Facing Hate with Elie Wiesel
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Funding for this program is provided by mutual of America and its family of companies, major underwriters of group pension
plans and retirement savings programs, and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a catalyst for change. I'm Bill Moyers. My guest in this hour is Ellie Viselle. I never think of the man without the word witness coming simultaneously to mind. There is no more pre-imminent witness to the best and worst of the 20th century. Ellie Viselle was 15 when his family was taken from Romania to the Nazi death camp known as Auschwitz. His family died there, but young Ellie survived. He became a journalist. He offered more than 25 books, a leader in the worldwide cause of human rights and social justice, and in 1986, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In recent years, he has sponsored a series of conferences on the anatomy of
hate. The most recent was in Oslo, Norway. There, Ellie Viselle gathered world leaders to address the reality of hate, a reality he has wrestled to understand since he was a teenager. What is there about us? Because at the Boston conference which you sponsored, so many of the participants didn't really want to talk about the subject hate. It was as if they didn't want to face that word. Why? It's an ugly word. Even those who hate don't say they hate. There was hate even in the life of religions, but they called it for the love of God, for the honor of God. And therefore even today, especially today, because of the charge, because of the burden of memories that are placed upon the word hate. People don't want to touch it. Anything but hate. They call it prejudice,
fanaticism. They shouldn't accept to explore racism, or xenophobia. They're not like it, but they're ready to explore it, but hate is a terrible word. Did you feel hated when you arrived in Auschwitz? Did you think they hate me in the coming? Why did they hate me? Not from the Germans so much. The Germans didn't even hate us. You know, the Mongols, the Eichmanns, Eichmanns said it or the tribe. He didn't hate Jews. In a way I believe in, they didn't even hate us because you hate human beings. We weren't human in their eyes. I felt hated by the anti-Semites even in the camp. Other prisoners? That's something we don't talk about because we are embarrassed, because it's so nice to think that there was a community of victims. There wasn't. I remember, I think I write about it, that the night we arrived I've seen a prisoner
beating up my father the first time it happened. Later on I was beaten mainly by prisoners, not by Germans, the Germans, but in the killing, the murder. So hate because they were anti-Semites even there. The father was beaten because he was Jewish. Just because he was Jewish. And what did you, can you remember what you were thinking as you saw your father being? That plays me to this day, because the father, the authority after all, the love, the honor that I father. I remember I felt like running to that man, to that couple who beat him up and throw myself either at his feet from mercy or beat him up, and I didn't do it.
I was afraid of being beaten or being killed, but could it have been that you also couldn't decide that it was in fact happening? That's also true, but to be too easy for me to get out of it, you know, I felt fear, still fear, and I feel guilt. To this day I feel guilt, I mean I should have done that, but it was, we just arrived, it was a few hours after our arrival, and I remember it, I write about it exactly in the night. My father, all of a sudden, felt he had to go to the toilet. So there was a couple, so he went to the cup of saying, can I go to the toilet? And all of us were hundreds and hundreds of people were lined up, and the couple measured him up with his look, and he gave him simply a slap in the face, only one, and my father fell to the ground. And it lasted a second, my father got up and came back, and during that second
I staged my own trial, I accused myself, I defended myself, and I pronounced the verdict on myself. Guilty, guilty, of, of not behaving as a son should behave. But had you, had you behaved as a son, because it was not rationalization, I would guess some odd books, look at the witness, look at the memory that would have perished. Still, again, I understand all that, nevertheless, nevertheless, and later on, you know, I became very close to my father, because at home, I was studying, and he was always involved in communal affairs, he was, you know, almost kind, the official representative to the authorities to help to escape, and I didn't seem often, except for the sabbat, and for the first time that we were together, really together, was there, which means I came to know my father, and he came to know me,
and we were so close, because he was all I had, and I was all he had. Can you speak about your father's death? No. It's difficult, because, because he was my father, but it's even more difficult for me to speak what my mother and my little sister, I rarely do, they died, they died the first night. But my father, he, he was hungry and tired, and we arrived to Buchenwald. He was hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of people in one bag. And he got sick in diarrhea, and I ran from one physician to another to try to bring coal, that was the only thing we could get, it's coal, black coal, and I couldn't even get black coal. And one night, I heard him call me, and that morning he died,
and I felt he wanted to tell me something, but he couldn't, and again even today I tried to figure out what was his testament, what did he want to tell me. And maybe all the books I'm writing is to figure out, maybe in these words there will be a few that I may have received from him, although he had not articulated, although all I have I owe him. When he died, did you feel any hatred toward his foremeasures? No, because there were no tormentors present, so to speak, they didn't beat him up, he just, he suffered, and then he sang into death, because of hunger, starvation, and sickness. He didn't moan, he didn't scream. In a way he died before he died.
