Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has dismissed comparisons between Iran’s intentions for Israel and the fate of Jews during World War II.
Asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s increasing tendency to invoke parallels between the regime in Iran and the Nazis, Wiesel said the comparisons were out of place.
“Iran is a threat, but can we say that it will make a second Auschwitz?” Wiesel said in an interview published in the Hebrew daily Globes on Thursday. “I don’t compare anything to the Holocaust.”
Netanyahu made the parallel most recently on Wednesday night, in a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, saying that warning of the Iranian threat was the best way to honor the victims of the Holocaust. “I know there are some who don’t like it when I express uncomfortable truths like these,” Netanyahu said. “They would prefer that we not speak of a nuclear Iran as an existential threat. They claim that this statement, even if it is true, only spreads fear and panic… Those who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration have learnt nothing from the Holocaust… The memory of the Holocaust is a command to learn the lessons of the past in order to ensure the future.”
Wiesel, in the interview, said he did not approve of the frequency with which comparisons with the Nazis were made, and mentioned isolated incidents in which ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel put on yellow stars in protest at ostensible persecution. “Putting yellow stars on children? And in Israel? What have we come to?
The world-renowned concentration camp survivor-turned-educator decried using references to the Holocaust in the political arena and also warned against comparisons to acts of genocide that, aside from being inaccurate, only belittle the Holocaust itself.
“Only Auschwitz was Auschwitz. I went to Yugoslavia when reporters said that there was a Holocaust starting there. There was genocide, but not an Auschwitz. When you make a comparison to the Holocaust it works both ways, and soon people will say what happened in Auschwitz was ‘only what happened in Bosnia.’”
Wiesel does not believe that, as the generation of Holocaust survivors dies out, the events they experienced will be forgotten. There is more learning, more seminars, and more books published on the subject than ever before, he said.
“Anyone who listens to a witness who experienced the Holocaust becomes a witness himself, and today they are listening to us.”