At the turn of the century in 1999, Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor from Germany, stood in front of congress and gave a speech about indifference, a choice made by many in the past millennium, greatly affecting the world in a more of a negative than a positive manner. In his speech, Wiesel goes on to describe how the United States’ choice to intervene in World War II saved his life, instead of not interfering, like in World War I. He moves his listeners from the past and into the future, revealing he was the young Jewish boy the American soldiers saved all along. In Elie Wiesel’s Perils of Indifference, Elie guides the listener as a young boy through the past history of tragedies and accomplishments up to the present, and questions how one person’s choice could affect the future.
In the beginning of his speech, Wiesel talks about how grateful he is for being saved from one of humanity’s greatest tragedies, World War II, and wonders how people would look back into the events and judge them, morally and metaphysically (The History Place). Indifference, he explains, is the cause of violence and destruction (The Perils of Indifference 1). It is much harsher having no punishment than having any punishment at all. For example, in St. Louis, a 1000 Jews tried to immigrate to the United States, but were turned back into Nazi Germany by Theodore Roosevelt. The president who took America to war against the Nazi’s helped erase the spread of communism from other countries. Yet he turned back the people who needed his help the most.
When indifference is present in the minds of many, Wiesel explains that it can lead to disastrous events. If people realized how much of a negative effect they have on a problem when they don't choose sides, they would actually make a decision.
The world wars and any other events that greatly affected the people and the world, could have been stopped or prevented if people were not afraid or cared about their fellow human being. Not choosing a side is not always going to be the best decision and it doesn’t help anyone, not even the person making the decision to not to make a decision. The world needs humans being who help each other, this is how we survive, this is how we live, this is how we create a safer and better future for children. Then when these children are adults, they look at the choices their adults made and judge it based on how they see it. The past needs to be a good example, for them.
While many people may choose to live with making no decisions and choosing no sides to make their lives easier, is that really living a good life? Ignoring everything around you, even though when you know that there are people out there who need you to step up and help? Wiesel explains how choosing to choose indifference can be seductive, because ignoring others problems makes you not worry and stress, however indifference can reduce a person to an abstraction. When the American soldiers came to help Wiesel as a young boy, America’s involvement in the war against the Nazis is what saved his life and caused him to immigrate to the United States to live a safe life.
Indifference is what makes humans, inhuman. If someone had decided to stop Hitler’s action before things could escalate to World War II, we would have not had millions of deaths as a result of it. If people actually decided to go help the starving children in Africa or even in any part of the world, instead of ignoring it, maybe there would be less of them. If people came together and helped anyone in the world, instead of choosing to cover their eyes and ears, the world would be a better place for everyone living in it. Wiesel questions whether the people in the future, learn from the past and decide to make better decisions. Or will the future receive a similar outcome?
The only thing close to hope that the victims of Auschwitz and Treblinka had was that they thought their suffering was a secret, guarded by Hitler’s forces. They thought that if they were ever discovered, they would swiftly be rescued, that the forces oppressing them would not stand a chance once their secret was uncovered. But the world did know, and they had many chances to help them. However, America did not actually step into help, until Pearl Harbor. It took the deaths of many of their own to realize they finally had enough. Such a shame that world knew, but took so much time to help or did not even help at all.
Although indifference was also present among the minds in the past, taking action instead of ignoring things that need to be looked into plays an important role in making the future that we have today. For example; the fall of Nazism, the defeat of communism from European countries, the creation of Israel, Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt and finally the Peace Accord in Ireland. All of these were accomplished because some people in the world decided to come together and do the right thing, resulting in Elie being able to stand in front of Congress, as an old man when he was only a young boy wondering if he was going to be alive tomorrow or dead, during World War II.
In his speech, Elie Wiesel guides the listener through the past and into the future. He questions how harshly people in the future will judge the actions of the individuals in the past. He explains how indifference is the cause of the violence and destruction during World War II and the many wars and events that occurred around the globe. If indifference can be replaced with taking actions instead of being a bystander, it can lead to successful results for humanity. The fate of children rests into the hands of adults who either choose to take action, or do nothing at all.
Wiesel, Elie. "The History Place - Great Speeches Collection: Elie Wiesel Speech The Perils of
Indifference." www.historyplace.com/speeches/wiesel.htm 20 Feb. 2017.
Wiesel, Elie. "The Perils of Indifference." (1999): 1-3. Print.