I hate, again, all I fell down was how am I managing to get a 10-man around me to say the player for the bet, and I couldn't find him. And I didn't. How many members of your family perished in the camps? In numerous uncles and cousins, and every Jewish family in Eastern Europe, he was in the same family, and my little sister, and my uncles and cousins, and grandmother, and grandfather, and so many others. You said that him learn mingly and the others didn't hate the Jews, because they didn't see you as human or people not human for them. However, we were what they called subhumans, and you don't cry when a subhuman cries. A beast, a mineral, an object?
Not even an animal, but an object, because what they try to do, you know, I believe in general, they had a theory. They really wanted to create a universe parallel to our own. They wanted to reinvent creation, and in that universe, in that creation, a new language was invented, a new attitude towards human being, a new God. An assessment was God. We had no right to look at an assessment in the face, because you cannot look into God's face and remain alive. And therefore, in their concept of the universe, we were subhumans, unworthy of living. So, what did they do? They shrank everything. Let's say, from the universe, we went to a country, and the country to a town, from a town to a street, from a street to an apartment, a apartment to a room, from the room to the cellar, from the cellar to the train. It's always smaller and smaller,
from the train to the gas chamber. And then the person, who was the first person, became a prisoner, and the prisoner became a number. And the number became an ash, and the ash itself was dispersed. Then when you think of what they tried to do to us, they were relentless. They lost the war, and they still wanted to kill Jews, and to annihilate Jewish men. Did you see them as human? That is, of course, the question of all questions, what you ask in the very beginning, is humanity good, or is humanity in evil? At the time, I didn't think in these terms. So, very much later, when I began thinking, and searching, and doing my own inquiries, I think that they wanted to dehumanize the victim, and in doing so, they dehumanized themselves.
But at the beginning, they were human. They had their own acts, their own projects, dehumanized them. But one survivor said to me once, I ceased to see human beings, and saw simply the cold, impersonal face of a highly efficient machine. And how do you hate a machine? Still, I imagine, if I had to face during the war, assessment, one to one, if I had the power, I think I would have killed that assessment. You would have killed that? I think so, an assessment. If I had the power, if I had the hope in the long term, I think I would have. I remember reading in one of your books about the Russian prisoners at Book and Wall, who, when they were liberated, commandeered American Jeeps, drove into the nearby German town,
and killed the civilians there for simply having lived outside beyond the barbed wire. The Jews didn't do that, apparently. And I've often wondered, did the Russians have the right idea? Did they reconcile more fully with death and the dead than those of you who, all these years, have been weighed down by your inability to reconcile what happened? I don't have an answer to that. There was a very special day. It was the day of liberation. And the Russian prisoners of war suffered as much as we did. Maybe because of their military training, what was my training? I was a student. I brought into the war, into the camps, a bag with books, as much as with anything else.
More than food, I had books. So, therefore, my point of reference was books, words, ideas, memories, not acts, not gestures. I cannot condemn them. I do not. Who am I to judge? But I remember that when liberation came, really, our first community, created immediately, was a community of prayer. We gathered, and we prayed, and we said, that God is the prayer for the dead. And I am not sure really that God was worthy of that God is. What do you mean God will not worry? Because you don't sanctify His name, to glorify His name, there, then. But nevertheless, we pray to Him, and we sanctify His name.
