oprah at auschwitzOprah Winfrey and Elie Wiesel have made their journey to Auschwitz as part of the overall publicity campaign, tuchas covering, humanitarian mission that came with choosing Elie Wiesel’s Night as her latest book club book.

While many are saying that this choice following the Frey Fiasco will wipe Oprah’s book-choosing slate clean, the LATimes had a cynical take on the venture:

Oprah in Auschwitz. Not since “Springtime for Hitler” have we been treated to a Holocaust production so surreal. If nothing else, Oprah in Auschwitz — and the sales of “Night,” which are sure to multiply — will bring home the horrors of the Nazi genocide to millions of Americans. It may even improve black-Jewish relations, bringing together a Jewish survivor of the camps and a black survivor of racism, violence and childhood sexual abuse.

Yet Oprah in Auschwitz may also turn the Holocaust into another recovery narrative — a “feel-good story about the ultimate feel-bad experience,” as the film critic J. Hoberman memorably wrote of “Schindler’s List,” in which the principal Jewish characters survive.

The then go on to give an absolutely scathing critique of Wiesel’s credentials that I will leave you to read on your own.

Not to be outdone however, the announcement of the book selection prompted Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to opine “My emotions were so betrayed by James Frey’s fictionalized memoir. I felt violated. Then Oprah picked Night, Elie Wiesel’s memoir of the Holocaust. But how can he have a memoir about something that never happened! Is she trying to pull the wool over our eyes twice? That’s it! I’m dropping out of the book club!”

Also be sure to see the daily breakdown of Iran’s Holocaust conference here.

Highlights include: “The Myriad of Benefits The Jews Gained from the Holocaust,” “‘Annihilate Israel’ Roundtable” and “world premiere of controversial documentary Bowling for Kristallnacht

About the author

Laya Millman

29 Comments

  • Well no Nation editor would be worth his salt if he didn’t deride a Zionist for not enough self-flasgellation.

    That said, I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, counteracting the rampant Holocaust denial prevlant in Iran (and the rest of the Muslim world) with the renewed exposure of Night seems like a good thing. However, the great pitfall here is the effect of overexposure to the Holocaust. It’s not too hard to imagine Americans rolling their collective eyes at yet another Holocaust commemoration.

    Frankly, it seems to me that Oprah would be better off using something like
    They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky
    to bring light to the ongoing genocide in the Sudan.

  • When we lived in Poland I remember going to Auschwitz with all sorts of characters, politicians, everyone trying to make points.
    The tragedy is awesome there, but she could have easily gone the Holocaust Museum in DC to learn more…

    But that is so not superstar stuff.

    So off they go in the private jets, spending 5-10k an hour.

    I imagine they went private, I dont know for sure…

    Anyway, will all this help?

    You no, right now, with Iran and Hamas, it doesn’t help to re-sensitize America to the Holcoaust. While I usually don’t like high flying shows, the Oprah Weisel Combo is probably fine and maybe even very good.

    Unless you are a cynic, and then nothing is good.

  • So the LA Times thinks Weisel’s humanist cred is tarnished by the fact that he doesn’t buy into all of that “Israeli oppression of the paleostinians is as bad as Auschwitz!” bullshit?

    Fuck you, LA Times. Good on you, Elie.

    I have never read “Night” and I have only heard snippets of Weisel’s oratory. I did get the impression that he was somewhat revelling in his status as Wise Survivor Humanist Sage, which the Ephraim, he doesn’t like, but that is a separate issue from not kowtowing to the line that protecting itself from terrorists makes Israel as bad as the Nazis.

    I’m curious about Weisel’s position on the Armenian genocide, which, AFAIK, one would be hard pressed not to consider a genocide. Anybody have any info on that?

  • There seems to be a lot of people in the Jewish blogosphere who kvetch about “Holocaust-overload”. First off, that’s our view. Most non-Jews are relatively ignorant on the subject, and the more exposure that they get the better. Even if its not via the exponent that we’d prefer (Oprah), it’s better than nothing. And don’t worry. Soon, there will be no survivors around anymore. And eventually, there will be no death camp memorials in Europe. And the Holocaust will recede into the dusty recesses of history, forgotten much like all the other various blood-baths that the Jewish people suffered. So please quit your kvetching.

