Wiesel: Madoff is ‘thief, scoundrel, criminal’ (UPDATED)


Elie Wisel talks publicly about Bernie Madoff, whose scheme wiped out the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s personal savings, as well as his foundation’s money, The New York Times reports:

‘Psychopath’ — it’s too nice a word for him,” Mr. Wiesel said in his first public comments on Mr. Madoff and the Ponzi scheme he is accused of perpetrating on thousands of individuals and charities, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

“’Sociopath,’ ‘psychopath,’ it means there is a sickness, a pathology. This man knew what he was doing. I would simply call him thief, scoundrel, criminal,” The New York Times’s Stephanie Strom quotes him as saying.

Mr. Wiesel’s charity lost $15.2 million, and he and his wife, Marion, lost their life savings. “This was a personal tragedy where we discovered all of a sudden what we had done in 40 years — my books, my lectures, everything — was gone,” said Mr. Wiesel, who shared his story as part of a panel discussion on the Madoff scandal on Thursday.

He said he began investing with Mr. Madoff at the suggestion of an old friend whom he declined to name, “just a wealthy man, not in the financial business.” Mr. Wiesel said, “He too lost $50 million.”

The Wiesels met Mr. Madoff on only two occasions, he said, adding that during one encounter Mr. Madoff had tried to persuade Mr. Wiesel to abandon his post at Boston University, where he teaches the humanities, philosophy and religion, for a chair at Queens College, alma mater of Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth. …

After seeing how consistently Mr. Madoff generated handsome returns buying fairly plain-vanilla securities — “He bought 100 shares of Coca-Cola and sold 500 shares of Pfizer,” Mr. Wiesel said, describing his understanding of the Madoff strategy — the Wiesels decided to invest their charity’s assets with him as well.

“We checked the people who have business with him, and they were among the best minds on Wall Street, the geniuses of finance,” Mr. Wiesel said. “I am not a genius of finance. I teach philosophy and literature — and so it happened.”

Click here for the full account.

UPDATE: Oooops. I forgot the best part:

Asked what punishment he would like to see for Mr. Madoff, Mr. Wiesel said: “I would like him to be in a solitary cell with only a screen, and on that screen for at least five years of his life, every day and every night, there should be pictures of his victims, one after the other after the other, all the time a voice saying, ‘Look what you have done to this old lady, look what you have done to that child, look what you have done,’ nothing else.”

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