And ever since, whenever I say, not the same prayer for the dead, I still hear my voice from 1945. Did you ever find yourself wishing that perhaps, or thinking that perhaps it might have been better for you to have done what the Russian soldiers did? I never felt any attraction towards violence. I never tried to express myself through violence. Violence is a language. Language fails. Violence becomes a language. I never had that feeling. Language failed me very often. But then the substitute for me was silence, but not violence. It doesn't mean that I'm proud of it. I'm not. It's simply my nature. I was always too shy. Maybe it was cowardice. I was simply colored. But I have this image in my mind of the, and it's purely hypothetical. I have this
image in my mind of that Russian who was liberated beside you, who went into the village, and got his vengeance immediately, having gone back to Ukraine or back to Russia, and having lived a life relatively unmolested by memory. I'm sure. Because he got it out of him. He got it out at the same time, at the same time still, to live with a certain memory that for one hour he was not only an avenger, but something else, maybe a killer. Again, I understand the impulse. I don't condemn that impulse. Who am I? I don't justify it either. But I couldn't do it. For the same reason that I during the war, I was always so frightened that I have never done anything that said to obtain more blood or nothing. I was terribly intimidated by anything that could have happened for me,
other than received blows. I preferred hunger. The only time that I tried to do something was for my father. As long as my father was alive, I felt responsible for him. Just as he felt probably responsible for me, surely responsible for me. So for me it was somehow impossible to take a gun, but could you not commit violence because you didn't hate or because you were able to tame the hate you felt. Did you feel hate? No. Again, it could have happened for hate to enter me, to penetrate me. It didn't make sense. I was lucky. It's terrible to say that it's sick to say lucky, but I was lucky in the midst of that. I was lucky because during the war, I came after all that came young. It was very young for one year. The war almost ended. You know, if I had the 13 of 14, I was 15 years. Today there are people in the streets of New York, exercising the full
prerogatives of manhood with them. They came, but remember, I come from a Yashiva. I had to pay odd. It wasn't my world. Everything kept very fast. If I am angry and I am terribly angry, it's really with the Western society, with the Liberals, with the Allies. I am angry with Roosevelt, I am angry with Churchill, but really angry because they knew what we didn't know. We were taken two weeks before the day. Imagine two weeks before the day and we didn't know that how should it exist. Now how is that possible? Now I met Carter when he was president and he appointed me to some position and he showed pictures that the Air Force has taken. And I explained the pictures. Everybody knew except the victims. The Russians were, you know, 20 kilometers away from my ghetto. We could have gone to the mountains without any problem. And yet nobody cared enough
to tell us, don't go. That's where my anger comes through. You were seized just almost as the Allies were landing at Normandy. Two weeks before. Now if Roosevelt had gone on radio and simply said Jews in Hungary don't go because Auschwitz is there. If Churchill had gone the same, we listened to BBC, we listened to the radio. I don't understand it because they were good people and I admire both Churchill and Roosevelt for what they had done. But there is something in me which cannot make peace. You cannot make peace with the Messiah for not coming. Of course. But then the Messiah may say to me, maybe it's because of me that he's not coming. And I have some difficulty understanding why he would feel even more anger than hate. More anger at the outsiders than at the men who
tormented your father to death. I'm not comparing. I know you never compare because for the Germans have done, that's why I have such a special feeling against really, but never Germany represents. It's not hate, but still I would never say that they belong to human society, to humankind. It's a different kind of humanity. I am angry at Churchill Roosevelt because they are human beings. They were human beings and they were great human beings. And nevertheless, when it came to saving Jews, something happened to them. Now the Germans, I know. They prepared, after Auschwitz, you know, we talked about theology occasionally. It's wrong because Auschwitz was not something conceived in heaven and sent down, ready made. It was conceived, planned, implemented, built and managed by human beings. So this is something else, but for Churchill Roosevelt and
the other allies, I met generals, American generals. I asked them, tell me, how often did you have to change a plan in order to liberate a concentration camp one day earlier? And not a single plan would change. And they knew that they were going. So what have you concluded from that? You've thought about it for a long time now. I don't know. I asked the same thing, that's the Russians. I met in Moscow, I met in search of General Petrenko. He was the one who liberated Auschwitz. And we compared impressions. We were waiting for the Russians as I waited for the Messiah, believe me. And when they came, it was too late. I said, why didn't you come early? You know, my only, I don't know, my only possible answer would be that sometimes, winds of madness erupt in history. The crusades were more madness. The Inquisition was madness.
