Elie Wiesel Stirred the World With the Necessity of Madness

Written by Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski
July 3, 2016

By Fr. John Pawlikowski, Parliament  of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees,
Special to The Crux

For Elie Wiesel, who died July 2 at 87 years old, madness was not insanity. It was rather the willingness, often in the face of incredible odds, to stand up for human dignity no matter what one’s national identity, racial heritage or sexual orientation might be.
My first encounters with Elie Wiesel came during several early conferences on the Holocaust where he was a plenary speaker.  I was amazed at the way he could silence a large ballroom with his message. It clearly had profound intellectual content, but most of all, it spoke to the heart.
Without the latter, the passionate commitment to remembrance and continuing human dignity that were the hallmark of Wiesel’s contribution to contemporary global society likely would have fallen on deaf years.
My encounters with Wiesel took on much greater depth when he graciously included me in the original membership of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which was charged by President Jimmy Carter, with the unanimous consent of Congress, to erect a suitable memorial to the victims of the Nazi genocide in the nation’s capital.

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Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski has studied the Nazi Holocaust extensively. His scholarly interests include the theological and ethical aspects of the Christian-Jewish relationship and public ethics. A leading figure in the Christian-Jewish dialogue, he is president of the International Council of Christians and Jews and author of Christ in the Light of the Christian Jewish Dialogue and co-editor of Ethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust.

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