| Elie Wiesel
The Perils of Indifference
delivered 12 April 1999, Washington, D.C.
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio.]
Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, members of Congress, Ambassador Holbrooke, Excellencies, friends:
Fifty-four years ago to the day, a young Jewish boy from a small town in the Carpathian Mountains woke up, not far from Goethe's beloved Weimar, in a place of eternal infamy called Buchenwald. He was finally free, but there was no joy in his heart. He thought there never would be again. Liberated a day earlier by American soldiers, he remembers their rage at what they saw. And even if he lives to be a very old man, he will always be grateful to them for that rage, and also for their compassion. Though he did not understand their language, their eyes told him what he needed to know -- that they, too, would remember, and bear witness.
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. "Gratitude" is a word that I cherish. Gratitude is what defines the humanity of the human being. And I am grateful to you, Hillary, or Mrs. Clinton, for what you said, and for what you are doing for children in the world, for the homeless, for the victims of injustice, the victims of destiny and society. And I thank all of you for being here.
We are on the threshold of a new century, a new millennium. What will the legacy of this vanishing century be? How will it be remembered in the new millennium? Surely it will be judged, and judged severely, in both moral and metaphysical terms. These failures have cast a dark shadow over humanity: two World Wars, countless civil wars, the senseless chain of assassinations (Gandhi, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Sadat, Rabin), bloodbaths in Cambodia and Algeria, India and Pakistan, Ireland and Rwanda, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Sarajevo and Kosovo; the inhumanity in the gulag and the tragedy of Hiroshima. And, on a different level, of course, Auschwitz and Treblinka. So much violence; so much indifference.
What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means "no difference." A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil. What are its courses and inescapable consequences? Is it a philosophy? Is there a philosophy of indifference conceivable? Can one possibly view indifference as a virtue? Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one's sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?
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.
Over there, behind the black gates of Auschwitz, the most tragic of all prisoners were the "Muselmanner," as they were called. Wrapped in their torn blankets, they would sit or lie on the ground, staring vacantly into space, unaware of who or where they were -- strangers to their surroundings. They no longer felt pain, hunger, thirst. They feared nothing. They felt nothing. They were dead and did not know it.
Rooted in our tradition, some of us felt that to be abandoned by humanity then was not the ultimate. We felt that to be abandoned by God was worse than to be punished by Him. Better an unjust God than an indifferent one. For us to be ignored by God was a harsher punishment than to be a victim of His anger. Man can live far from God -- not outside God. God is wherever we are. Even in suffering? Even in suffering.
In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony. One does something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it.
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.
Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment.
And this is one of the most important lessons of this outgoing century's wide-ranging experiments in good and evil.
In the place that I come from, society was composed of three simple categories: the killers, the victims, and the bystanders. During the darkest of times, inside the ghettoes and death camps -- and I'm glad that Mrs. Clinton mentioned that we are now commemorating that event, that period, that we are now in the Days of Remembrance -- but then, we felt abandoned, forgotten. All of us did.
And our only miserable consolation was that we believed that Auschwitz and Treblinka were closely guarded secrets; that the leaders of the free world did not know what was going on behind those black gates and barbed wire; that they had no knowledge of the war against the Jews that Hitler's armies and their accomplices waged as part of the war against the Allies. If they knew, we thought, surely those leaders would have moved heaven and earth to intervene. They would have spoken out with great outrage and conviction. They would have bombed the railways leading to Birkenau, just the railways, just once.
And now we knew, we learned, we discovered that the Pentagon knew, the State Department knew. And the illustrious occupant of the White House then, who was a great leader -- and I say it with some anguish and pain, because, today is exactly 54 years marking his death -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April the 12th, 1945. So he is very much present to me and to us. No doubt, he was a great leader. He mobilized the American people and the world, going into battle, bringing hundreds and thousands of valiant and brave soldiers in America to fight fascism, to fight dictatorship, to fight Hitler. And so many of the young people fell in battle. And, nevertheless, his image in Jewish history -- I must say it -- his image in Jewish history is flawed.
