An evening with Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel, acclaimed writer, professor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, delivered an impassioned address for the Concordia Student Union (CSU) Lecture Series on October 19, 2010. The Hall Building Alumni Auditorium (room H110) was nearly filled to capacity for the lecture.
History Professor Frank Chalk, director of the Montreal Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies at Concordia, introduced Wiesel. As a Jew born in Europe 1928, Wiesel survived the Auschwitz and Buchenwald death camps.
He went on to write more than 50 books of fiction and non-fiction and become a university scholar and human rights advocate. Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
His talk was called, “An Evening with Elie Wiesel,” where he spoke of the importance of keeping alive memories about the Holocaust and other atrocities.
“I try to celebrate memory. For the living and the dead, we must remember. Forgetting will be a crime as horrible as the event itself. If we forget those events [the atrocities], we make others possible,” Wiesel said.
He also railed against apathy: “Indifference enables evil. To be indifferent to others is to be indifferent to oneself.”
In hard times, he questioned, is there reason to hope? Wiesel recounted the Greek mythological story of Pandora’s Box, which, when opened, unleashed all the curses of the world—but at the bottom of the box was hope. “Does that mean we must go through all the curses before we find hope, or is hope itself a curse?” Wiesel asked.
He concluded that we must continue to hope. Nonetheless, he added, “We can’t live with false hope. And I can’t live in a world where my hope is someone else’s despair.”
Wiesel ended on a positive note: “Even in the midst of darkness, it is possible to create light and share it. In the final analysis, I believe in man in spite of himself.”
The CSU Speaker Series was launched in 2004 and has featured a number of impressive lecturers, including Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, American filmmaker Spike Lee and Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient Shirin Ebadi.
Later that evening, Concordia’s Advancement and Alumni Relations Office welcomed Elie Wiesel and about 80 guests at a cocktail reception at Montreal hotel Sofitel. Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Judith Woodsworth spoke and praised the CSU for their efforts in enriching the student experience.
“We are grateful to our students, who are committed to improving and changing the world, for hosting this distinguished lecture series,” Woodsworth said. She added that it was a tremendous honour to welcome such an eminent figure as Wiesel, who has spent his life building awareness of crimes against humanity and human rights.
“Elie Wiesel has given a voice to the voiceless,” she said.
Wiesel gave a brief address to guests. He reiterated the importance and responsibility of remembering, through writing, those who did not survive atrocities such as the Holocaust. “To write means to give testimony,” he said.
The reception was sponsored by Sofitel owner David Azrieli. His daughter, Naomi Azrieli, chair and executive director of the Azrieli Foundation, thanked Wiesel and Concordia.
“It’s a pleasure for us to be here with Concordia because we have a long association with the university,” Azrieli said, pointing out that her family endowed one of Concordia’s first scholarships, the David J. Azrieli Graduate Fellowship, in 1979.
• Concordia Alumni Relations
• Concordia Student Union
• Azrieli Foundation