And this may have been madness. Madness relieves the human being of his responsibility, don't you think? Which is to say then, if the Germans were mad, if there were a corporate or a group, hatred or venom or passion, they somehow were not acting humanly. But I would say they were the ones who generated madness. They provoked the madness, so they are responsible. The irony has none of these words do justice to the reality. Madness doesn't, nor does hate. So, hate produced the whole thing for something so silly. To do such a tragedy to a simple business of hating. Do I hear you saying that the Holocaust was not about hatred? Not only about hatred. It had some ontological dimension. When you said earlier that you still don't understand,
and I don't understand it either, and I have read probably every single book that came out on the subject. Each time I say to myself, no, I'm going to find something. And the more I read it, I understand. I don't understand the killer, nor do I understand the victim. How could an end kill and go on killing? Well, that isn't hard for me to understand in a religious context, because God is so often invoked as the source of the hatred and the anger. I mean, one of the things I did last night before seeing you was to read night again. The other thing I did this morning was to read the Old Testament again, and Moses in the name of God, commanding the army of Israel against
the Midianites, Joshua sending his troops out to slay with the sword, the women, the children, the babes, the ox, in the name of God, Saul being commanded by the messenger of God to spare not an inhabitant of a city. There's so much anger in there, and so much wrath in there, and so much hate in there, that hate in the name of God, I do understand, but in the name of no God in Germany. Well, Germany had a God, it was Hitler. Germany had that religion, it was not his deep vocabulary, it was a religious vocabulary about purification of the days, about the offering, sacrifice. That's for the Bible, I would like to defend the Bible. That's my Bible too, and I love it, but I love full of this paradox. In one chapter, God says, thou shalt not kill, and in the next
chapter, he sends these instructions of no mercy, exterminate the people of I and his art. It's true, but in the book of Joshua, Joshua always gives him a choice. If you live in peace, we won't touch you. We shall conquer you, we shall conquer you, but we won't kill you, we won't touch you. Second, even when he does, Joshua really is the most violent of all the violence books, I read it and I read it and I didn't feel good about it, because you go from violence to violence, from bloodshed to bloodshed, I said, it's too much. And then at one point, I realized that it is the only book in the Bible, meaning the Bible and the prophets and the writings that has no poetry. And that is a lesson. Don't make poetry out of murder, out of bloodshed. You have to kill in war, but no glory in war, no glorification of war. Furthermore,
that is one more lesson that we have learned, I believe, really, that it came at the beginning of our history to tell us that that is the end of that chapter. Don't do it again. That doesn't mean it hasn't come to try. It doesn't mean it has been done. There is a marvelous book by Stefan Sveikitz and it's a play, he may have read it, about the prophet Jeremiah. You know, Jeremiah was the pacifist, I'm a gold prophet, and I always feel sorry and I have special feeling for him, because he was the only prophet to have foreseen the tragedy, to have lived the tragedy and to have remembered the tragedy. And Stefan Sveikitz was a pacifist, was also infatuated with him, Messiah. And he describes Jeremiah the last night before the assault of the Babylonians, in Kognito on the walls, and he listens to the soldiers picking to each other. And one soldier says to his friend, tomorrow I may be killed, you may be
killed, or I may kill, you may kill. Why? Let me why? He says the other, because we have to. Why do we have to? Because do you tenant set so? They go to do you tenant? Do you hate Babylon? We have never seen one. Why do you do that? Because of the captain. Have you met in Babylonian? Never. And they go to the general. And finally, the general says, I don't want Babylonians. If I go to war is because the king says so, and the king says to himself, I never wanted war. So nobody wants war. And yet his victims are there. It's the one thing, Jeremiah hated to use our current war. He hated war. And hypocrisy. I think the hypocrisy angered him and the war to forth his passionate detestation. Because more than any other, he had to face the false prophets. In the book of Jeremiah, we have a lot about the false prophets. And the difference is very
simple really. A false prophet is always assuring and can reassuring. But as a real prophet, a true prophet is disturbing. Do you fight this paradox in your own life of wanting to believe that every day and every way we are getting better and better, but knowing that to say peace, peace when there is no peace can lead to the destruction of civilizations? Oh, been in my way, in a very small way, in a very modest way. When I was very young, I was very religious, extremely religious. And I indulged in mysticism and the mystical teaching tells us that it is possible for any person to bring the Messiah to the whole world. And I believed in it. I no longer believe in it. I believe today that it is possible for you or me or anyone to bring a moment, a messianic moment to each other. If I could simply bring a messianic moment