The depressing tale of the St. Louis is a case in point. Sixty years ago, its human cargo -- nearly 1,000 Jews -- was turned back to Nazi Germany. And that happened after the Kristallnacht, after the first state sponsored pogrom, with hundreds of Jewish shops destroyed, synagogues burned, thousands of people put in concentration camps. And that ship, which was already in the shores of the United States, was sent back. I don't understand. Roosevelt was a good man, with a heart. He understood those who needed help. Why didn't he allow these refugees to disembark? A thousand people -- in America, the great country, the greatest democracy, the most generous of all new nations in modern history. What happened? I don't understand. Why the indifference, on the highest level, to the suffering of the victims?
But then, there were human beings who were sensitive to our tragedy. Those non-Jews, those Christians, that we call the "Righteous Gentiles," whose selfless acts of heroism saved the honor of their faith. Why were they so few? Why was there a greater effort to save SS murderers after the war than to save their victims during the war? Why did some of America's largest corporations continue to do business with Hitler's Germany until 1942? It has been suggested, and it was documented, that the Wehrmacht could not have conducted its invasion of France without oil obtained from American sources. How is one to explain their indifference?
And yet, my friends, good things have also happened in this traumatic century: the defeat of Nazism, the collapse of communism, the rebirth of Israel on its ancestral soil, the demise of apartheid, Israel's peace treaty with Egypt, the peace accord in Ireland. And let us remember the meeting, filled with drama and emotion, between Rabin and Arafat that you, Mr. President, convened in this very place. I was here and I will never forget it.
And then, of course, the joint decision of the United States and NATO to intervene in Kosovo and save those victims, those refugees, those who were uprooted by a man, whom I believe that because of his crimes, should be charged with crimes against humanity.
But this time, the world was not silent. This time, we do respond. This time, we intervene.
Does it mean that we have learned from the past? Does it mean that society has changed? Has the human being become less indifferent and more human? Have we really learned from our experiences? Are we less insensitive to the plight of victims of ethnic cleansing and other forms of injustices in places near and far? Is today's justified intervention in Kosovo, led by you, Mr. President, a lasting warning that never again will the deportation, the terrorization of children and their parents, be allowed anywhere in the world? Will it discourage other dictators in other lands to do the same?
What about the children? Oh, we see them on television, we read about them in the papers, and we do so with a broken heart. Their fate is always the most tragic, inevitably. When adults wage war, children perish. We see their faces, their eyes. Do we hear their pleas? Do we feel their pain, their agony? Every minute one of them dies of disease, violence, famine.
Some of them -- so many of them -- could be saved.
And so, once again, I think of the young Jewish boy from the Carpathian Mountains. He has accompanied the old man I have become throughout these years of quest and struggle. And together we walk towards the new millennium, carried by profound fear and extraordinary hope.
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, gave this impassioned speech in the East Room of the White House on April 12, 1999, as part of the Millennium Lecture series, hosted by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the summer of 1944, as a teenager in Hungary, Elie Wiesel, along with his father, mother and sisters, were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz extermination camp in occupied Poland. Upon arrival there, Wiesel and his father were selected by SS Dr. Josef Mengele for slave labor and wound up at the nearby Buna rubber factory.
Daily life included starvation rations of soup and bread, brutal discipline, and a constant struggle against overwhelming despair. At one point, young Wiesel received 25 lashes of the whip for a minor infraction.
In January 1945, as the Russian Army drew near, Wiesel and his father were hurriedly evacuated from Auschwitz by a forced march to Gleiwitz and then via an open train car to Buchenwald in Germany, where his father, mother, and a younger sister eventually died.
Wiesel was liberated by American troops in April 1945. After the war, he moved to Paris and became a journalist then later settled in New York. Since 1976, he has been Andrew Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. He has received numerous awards and honors including the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was also the Founding Chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial. Wiesel has written over 40 books including Night, a harrowing chronicle of his Holocaust experience, first published in 1960.
At the White House lecture, Wiesel was introduced by Hillary Clinton who stated, "It was more than a year ago that I asked Elie if he would be willing to participate in these Millennium Lectures...I never could have imagined that when the time finally came for him to stand in this spot and to reflect on the past century and the future to come, that we would be seeing children in Kosovo crowded into trains, separated from families, separated from their homes, robbed of their childhoods, their memories, their humanity."
Elie Wiesel: the perils of indifference
November 8, 2011 by thevibeeditor Leave a comment
By Chris McCarthy
For the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbours are of no consequences. Their lives are meaningless. Their anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.
