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Posts Tagged ‘Elie Wiesel’

Elie Wiesel’s Childhood Romanian Home is Now New Holocaust Center

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The first public Holocaust education center in Romania opened Sunday in the pre-war childhood home of Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel, with special events in his hometown of Sighet.

The “Holocaust Cellar” became a new feature of the existing Holocaust museum, in the old Jewish Ghetto of Sighet in Maramures County. The Cellar will serve as a learning center dedicated to the 13,000 local Jewish Holocaust victims.

The opening was sponsored jointly by the Government of Romania, the City of Sighet, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Romanian Jewish Federation, the Caritatea Foundation and Limmud FSU. This is the first in a series of events that will mark 70 years since the expulsion of the last Jews of Northern Transylvania to Auschwitz. Among the events in Sighet this past weekend was a concert memorializing Holocaust victims on Saturday night, after Shabbat.

Speaking by live video stream to event guests, Prof. Wiesel said,

To all of you at the opening of the new Holocaust Cellar in my home in my little town of Sighet in the Carpathian Mountains: I so wish that I could be there with you today. The house I was raised in is now a museum but to me it will always be uniquely special, eliciting the warmest of memories until the darkness of the kingdom of night befell us.  I hope that your meetings, though melancholy in nature, are fruitful, enriching and full of meaningful learning.

Dining area in Elie Wiesel's childhood home in Sighet, Romania, now part of a Holocaust Education Center.

Dining area in Elie Wiesel’s childhood home in Sighet, Romania, now part of a Holocaust Education Center.

In 1944, two days after Passover, the Jews of Maramures County, in Northern Transylvania, were rounded up and forced into 13 ghettos. Eventually, 131,639 Jews from Northern Transylvania were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau; most were exterminated. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were murdered or otherwise died during the Holocaust in Romania- a Nazi ally- and the territories under its control. An additional 135,000 Romanian Jews, living under Hungarian control in Northern Transylvania, also perished in the Holocaust, as did some 5,000 Romanian Jews in other countries.

“The story of the Jews who lived in North Transylvania has not been widely told until now,” said Chaim Chesler, Chairman of the Claims Conference’s Memorial Committee. “The education center commemorates the terrible fate that befell the Jews of this area, and ensures their story will not be forgotten.”

Chief Cantor of Bucharest Jewish Community Yosef Adler, Chief Rabbi of Romania Rafael Sheffer, Ben Helfgott, Chaim Chesler, Herman Cahn- childhood friend of Elie Wiesel, Ovidiu Nemes, and Elisabeta Ungurianu.

Chief Cantor of Bucharest Jewish Community Yosef Adler, Chief Rabbi of Romania Rafael Sheffer, Ben Helfgott, Chaim Chesler, Herman Cahn- childhood friend of Elie Wiesel, Ovidiu Nemes, and Elisabeta Ungurianu.

Among participants at the event were Viktor Opaschi, the Romanian Minister of Religious Affairs; Irina Cajal, Deputy Minister of Education; Ben Helfgott, Vice President of the Claims Conference and leader in the UK Holocaust survivor community; Romanian parliament members; Rafael Sheffer, Chief Rabbi of Romania; Cantor Yosef Adler; Ovidiu Nemesh, the Mayor of Sighet; Harry Marcus, head of the Sighet Jewish community, as well as other leaders of the Romanian Jewish Federation; prominent journalists from Israel, the United States and Romania; and members of Limmud FSU.

President Peres Honors Elie Wiesel in New York

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Elie Wiesel received the President’s Medal of Distinction from Israeli President Shimon Peres in a ceremony in New York Monday night.

Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz and author of more than 40 books, was awarded Israel’s highest civilian medal for “his unique contribution to the memorial of the Holocaust and in light of his uncompromising drive for peace and tolerance.”

“The Holocaust taught us that killing isn’t done just with guns and weapons, but also with apathy, and you Elie, are saving the world from that apathy,” Peres said. “You are waving the flag of humanity, preventing bloodshed and challenging racism and anti-Semitism, as well as preventing war. You personally went through the most atrocious horrors of humanity, and as a Holocaust survivor you chose to dedicate your life to deliver the message – never again.”

Wiesel responded, “Israel is in the center of my life, and even though I don’t live in Israel, Israel lives within me. I now see myself as an honorary Israeli. Life is composed of moments, not only years, and this moment is worth an entire life.”