into the life of one person, I think that my life would have been justified. What do you mean, messianic moment? To humanize destiny, to give that person, men or women of child, especially child, a different environment, a different way of looking at the environment, of finding truth without cruelty, without pain. That is a messianic moment. That means we're always, always, all of us looking for the Messiah. There's a friend of mine writing a book called Everyone a Messiah. Yes, out in San Francisco. But that you mean an act of mercy, reconciliation, anti-hatred? That too. Hatred is the block, of course. Hatred is the screen that blocks everything else. But it's not enough. Even if we could remove hatred from our hearts, from all hearts,
things would still be problematic for humankind. There would be other problems and other dangers and other threats. But I mean simply to make the human being more human. And that is some task for the teacher that I try to be, for the writer I try to be. When are we most truly human? When we are weak, and when we try to overcome weakness, by not choosing humanity. But it's very often the strong who triumphs over the weak, meaning that genetically, strength and power have the upper hand. That is the Dalven theory. And unfortunately, if she is right, but I'm not in the long run. In the short run, of course, one machine gun is stronger than a hundred points, unfortunately. I could even say that one inflammatory speech of
hatred and racism and prejudice is stronger than a hundred points. But what remains, what remains after life? Yes, but I have little tolerance any longer for the term in the long run, because as I get older, I realize the number of victims who died before the machine gun in the death camp. Find those solace in the long run. I don't, I don't either. So, they're dead. They are dead. They are dead and we carry them in us. And therefore, when you say reconciliation, I had a kind of hesitation, because I do not believe it's possible. I cannot. Reconciliation is not possible. I know, it was first. I have not reconciled myself yet with the dead. So, how can I reconcile myself with the living? But you seem to me to have
spent your whole life reconciling yourself with the dead. That's right. After the war, it was much more difficult for us to adjust to death than to life. Why? Because during the war, we lived with the corpses. We lived with the dead. That was the norm. Life was abnormal. It was normal to go to sleep with corpses and wake up with corpses, wondering whether you are not one of them. After the war, it was difficult once more to see in death a scandal. To see in death once more a source of pain. That was a difficulty. That means to reconcile oneself with the laws of life and death. Did you ever see yourself in the
face of your tomato? No, but because again, because I wasn't, but on the other hand, I don't think that anyone deserves to ask himself the question because it didn't happen. But it's happening today, something very strange. Those who were the killers have no soul searching. The victims do the soul searching. I'm asking myself, why did I survive? That is my question. What did I do so good to deserve survival? I wasn't better than the others. I wasn't worse than the others. I wasn't wiser than the others. Furthermore, the system of such that numbers played their role. The Germans had decided, as we move on, that they wanted 10,000 dead day, and they did. I happened to be in the line 10,800. I asked myself, who is the person who went
in my stead before me? Often I say to myself, no, I'm responsible for his memory as well. Who was he? As for the soul and Samuel, I love King Saul. I love him because he refused to kill King of the Amalekites. I go, what a humanist I love. But it was only after he had killed a lot of others who were considered lesser. And you know what God did to Saul for refusing to kill? He moved. He removed the crown. Poor man. What does that tell you about the author's idea of God? The other side of the idea was you must obey God, don't question God. You've got to say something
obey. Even when he says kill, even if he says kill. Now my whole, of course, my whole attitude has been, since I began searching in myself and around me, is to question God. I believe that is the virtue of human beings, that we are allowed to question God. I thought God died in Auschwitz. The idea of God, not God. If God is God, God doesn't die. But the idea of God, the prayer to God, the defeat in God, I think died. You wondered why you survived. Was it because or despite of the fact that as a boy in Transylvania, born in 1928, immersed in Jewish tradition, scriptures, mysticism, deeply loved,
passionately welcomed by your friends and neighbors and parents. Was it something that you got there that enabled you to survive? No. I thought he didn't say that God saved me. I really believe it was an accident. The last days of the war, every day, he was taken out to the gate and then beyond it was. It was almost a certainty of death. And for some reason, I was always in the last line. I didn't do anything for him. And throughout the entire period of the war, I didn't do anything to survive. In the beginning, maybe I wanted to live because of my father, but my father died. I had no desire to live. I retreated in a kind of non-being situation. And to say that because I studied or because I didn't, I don't. I really wouldn't want to think that.
