Saturday, February 17, 2007

Elie Wiesel's Attacker Arrested

I'm glad that Elie Wiesel's alleged attacker was caught. Here's the AP story from CNN:
A man accused of roughing up Nobel laureate and Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel at a San Francisco hotel earlier this month was arrested Saturday, authorities said.

Montgomery Township police arrested Eric Hunt, 22, of Sussex County, New Jersey, at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday. He faces charges that include attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse, stalking, battery and the commission of a hate crime, according to San Francisco police.

I've read two of Elie Wiesel's books and even met him more than twenty years ago. Actually, I've read Night three times. I read Night one time after reading Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, the famous Italian writer. At the end of Levi's book, he talks about the choice he made to take his chances by staying behind in the camp infirmary as the Russians were overrunning Poland and driving west. Wiesel's book was somewhat novelized so he could talk about religious faith and doubt under the extreme circumstances of the Nazi concentration camps but most of it was quite factual and at the end of the book he and his father also faced the choice of whether to stay behind in the infirmary or to go on what turned out to be a forced march. The father feared execution if they stayed behind and chose to go on the march so that's what the father and son did; but the father died at the end of a deliberately brutal evacuation during wintertime. The choices made during the Holocaust were too often devastating, and beyond anything most people will ever face in their lifetime. The Nazis kept changing the rules so it was impossible to 'figure it out' and every choice could be a deadly one and too often was even when there was a small glimmer of hope.

We recently learned in the news that Anne Frank's father wanted to emigrate to the United States but was hampered by a long series of rules and bureaucratic delays by American officials until the family ran out of time and was forced to go into hiding and was eventually betrayed. Very little in my life has taught me more than the literature of the Holocaust. What you learn is that politics are real. Abstract decisions by governments can kill people for the worst of reasons. But government decisions can also save people. It's the latter that we too often forget, whether it's Hurricane Katrina, tsunami victims in Indonesia, children in Africa or many, many people in the world who deserve a better fate. It's not possible on this earth to save everyone, but inch by inch, the biggest killer in the world is becoming political indifference, the indifference of voters and the indifference of nations. That has to change.

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