient revenge; thus he says the historical commandment was not fulfilled.  In the French and English, it was softened to: “On the following morning, some of the young men went to Weimar to get some potatoes and clothes—and to sleep with girls. But of revenge, not a sign.”35 Siedman comments on this passage:

To describe the differences between these versions as a stylistic reworking is to miss the extent of what is suppressed in the French. Un di velt depicts a post-Holocaust landscape in which Jewish boys “run off” to steal provisions and rape German girls; Night extracts from this scene of lawless retribution a far more innocent picture of the aftermath of the war, with young men going off to the nearest city to look for clothes and sex. In the Yiddish, the survivors are explicitly described as Jews and their victims (or intended victims) as German; in the French, they are just young men and women. The narrator of both versions decries the Jewish failure to take revenge against the Germans, but this failure means something different when it is emblematized, as it is in Yiddish, with the rape of German women. The implication, in the Yiddish, is that rape is a frivolous dereliction of the obligation to fulfill the “historical commandment of revenge”; presumably fulfillment of this obligation would involve a concerted and public act of retribution with a clearly defined target. Un di velt does not spell out what form this retribution might take, only that it is sanctioned — even commanded — by Jewish history and tradition.

The final passage that Siedman compares is the famous ending of Night. The Yiddish version presents not only a longer narrative, but a radically different person who emerges from his camp experience at the time of liberation.

Three days after liberation I became very ill; food-poisoning. They took me to the hospital and the doctors said that I was gone. For two weeks I lay in the hospital between life and death. My situation grew worse from day to day.

One fine day I got up—with the last of my energy—and went over to the mirror that was hanging on the wall. I wanted to see myself. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the mirror a skeleton gazed out. Skin and bones. I saw the image of myself after my death. It was at that instant that the will to live was awakened. Without knowing why, I raised a balled-up fist and smashed the mirror, breaking the image that lived within it. And then — I fainted… From that moment on my health began to improve. I stayed in bed for a few more days, in the course of which I wrote the outline of the book you are holding in your hand, dear reader.

But—Now, ten years after Buchenwald, I see that the world is forgetting. Germany is a sovereign state, the German army has been reborn. The bestial sadist of Buchenwald, Ilsa Koch, is happily raising her children. War criminals stroll in the streets of Hamburg and Munich. The past has been erased. Forgotten. Germans and anti-Semites persuade the world that the story of the six million Jewish martyrs is a fantasy, and the naive world will probably believe them, if not today, then tomorrow or the next day.

So I thought it would be a good idea to publish a book based on the notes I wrote in Buchenwald. I am not so naive to believe that this book will change history or shake people’s beliefs. Books no longer have the power they once had. Those who were silent yesterday will also be silent tomorrow. I often ask myself, now, ten years after Buchenwald : Was it worth breaking that mirror? Was it worth it? 36

This entire passage sounds nothing like Elie Wiesel, or anything he has written. It is matter of fact, not indulging in self-pity but addressing the reality of the situation with a cynical eye. The author is concerned with the traditional problems of Jews, as he sees it, and their welfare.  His “witness” as a survivor is not mystical or universalized, but is about assessing blame. His depiction of smashing the mirror that holds his dead-looking image, and how that expression of powerful anger and life-affirmation revived him, is convincing. Right away, he wants to write about his experience, and he begins. Anger and “putting it all down” is the way out of depression and listlessness.

Yet the author and editors of Night have removed almost all of this and end very differently:

One day I was able to get up, after gathering all my strength. I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging from the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto.

From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me.

The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.37

No anger. No recuperation or recovery possible for this character. No closure. Elie Wiesel leaves us in Night with the image of death, and for the rest of his life he will  pour it out on the world through his writings. This is his legacy; the Holocaust never ends.