In his life, just a lottery, there it was. But now, I have to give meaning to that survival. I believe in that. That because I survived by accident, my survival should not remain an accident. And I must give a meaning. I now believe that every moment is a moment of grace. And we must make it into an offering. But there was a while when you were silent about the Holocaust. Several years, wasn't it? I still am. I still am. I've written very few books about it. Of the 32 books that I have written, maybe five, four or five, deal with that assumption. But in the beginning, it's true. I took a vow about silence of ten years. Why? I knew I would fail. There are no words. I wanted to be sure that the words I would find would be the proper words.
And there's a certain mystical experience called the purification of language through silence. Have you analyzed why you were finally able to break that silence and find the words? No, I didn't find them. You still, I still look for them. You know, I used to, I found the ones at Marvel's story, Sam Beckett and I met and I liked man. He was not only a handsome man, not a great writer. He was a beautiful man and as shy as I was. And we met at night. He wanted to meet me and we met in a cafe. And I don't like people who wait for me. I always come before and wait. He did the same. I didn't know. So I came and we had a meeting at 11 o'clock. He met 10 o'clock and I said in a cafe that there is drinking coffee. There was a man and the other also drinking coffee at 11 o'clock. We looked both of us at the watch and we looked at each other and we smiled and we met.
And we kept silent for a long time, just shook hands and we didn't say anything to each other. And all of a sudden, really out of the blue, he says to me, you know, yesterday I discovered a manuscript of a book that was published a few years ago. The novel, Kamaloimer, Wemoloidais. And I discovered, he says to my surprise, that the motto on the manuscript was not printed in the book. And the motto is, on this espoir, the course, which means inspiration. What else could he do in the right books? What else could I do in the right with poor words that are still at my command? But I know they're not the proper words. By writing, were you able to cope with this suppressed hatred that I'm not a psychologist, but you must have felt.
It's anger, really, not hate because as I told you, Bill, I was spared that that temptation of hate. Maybe because immediately after what I came back to study and to religious studies. But I somehow was spared that. And I think it was self-preservation. Because now I know that hatred is not only destructive, it is self-destructive. The hatred also destroys himself. It is not only the hatred that is destroyed. And subconsciously, I must have thought in those terms. Yet somewhere you write that every Jew, somewhere in his being, must set apart a zone of hate, healthy and viral hate. Or you said he doesn't injustice to the dead. Is there a zone of hate that you have set aside?
I wrote it and it was an essay I wrote in 1964, I think. I went back to Germany to do a piece for a magazine, my first return to Germany. And I was supposed to stay three weeks to meet people and find minister, chancellor and so forth. But deep down, I called it an encounter in appointment with hate. I wanted to see, do I hate? And I came there. And I pranked for in Berlin, not Berlin, Munich. And when I would see a person in the street, I would stop and judge that person. How old is he? Where was he? Could he have been? And I realized I don't hate. And that bothered me. I wanted to hate. That's why I wrote that essay saying, we should, but we cannot. Well, viral hate I can understand. But healthy hate seems an oxymoron.
