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November 9, 2010

Did Elie Wiesel ever dream that something like this would happen?

Filed under: Buchenwald, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 2:32 pm

When Elie Wiesel was a young man, studying at the Sorbonne in Paris in the 1950s, did he ever dream that there would some day be a web site devoted to him, called Elie Wiesel Cons the World?  Back in 1955, Elie Wiesel had his first book published; it was a thin volume, entitled Night, which used all the creative writing techniques that he had learned at the Sorbonne.  I think he actually wrote this book, as I previously blogged here.

I am about the same age as Elie Wiesel and, back in the 1950s, I was in college, studying creative writing during the two years of study that it took to get into Journalism School.  I was writing short stories for class assignments and actually sending them to well-known magazines, foolishly thinking that I could become a published writer.  Maybe Elie Wiesel was collecting rejection slips from magazines the same way that I was.

In my college classes, the students were taught to write their fictional stories about what they knew, in other words, about their own personal experience.  It never occurred to me to write about someone else’s life and maybe that’s why I never got any of my short stories published.  Maybe Elie Wiesel was on the same track, when he realized that his own life was too boring, and he decided to write about someone else’s life as a prisoner at Auschwitz and later at Buchenwald, never dreaming that anyone would accuse him of plagiarism, 50 years later.  (In my day, students used to say: “Don’t shade your eyes — plagiarize.” It was done all the time. No big deal.)

Elie Wiesel was truly a pioneer in writing a book about the Holocaust.  In the 1950s, not many people were interested in this subject, especially not in America.  The war was over and life was good.  There was great prosperity and Americans were happy and contented.  There was no reason to dwell on the past.  The Holocaust was not yet a word and people in America didn’t talk about the “genocide” of the Jews.

However, there was more interest in the subject in Europe.  A Frenchman named Paul Rassinier wrote his first book Crossing the Line in 1949, in which he described the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was imprisoned because he was a captured French Resistance fighter.  (Buchenwald was the main camp for French Resistance fighters.)

Rassinier is called the “father of Holocaust denial” and his book is considered to be the first Holocaust denial book. In the book, he criticized the Communist prisoners who actually ran the Buchenwald camp. He claimed that many of the brutalities in the camp were committed by the mainly Communist prisoners who took over the Haftlingsfuhrung and ran the internal affairs of the camp to benefit themselves. Rassinier blamed the high death rate at Buchenwald on the corrupt prisoners who actually ran the camp.  The Communist prisoners decided who would eat and who would not.

But I digress. I don’t think that Elie Wiesel ever considered that using someone else’s story as his own was wrong.  His main consideration was that he was using all the techniques that he learned in creative writing and his book today is mostly taught in English classes in America, rather than in history classes.

His book Night does not mention the gas chambers at Auschwitz, nor at Buchenwald.  Not mentioning the gas chambers at Auschwitz makes Elie Wiesel a Holocaust denier himself.  Maybe that’s why he said on his own web site that the book was a NOVEL.

I blame the current controversy about the book on the Oprah Winfrey TV Show.  Oprah selected Night as her Book Club selection a few years ago, and Elie quickly changed his web site, so that the book was no longer called a novel.

Now the Elie Wiesel Cons the World web site is sponsoring a contest for college students to write about the ethics involved in the book controversy and Elie’s claim that the story of Night is his own life experience.  Will Elie Wiesel finally come clean and tell the truth?  I don’t think so, and I also don’t think that any of the students at Boston University will write an essay for the contest.  If anyone does have the courage to write such an essay, he or she will probably be kicked out of college.

7 Comments

  1. […] I previously blogged about Elie Wiesel and his lack of an Auschwitz tattoo here.  I wrote about Elie Wiesel’s alleged stay at the Buchenwald camp here. Elie Wiesel has no Auschwitz identification number and no Buchenwald identification number, but he still maintains that he was a prisoner in both of those camps.  Wiesel doesn’t seem to care that there is a website devoted to telling the world that he has no tattoo.  I was blogging about Elie Wiesel and his famous book way back in 2010 here. […]

    Pingback by time is running out for Elie Wiesel, famous (alleged) survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald | Scrapbookpages Blog — March 23, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

  2. P.S. Actually, when he gave his manuscript to Mauriac in 1956, it was not titled “La Nuit.” That was a decision made later in the publisher’s office.

    Comment by Skeptic — November 9, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  3. FG, I think you are writing about Elie Wiesel as if you were he, or he were you. You even put your own thoughts into his head!

    Wiesel was never enrolled at the Sorbonne. He sat in at lectures, that’s all, on a non-credit, non-grade basis. You are assuming, from some things you’ve read I suppose, that he was a real student there, taking creative writing classes and studying literature. Maybe you better go back to those sources and read them again to see if you read too much into them.

    Most of Wiesel’s reading of French literature was done on his own, not as a student. He has no record of being a student at ANY school.

    “Night” wasn’t published in 1955 — not until 1960. In 1955, he met Francois Mauriac for the first time … or was a 1954? He tells it both ways. In 1956 he handed the French version “La Nuit” to Mauriac, who peddled it until he finally found a publisher. It was cut considerably before it was published in 1958.

    Comment by Skeptic — November 9, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

    • Thanks for giving me the correct dates. I didn’t know that Elie was not enrolled at the Sorbonne. So he has no record of being a student at the Sorbonne, no record of being at Auschwitz and no record of being at Buchenwald? How did he get away with this deception for so long?

      Comment by furtherglory — November 9, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

      • I don’t think Elie ever claimed that he was enrolled there — it is other writers who have given that impression when they say he “studied at the Sorbonne” and things like that. But Elie doesn’t misabuse anyone of these false impressions, either. He never comes out and says, this is what is true about me and this is what isn’t. He is obviously comfortable with the hazy misunderstandings.

        You will notice that on his Wikipedia page there is no mention of the Sorbonne at all. I thought there was at one time; it may have been removed. The website you’ve referred to, Elie Wiesel Cons the World, may be having an effect–the Elie Wiesel “image and mythos” teams are scouring what is in print and cleaning it up. Elie himself has tried to explain some of his most glaring inconsistencies since Myklos Gruner came out with his accusations of fraud against Elie, and they began to spread. But people’s set ideas change slowly.

        Comment by Skeptic — November 10, 2010 @ 10:03 am

        • Thanks a million for explaining all this. I read somewhere that Elie was majoring in philosophy at the Sorbonne, which implies that he was enrolled as a student. I also thought that Elie and his supporters were ignoring the new web site about him. I didn’t know that there is damage control being done. The best thing for him to do would be to go back to calling his book a novel. Do you know if any schools have withdrawn the book from class reading assignments? I am beginning to have second thoughts about him actually writing the book, now that I know that he was not a student at the Sorbonne. Did he learn to write like that when he was a student in a Jewish school in Hungary or Romania, or wherever he lived?

          Comment by furtherglory — November 10, 2010 @ 10:25 am

        • P.S. I stand by my premise that Elie Wiesel didn’t realize the possible consequences when he either wrote “Night” or claimed that he did. He didn’t realize that some day the Internet would be invented and people all over the world would be researching and sharing information. He didn’t realize that some day the evacuation of the Jews to the East would become “The Holocaust,” and it would become a world wide religion. If he had thought of this, he would have invented an excuse for not having a tattoo. If he had said, at the outset, that he met a “Buchenwald Orphan” in Paris and decided to either write a novel or claim that he did, then he would not be in trouble today.

          Comment by furtherglory — November 10, 2010 @ 11:01 am


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