Siedman comments on these two endings:

There are two survivors, then, a Yiddish and a French—or perhaps we should say one survivor who speaks to a Jewish audience and one whose first reader is a French Catholic. The survivor who met with Mauriac labors under the self-imposed seal and burden of silence, the silence of his association with the dead. The Yiddish survivor is alive with a vengeance and eager to break the wall of indifference he feels surrounds him.

Naomi Siedman intends the “two survivors” to be taken symbolically, as she is a “respected” Jewish academic who does not question the Holocaust story, and does not question (publicly at least) the authenticity of Elie Wiesel as the author of the Yiddish 862-page And the World Remained Silent, no matter what difficulties are encountered. As she continues in this essay, she posits Francois Mauriac’s powerful influence on Elie Wiesel as the way of explaining the further shortening and redirection of the focus of the original text. This is not my position, so I don’t find it profitable to seek for the origins of Night in Mauriac’s Catholic/Christian views. I believe there are sufficient grounds to consider a different authorship for Un di Velt Hot Gesvign, and that neutral-minded, critical thinkers who have an interest in this subject would not object to studying it from this angle.

However the grounds for doing so have  not been exhausted by these two essays, so I will continue with a summing up in Part Three.

Endnotes:

15)    Sanford Sternlicht, Student Companion to Elie Wiesel, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 2003, p. 3.

16)    Ibid.

17)    First Person: Life & Work. http://www.pbs.org/eliewiesel/life/index.html

18)    All Rivers Run to the Sea, p. 9

19)    First Person: http://www.pbs.org/eliewiesel/life/henry.html

20)    Rivers, p. 20

21)    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Wiesel.html

22)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsieur_Chouchani

23)    Rivers, p. 121

24)    Wikipedia, Chouchani

25)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_(book)  Miklos Grüner says his 32-year-old friend Lazar Wiesel was given an apartment and an income because he had travelled with the orphans to France, under special permission. (see Stolen Identity by Grüner, printed in Sweden, 2007)

26)    Wiki/Night

27)    Jewish virtual library, ibid.

28)    http://www.scribd.com/doc/33182028/STOLEN-IDENTITY-Elie-Wiesel

29)    Grüner is speaking of Block 56, where what was to become the “famous Buchenwald liberation photograph” was taken by an American military photographer on April 16, 1945, five days after liberation. See our analysis of this photo under “The Evidence” on the menu bar.

30)    “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage,” Seidman, ibid.

31)    Eliezer Vizel, Un di velt hot geshvign (Buenos Aires, 1956), p. 7

32)    Un di velt, n.p.

33)    Rivers, p. 319

34)    Un di velt, 244.

35)    Night, 120.

36)    Un di velt, 244-45

37)    Night, 120.

The Shadowy Origins of “Night”

Friday, August 6th, 2010

By Carolyn Yeager
copyright 2010 Carolyn Yeager

 In literature, Rebbe, certain things are true though they didn’t happen, while others are not, even if they did.  – Elie Wiesel,  All Rivers Run to the Sea

Part One:  When and how was Un di Velt Hot Gesvign written?

The question I present to you, the interested public is:  Was Night, a slender volume of approximately 120 pages in its final English-language form, written by the same person who wrote its original source work: the reputed 862 typewritten pages of the Yiddish-language Un di Velt Hot Gesvign (And the World Remained Silent.

This is an important, though not crucial, question as to whether Elie Wiesel is an imposter. The evidence that I have uncovered so far is however, even on this question, not in his favor.

Naomi Seidman, professor of Jewish Studies at Graduate Theological Union, wrote a controversial article about Elie Wiesel titled “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage.” In that article, she mentions a 1979 essay by Wiesel, “An Interview Unlike Any Other,” that contains the following on page 15:

“So heavy was my anguish [in 1945] that I made a vow: not to speak, not to touch upon the essential for at least ten years. Long enough to see clearly. Long enough to learn to listen to the voices crying inside my own. Long enough to regain possession of my memory. Long enough to unite the language of man with the silence of the dead.”1

Just as an aside, I have to wonder whether these are believable thoughts for a 16 year old. And why wouldn’t his memory be better immediately, rather than 10 years hence?