Previous winners of the award include President Obama, former President Clinton, former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, Zubin Mehta the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rashi Foundation and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

Ukrainian Jewish Leaders: Romania Unfit to Lead Holocaust Body

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Ukrainian Jewish leaders said Romania was unfit to head a Holocaust remembrance forum because it has not done enough to come to grips with its own Holocaust-era culpability.

Approximately 380,000 Jews were murdered in Romania-controlled areas during the Holocaust, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

“Romania’s actions prove it is not ready to assume responsibility for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust, when Romanian troops acted as an occupying force in large parts of Ukraine under orders from the country’s pro-Nazi leadership,” Oleksandr Feldman, a Ukrainian lawmaker and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told JTA.

Feldman was reacting to reports that Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean was interested in having Romania head the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, in 2016. Canada currently heads the alliance.

Ukrainian Jewish Committee Secretary Eduard Dolinsky said that Romania’s embassy in Ukraine has rejected invitations by his organization to discuss ways to jointly commemorate the murder of Jews by Romanian troops.

The Romanian bid is supported in principle by Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs and personal representative on combating anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — an intergovernmental agency with 57 member states known by the acronym OSCE.

“There may be additional issues to tackle but Romania has taken some important steps toward coming to grips with its Holocaust-era record,” Baker said. He noted the 2005 establishment of the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania and the 2004 designation of a national Holocaust remembrance day on Oct. 9 — the day that Romanian authorities began deporting Jews to their deaths 72 years ago.

Elie Wiesel and Kagame of Rwanda Discuss Genocide & Syria

Monday, September 30th, 2013

There were several important news making items that emerged from our historic discussion on genocide that our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, together with NYU Hillel, staged on Sunday night, 29 September, at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City – the venue that brought Abraham Lincoln to national prominence in 1860 – before 1000 people. The event – introduced by philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt and which I moderated – was historic because it brought together the two biggest names in global genocide remembrance: Prof. Elie Wiesel, the living embodiment of the martyred six million of the holocaust, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the only man alive who can claim to have stopped a genocide when his RPF forces conquered Rwanda in 1994 and ended the slaughter that had taken the lives of nearly one million Tutsis.

As to the discussion of whether President Franklin Roosevelt did enough to stop the murder of Europe’s Jews, Elie Wiesel came down firmly on the side of those who say he failed at this great moral responsibility. He deserves credit for defeating Hitler, Wiesel said, but as a someone who confronted a genocide and did not limit it, he deserves to be severely criticized.

I then turned the question to Kagame, adjusted to the Rwandan genocide. Did he harbor anger toward the United States, a moral and righteous superpower who blew it completely in Rwanda, doing next to nothing to stop the genocide and, arguably, even obstructing the efforts of other nations to assist. No, the President said. We’re way past that. It’s not about anger but our conclusion that we alone can protect ourselves and can never rely on a fickle world for our defense. Rwandans can rely on Rwandans for their defense.

I pointed out to the president that Israel came to the same conclusion about its defense in general, and is now pondering whether it will apply that principle by striking Iran alone, now that President Obama has decided to engage the Iranian president even as he continues to enrich Uranium and fund Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.

I asked Elie Wiesel about Syria. Given the Bible’s commandment ‘not to stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,’ did the United States have a moral obligation to punish Assad for gassing children, even if he surrenders his chemical arsenal? Wiesel was unequivocal. Both the American political, and Jewish communal leadership had failed on Syria. Chemical gas was a trigger point for genocide and mass murder. The fact that Assad had paid no price for gassing children was a tremendous moral failure that had to be corrected, and the Jewish community should have been at the forefront of saying so.

President Kagame echoed that sentiment. Those who use either chemical, or even conventional weapons to slaughter innocent people must be held accountable or nothing will check further aggression and murder. Here were the world’s two leading voices on genocide were being jointly critical of the American government’s decision to commute the military attack on Assad to simply destroying his arsenal. Even if he did so he still had to pay a personal price for mass murder.

My close friend Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had already announced, at a press conference we convened in October of last year, that Rwanda would be opening an embassy in Israel. I turned to the President and said to him that countries like Rwanda can understand Israel’s security situation in ways that few others could. The similarities between the two countries is striking. They are of similar size. They have terrorist enemies on their borders. Israel has Iran-funded Hezbollah and Hamas and Rwanda the FDLR in Eastern Congo. Both are regularly criticized unfairly by the UN. Both have had frictions with France which has at times assumed a curiously negative posture toward both countries. And, of course, both have experienced genocides of staggering proportions.

