Boston University Chancellor Responds to Holocaust Deniers' Ads in Campus Papers
Office of the Chancellor
Boston University 147
Bay State Road
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Open letter from Dr. John Silber to
Colleges and Universities
I write to bring to your attention libels that
have appeared recently in college and university papers concerning
Boston University professor Elie Wiesel. These have taken the form of
advertisements placed by the Committee for Open Debate on the
Holocaust (CODOH) and its director. Bradley R. Smith.
Just as surely as a student newspaper would be reluctant to run an
advertisement in favor of the flat earth theory and no university
would hire a professor who advocated the flat earth theory, anyone
who cares about the truth is under an obligation to think twice
before offering a platform to those who systematically lie by denying
the Holocaust. Those lies are at the
heart of the advertisement submitted by Mr. Smith.
The advertisement begins by misunderstanding the idea of the
university. It is not merely to promote intellectual freedom, but
also to promote intellectual responsibility in the pursuit of truth.
It is contrary to the ideal of the university to promote deliberate
lies. It is also contrary to the propose of the university to
participate in libeling individuals
Mr. Smith's libel of Elie Wiesel is multiple.
1.) He reports that Elie Wiesel claims that he was liberated from Dachau,
from Buchenwald and
from Auschwitz. That is
contrary to fact. Elie Wiesel wrote in Night that he was liberated
from Buchenwald, and he has never claimed anything else. Newspapers
occasionally get facts wrong, and Smith bases his claim about
Wiesel not on Wiesel's writings but on newspaper reports From these
erroneous accounts, Smith claims that Wiesel is not a credible
2.) Smith writes, "Elie Wiesel claims in All
Rivers Run to the Sea, 'I read [Immanuel Kant's] The
Critique of Pure Reason in Yiddish.''' Smith continues,
"Kant's Critique has not been translated into Yiddish.
Here again, EW did not tell the truth. " But selections from
Kant's Critique of Practical Reason had been translated into
and published into Yiddish in pre-war Warsaw I have a photocopy
of the title page before me as I write. After the passage of 50
years, Wiesel misnamed the Critique he had read in 1945, but
his minor slip hardly justifies Smith's claim that "EW did not
tell the truth."
3.) Smith writes. "EW claims that after Jews were
executed at Babi Yar in the Ukraine, 'geysers of blood' spurted from their grave for
'months' afterward." Wiesel's words are these: "Eye
witnesses say that for months after the killings the ground
continued to spurt geysers of blood. One was always treading on
corpses." Nowhere did Elie Wiesel claim to see geysers of
blood, only that he heard these reported.
4.) Smith claims, "Elie Wiesel as an authority on 'hate'
" and Smith says he counseled "on how to perpetuate a
loathing for Germans." No fair-minded person can read Wiesel's
"Appointment with Hate" and reach that conclusion.
Rather, it is a penetrating analysis of his own reactions as he
visited Germany for the first time following the war. He entered
Germany hating Germans and ended his visit finding it was
impossible to hate. In that article, he went on to explain why Jews
are not inclined to hate and why they did not engage in acts of
vengeance against the Germans.
Moreover, following his receipt of the Nobel
Prize for Peace Elie Wiesel has used the substance of his prize to
sponsor conferences in the United Stales and Moscow and elsewhere on
"The Anatomy of Hate:" His consistent theme at those
conferences, and I have participated in two, has been to denounce
hate as a corrosive, destructive element in human nature that must be
replaced with understanding and hope.
The quotation cited by Smith doesn't even support his libel. In the
quote, Elie Wiesel does not say that every Jew "should set apart
a zone of hate -- healthy virile hate " for Germans. Rather he
said they "should set apart a zone of hate -- healthy, virile
hate -- for what the German personifies and for what persists in
the Germans." As the Nazi generation has passed from the
scene, what Germans personify and what persists in the Germans has
changed. What Germans personified in 1945 is not what a different
generation of Germans personify today.
Elie Wiesel was invited by the President and Chancellor of Germany to
speak in Berlin on January 27, 2000, the day of the remembrance of
the liberation of Auschwitz. That address was notable for the absence
of hate and the plea for remembrance and forgiveness on which
reconciliation between Germans and Jews can be possible In that
address Wiesel commented favorably on Germany's support of Israel, on
Germany's compensation for the victims of the Third Reich, and on
Germany's recent initiative in compensating those who were used as
What is the motivation and purpose of Mr. Smith
and his CODOH? Why do they find it personally important to deny the
Holocaust and to abuse and denigrate Professor Wiesel? Isn't it
relevant to ask? Bradley R. Smith and his Committee for Open Debate
on the Holocaust are a travesty and a repudiation of all that a
university should stand for when falsehood is disseminated and truth
A university should have as one of its purposes to
teach students the difference between the search for truth and false
propaganda. No newspaper -- and certainly no newspaper on the campus
of a university -- is under any obligation to advertise and
perpetuate vicious lies. Bradley R Smith's advertisement is a
repudiation of learning, a violation of civil discourse and libelous
Mazal Library: A Holocaust Resource. Reprinted with permission of