Elie Wiesel, Washington D.C., 12 April 1999
For many who survived Hitler’s death camps the harrowing memories were unutterable. Some lacked the capacity to rationalise the organised cruelty inflicted by their fellow man. Others struggled to construct a description that adequately captured the unfathomable horror. For some they neither wanted to understand nor tried to describe their experience; every fresh retelling only brought recycled suffering.
For ten years Elie Wiesel didn’t write about his time in the Nazi concentration camps. Born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania [now part of Romania], Wiesel grew up in a Jewish community. In 1944 the Nazis arrived to ‘cleanse’ Sighet and Wiesel’s family were swept up and trucked west. At Auschwitz he was separated from his mother and youngest sister, never to see them again. At Buchenwald he watched his father succumb to malnutrition, dysentery and guard brutality.
In the mid-1950s, just before moving to New York City after a spell as a teacher in Paris, Wiesel wrote about his experience in the camps for the first time in the book Night. He subsequently wrote numerous plays, novels, essays, and short stories and his corpus of work now forms an important part of Holocaust literature. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 in recognition of his message to mankind of “peace, atonement and human dignity”.
In April 1999 Wiesel was invited to speak to President Clinton and assembled guests at the White House. Reflecting on the litany of failures of the “vanishing century” he gave a powerful, poetic and stirring oration about the dangers of indifference towards the suffering of others. Interspersed with his experiences during the Holocaust, the speech is invested with moral authority and emotional appeal.
He opened the address by recalling his state of mind the day after being liberated from Buchenwald, capturing beautifully his sense of numbness. It is told using a detached, third person perspective that gives it a story-like quality:
He was finally free, but there was no joy in his heart. He thought there never would be again. Liberated a day earlier by American soldiers, he remembers their rage at what they say. And even if he lives to be a very old man, he will always be grateful to them for that rage, and also for their compassion.
The bulk of his speech is given to exploring the state of indifference and its chilling consequences. It’s more thana tempting condition, Wiesel proposes, allowing us to live normally and enjoy a fine meal as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals. It’s also a seductive proposition because it’s awkward to be involved in another person’s pain and despair. In a deeply personal reflection, Wiesel recalls how it felt to be the subject of that apathy, and why it was the indifference of God that was the most difficult to reconcile:
We felt that to be abandoned by God was worse than to be punished by Him. Better an unjust God than an indifferent one. For us to be ignored by God was a harsher punishment than to be a victim of his anger.
At least anger, Wiesel said, can be a creative force or motivate people to fight injustice. Indifference elicits no response and therefore it is always the “friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor.” As Wiesel spoke, with memorable phrasing and eloquence, of the plight of the political prisoner in his cell and the hungry children, you are stirred by hiskinshipwith all oppressed and disadvantaged people:
Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction…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.
Wiesel was accustomed to speaking truth to power. In 1985 he publicly confronted Ronald Reagan at the White House over the President’s planned visit to a cemetery in West Germany where members of the SS were buried. In his 1999 speech he rebuked the late President Roosevelt for his decision to turn back a ship of 1,000 Jews to Nazi Germany after Krisatllnacht. It was a direct challenge to the American leadership present to uphold their responsibilities as the world’s sole superpower:
Roosevelt was a good man, with a heart. He understood those people needed help. Why didn’t he allow these refugees to disembark? A thousand people – in America, the great country, the greatest democracy, the most generous of all new nations in modern history. What happened? I don’t understand. Why the indifference, on the highest level, to the suffering of victims?
And yet, Wiesel continued, good things had also happened in this traumatic century: the defeat of Nazism, the collapse of Communism, the demise of apartheid, the intervention in Kosovo, and peace in Ireland. In the scholarly manner he had developed over decades of teaching, he posed a list of rhetorical questions that sprung from the juxtaposition of the century’s horrors against its successes: “Has the human being become less indifferent and more human? Have we really learned from our experiences? Are we less insensitive to the plight of victims of ethnic cleansing and other forms of injustice in places near and far?”
He doesn’t answer his questions. Instead, and with touching imagery, he concludes by coming full circle and reminding us of the “young Jewish boy from the Carpathian Mountains”.
He has accompanied the old man I have become throughout these years of quest and struggle. And together we walk towards the new millennium, carried by profound fear and extraordinary hope.
A remarkable speech, uncomfortable in places, Wiesel uses the moral authority of his own experiences under the Nazis to challenge indifference towards genocide and global injustices. It is a testament to Wiesel’s humanism, his power of expression, and a damning indictment of an international community that said “never again” after the Holocaust.