It's true. But if you replace the word hate with anger, then I think you would understand. Can we do that? Is anger the equivalent of hate? No, because anger has some positive attributes to it. And hate has none. Even the hate of hate is dangerous. So there is no such thing as a healthy hate. I don't believe so. That was, today I would change, if I had written it today, I would certainly have changed for anger, not hate. There is something called cold hatred. Just as there is something called cold anger. You didn't feel that. What was your response when you saw these Germans on the streets after your first visit there? I left 24 hours later. I couldn't stand it. Why? I didn't want to be surrounded by all these possible defendants in my own mind. Do you think it's true that people can be in the grip of hatred, possessed almost driven by that hatred? It is because we have seen it happen.
Let's go back to the origins of human beings. Canardable. Two brothers. The only brothers in the world. And they had a good father, a good mother. After all, not only that, could the father and mother knew God. And yet one became the victim and or assessing or the other. Why? Because God refused the offering of came. So what? Why hate? Why didn't Cain hate God? Why did he hate his brother? And maybe the rest there is that one hates his brother better. That's why civil war is always the worst of all wars. Why do you think we hate our brothers better? That's the question that we have to explore really. Do I hate my brother? Because he reminds me of myself. Or do I hate my brother? Because he reminds me of someone who is not myself.
So whom do I hate? The one who is me or the one who is anything but me. Ultimately, whoever hates, hates his brother. And whenever one hates his brother, one always hates himself. Do we have to be passionate and emotional in our hate? Or can hate be an act of cold, indifferent, deliberate will? I think the latter is worse. Because if it is an impulse, it doesn't last long. If it is not, it can last very long. Because then it takes time to prepare. A cold, blooded Hater prepares his hatred. It takes him a few weeks. And then even when he commits
the act of hatred, which is murder or humiliation, because I think one of the most scandalous aspect of hatred is that the Hater humiliates his victim, the Hater. It always implies and involves an act of humiliation. At least the Hater is less good than the Hater. But the Hater has to be killed by the Hater who is God, to the Hater. But therefore, when he prepares his act of hatred, it takes time. He works on it. He has plans. This is good. Monday is good. Tuesday is not so good. What do you make of the term blind hate? And I ask it because as you were talking, I was thinking of a old story of John Ruskin, a English writer, who was standing on the corner with a friend and a stranger pass by, a third man passed by, and Ruskin said, I hate that man and his friends said,
but you don't know him. And he said, that's why I hate him. I keep it my example. I'm a Jew. And I'm hated by the anti-Somai. We have never met me. Any Jew is hated by any anti-Somai. Although, they never met one another. The same way I'm sure it's true of racism as well. That means, a race is to hate. The blacks, or the Hispanics, or the poor, or the crippled, or the gays, or the Lutherans. They hit all in group collectively. And that is again something which elevates or quite the opposite, destroys the humanity of the hatred. Because hatred then goes beyond its own dimension. An anti-Somai hates all Jews, those who were born yesterday and those who will be born tomorrow. So why should he hate me? I have never done anything to him. I have never even met him. And yet he hates me. So what does he hate? Who does he hate when he hates?
But somewhere along the way, the killer, who was a child, learns to hate. And do you think, therefore, that hatred is born in this, or as the song in South Pacific says, we must be taught to hate? I think here, religious terms, I would say it's a heritage. For so many centuries, it was transmitted from one generation to another. That means, the teaching was part of life. It wasn't even conscious. If a Christian or a Catholic or a Lutheran went to church and heard about the killing instinct of the Jew, about the perfidy of the Jew, as they called it, in the text and the literature, without even thinking that it's a teaching, it was communicated. I think today it's different.
