Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
   + [ Public Service ]
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


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

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

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 / 4)

Nobel Prize for Peace

Print Elie Wiesel Interview Print Interview

  Elie Wiesel

What persuaded you to break that silence?

Elie Wiesel Interview Photo
Elie Wiesel: Oh, I knew ten years later I would do something. I had to tell the story. I was a young journalist in Paris. I wanted to meet the Prime Minister of France for my paper. He was, then, a Jew called Mendès-France. But he didn't offer to see me. I had heard that the French author François Mauriac -- a very great Catholic writer and Nobel Prize winner, a member of the Academy -- was his guru. Mauriac was his teacher. So I would go to Mauriac, the writer, and I would ask him to introduce me to Mendès-France.

Mauriac was an old man then, but when I came to Mauriac, he agreed to see me. We met and we had a painful discussion. The problem was that he was in love with Jesus. He was the most decent person I ever met in that field -- as a writer, as a Catholic writer. Honest, sense of integrity, and he was in love with Jesus. He spoke only of Jesus.

Whatever I would ask -- Jesus. Finally, I said, "What about Mendès-France?" He said that Mendès-France, like Jesus, was suffering. That's not what I wanted to hear. I wanted, at one point, to speak about Mendès-France and I would say to Mauriac, can you introduce me?

When he said Jesus again I couldn't take it, and for the only time in my life I was discourteous, which I regret to this day. I said, "Mr. Mauriac," we called him Maître, "ten years or so ago, I have seen children, hundreds of Jewish children, who suffered more than Jesus did on his cross and we do not speak about it." I felt all of a sudden so embarrassed. I closed my notebook and went to the elevator. He ran after me. He pulled me back; he sat down in his chair, and I in mine, and he began weeping. I have rarely seen an old man weep like that, and I felt like such an idiot. I felt like a criminal. This man didn't deserve that. He was really a pure man, a member of the Resistance. I didn't know what to do. We stayed there like that, he weeping and I closed in my own remorse. And then, at the end, without saying anything, he simply said, "You know, maybe you should talk about it."

He took me to the elevator and embraced me. And that year, the tenth year, I began writing my narrative. After it was translated from Yiddish into French, I sent it to him. We were very, very close friends until his death. That made me not publish, but write.

The book Night, was not easily published, was it?

Elie Wiesel: Neither in France nor here, in spite of Mauriac. He was the most famous author in Europe, and he brought it personally from publisher to publisher. They didn't want it. It was too morbid, they said. "Nobody wants to hear these stories." Finally, a small publisher (who, by the way, was also Beckett's publisher, which means he had courage) published it.

So we brought it to an American publisher. It went from publisher to publisher to publisher. All of them refused it. They gave the same reasons, until a small publisher picked it up. From 1960 to 1963, three years, it didn't sell 1500 copies. Nobody wanted to read it. It doesn't matter. I am not here to sell, I'm here to write.

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

Elie Wiesel Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   

This page last revised on Dec 02, 2013 15:01 EDT
How To Cite This Page