    Can someone please explain to me why some people seem unhappy with Elie Weisel? To me, he’s a hero. How many Shoah survivors took their trauma and suffering and turned it into good? Just because his way of doing so is via books, essays, and talks, doesn’t mean that he’s capitalizing on anything.

  • I don’t know Elie Weisel’s position on the Armenian genocide, but the argument is over whether it’s a genocide or an example of ethnic cleansing that resulted in mass murder. personally i don’t like all these distinctions, but the gist of it, to my understanding, is that genocide is the intentional murder of a people and ethnic cleansing is an effort to remove the people from a specific area, which inevitably (but not necessarily) results in death. now don’t anyone jump on my back for trivializing the Armenian massacres. that’s not my opinion, it’s just what i’ve read. and it’s one perspective.

  • Before all you wonderful grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, liberators and Amerikaner Jews continue to spit all over Holocaust education and denigrate the “Greener”–those now doddering seniors who are a royal pain in the ass of the Claims Conference and the American Jewish establishment because they have the unmitigated gall to ask that their blood money be spent on homecare instead of sending millions of moronic Jewish kids to Auschwitz–You, you young pisshers, especially Popilicious–can’t wait about five more years when most of our parents will be dead before you drive them crazy with your unthought through crap.

    Do you have to spit in their faces while they see all their pain and suffering rendered meaningless by the likjes of you, the generation of the @#$%^&* future they survived to create?

    You are the people they were thinking about when they fought to survive.

    You weren’t around in 1960, when Elie made his debut with Night–after being a struggling journalist for Maariv–and there were few books around at all.

    It was the first book most people could read about the Holocaust–and other than some snatches of our parents conversations–it was the first indication for teenagers that there even was such a thing as the Holocaust.

    By 1969, few outside the greener community knew or cared to know about our parents. Until Yaffa Eliach opened a Holocaust Center in Brooklyn and was able to teach a course at Brooklyn College in the early 70s there was NO or extremely limited Holocaust Education in any school or place, Jewish or not.

    Some derech eretz for the folks who lived through it, and some setting aside for some common human decency from the Jews at large toward the survivors would be nice.

    Since that has never happened before, it won’t happen again now. Israel outright stole survivor assets. The only reason Federations finally paid attention to the survivors in the early 1980’s is that they figured out that there was money to be made. In the 40’s and 50s the American Jewish establishment essentially told our parents to !@#$ off. Today they say that they heard enough about the Holocaust, unless they use it as their favorite fundraising tool, and now, in their old age, as they lay dying, they get to see their own descendants and their descendants peers crap all over their past lives.

    Just lovely. Send the handful of survivors your message popi–tell them that their experience sucked, but what the hell, you’re tired of hearing it.

    And Oprah? The most powerful tool against Holocaust Deniers on Planet Earth? Crap on her too. Why not? It generates hits, and hits are what counts…not any kind of menschlichkeit.

  • You know, Jeanette, there are surgical procedures now for removing boards from asses. Have you talked to your doctor? Maybe you should have him check that blood pressure too.

  • whoa jeanette, calm down there. No one is pissing on survivors, ok?

    The Holocaust was awful beyond words. However, I believe it is a valid criticism to state that a Jewish Identity based on the Holocaust will ultimately fail.

    When Night came out, it sold barely a thousand copies. As Jewish assimilation rose, the Holocaust became increasingly a center point for Jewish Identity. A death-centric identity is one that no one will want to be a part of, as we are seeing now.

    Nonetheless, this post did not piss on Oprah, Night, Wisel, Survivors, or anyone other than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Let’s not have any more of these knee jerk responses. k?

  • Jeanette – I think you’re projecting a little. We have the utmost respect for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. We have all studied the Holocaust, met Holocaust survivors, visited concentration camps, marked Yom Hashoah and some of us advocate on behalf of survivors and even actively engage Holocaust deniers.

