Elie Wiesel: The Documents
[UPDATE: More up-to-date details and suggestions concerning the mystery of Elie Wiesel’s tattoo can be read on this site here: https://littlegreyrabbit.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/of-feigs-and-wiesels-a-solution-to-the-mystery-of-elie-wiesels-tattoo/ ]
Its not my wish to recount in detail the story of Miklos Grüner, survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, who believes that Elie Wiesel has stolen the identity of a 31 year old man he knew at Auschwitz as Lazar Wiesel. This can be found in number of places, including Carlo Mattogno here http://www.revblog.codoh.com/2010/03/elie-wiesel-new-documents/. What I want to do is allow Miklos Grüner to have his say and to present the documents he uncovered.
Miklos Grüner has self-published his story in a courageous if somewhat uneven book called Stolen Identity: Auschwitz Number A-7713, which with a puckish sense of humour he superimposes on the recent re-release of Night and the New York Times: “A slim volume of terrifying power” (Can be downloaded from this blog stolenidentity ) On page 30-32 Grüner writes
I was sixteen years of age when I was liberated in Buchenwald. When the liberating American soldiers came into our barrack, they discovered a block full of emaciated people lying in bunks. In the next minute a flashlight from a camera went off, and I without my knowing, was caught on the picture forever. This picture of us survivors of Buchenwald became known all over the world and has been in circulation ever since.
On account of our well-circulated picture, the newspapers all over Sweden knew me. But the papers jumped to the conclusions with the winner of the Nobel Prize of 1986, the so-called ELIE WIESEL, who had appointed himself to be a survivor and a participant in the same picture, taken of us survivors in Buchenwald, where I found myself on the left hand corner of the lower bunk. I started to receive telephone calls from leading newspapers asking me if I would be interested in meeting my old friend ELIE WIESEL from Buchenwald.
Although “Elie” was unknown to me, in a flash of a second, I could see LAZAR, ABRAHAM, [….].
The editor of the paper explained to me that ELIE WIESEL “LAZAR” had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 1986, and during his stay in Stockholm the newspaper could arrange a meeting of our reunion at the Grand Hotel, Stockholm, on the 14th of December 1986. I accepted the honour and waited for further instructions. Four days later I received a return ticket to Stockholm to meet my old friend Lazar Wiesel whom I had lost contact with 42 years ago in Buchenwald, and had never seen again. I thought too that I would never see him alive again. [….]
The moment came for me to meet LAZAR at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. The journalists and the photographers were waiting to cover the story. After about ten minutes waiting, the door opened and beyond expectation in came a man of my own age, heading towards me with a smile on his face saying “Hello.” I returned his smile but I did not know whom I was smiling at.
The question regarding a handshake was hanging in the air. I made a quick move in reaching out with an attempt to shake hands with him, to say hello to him, and I finished up saying, “delighted to see you”.
He said “ELIE”, I said Michael, I asked him in half Jewish and half English…”nuu”…what language would you prefer?? “Jewish”? I said. He replied ….No…, then I asked him, if Hungarian would suit him better? He can’t speak Hungarian, he said, OK, I said, then we’ll take it in English and he opened up with conveying regards from a “Rabbi” living in Israel, who was previously stationed in Sweden.
His part of the performance started in front of the camera which I would say was professionally carried out; he was a master of his job. All of a sudden the reporter and the photographer joined the conversation and asked if we knew one another from before. I said “No,” and he ELIE agreed with my statement.
To the documents:
Mrs Eva Kok, Auschwitz survivor and memorialist of the Mengele Twins experimentation, also wrote to Auschwitz Museum as long ago as 1987 regarding Elie Wiesel. The Museum wrote back confirming that they only had records of Lazar Wiesel 4.9.1913 A.7713 and Abraham Wiesel A.7712. We can only speculate to Mrs Kok’s motives, but suspicion of imposture seems probable – certainly she seems to have happily provided the letter to Mr Grüner indicating at least some level of disquiet on her part.
The identity of Abraham Wiesel born in 1900 as the brother of Lazar is a crucial part of Miklos Grüner’s account. According Night A-7712 was the number of Shlomo Wiesel, Elie’s father, who died soon after arrival in Buchenwald. Miklos Grüner’s documents indicate this number belonged to an Abraham Wiesel, presumably Lazar’s brother, who died soon after arrival in Buchenwald.
Un di Velt Hot Geshvign was published in 1954 in Buenos Aires after, according to Elie Wiesel, he meet the publisher on a boat to Brazil and completed the manuscript on voyage – a very rapid accomplishment if true
“I wrote feverishly, breathlessly, without rereading. I wrote to testify, to stop the dead from dying, to justify my own survival … My vow of silence would soon be fulfilled; next year would mark the tenth anniversary of my liberation … The pages piled up on my bed. I slept fitfully, never participating in the ship’s activities, constantly pounding away on my little portable, oblivious of my fellow passengers …”
There exist a number of accounts of Elie Wiesel’s interview with Francois Mauriac where Mauriac is supposed to have urged Wiesel to break his silence – from some versions it is not always clear Mr Wiesel had already broken his silence and had his memoir published.
A number of people have commented on the two versions, Night seems to have been sexed up with a lot of at the time fashionable existentialism and toned down for a gentile audience, for example references to liberated inmates in Buchenwald going off to rape German women in Weimar were removed. There remains the opportunity for Elie Wiesel to have simply picked up a recently publish Yiddish memoir off the bookshelf, translated it and provided it to Mauriac with or without his knowledge. It seems improbable that neither Lazar Wiesel nor his literary executors would not have objected, or alternatively demanded a cut.
Nevertheless, there seems to remain a gaping hole in Mr Gruener’s presentation: if the Lazar Wiesel who he claimed to know in Auschwitz and Birkenau did write Un di Velt Hot Geshvign, why he did he write it from the point of view of a teenager whose father died? One possibility is Lazar Wiesel is fictionalized his experiences somewhat and book was viewed in some quarters as having merit for a wider non-Jewish audience, alas the middle-aged Lazar Wiesel would not be able to act as its public face.
This then leaves the question of the identity of the person who presents himself as Elie Wiesel, Mr Gruener has no suggestions to make. As a point of curiosity according to Yad Vashem another Lazar Wiesel from Sighets, Romania is mentioned in German records as an inmate of a work camp in Bukovina, Romania.
Last Name WIESEL
First Name LAZAR
GENDER (ASSUMED) Male
Place of Birth SIGHET,MARAMURES,CRISANA-MARAMURES,ROMANIA
Name of Camp CZERNOVITZ,CERNAUTI,BUKOVINA,ROMANIA
Type of material List of ghetto/camp inmates from Romania
Source Page number JM-11.344 # 15g
http://tinyurl.com/yyqvnnm (Yad Vashem link)
Either way, Mr Gruener with his personal account, his collection of documents and the seeming absence of any visible tattoo on Mr Wiesel’s left arm seems to have at least established a case that requires an answer and Mr Gruener, who seems entirely sincere in his claims, deserves an answer. Reading his book and his story one can guess how the inability to have his findings vindicated has impacted on his mental health and peace of mind.
I suspect that no answer will be forthcoming – or possible it will be like it was with Bruno Bettelheim, whose reputation was protected while he was alive, but the moment he died the flood gates opened.