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Elie Wiesel-"The Perils of Indifference"-Why does he think indifference on the part of...

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honey09 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 22, 2009 at 11:18 AM via web

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Elie Wiesel-"The Perils of Indifference"-Why does he think indifference on the part of America endangers the entire world?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 22, 2009 at 8:41 PM (Answer #1)

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Wiesel draws upon his own experience as a survivor at Buchenwald, one of the Nazi death camps, to prove the argument that American indifference endangers the entire world.  He makes the valid assertion that it was the action of American troops that stopped Hitler, ended the Holocaust, and freed the survivors, like Wiesel himself:  "And now, I stand before you, Mr. President- Commander in Chief of the army that freed me, and tens of thousands of others- and I am filled with a profound and abiding gratitude to the American People."  In the speech, Wiesel asserts his belief that indifference ("not caring") would have not freed him from the hell of the Holocaust, and serve to aid the aggressor:

Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response.

Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor -- never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees -- not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.

Notice again, the argument being articulated here.  It is not merely the absence of action which is wrong.  It is the fact that absence of action is a silent nod to the aggressor, it is complicity.  The irony of the situation is not lost on a survivor like Wiesel:  America, as well as other nations in the Europe, knew very well what Hitler was proposing, why these nations' indifference to Weimar Germany's struggles enabled Hitler's rise to power, and that the Nazis represented a force of doom to millions of Jewish people and millions others.  It was indifference that caused the Holocaust.

Wiesel concludes by demanding the America exercise the same moral authority it did during the Holocaust, in the situations such as Kosovo or Rwanda.  Indifference or isolationism is not an appropriate response to evil, and Wiesel's argument is that American indifference assists the aggressors or perpetrators of such evil, endangering the entire world.

 


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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted July 23, 2009 at 2:06 AM (Answer #2)

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I agree with akannan's post to your question. I want to add that the kind of indefference that is being discussed by Elie Wiesel is the kind of head turning that the German people did during the early days of Hitler's rise to power and the beginning of the Third Reich. The good German people did nothing to stop Hitler's round-up of German Jewish people into Ghettos or terrorizing the German people in the streets. No one had the stamina or intestinal fortitude to say, "This is wrong."  People were afraid.

A quote is attributed to Edmund Burke, "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing." which I think examplifies the type of "head turning" and silent nod that many have given to genocides in the world around us. We have our own problems, and perhaps, the world's problems are too much for America to handle.  It is a type of rationalization that we use to justify our inaction. However, it does allow the evil to flourish by simply doing nothing.

Of course, indifference can be tempting -- more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person's pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.  (http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/wiesel.htm)

I think that in many ways, the expectation is that the persons being victimized will rise up and overthrow the agressor, but in so many liberty/revolution situations, the oppressed need help to overthrow the oppressor. America is seen as the great liberator or the policeman of the world. Our values are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness...and we willingly share those values with any who request our aid.

 

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