    So basically, piss the fuck off. Do not presume to lecture us about Holocaust education. Do not come here and say that we spit on Holocaust education or survivors. All I’ve known about the Holocaust since i was a child was how awful it was and how important it is that we remember it and pursue justice by compensating survivors and mercilessly hunting down the perpetrators.

    What I am opposed to, dearest Jeanette, is how the Holocaust and fear of future holocausts has become the central tennet of Jewish identity. I resent the fact that the Holocaust is the one feature that unifies all Jewish people.

    Judaism is more than what a madman and his followers did to us. Judaism reveres, remembers and respects its dead – but you only sit shiva for so long because life is for the living. I don’t want to build another Holocaust museum while masses of young Jews go without even a rudimentary Jewish education and/or intermarry. People of your generation got so caught up in the holocaust that you forgot about what it is your children and grandchildren really need – a Judaism that is lively and life afirming and enriching and substantive and not some morose thing steeped in death and defined by Hitler. Fuck that. Fuck that hard. Get a clue Jeanette.

    And Elie Wiesel did not write the first book about the Holocaust.

  • Some of you may not know her, Jeanette has been through alot in life. She was born into a well known frum family that helped to found many Jewish Organizations in the USA. She had the misfortune of marrying a dirt bag hassid, who beat her physically and may have also been a closet gay.

    And as she stated, her parents both suffered terribly in the Holocaust, yet they retained their devoutness to Orthodox traditions and Meschlichkeit.

    She also suffered difficult financials ordeals after remarrying, something about a bakery that the community stopped supporting.

    She has become an accomplished author, journalist, publisher, and translator.

    Having read her since her AOL Jewish Community days, I can tell you that most of the time she is right on, so just allow her venting and anger there is a reason for it.

  • Jobber, this information about her husband is in the public domain, right? I mean, you aren’t just making accusations about a specific person without any evidence and based on hearsay, right? Because that isn’t okay. It could well be that Jeanette isn’t interested in your opinion of her husband/ex-husband and it could well be that he interested in your opinion either. Come to think of it, I’m not interested in your opinion of her husband and it contributes nothing to this discussion. For all we know, this might not be Jeanette posting but some Internet stalker person who has a crush on Jeanette and likes to put her website as a link when he posts under her name.

  • While we’re all beating up on Jeanette and her aggressive comments, it should be added that she’s also wrong about the Jewish community’s programs and education regarding the Holocaust.

    Guess what some of us got in our respective Jewish communities? Lots and lots of Holocaust related education, speakers and materials. You know who funded this process? The large Jewish organizations, Jewish day schools and numerous congregations of all stripes.

    Why do you think there is so much criticism of the rememberance of what has become a key defining period in modern Jewish history? It has nothing to do with disrespect, especially not of survivors or the violence of that era. Our concern lies with the cult of death that surrounds Jewish life now. We grew up with it. Bagels and Holocaust have become defining elements of the Judaism that many live and espouse today. We spend millions upon millions supporting how many Holocaust museums and programs? And why do we do it? Why isn’t that money spent on, say, JEWISH EDUCATION, so that the grandchildren of these survivors who were killed for being Jewish, can retain their Judaism and not assimilate? We have one important Holocaust museum in Israel and another in DC. That’s all we need. The rest of the funds for other museums, for rememberances, for “education,” etc. could be far better used to support young Jewish LIFE.

    You want to thank Oprah for doing something with Night? Good. We are very happy she’s using her platform to promote Wiesel and Night. Does that mean we can’t be cynical about it? Well, it’s not like this was her book of choice before the Frey fiasco, so it’s probably okay if we point out that there is more than do-gooding at play here. So we’re happy she’s doing it, but we can also poke fun. After all, this is about selling books, right?

