City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Stefan Kanfer
Abandoned by God, Betrayed by Mankind « Back to Story

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Uncritical review not worthy of City Journal.
Abraham was a doubter and adulterer. His family was given to idols. Yet today, three major religions call him Father. Elie lives in a polarity just like the rest of us. While I believe that character and maturity matter above experience (e.g., death camps), his message of faith and altruism rooted in his experiences remains worthy. At times we have to hold our nose to sense the deeper greatness.
Wiesel is not a saint. Back in a column in the NYT on January 24, 2001, he lied about the circumstances under which the Palestinian refugee problem was created, claiming that they left at the behest of the Arab leaders, leaving out what was known by then, that many were forcibly expelled. There's no way Wiesel didn't know that, but he repeated the standard line. Wiesel may be a gifted talented man who went through hell, but his value as a moral guide on human rights has been greatly exaggerated.
Wiesel certainly has a better basis for asking the Creator to explain Himself than the rest of us, and in all likelihood in time Wiesel will get his answer from the Source. But let me take a stab at it.

Wiesel asked for a miracle, a direct intervention by God in favor of some of His children against some others. No matter the justice of that request, if miracles were performed when man himself was capable of the solution, man would stop trying. Let Him do it.

My father was a WW2 combat infantryman in the ETO, so my father was a tiny fraction but nevertheless substantial element of man's solution to National Socialism. It took a lot longer, and millions of lives were lost in that time, but His good children drove His bad children back into the bowels of the earth from whence they came.

This is how it must be.
One interesting parallel to Elie Wiesel is Ping Fu. Her book "Bend, Not Break" parallels what Wiesel went through. Her tormenters were the Red Guard and she was all of 8 years old when she was yanked away from her parents.

An amazing online attack mob is at work calling her "Liar!" Cover up for Red Guard, you betcha. China is not particularly good at responding positively to criticism.
Wiesel was born three months before Martin Luther King, which is fitting as they are the most widely identified activists on the two most prominent social justice movements of our time. I rather think that if King had not been martyred, his legacy today would be that of a complex man, with an acute appetite for sexual dalliance, numerous unsavory alliances, and attitudes toward the justice practices in other nations that would be highly embarrassing in retrospect.
Interesting review.
Thank you. And yes, "Night" is a masterpiece.
Considering everything that has happened to Elie Weisel, it is hard to fathom why he still believes in G-d. The problem that comes up when you do not believe in HIM is that you feel worse than when you do believe.
Nothing in this world makes sense. We await the other.
I had the privilege of taking a course with Eli Wiesel in the late 70s at Boston University, and I can honestly say that due to the quality of his teaching he is one of the few professors that I have any memory of 30 years later
What a wonderful man is Eli, and also what a wonderful man is Stafan to appreciate the depths of Eli's soul and want us all to know about them. Bravo to both of these fine, decent humanitarians!
I hesitate to criticize a piece on a website with which I am usually in complete agreement, but Stefan Kanfer's panegyric about Elie Wiesel deserves a critical response. While Wiesel must have some redeeming features, I have over the years encountered too many negative stories about his behavior to share the usual enthusiasm for his undisputed "reputation as a moral force".

Why, to begin with, does Elie Wiesel insist on having his family name mispronounced as though it were French? That may be a minor criticism in the context of his having devoted a lifetime to profiteering from endless variations on the theme of the Holocaust. (Lest I be misinterpreted, let me point out that I am the son of parents who left Germany during the 1930's largely for political reasons.)

Wiesel may have had more than his share of unhappy personal experiences and medical problems for which he deserves sympathy as anyone else would. But the denouement of his relationship with Bernard Madoff illustrates my belief that Wiesel hardly merits his saintly public image.

To have entrusted his entire savings (including business funds that presumably came in part from other people) to a single person demonstrates enormously poor judgment. But to have done it in response to the impossible guarantee of a 12 percent annual return also suggests what I have concluded is a significant aspect of Wiesel's personality: plain ordinary greed.
Man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward. This man has had more than his share I would think. Still he goes on. Bless him.
There is a Joy that meets the desire of our hearts, there is a Word that is the reason for our yearning words. If only Wiesel would call on Him. And find like, J S Bach, full of wonder: Jesus the Joy of Man's desire!

Only He is truly the One abandoned by God,the One betrayed by mankind
Uncritical admiration of a proven liar. Not worthy of City Journal.As false as his chosen pronunciation of his name. Wiesel is pronounced 'weasel' not 'whysell'.
Still, the correct pronunciation reveals the true nature of the beast.
I haven't read any of Elie Wiesel's books but heard him speak on (from memory "Loyalty and Friendship") to a dinner of distinguised academics, judges, professionals and others some years ago. He lamented how his close friend Mitterand had let him down badly in the way he had handled the case of some Frenchman at last held up for judgment for complicity in Nazi crimes. What struck me, and others, was that he was so naive as to imagine Mitterand was really his friend, or to be surprised at the cynical way a politician (albeit a well read and sophisticated one, or perhaps I should say, "not least..." )behaved. So it is not surprising that he was similarly disappointed by Bernie Madoff.

Simple saintliness of Elie Wiesel's kind cannot be condemned and should not be discouraged. It may be a fine example to present to successive generations still growing and learning. But can we expect to take more from his thinking in the way of rational persuasion or clear-eyed fact and logic based analysis than we can from a beautiful rendition of sublime church music, hymns and psalms?