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When Wiesel accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he said that “indifference" is the...

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sokalex | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:47 AM via web

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When Wiesel accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he said that “indifference" is the greatest source of evil and danger in the world.” He also suggested that if humanity ever forgets the Holocaust, “we are guilty, we are accomplices.” What do you think Wiesel meant?

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

Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:50 AM (Answer #1)

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The original question had to be edited.  I invite you to resubmit the second question in another question.  Wiesel's Nobel Peace Prize speech stresses the need to overcome indifference.  For Wiesel, something brought out in another speech entitled "The Perils of Indifference," Wiesel clearly suggests that the Holocaust did not happen as much because of monstrous human beings, as much as it did out of human insensitivity.  Wiesel believes that individuals who arise from the ashes of destruction and dehumanization have an obligation " to fight those who would forget."  In Wiesel's speech, he makes clear that the emotional implications of forgetting and erasure from memory are profound.

Wiesel makes the case that if individuals do not voice an opinion about that which they know to be wrong, they actually help those perpetrating the worst of human actions.  Consider his words to this point in the speech:

And that is why I swore never to be silence whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes, we must interfere.

It is in this point where I think that Wiesel makes the case that if we wish to avoid another situation such as the Holocaust, we must be able to do so by taking action.  Wiesel is convinced that the true horror of the Holocaust resided in the individuals who knew, but did not help.  These individuals understood what was happening, but blanketed their actions by "following orders" or simply evading their own moral and ethical responsibilities.  In speaking to those individuals who did horrible things and who escaped from their responsibility, Wiesel operates as living memory.  It is for this reason that Wiesel concludes his speech with the idea that "Our lives no longer belong to us alone they belong to all those who need us desperately."  In remembering and understanding, in allowing the silence to be heard, Wiesel is clearly suggesting that taking action is accepting moral responsibility and not escaping from it.

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