In the essay, Wiesel also explains that his first book was written “at the insistence of the French Catholic writer and Nobel Laureate Francois Mauriac” after their first meeting in May 1955 when Wiesel had obtained an interview with the famous writer and the subject of the Shoah had come up. Wiesel told him he had taken a vow not to speak, but Mauriac insisted he must speak. “One year later I sent him the manuscript of Night, written under the seal of memory and silence.” 2

Francois Mauriac

 As far as I can tell, there is no mention in this 1979 essay about writing the almost 900 typewritten page Yiddish manuscript while on a ship headed for South America. This particular essay is not available on the Internet, and Seidman is one of the few that even mention it.

In his 1995 memoir, All Rivers Run to the Sea, Elie Wiesel gives a more complete description of his first attempt to record his camp experiences already in 1954, before the ten year vow of silence was up. Wiesel is always stingy with dates, and gives no exact month for the ship crossing, but from later comments about when he returned to Paris, we can place it in April 1954.  Beginning on page 238:

I was sent on several European trips related to the Israeli-German conference on reparations, then to Israel, and finally to Brazil.

His assignment was to check out ‘suspicious’ Catholic missionary activities toward Jews.

My poet friend Nicholas proposed to go with me. A resourceful Israel friend somehow managed to come up with free boat tickets for us.3

Before he continues writing about the trip, he interjects a full page about a romance with Hanna, who wants to marry him, and whether he should. He tells her he will be gone 6 weeks—he is glad to have the time to think it over.

These questions haunted me during the crossing. I was worried sick that I might be making the greatest mistake of my life. Should a man marry a beautiful, intelligent, and impulsive woman with a marvelous voice, just because he had once loved her and because she had now proposed to him? And because he did not want to hurt her?

Then, the very next paragraph:

 I spent most of the voyage in my cabin, working. I was writing my account of the concentration camp years—in Yiddish. I wrote feverishly, breathlessly, without re-reading. I wrote to testify, to stop the dead from dying, to justify my own survival. I wrote to speak to those who were gone. As long as I spoke to them, they would live on, at least in my memory. My vow of silence would soon be fulfilled; next year would mark the tenth anniversary of my liberation. I was going to have to open the gates of memory, to break the silence while safeguarding it. The pages piled up on my bed. I slept fitfully, never participating in the ship’s activities, constantly pounding away on my little portable (see comment #1 below), oblivious of my fellow passengers, fearing only that we would arrive in Sao Paulo too soon.

We were there before I knew it. 4

 There is no lead-up in All Rivers Run to the Sea  that his concentration camp “testimony” was heavy on his mind; this paragraph just jumps out of the blue. And it’s all he wrote, in a 418-page memoir, about the process of putting down the most important words he would ever write.  But no! It seems clear from this that the finished words of La Nuit were the most important words he would write, and that he had a hard time knowing what to say about the writing of the “original” manuscript. So he brushed it off in one paragraph.

We get a very contrasting picture of Wiesel’s writing style in his Preface to the 2006 new English translation of Night by Marion Wiesel, his wife. Referring to his awareness [at that time] that he must bear witness, he writes:

Writing in my mother tongue [Yiddish]—at that point close to extinction—I would pause at every sentence, and start over and over again. I would conjure up other verbs, other images, other silent cries. It still was not right. But what exactly was “it”? ”It” was something elusive, darkly shrouded for fear of being usurped, profaned. All the dictionary had to offer seemed meager,  pale,  lifeless.

[…]

And yet, having lived through this experience, one could not keep silent, no matter how difficult, if not impossible, it was to speak.

And so I persevered.