In light of the unique relationship between the two countries, I asked the President would it not be proper for Rwanda to open its embassy not in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem, becoming one of the first nations to affirm the holy city as Israel’s eternal and undivided capitol? The President was surprised by the question but answered graciously. Rwanda and Israel indeed share similar histories and security challenges. He was very happy that they were increasing their bilateral relations with Rwanda opening an embassy in Israel. It was an important step in an evolving relationship and opening an Embassy in Jerusalem would be too great a leap for now. He and I both smiled at his response, with the President knowing I had put him on the spot and with me knowing that he had artfully dodged my question.

I turned to Professor Wiesel and told him that the full page ads he took out in America’s major publications in March, 2010, mildly rebuking President Obama, with whom he is close, for his pressure on Israel to cease building in parts of Jerusalem were widely credited with reversing the Administration’s policy. Would he be consider taking out similar ads questioning the President’s decision to open diplomatic relations at the highest level of the Iranian leadership without first demanding that Iran cease funding Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, or enriching Uranium? Wiesel said that Iran’s holocaust denial was dangerous and delusional, and that opening diplomatic relations with the Iranians before they had formally renounced their genocidal aspirations against the Jewish state was unacceptable. He would consider the ads.

At last, I asked Professor Wiesel about a subject he and I had discussed many times. Why was it inappropriate to hate those who have committed genocide? Should we not despise the SS who murdered his family, or Hutu genocidaires who hacked children to death with machetes? Wiesel was adamant. Once you start hating, the emotion is internalized and you cannot control its spread and growth. It’s not long before it is directed even at those whom it is inappropriate to hate.

I have been close to Wiesel for 25 years. He is my hero and teacher. But on this one point, I remain unsure, and continue to despise those monsters who would murder a child because of his nationality, religion, or race. Never again must mean just that, Never again.

Kagame, Weisel, Adelson, Steinhardt and Boteach in Panel on Genocide

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

In the wake of the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria, the fear of genocide has once again been cast on a world stage. This World: The Jewish Values Network will present an historic panel, “Genocide: Do the Strong Have a Responsibility to Protect the Weak?” on Sunday, Sept. 29th  at the Great Hall at Cooper Union. The panel will discuss the upcoming 20th Anniversary of Rwandan Genocide and the international focus on preventing genocide in Syria and other nations.

Panelists include: President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, widely credited for putting an end to the genocide in his own country; Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who through his writing and lecturing is the world’s leading authority on the Holocaust and world genocide; Philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, the world leader in funding holocaust memory, and Michael Steinhardt, co-founder of Birthright Israel, the world’s most successful Jewish educational project. The discussion will be moderated by “America’s Rabbi,” Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Jewish Values Network. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, University Chaplain of New York University and Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at the school, will provide opening remarks.

The event will be held at The Great Hall at Cooper Union, The Foundation Building, 7 East 7th Street, New York. Program begins at 6:30 p.m..

“This panel discussion brings together two of the most famous names in the world related to genocide in the 20th century—President Kagame, who stopped the world’s fastest ever genocide, and Elie Weisel, the living embodiment of the memory of the six million martyrs of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Boteach. “I travelled to Rwanda twice, just recently again with my family, and shared with President Kagame my strong belief in his joining Prof. Wiesel in a public forum to motivate the world’s nations to prevent genocide. It is our hope that the world can learn from both these men in order to prevent the future mass slaughter of innocents..”

Rabbi Sarna highlighted the moral implications this discussion promises to highlight for the emerging adults and students.

“This event presents a rare opportunity to bring together people who not only have been witness to moral failing, but who have played important roles in bringing healing. University students in particular are hungry for bold voices which address 21st century realities,” Rabbi Sarna said.

This World: The Values Network seeks to bring universal Jewish values to the mainstream culture via the mass media. This World was founded by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Boteach is the international bestselling author of 29 books, including “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” In November he will publish “Kosher Lust” based on the Bibilcal book of “Song of Solomon.” The Washington Post and Newsweek call him “the most famous rabbi in America.” The Jerusalem Post counts him as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.

‘Judeophobia’ Asks: Why Do They Hate Jews?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

For those tired of hearing that Jews are in danger and that Israel-hatred is only the latest form of Jew-hatred, this movie, Unmasked Judeophobia: the Threat to Civilization is for you.  That’s right, those really are the people who need to see this movie, but they need to see it only if they are willing to cleanse their minds of the countless layers of sediment that the New York Times, Haaretz, television network news, and Hollywood party chatter has built up over their eyes and stuffed into their ears.  Because for those crumbling pillars of western civilization, truth is false, big is little, careful is belligerent and right (and the right) is always wrong.



