Some 1500 students and faculty members at Yeshiva University sat enthralled last night in the university’s Lamport Auditorium as Elie Wiesel “wrote” a verbal novel of the Holocaust and its meaning for our times. Addressing the university’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day Observance, Wiesel castigated American Jewish leaders and the American, British and Allied governments of World War II for failing to come to the aid of the Jews who perished in the ghettos and concentration camps.
“Jews were killed at Auschwitz, but mankind died at Auschwitz,” Wiesel said. “What mankind did to Jews at Auschwitz it did to itself. Hiroshima was prepared at Auschwitz.” Warning that every murderer kills twice, the second time when trying to make us forget his crime, Wiesel cautioned: “To forget is to hand him his second victory.”
Declaring that Auschwitz could not be explained with God or without God, Wiesel asked: “What made one people turn overnight into murderers, another into victims, all others into accomplices? Why the silence in Washington, the Vatican? Why didn’t our own Jewish leaders go to the extremes of their capabilities? Why didn’t they go mad?” Why, he continued, “the silence on the part of our friends and protectors?”
He charged that in 1942 and 1943 American Jewish leaders, President Roosevelt and the State Department knew of the destruction of Europe’s Jews “and they did nothing.” How many Jewish leaders “tore their clothes in mourning?”, Wiesel asked. “How many marched on Washington? How many weddings took place without music?” If only Roosevelt had spoken earlier, the French marched into the Rhineland, if someone did anything, it (the Holocaust) could not have happened.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.