[…]

Is that why my manuscript—written in Yiddish as “And the World Remained Silent” and translated first into French, then into English—was rejected by every major publisher …

[…]

Though I made numerous cuts, the original Yiddish version still was long. 5

Here, Wiesel tells us that he agonized over the writing of the Yiddish manuscript, and it was slow going. He even consulted the dictionary. But his time on the ship could not have been more than 2 weeks of the planned 6-week voyage to Brazil. In All Rivers Run to the Sea, he claims to have written 862 typewritten pages during that time, when he had to also eat, sleep and take care of other essentials. So of necessity he says he wrote feverishly, without re-reading. It leaves the two accounts as total contradictions.

When the ship docked at Sao Paulo, his friend Nicholas, an Israeli citizen, disembarked. But Elie, as a stateless person, was prevented from doing so by some “red tape.”  Then he noticed a group of about 40 Jews from Palestine who had been “lured” over by the promises of Catholic missionaries, who also were not allowed to disembark. He makes the decision to join them and write their story for his newspaper. After traveling to several ports (Wiesel is now relegated with the unwanted Jews to staying in the ship’s hold), the boat docks at Buenos Aires, Argentina. It just so happens that in Buenos Aires a Yiddish singer came onboard with Jewish book publisher Mark Turkov. Wiesel shares his concern about the Jewish exiles, for whom he had become spokesman, with Turkov, and then:

As we talked, Turkov noticed my manuscript, from which I was never separated. He wanted to know what it was and whether he could look at it. I showed it to him, explaining it was unfinished. “That’s all right,” he said. “Let me take it anyway.” It was my only copy, but Turkov assured me it would be safe with him. I still hesitated, but he promised not only to read it, but “If it’s good, I’ll publish it.” Yehudit Moretzka (the singer) encouraged me by telling me she would make sure the manuscript would be returned to me in Paris, with or without a rejection slip. I was convinced Turkov wouldn’t publish it. I couldn’t see why any editor would be interested in the sad memoirs of a stranger he met on a ship, surrounded by refugees nobody wanted. “Don’t worry so much,” Yehudit told me as she left. But I felt lost without my manuscript. 6

This is the last that is said of the manuscript. Wiesel goes on to write about the positive outcome for the “exiles” and himself to go ashore in Sao Paulo, and Hanna’s letters which had piled up in the American Express office there. No further communication with Turkov is reported or any mention of his manuscript until 35 pages further on. It’s back to the business of journalism.

I had been away for two months when Dov recalled me to Paris to cover Pierre Mendes-France’s accession to power. I flew back, anxious to see Hanna. I would explain the exceptional circumstances, find a way to make her forgive me. She would understand, for I had missed her. I would tell her that I had been faithful to her, even in my thoughts.7

Handing his only copy (see comment #1 below) of the manuscript over to Mark Turkov in this strange manner appears to be an attempt to explain why Wiesel does not have possession of the original Un di Velt Hot Gesvign, but it is not convincing to me that he would turn such a “sacred –to him—soul work,” embodying his commitment to “witness for the dead,” over to strangers in a foreign country with only a vague promise that it would be returned. He is first consumed by it, then careless of it.  He adds his professed belief that Turkov would not be interested in it and would never publish it. Why then part with it—and feel lost without it? Like so much of Wiesel’s writing, it stretches the limits of belief.

Even more, he says it was not completed to his satisfaction. There are several things Wiesel is likely trying to account and cover for with the ship book-writing story: (1) the incredible length of this manuscript and the short space of time he had to write it; (2) a way to get it into the hands of an Argentine Yiddish publisher in 1954; and (3) his lack of ever being in possession of the original and even being relatively unfamiliar with it. Writing in such a “feverish state”, without re-reading (impossible!), leaves him free to have no clear idea what was in it.

Several pages further on in All Rivers Run to the Sea,  Wiesel writes about his meeting and relationship with Francois Mauriac:

He wrote of our first meeting in his column of Sat. May 14, 1955, referring to a “young Israeli who had been a Jewish child in a German camp.” Of course, I wasn’t Israeli. Perhaps in his mind, Jews and Israelis were the same thing.