Short summary of the speech:
The main point of Wiesel’s speech, given in the White House on the 54th anniversary of the end of the second World War, is to denounce indifference and to praise those who stood up for the victims of the Holocaust. He makes a point to praise President and Mrs. Clinton for the actions they have taken to fight injustice, and then he begins by defining indifference, especially in regard to human indifference toward the suffering of a neighbor: Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbors are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. He continues by describing the role indifference played during the Holocaust and by calling out those who personified this condemning trait. Despite this negativity, he also highlights some positive occurrences, such as the defeat of Nazism and the collapse of communism. He asks if the world has grown up since then to become less indifferent to its sufferings. While he does not answer this and other difficult questions, he finishes the speech with a tone of progression: And together we walk towards the new millennium, carried by profound fear and extraordinary hope.
Move 1: Suspend Judgment
Wiesel declares his opinions strongly in this speech, but while he obviously disapproves of the bloodshed that occurred in the twentieth century, he hopes future generations will judge for themselves just as strongly: How will it be remembered in the new millennium? Surely it will be judged, and judged severely, in both moral and metaphysical terms. I think it is completely understandable that he would believe this way because he was a victim of the Holocaust. He offers all the praise he can to those who made an effort to save the victims. For example, in the opening paragraph, he thanks the American soldiers for the rage they felt at what they saw and for their compassion.
Move 2: Define significant parts and how they are related
Wiesel describes indifference in depth and relates it to the enemy by its non-responsive nature. Not only does it serve as a sin for those who commit it, but, because it naturally helps the enemy, it also serves as a punishment for the victim. Furthermore, Wiesel discusses some beneficial events and relates those to an active response, possibly showing that we can learn from our experiences.
Move 3: Make the implicit explicit
Underlying this whole speech is Wiesel’s belief that something more could have and should have been done to finish the war. He says, “Our only miserable consolation was that we believed that Aushwitz and Treblinka were closely guarded secrets… And now we knew, we learned, we discovered that the Pentagon knew, the State Department knew.” Also, although it is the 54th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death, Wiesel must share his disappointment in FDR’s lack of action. He explicitly states, “No doubt, he was a great leader,” but his disappointment shows when he says, “…with some anguish and pain,…his image in Jewish history is flawed.”
Move 4: Look for patterns
Patterns of repetition: Wiesel begins his with a reference to himself as a young boy on the day after American soldiers liberated his concentration camp. He changes back to the first person for the middle of his speech, but at the end, he changes again to refer to that young boy, whom he says has accompanied him throughout his life. This is to show that what happened to him during the war has forever affected him and that he can never forget both the atrocities and the redemption.
Patterns of binary opposition: When Wiesel starts to define indifference, he uses binary oppositions to support his definition: "A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil.” Indifference, then, is a state of lifelessness and inaction. Binary opposition is also used in the last sentence of the speech, when Wiesel describes his lifelong companion as that boy from the Carpathian Mountains who has brought both “profound fear and extraordinary hope.” Although he has witnessed some of the worst humanity can offer, he still hopes for a better future for humankind.
Move 5: Keep reformulating questions and explanations
Does the twenty-first century automatically signify a growth in compassion for fellow humans?
Are our interventions in other countries and their atrocities of pure motives?
Have we finally come to a point to realize that wars and violence end the lives of innocent children?
When will the world raise its voice in response to all of the injustices?
“The Perils of Indifference “by Elie Wiesel
Holocaust is a word that is associated with death and inhuman treatment. Holocaust is a word that suggests death and indifference. In April 1945, after struggling with starvation and brutal punishment in Buchenwald, Elie Wiesel was liberated from a concentration camp. In April 1999, Wiesel was invited by Hillary Clinton to participate in the Millennium Lectures; his famous speech “The Perils of Indifference” is a call to action in order to defend the human life. Elie Wiesel as a survivor from the Holocaust appeals to the human conscience, by relating his experience. In his effective speech, the author emphasizes the word “indifference” in order to establish a closer connection between the past and the present. He captures his audience with facts, but in his emotional speech the category pathos can be easily recognized.