    Either way, let us all hope that instead of focusing AGAIN on death and pain, we somehow find a way to promote Jewish life and culture today. You know why, Jeanette? Because if we don’t, and instead spend significant resources, time and energy remembering, when we could be promoting vibrant traditions and culture, then we won’t have any significant numbers of young Jews left in a couple of decades…and suddenly the TRUE magnitude of this tragedy will become apparent because not only will millions of Jews have been murderedin WWII, but their deaths will have been in vain.

    So Jeanette, control your unwarranted anger and send some money to Birthright, your local Jewish day schools, and your local Jewish congregations that effectively support young Jewish families. By doing that, you will be promoting the memory of 6 million murdered Jews better than any museum, book or Oprah program.

  • I think I’m about the same vintage as Middle, and I have to say that analysis is spot on sir. I went to (Reform) Hebrew School in the late 70s and 80s, and have to say I learned way more about the Shoah than I did about Judaism itself. We read Night, we read the Painted Bird, they showed us photos of Mengele experiments. Between that and seeing footage of Munich on TV as a little kid it made me terrified to be Jewish. There were no (that I know of) birthright trips or really anything that made one be proud to be Jewish back then.

    I was disengaged from Judaism for a long time. I’m still finding my way back. I’m all for Oprah spreading the message to those who have never heard of Elie Wiesel, but personally, now I want to learn more about my faith.

    And on a sort of tangent, one of my childhood friends has the job title “Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.” It (though not he) is kind of a downer at cocktail parties. And yes, obviously he does important work – I’m not belittling that.

  • Oh, I think there’s room for academics and researchers. People like Deborah Lipstadt are doing very important work. So is the Shoah Foundation founded by Spielberg to capture video testimonies of survivors. I also think there’s room for survivor groups and lawyers who sue governments for keeping Nazi spoils. I don’t think any of us diminish what happened or want to diminish the memory of those communities and millions who were destroyed and killed. Considering how many of us have been affected directly and indirectly, I don’t think it would even be feasible for books, stories and movies to keep appearing.

    It’s just that it cannot be that this tragedy has become what defines us as Jews or what unites us as Jews. It is a single event among many over a couple of millenia.

  • I left out some important information that you should know about Jeanette. I can’t help it if you are so misinformed, my friend.

    She was also an Agunah, and she spoke out and continues to speak out on many painful problems which she went through and knows about, in the areas of spousal abuse, agunah, “Hassidic” Rebbes beating young boys, so on.

    She was the first person to go public on the spousal abuse scandals and violence in general in this Hassidic frum population, in Brooklyn primarily where she is from.

    This was done at a time I beleive just before the internet advent, so she appeared on radio programs that were geared towards the frum community, she wrote articles on this subject, and continues to do so to this very day. You can search the archives on Mail-jewish email list, you can find this on Shamash.org. There are likely many other sources.

    Now it is possible that this poster here is a fraud, but they would be a very good one, as I truly recognize the passion that is Jeanette’s hallmark.

    Now getting back to the topic, she is making a good and valid point. The money is the survivors money. For example, Middle, a man in SHule sits in front of me, for years. He was from Germany, and I suppose relatively fortunate, in the war, he was kept at important work for the Nazis, some skill or something, so they fed him relatively well. Yet he did see killing and such. But he never got paid for those years of work, nor for the loss of his career path, as he had to become a non professional when he finally started his life again. So the compensation money, he should get a fair share ( he had not gotten anything for this work, we are talking several years). And the many worse examples. Jeanette is raising a valid point, why the taking of well fed American children to spend their nights in Warsaw’s pubs drinking Polish beers?

    Now middle, I think you are lacking in your life a sense of humor and fun. I am greatful for all of your kind support.

    Jobber

  • I am indeed who I am, my ex is my ex and everyone knew the story before the wedding except me, and what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? At least now there’s a Silver Get Law. It cost my father about $400,000.

    That’s over, and that was my training for helping get Holocaust education off the ground in Jersey way back in 1979.

    Almost immediately I realized that the way the establishment teaches the Holocaust stinks. But can you change the establishment? HAH! The Israelis spend millions to send kids to Auschwitz to make them better Jews. All that does is make better Polish antisemites.