But everyone else should see it too.  There are three reasons why.

First, the film carefully and concisely packs into 81 minutes the birth, metamorphosis and metastasization of Jew-hatred.  It shows how the early anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church was fueled forward by the angry sense of betrayal of Martin Luther and the other Protestants, which was then transmogrified into racial hatred by the Nazis, which in turn was embraced and transformed into the hatred of the Jewish nation-state, or anti-Zionism, by the Arab Nazi-acolyte al-Husseini, which is now being fed back to the far left, the far right and much of Europe, as the loop is replayed and reinforced.

This film carefully and clearly reveals that process, through the use of expert testimony and documentation, explained by the leading thinkers in the field. And in it you will learn why Greenfield believes Judeophobia is a more accurate and more powerful term than is anti-Semitism, which, like the former universal guilt over the Holocaust, has lost its teflon-like ability to protect Jews from further harm.

The second reason why this film needs to be seen is that its very existence proves its thesis true.  The location of most of the screenings in England could not be advertised because of serious security concerns.  If a movie about Jew-hatred cannot be seen in 21st Century England without fear of physical assaults and mayhem, Houston, we have a problem.

And finally, the completely obtuse responses by the major movie critics of the English language – in the New York Times , in Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter make clear that the refusal to understand Jew-hatred is almost as powerful an affliction as is Jew-hatred itself.  It is hard to find another explanation for the fact that what appear to be otherwise intelligent people can watch a movie and then criticize it for proving what it sets out to prove.  Indeed, the mainstream critics simply refuse to acknowledge there is a problem, and instead prefer to blame the victim – for acknowledging they are victims!  Read on.

“Unmasked Judeophobia: the Threat to Civilization,” is Gloria Z. Greenfield’s second documentary.  The first,  released in 2008, was “The Case for Israel,” which showcased Israel as democracy’s outpost in the Middle East. Earlier in her career, Greenfield was deeply involved in the field of radical feminism.  But when, over time, the radical feminists made it clear to Greenfield that support of Israel would not be accepted within the fold, Greenfeld left the fold.

As she watched audiences respond to her first film, it dawned on Greenfield that whether or not Israel is a shining democracy in a sea of tyrannies, for most people the only issue that mattered was the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis, and that for such people the conflict was about territorial policies.  The widely held belief – conscious or not – was that it is in the control of the Israelis to end the conflict – all they have to do is give up some (more, of course) of the land, and the problem would go away.  And everyone wants the problem to go away.

That way of thinking about the conflict has several advantages: it means there really can be a solution; it allows cursory observers to read and listen to the mainstream media with a nod and a flip of the page; and it allows what should be ancient history to remain buried.

But, Greenfield believes, it isn’t true.  And there still are people out there who want to know the truth who will, if you can make the solid case, comprehend the situation and begin to make a move towards addressing the problem.

Greenfield realized that she needed to produce a documentary that would educate “the good and decent people, provide them with the context for the hatred that was being expressed towards the nation-state of the Jewish people, and that would also give some context to the global resurgence of lethal Jew-hatred – this hatred towards the Jewish people and towards Israel as the collective Jew.”

Greenfield means for this film to be a modern “tekiyah gedolah” – the mighty shofar blast that warned the ancient Israelites of danger.  Because, she says, once again, the Israelites are in real danger.

In this documentary, Greenfield set for herself a mighty task.  She divided the eighty minute film into several different “chapters,” so that it can be stopped at various points in order to facilitate discussion, or simply to help viewers organize and understand the different permutations of  Judeophobia.  It is a disease that has traveled and adapted through time and space, shrinking in the wake of the Holocaust, adapting and transforming to the needs of whoever wished to vilify the Jews at whatever moment they most needed a convenient scapegoat.  Greenfield shows how Jew-hatred builds upon the evil lies of the past to create a new and detested monster that can be hated anew in the present.

How does she do this? Greenfield weaves together testimony from the most knowledgeable analysts of the day, people like Robert Wistrich, Ruth Wisse, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Natan Sharansky, Elie Wiesel and so many others who examine Jew hatred through the lens of human history.  This enable us to understand the moments of transformation and distribution, guided by those who have spent lifetimes and filled volumes meticulously reviewing the evidence.  But Greenfield is able to keep the narrative flowing with skillful editing and an ever-ready ability to snip out extraneous information under which the enterprise would otherwise collapse.