First of all, in the context of his speech Wiesel targets his audience effectively; it is authorities and governors like the President Clinton and Hillary Clinton in the White House. They are challenged and compromised to fight in order to stop the atrocities against innocent people without faith. Authorities are called to work toward the human rights. The author is grateful for his rescue from the concentration camp. He uses words like “profound and abiding gratitude” to emphasize the value of being saved by militaries. Wiesel reports facts to his audience and he adds the word “indifference”, which is constantly repeated in his speech. Again, the author exacerbates his speech by exerting words with strong meaning like compassion, judge, and moral. For example: “We are the threshold of a new century, a new millennium. What will the legacy of this vanishing century be? How will it be remember in the new millennium? Surely it will be judged, and judged severely in both moral and metaphysical terms.”(Wiesel). The author shapes his message with words that empower the capacity to drive the audience in the hold picture. In addition, the purpose of Wiesel’s speech is to say to the world his own story in order to prevent death and indifference, so it does not happen again. It is a call to action to defend life and human rights.
Equally important, the author’s word choice is completely objective. By questioning the audience and himself, the author develops a technique that successfully affects people’s thoughts. For example: “What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means ‘no difference’ A strange an unnatural state in which lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn , crime and punishment , cruelty and compassion, good and evil.”(Wiesel). There is a comparison and parallelism in his statement between simple things that people know well. Then, the audience is easily approached.
Therefore, in the category logos Wiesel summarizes facts chronologically. He mentions WWII, and he pictures his speech with well-known names like Gandhi, The Kennedys, Martin Luther King, and others. He points out their unfair assassinations. In addition the author remarks the bloodbaths in Cambodia, Nigeria, Sarajevo, Kosovo, and Hiroshima. But the main description is the starvation and punishment that he faced.
At this point, racism, indifference, and suffering are the facts that that Wiesel explains. By questioning Roosevelt’s attitude and questioning his reason of “Why didn’t he allow refugees to disembark”, the author appeals to the category ethos by looking for the right thing to do when human life is compromised.
Simultaneously, the category pathos is easily recognized in Wiesel’s speech because “The Perils of Indifference” close an impassioned message. It allows the audience to visualize a young Wiesel being part of the dark story with suffering, pain, brutal punishment and starvation. Wiesel describes himself as a Jewish boy “without joy in his heart” even when he was free even though he felt the compassion from the American soldiers. The author described how his religious beliefs were affect by saying “We felt that to be abandoned by God was worse than to be punishment by Him.” But his solid point of view and morals closes his speech with the tough and unforgettable statement: “Man can live far from God – not outside God. God is wherever we are. Even in suffering? Even in suffering.” The meaning of this statement restated the author’s values and strong religious beliefs. Wiesel remembers with details the hopeless and desolation that people couldn’t resist while the holocaust changed millions of people lives. Then the category pathos and ethos are in conjunction; it makes the speech double effective.
Consequently, Elie Wiesel restates his personal story and the Holocaust in his speech. The author points out the effects of the WWII, the indifference and punishment, and the change of millions of people’s lives because of the Holocaust. The categories pathos, logos and ethos are completed related in his speech. The author places his audience in the past by relating the story, but his imminent call is to fight in the present, so we don’t allow these atrocities to happen again is the principal subject of Wiesel’s speech. By the end of his speech Wiesel persuades his audience to reach the goal of protecting human life and human rights. His great speech concludes with hope in the future.
Elie Wiesel's "The Perils of Indifference" Analysis
At the end of World War II, a young boy was finally free from the cruelties of Nazi Germany after being liberated by the American resistance military. He had faced the worst of inhumanity at Auschwitz, the ghettos, and Buchenwald. There, he turned his head and became a stranger to his father in the last moments of his life--a time he would never forget. He was later liberated at Buchenwald when the American resistance military took over the camp. Later in his life, he would learn about the strangers to his own struggle--the members of society that turned their heads to the inhumanity that took place during World War II. In the spring of 1999 author of Night and Noble Peace Prize Winner, Elie Wiesel, gave his speech, The Perils of Indifference, as part of the Millennium Lecture Series hosted by white house leaders. In Wiesel’s speech, he defined the nature of indifference in regards to tragic events that happened in the past century including his struggle as a young boy caught in the middle of World War II. Wiesel presented his speech carefully by speaking with the appropriate pauses and tone so that his audience felt the message he was trying to convey.