Today it had to be taught. It's not enough to be born in a family or in a group or in a street in a group that hates, dominates life, to be contaminated by it. I don't think so. But in those years, yes. When you look around and see what's happening in the world today, in this country, in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, does it strike chords of remembrance and new, or when it comes to hatred is the holocaust, immeasurable, yet incomparable. It is immeasurable and incomparable. It's a unique event. It must remain a unique event. Never before have such plans been conceived. Never before have so many people killed so many people in a systematic, cynical, calculated way. The link is memory. I always had hope that if we remember
our memory would shield other people as well. It hasn't happened, Cambodia, El Salvador. It hasn't, you know, Uganda. And today too, I saw recently the faces of children in Romania, the sick children, the way they were treated by the energy of my God. My God, how is that possible? That disturbs me, that moves me to despair, meaning our message has not been received. Given this and given the fact that some of your most sophisticated participants in these conferences have not truly wanted to face the question of hate, what do you hope to achieve
with these conferences? First to face it, you know, in the beginning many people wanted me to call the conference differently. Good is our series, you know, anatomy of hatred in Boston, until high fire, now in Oslo. And they wanted me to cover why not anatomy of love for something, no, I wanted it really to be a conference where people of all, all horizons, religious or ethnic or or economic should meet and face a common threat. And that is my belief that hate is a common threat. Hate does not even pretend to be a single-minded obsession against one person or one group. It goes beyond, by its nature, it goes beyond that group. So I hope, first of all, to bring all these people together and show together with them that hate is our common enemy. Second, I would like to have ideas what to do about it, because if our achievements of the last
decade, the last year, in many parts of the world, are so great and yet so threatened, but it is because of hate. And there are achievements. Eastern Europe is gaining freedom. The American government and the Russian government are now allies, almost allies. Things are happening. What jeopardizes those achievements is hate. And therefore I feel that we should together with you and do something about it and come out with ideas with maybe crazy ideas. Why not? You've been wrestling with this almost 50 years now, all of your adult life. And you haven't found the answers? No. I am very good with questions. Actually, we should have it the other way around. I should ask the questions and you should give me the answers, because I'm very good with questions. That's my whole work. My whole life has been devoted to questions,
not to answers. What's the question of hate that burns most in your curiosity? Why haven't we succeeded? We who have been victims of hate, in transforming that hate into a warning. Why haven't we? That bothers me into a warning. Into a kind of alarm saying, look, look, hate means Auschwitz. But you said earlier that you weren't sure the Germans hated you. Yes, but the first of all, it's a good question. I accept it's a paradox. But on the other hand, I'm not sure that it was hate alone, that did it. But the consequence surely was hate. Or the consequence of hate. But you think that every murder is also an act of hate. As a layman, I would say yes, but the source of that hate and the elimination of that hate,
I don't know, not why. But maybe, after all, that is the child in me that remains childish and naive. And I would like to believe that whenever two persons meet, whenever people meet, a miracle is possible. This has been a discussion with Eli Whizel. I'm Bill Moyers. Funding for this program was provided by Mutual of America and its family of companies.
And by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a catalyst for change. Facing hate is available on VHS video cassette for 29.95 plus 350 shipping and handling. For credit card orders call 1-800-336-1917 or send a check to the address on your screen. This is PBS. For a transcript of this program, send $4 to Journal Graphics, 1535 Grand Street Denver, Colorado, 80203 or call 303-831-9000.
- Facing Hate with Elie Wiesel
- Contributing Organization
- Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group (New York, New York)
- AAPB ID
- Program Description
- Nobel Laureate and human rights advocate Elie Wiesel talks with Bill Moyers about his own childhood experiences at Auschwitz and analyzes the source of Nazi hatred toward Jews. “We weren’t human in their eyes,” Wiesel said. He reflects on his own inability to hate, and discusses ethnic hatred at work in Bosnia and other Eastern European countries since the end of the Cold War.
- Program Description
- Award(s) won: Gold Apple Religion and Philosophy-National Educational Film and Video Festival
- Broadcast Date
- Asset type
- Copyright holder: Doctoroff Media Group, LLC
- Media type
- Moving Image
: Sams, Alicia
Coordinating Producer: Schatz, Amy
Director: Tatge, Catherine
Director: Lasseur, Domnique
Director of Photographer: Shapiro, Joel
Executive Producer: Moyers, Judith Davidson
Producer: Lasseur, Domnique
Producer: Tatge, Catherine
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group
Identifier: cpb-aacip-87b4df971dd (Filename)
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Facing Hate with Elie Wiesel,” 1991-11-27, Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 1, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-fe27b297b15.
- MLA: “Facing Hate with Elie Wiesel.” 1991-11-27. Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 1, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-fe27b297b15>.
- APA: Facing Hate with Elie Wiesel. Boston, MA: Public Affairs Television & Doctoroff Media Group, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-fe27b297b15
- Supplemental Materials