    Jobber, friend, whoever you are, since your screen name has obviously changed over the decades (mine just as obviously hasn’t) thanks for defending me, but it seems these folks don’t even bother reading carefully, they see what they want to see and spew whatever they want to spew.

    What sucks is the prevailing notion of deconstruction that infuses every young person I know–that nothing on the net or in life is real, important or even worth respect (i guess according to middle whoever, I am a fraud and suck anyway, so that’s perfectly fine, I know how to bathe when I get up out of the gutter.)

    The Jewish community I grew up never addressed the Holocaust and/or the domestic violence that was a big part of the aftermath. Not in yeshiva, not in public school, not on TV. In 1979, the Holocaust deniers came out of the closet–10 years after I encountered black people on the Brooklyn College campus who wanted us Jews dead because our grandfathers enslaved their grandfathers down south–and that’s a quote thrown into my face my a fellow student on the Quadrangle, about 15 minutes after a firebomb went off in the women’s bathroom in SUBO in 1969.

    So, there was virtually nothing in the 50s and sixties, Yaffa started the center in Brooklyn, began teaching at the college in the early 70s, and it wasn’t until the late 70s that it was even an issue… so it’s much easier for some folks here, who were not on the ground floor, to skim the posts, twist what they do read and tell people to &&(* off.

    Fraud. Snort. My concern is the survivors who read what’s on the net, hear the “kids” complain, and despair. I deal with them daily and they are at their wits’ end.

    The survivors fought bitterly to get some credibility in the American Jewish community. The transition from rejection to begging them for money can be documented.

    But people aren’t interested in truth anymore…just truthiness.

    Thanks Jobber.

    The real Jeanette Friedman and proud of it.

  • Oh, and please, please, please, do not get me started on the costs of Jewish education and the complete moral bankruptcy of the Jewish community on that… You should look at the piece I did on Andrea Bronfman in the Jewish Standard on the 27th, and maybe read a little Mobius on The Walls Come Tumbling Down (hard for me to disagree with that piece–full disclosure–mobi, after all, is part of me.) Then you’ll know where I stand.

    Look, I have been after the big shots since a Lehrhaus seminar in the early 90s to put all Jewish knowledge on the net. When David Pfeffer and JEMM showed up with a multi-media CD rom that I worked on in the very early days, he was tossed out of every Jewish establishment office in NYC.

    Vision? Hah! The establishment was blind then. Andy had vision, JJ Greenberg had vision, they are gone, and we are back to being blind.

    Jewish education needs a total revamp. But hey, Jobber, didja notice, they already climbed into my brain, know what I am thinking, and judged me. Amazing, ain’t it?

    jeanette (am I really?)

  • Jobber, misinformed is the wrong word. Uninformed is the correct word.

    So I have no idea who Jeanette is except that she came on here and blasted us for something that isn’t there.

    Nobody here is talking about funds for survivors. In fact, I completely agree that what has happened is shameful. Not only do survivors have to lobby Swiss banks for their own money, they need to chase Israeli banks as well. There are many reasons for them to be angry at what is unjust treatment, but I don’t see what any of this has to do with Oprah and Iran or our supposed popiliciousness and unseriousness with respect to the Holocaust. Wait, it has nothing to do with it.

    Heyt Jeanette, if you like I can talk to ck about having you become a regular poster here on Jewlicious. We need somebody new and fiery with whom to argue and Mobius is already busy on another site.

  • Agentappletree, Oprah does NOT support Palestinean terror! She is trying to bring education to Palestinean women so they don’t have to feel so helpless and have to fear their men so much so that someday they can be empowered enough to say “I will not allow you to use my offspring as bombs”. Her belief is that until the mothers are able to stand up against terrorism without being beaten and murdered themselves, not to mentioned mutilated with FGM, the perpetuation of violence will continue.

  • You want a ranter? I trained mobi. 🙂

    Hey babes, “Holocaust Fun” in a headline?
    and the attitude that Elie and Oprah “DO” Auschwitz as a lark and book promo?
    The red just boiled up in my eyeballs, and the fingers flew.