Throughout the speech, it is easy for the audience to understand Wiesel’s struggle. By speaking with a wide range of tones such as anger, hope, and apathy, the audience can understand Wiesel’s feelings towards the things lost in the twenty-first century and the future of humanity. When reflecting on his liberation, he speaks with hope and says, “he was finally free,” but he also speaks with apathy when saying that, “there was no joy in his heart.” In the one instance, when Wiesel states “the Pentagon knew, the state department knew” of his struggles, he does an excellent job of revisiting the past with anger. This makes it seem as though he was just finding out for the first time that he could have been saved earlier when he says, “now we know, we learned, we discovered.” In this instance, Wiesel allows the audience to revisit the past with him so that they too can feel the anger he has towards the indifference of the world. The audience can better understand the speaker’s attitude toward the twenty-first century through Wiesel’s repetition of contrasting tones when he concludes his speech saying with a mixture of hope, apathy, and anger that, “together we walk towards the new millennium, carried by profound fear and extraordinary hope.”
In addition to contrasting tones, Wiesel also uses a plentiful amount of pauses in order to emphasize words and phrases that he wants the audience to reflect on. When first presenting the audience with the word “indifference”, he speaks loudly and pauses after the phrase “no difference.” This can be heard in Figure 1 above. This pause allows the audience to reflect on Wiesel’s definition of indifference, which prepares them for the rest of his speech. Another word Wiesel does an excellent job at encouraging the audience to think about is the word “gratitude”. After the third time he repeats this word he pauses. This allows the audience to better understand Wiesel’s appreciation towards the gratitude others display. Another time the audience can better understand Wiesel’s feelings toward indifference is when he says, “In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman.” Two words Wiesel emphasizes in this stance through dramatic pause are “indifference” and, “inhuman.” Through these pauses, the audience can make the connection that to be indifferent is to be inhuman, which is Wiesel’s overall message.
From a young boy trapped in a concentration, to an old man witnessing consistent acts of indifference, Elie Wiesel invites his audience to feel the message he has toward the future of humanity in his speech, The Perils of Indifference. Through the use of contrasting tones and dramatic pause, Wiesel brings clarity to his overall message, which is to be indifferent is to be inhuman.
A Rhetorical Analysis of Elie Wiesel's "The Perils of Indifference"
By NOELLE C VISCONTI
-At the end of a century, and the start of a new millennium, our world has witnessed both atrocities and amazing displays of human compassion.
-One of the greatest displays of violence and compassion is in World War II.
-The Nazi regime concentration camps, with gas chambers and incinerators, tried to decimate an entire religious group and promote anti-Semitism.
-However, the courageous displays of soldiers through Europe and The United States showed there was still hope for a better future.
-Elie Wiesel, the author of Night, describes both the violence and courage in speech, but also describes the indifference of the bystander, which is far worse than even hate or anger.
Thesis: In "The Perils of Indifference," Elie Wiesel successfully orates to the kairos of the approaching new millennium while using ethos in order to maintain the audience's attention to create a powerful nd moving discourse.
Main Idea #1: Referring to the kairos of the forthcoming millennium and the end of the 20st century, Elie Weisel uses this idea in order to show the importance of a new start to never again create the turbulence of the past.
-Refers to the "threshold of a new century, a new millennium" at the beginning and at the end he says that "we walk towards the new millennium."
-Uses alliteration to describe the urgency of changing indifference throughout his speech.
-Starts the essay explaining the violence and chaos of the past century, from the assassinations, civil wars, and "dark shadows [cast] over humanity."
-Then he slowly delves into the compassion and kindness of humanity, from the Christians during the Holocaust, "the collapse of communism," and the "demise of apartheid."
-Questions if the past has truly helped us to bring about a better future for ourselves and the future generations
-Uses the children as a way to appeal to pathos-how "so many of them could be saved." (This transitions to Main Idea #2.)
Main Idea #2: Uses his knowledge and experience of the past to express the importance of stopping indifference.
-He survived Buchenwald.
-Has seen and experienced unfathomable atrocities in this world; we could learn so much about how to stop these acts of violence in the future.
-Has met many political leaders, such as Hilary Clinton, and been to various meetings of political leaders.
-Understands the "Seductive[ness]" of indifference and how a person would not want to take a stand
-With his experience and the impending future, Elie Wiesel expresses the necessity of stopping indifference to give future generations renewed hope and promise