I owe him a lot. He was the first person to read Night after I reworked it from the original Yiddish.8

Wiesel is telling us that “he” did the editing from the “original Yiddish.” He says the same in the Preface to the new 2006 translation of Night: “Though I made numerous cuts, the original Yiddish version still was long.”9

But when did he do this editing?

Mark Turkov, from whom I have not found one word of confirmation for the ship scene with Elie Wiesel, must have reduced the 862 pages to 245 pages himself because he published it in the same year, 1954, in his 176-volume series of Yiddish memoirs of Poland and the war, called Dos poylishe yidntum (Polish Jewry, Buenos Aires, 1946-1966).10 

 The next and last mention of Mark Turkov and the manuscript in All Rivers Run to the Sea again pops up as less than a paragraph in the midst of Wiesel’s busy schedule and after the breakup of another love affair, with Kathleen this time, in the summer of 1955. He writes:

In December I received from Buenos Aires the first copy of my Yiddish testimony “And the World Stayed Silent,” which I had finished on the boat to Brazil. The singer Yehudit Moretzka and her editor friend Mark Turkov had kept their word—except that they never did send back the manuscript. Israel Adler invited me to celebrate the event with a café-crème at the corner bistro.11

That’s it, believe it or not. This is obviously something Wiesel is not interested in focusing attention on. Because none of it is true?

The timing also requires that after Wiesel received the Yiddish book from Turkov in December ’55, he managed to translate the 245 pages into French for Francois Mauriac, and present it to him in May 1956–as Wiesel testified in “An Interview Unlike Any Other.”

What can we believe?

 Certainly Elie Wiesel, who had cousins living in Buenos Aires 12, could have known about Mark Turkov’s Yiddish publishing house and his massive series of WWII “survivor” memoirs. He could very well have read some of them, even the one titled Un di Velt Hot Gesvign, written by a Lazar (Eliezar) Wiesel from Sighet, Transylvania, which may have been passed around within the Yiddish-speaking community before it was published. Wiesel could therefore have used the volume of 245 pages to write a French version for Francois Mauriac.

Could someone have intervened with Mark Turkov to convince him to go along with Elie Wiesel as the author? Sure, they could. And could something have happened to Lazar Wiesel, survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau-Buchenwald, born Sept. 4, 1913, causing him to disappear from the scene? 13 Again, yes, and maybe not even foul play. This is speculation at this point, but nevertheless quite possible.

In Part Two, I will discuss the tell-tale differences between Un di Velt Hot Gesvign and La Nuit, suggesting two different authors, and what some critics say about it

 

Endnotes:

1. “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage,” Naomi Seidman, Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society, Fall 1996 (Vol 3, No.1). Online at http://www.vho.org/aaargh/fran/tiroirs/tiroirEW/WieselMauriac.html

2.  Ibid.

3, Comment: If this is an assignment by the newspaper for which he is chief foreign correspondent, why does he need or want free tickets? Is this the way Israeli newspapers operated?

4.  Elie Wiesel, All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs (New York, 1995), pp. 238-40.

5.  Elie Wiesel, Night, translated by Marion Wiesel, (New York, Hill and Wang, 2006), p. ix, x.

6.  All Rivers Run to the Sea, ibid. p. 241

7.  ibid, p. 242

8.  Ibid, p. 267

9.   Night, 2006, p. x

10. Encyclopedia Judaica, 2008

11. All Rivers Run to the Sea,  p. 277

12. Ibid, p. 241. “In Buenos Aires my cousins Voicsi and her husband Moishe-Hersh Genuth came to meet us. I gave them some articles for the Yedioth Ahronoth. unaware that they would be reprinted or quoted in the American Jewish press.”

13.  Miklos Grüner claims that this Lazar Wiesel, his camp friend, is the true author of Un di Velt Hot Gesvign and that Elie Wiesel stole both his identity and his book.

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