    Hey, I hate to break it to ya, but I’ve known Elie–holy shit–I’ve known him for 46 years– OUCH–I am so older than whoever, and I’ve actually had disagreements with him, ya know? And his wife is a very strong, focused woman who is doing the right things–and keeping it private…and frankly, for him it ain’t about the bucks, tho that’s nice too….the money gets shoveled into the foundation that does all kinds of good stuff around the world, but you don’t hear about it, cause they don’t publicize it much…

    Still, I did use my beitzim to ask him about his favorite rebbeh, Menashe HaKaton Klein, the Ungvar Rebbe in BoroParkBoh–who is the biggest enemy of Jewish women on planet Earth, and someone who helped EW in Auschwitz.

    (The org. Shalom Bayis this guy set up in the early 90s had a Concubine Hotline, declared a moratorium on gets for 10 years, and faxed out a list for why it’s ok to bring a second woman–just to screw–into your household (I have all that crap in a filing cabinet)…oh yeah, and to this rebbeh, Metzizah be Peh is totally non-negotiable…the rebbeh’s own wife was an agunah for years…and people I know were physically abused by this teacher–with beatings and verbal crap….so…Elie, I asked, what gives? And he had a hard time believing me…but I hounded him some more and sent him the newspaper articles about this guy from around the world…This rebbe is the same one who did the Goldstein kiddushei ketana way back when…which was the case that caused me to explode all over AOL…in 93? 94? Who remembers. I think I have all that on some 3.5 floppies in a box somewhere.

    Is there anyone out there who thinks the Holocaust, agunah issues and domestic violence in some areas of the Jewish community aren’t related?

    ROTFLMAO.

    In the meantime, back to the main topic–every poster here has really missed the point. This isn’t about Frey, since Elie’s book was labeled a novel essentially because he wasn’t sure how old he was–deniers had been picking on Night for a long time, calling it a novel. I asked Elie why he wrote Night, and I have the answer in an article somewhere in my files…don’t want to fudge the facts here. (I also asked him how he met Marion, and she has her own amazing story.)

    So now comes Iran and international appeasement, led by the !@##$%#$ UN and China and Russia, and Elie is at the WEF in Davos, where they are deep into crap about the Jews and Israel…when it hits the fan…right after Marion retranslated Night and had it republished…
    Now, if you were EW, and your wife had hooked you up with Oprah in the early 90’s, the pres of Iran is spewing his shit, the Protestants are back to their Martin Luther attitudes (check out those Anglicans, boys, and what about The Rapture???!!), votes are rigged in every election, including our own, and you expect the W’s not to use America’s most powerful woman and medium to convince America’s heartland and black citizens that there was indeed a Holocaust? Less than 27% of the American people even know there was one.

    I ought to know. I edit the Holocaust survivors’ newspaper, Together, and run their website. This stuff is tossed at me everyday. And here’s what I noticed:

    Someone is googlebombing to always keep the deniers on top, and most of that is Iranian sourced. Internationally, no one gives a shit about the cartoons the Muslims have been using for the last 60 years, including the Striecher cartoons, to demonize Jews. The international media is not addressing those attacks at all. Very few people are reacting to Muslim antisemitism and media saturation, education saturation etc.

    I have been howling about this for years…but what the hey…we perceive ourselves as powerful. We aren’t. We packed the UN on 1/27 and got zero coverage in the big leagues…on the same day El Baradi told Bush to hand Iran nuclear power plants.

    So, I also do have a wicked sense of humor, but somethings are serious…

    As for Holocaust education…the when, whys and wheres….Ask Mobius who can write the book. He watched it happen from the time he was 6 months old.

    Am I Jeanette?

  • Elie Wiesel must be commended for being the voice of those who were silenced. One doesn’t have to approve of the tools he uses to make those voices heard. But we must open our hearts and minds enough to respect and listen so that now and in future we can coexist as one people rather than “us” and “them”. I am not Jewish but so admire the strength, power and hope that was, is and always will be that which perpetuates greatness….

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