We also hear from contemporary commentators who share the view from their perspectives, people like Bret Stephens and Prof. Alan Dershowitz and Amb. John Bolton.  These are people with ringside seats – at the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Law School and the United Nations – to today’s attacks on Jews and on the Jewish State.

People who saw the film during its recent screenings throughout England were all wildly enthusiastic about its strengths.  Clyde Hyman is a Scotsman who has lived for many years in Golders Green, a Jewish suburb north of London.  Hyman was unabashed when he told The Jewish Press that the film, “scared the [deleted expletive] out of me.”  Hyman is an activist who generally denounces fellow pro-Israel Brits whom he describes as “practitioners of dynamic apathy,” but, he said, this film “really put all the pieces together in a wonderful way, like a jigsaw puzzle pulls together what look like unrelated bits.”

Simon Barrett is a British television journalist and Christian Zionist.  Barrett interviewed Greenfield last week on his show, “The Middle East Report,” a weekly current affairs show on Revelation Television.  Barrett is a skilful interviewer and on his show he allowed Greenfield to talk frankly about her hopes and plans for “Unmasked Judeophobia,” interspersed with extended clips from the movie.

When Barrett spoke to The Jewish Press, he expressed dismay that the people who hosted screenings of the movie in Manchester and in Birmingham would not publicly disclose the locations.  As he put it, “the haters have already won if people are too afraid to publicize this film.”  While Barrett acknowledged that it is very different for him to sit in a television studio and not have to live with the possible negative consequences of public attacks, “they’ve got to overcome that spirit of fear, or we really will all watch as the world goes mad.”

Even the film’s score is worthy of note.  Sharon Farber created a subtle musical accompaniment that never overpowers the visual, but rather weaves in and out, ominously rising where the drama increases and then fluttering to a whisper when more sensory stimulus would be a distraction.

One of the few criticisms this reviewer heard from knowledgeable pro-Israel activists such as Helene Fragman Abramson, of Princeton, New Jersey, is that the documentary lays out the problem, but then viewers are left without a game plan. Abramson saw the documentary last year in New York City, at an event hosted by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.  Senior leadership at CAMERA are co-producers of the film.

As if in answer to Abramson’s complaint, just last week Greenfield’s production company, Doc Emet Productions, released With Clarity and Courage – An Activist’s Guide as a companion to the film.  The publication is available here.  It was written by Anna Kolodner, former executive director of the David Project Center for Jewish Leadership, and contains detailed information on how to combat Judeophobia.   So in addition to delivering an absolutely first rate, must-see documentary, Doc Emet Productions has now provided a follow-through game plan, or at least the tools for activists to use to create their own.

Upcoming Screenings

Newton, Massachusetts
January 6, 2013
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Orange County Internatlonal Jewish Film Festival, California
January 16, 2013
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Port Elizabeth, South Africa
January 20, 2013
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Durban, South Africa
January 21, 2013
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Cape Town, South Africa
January 24, 2013
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Modi’in, Israel
January 27, 2013
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New York, New York
February 6, 2013
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New York, New York
February 7, 2013
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Dallas, Texas
February 10, 2013
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Winchester, Massachusetts
April 21, 2013
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Scarsdale, New York
May 6, 2013
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New Hyde Park, New York
May 11, 2013
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To rent the movie for public events or private screenings, or to see where the film is being shown in  your area, go to www.unmaskedthemovie.com.

Hungarian House Speaker to Elie Wiesel: Writers Will Be Writers

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Hungary’s House Speaker László Kövér has replied to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who recently renounced a Hungarian state honor in protest at what he sees as the government toleration of rising anti-Semitic sentiment, the Budapest Times reported.

Kövér defended Hungarian writer József Nyírõ, who was a member of parliament for the wartime fascist Arrow Cross Party, which collaborated in the extermination of Hungarian Jews at Nazi Germany’s bidding. Nyírõ was recently made compulsory reading in Hungarian schools.

“When passing judgement on creative minds, it is primarily their creation that should be considered, and double standards in that must not be applied,” Kövér wrote. The founding member of the ruling centre-right Fidesz party described Nyírõ’s political activities as “negligible but doubtlessly and tragically mistaken”.

According to the BT, Wiesel acknowledged Kövér’s reply but declared it unsatisfactory. Kövér failed to address Wiesel’s concerns about a growing cult around the inter-war regent Miklós Horthy, who led Hungary into the Second World War as an ally of Nazi Germany.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hungarian-house-speaker-to-elie-wiesel-writers-will-be-writers/2012/07/05/

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