Meredith Moment: Happy Birthday Elie Wiesel

Meredith College wishes happy birthday to Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who turns 83 on September 30, 2011. In Wiesel’s honor, we look back on Wiesel’s September 17, 2003 visit to Meredith College. Wiesel presented a public lecture attended by nearly 5,000 people. The article below Meredith Magazine’s Winter 2003 issue.

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel Offers Argument for Hope in the Face of Indifference

“There is hope at the end of the tunnel. There is hope even in the tunnel,” said Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel during his September 17, 2003, lecture at Meredith College.

Wiesel, author of the novel “Night,” Meredith’s 2003 Summer Reading Program selection, explored this philosophy in his lecture “Against Indifference: The Urgency of Hope,” before an audience of almost 5,000 in Meredith’s McIver Amphitheater. The lecture was sponsored by the Lillian Parker Wallace Lecture fund.

The Wiesel family was deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz when Elie Wiesel was 15 years old. His mother and younger sister perished there; his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died.

Wiesel said German soldiers often told concentration camp prisoners that no one cared about them or their fate. “Nothing is worse for the victim … than to think that nobody cares,” Wiesel said.

Wiesel discussed how Holocaust lessons are relevant today in issues such as human rights violations in Bosnia and Rwanda, terrorism and the war in Iraq. He argued for continued peace efforts in the Middle East.

His words and actions inspired hope for the future. He called for learning to live together peacefully.

“If I am free, it is not because others are not. I am free because others are free.”

Expressing concerns that the world may forget the Holocaust once the last survivor is gone, Wiesel said, “Forgetting would make us accomplices.”

After speaking about fighting indifference with hope, Wiesel ended his lecture by saying, “meeting you today gave me a fragment of hope, for which I am profoundly grateful.”

Attendees packed the seats in McIver Amphitheater for Wiesel’s lecture, and overflowed onto nearby hillsides. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Federation.

The Wallace Lecture honors Lillian Parker Wallace, who served as professor of history at Meredith from 1921 to 1962, and as chair of the history department from 1947 until her retirement. Exposing generations of students to prominent leaders was the fund’s intent from its inception.

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