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If you like Elie Wiesel's story, you might also like:
Maya Angelou,
Ehud Barak,
Mikhail Gorbachev,
Nadine Gordimer,
Coretta Scott King,
Shimon Peres,
Albie Sachs,
John Sexton,
Wole Soyinka,
Desmond Tutu,
Lech Walesa
and Oprah Winfrey

Elie Wiesel can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Elie Wiesel's recommended reading: The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony and Other Stories

Elie Wiesel also appears in the videos:
Making a Better World: What is Your Responsibility to the Community?,

Challenges for the 21st Century

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Elie Wiesel in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Advocacy & Citizenship
Freedom and Justice

Related Links:
Wiesel Foundation
Official Bio
Nobel Prize

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Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel
Profile of Elie Wiesel Biography of Elie Wiesel Interview with Elie Wiesel Elie Wiesel Photo Gallery

Elie Wiesel Interview (page: 3 / 3)

Nobel Prize for Peace

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  Elie Wiesel

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Elie Wiesel: I'm not sure I am, actually. I have written 40 books, it must mean I'm a writer. When you have to write "profession," I'm not going to write "writer." After all, "Profession?" "Writer?" A profession is to be a human being, maybe. That's a very noble profession. Or teacher, the noblest of all professions. I write. As a child, really, at age ten, eleven, or twelve, I was writing already. I wanted to become a writer, and I even wrote a book of commentaries on the Bible. It's so bad. I found it after the war. It's so horrible; I'm embarrassed even to admit that I had written it.

My ambition really was, even as a child, to be a writer, a commentator, and a teacher, but a teacher of Talmud. And here I am. I'm a writer, for want of a better word, and I'm a teacher. I don't teach the same things. I don't write about the same things -- although I do write commentaries on the Bible, and on the Prophets, and the Talmud, and Hasidic Masters. But still, I am a writer and a teacher.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

What lessons can we draw for young people for all of this? How do you maintain faith in the face of the circumstances that you've endured in your lifetime? How do you keep hope and optimism alive? How do you keep going?

Elie Wiesel: Well, I could answer you by saying, "What is the alternative?" But it's not enough. In truth, I have learned something. The enemy wanted to be the one who speaks, and I felt, I still feel, we must see to it that the victim should be the one who speaks and is heard.

Therefore, all my adult life, since I began my life as an author, or as a teacher, I always try to listen to the victim. In other words, if I remain silent, I may help my own soul but, because I do not help other people, I poison my soul. Silence never helps the victim. It only helps the victimizer. Faith? I think of the killer and I lose all faith. But then I think of the victim and I am inundated with compassion.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Is it possible for you to say what advice you might offer to young people today who are starting out on whatever course they may follow?

Elie Wiesel: Sensitivity. Be sensitive in every way possible about everything in life. Be sensitive. Insensitivity brings indifference and nothing is worse than indifference. Indifference makes that person dead before the person dies. Indifference means there is a kind of apathy that sets in and you no longer appreciate beauty, friendship, goodness, or anything.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Elie Wiesel Interview Photo
So, therefore, do not be insensitive. Be sensitive, only sensitive. Of course it hurts. Sensitivity is painful. So what? Think of those that you have to be sensitive to. Their pain is greater than yours.

When you talk about victims and injustice, you are speaking about something that is universal. It is with us as much today as it was during the war years.

Elie Wiesel: Absolutely.

Sensitivity is inclusive, not exclusive. If you are sensitive, you are sensitive to everything. You cannot say I am only sensitive to this person but not to others. That is not only counterproductive, it's self-defeating. It's not only because of religion, or because of social problems, or of medical problems, that you must be sensitive. There is nothing more exciting for a person than to be a sensitive person. Because then you listen, and you go out and you hear the birds chirping and it's great. You see a person in the street, you do not know his face and you think, "Who knows what secret that person carries?" Which means you learn and you learn and you learn and you become enriched to a point that afterwards it overflows.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

What personal characteristics are most important for young people to have in mind as they look toward their futures and their careers?

Elie Wiesel: What I say, of course, applies to all since I don't know the individual component of that group you are trying to refer to.

I would say, favor the question, always question. Do not accept answers as definitive. Answers change. Questions don't. Always question those who are certain of what they are saying. Always favor the person who is tolerant enough to understand that there are no absolute answers, but there are absolute questions.

If you were going to recommend books...

Elie Wiesel: Don't ask. I wouldn't recommend mine because it would be vanity. Were I to recommend others, those I'm not recommending would be angry.

I would certainly say to read the classics. I like to re-read the classics. The Bible, naturally, then the religious texts, the Hindu texts. The Upanishads and the Vedas are great, great books. Then go to the Greeks. And The Song of Gilgamesh, These are extraordinary books, even to this day. Read and read and read, but mainly read those who have survived the centuries.

Elie Wiesel Interview Photo

What would you say the American Dream means to you?"

Elie Wiesel: Equality in diversity. That no group should be superior in the American society than another. Second, generosity. The person who is fortunate --thanks to his or her talent or heritage, to have more than others -- that person should know that he or she owes something to others who are less fortunate. Third, that every minute can be the beginning or the end of an adventure.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

As we approach the 21st Century, what do you see as the greatest challenges in front of us?

Elie Wiesel: Fanaticism. If there is one word that comprises all of these threats, it is fanaticism. For some strange reason, it is growing everywhere, in every religion: in Islam, in Christianity, in Judaism. Why now? Haven't we seen really fanaticism is dangerous as an idea, because it carries poison? Furthermore, in politics, imagine a fanatic with power. May I go one step further? Imagine a fanatic with nuclear power. Do you have any doubt that if Idi Amin, in Uganda 20 years ago, before he was thrown out, that would have used a weapon if he had one? Or a Khadafi now, in Libya? It is dangerous. A fanatic therefore, must be unmasked first, and then disarmed.

Is there anything that you have thought about doing that you haven't been able to do yet?

Elie Wiesel: I may seem silly or childish to you, but if could bring back one child, I would give up anything I have. Just one child. If I could now -- which is more possible -- to free one prisoner, I would give a lot. If I could give a feeling of solidarity to a person who is abandoned, I would still give a lot. So you see, I would like to do things that I cannot do. All I have is a few words, and I will give these words. That's what I am trying to do.

Elie Wiesel Interview Photo

What is your hope for this generation that follows us?

Elie Wiesel: I would not want my past to become their future.

You have seen and experienced many atrocities throughout your life's experiences. How can someone live a good life after experiencing tragedy and suffering?

Elie Wiesel: In spite of what I have seen in my life, observed of the Jews, I agree with Albert Camus, whose work I always love to read and teach. At the end of his novel, The Plague, which is a desperate and despairing novel, he says, more or less, "There is more to celebrate than to denigrate in man."

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Elie Wiesel Interview, Page: 1   2   3   

This page last revised on Jul 03, 2016 20:28 EDT
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