Sunday, April 02, 2017

Lying about Elie Wiesel

Author: Sergey Romanov
A whole cottage industry has sprung up in recent years devoted to "proving" that the late Elie Wiesel was a total fraud: an impostor who stole an actual Auschwitz survivor's identity. Most of the crazies are of course Holocaust deniers. One notable exception is an actual Jewish Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor, Nikolaus Grüner, whose book Stolen Identity. Auschwitz Number A-7713 serves as a springboard for the deniers.

To remind our readers: according to Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) in Auschwitz he had the number (and a corresponding tattoo) A-7713, his father Shlomo Wiesel had the number A-7712.

The basic denial claims look like this:

1. Elie Wiesel allegedly had no visible Auschwitz tattoo.

2. Camp documents allegedly show that Lazar Wiesel A-7713 from Auschwitz was born in 1913 (not 1928 as Elie Wiesel; note: both "Elie" and "Lazar" are variants of the name "Eliezer") and that A-7712, who Elie Wiesel said was his father Shlomo, was actually someone named Abram Viezel.

3. Grüner claimed that he knew the "actual" Lazar Wiesel A-7713 in Auschwitz (Monowitz) and Buchenwald and that he wasn't the same person as Elie Wiesel. Moreover, Grüner claimed to have also known the prisoner A-7712, Lazar's brother Abram.

From this the conspirologists conclude that Elie Wiesel stole Lazar Wiesel's identity, sometimes claiming that he also stole the book Night, which is a shorter version of a thicker volume in Yiddish Un di velt hot geshvign, which was, according to some of them, written by the "real" Lazar Wiesel.

They never provide a plausible account of why, how and at what point the "switch" is supposed to have occurred, what happened to the "real" Wiesel and why none of the people who knew Elie Wiesel since Buchenwald have spoken up except Grüner. But such "minor" matters have never stopped the deniers, have they?

Anyway, let's take a brief look at the claims of fraud.

The Tattoo

This has become sort of a staple of denial. There is a whole site called eliewieseltattoo.com run by a ridiculously ignorant neo-Nazi Carolyn Yeager.

The deniers point to a couple of low quality videos in which Wiesel's bare forearm can be seen and say that since the tattoo is not discernible in them he must have had none.



Here is the "argument" summed up by the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer:


Now, the argument hardly makes sense. Individual tattoos differed in how "bright" and distinct they were, depending on the specific circumstances.  It is thus of no use pointing to some survivors' still distinct and clearly visible tattoos and claiming that Wiesel's should have looked exactly the same. If Wiesel's tattoo was faint from the start, it would have gotten even fainter with age, since tattoos fade somewhat with time.  And the bright sun shining on it like in the video would have actually obscured it on film rather than making it more clear - that is, if the deniers marked the right place on his arm at all, which, as we'll see in a moment, is not even the case.

For a comparison, here is another barely visible tattoo, this one from Andy Roth, A-8520 in Auschwitz (photo credit: Tom Rogers).


Such a tattoo would not have been visible under the exact same circumstances Wiesel was filmed in the instances above.

Similarly, Martin Greenfield's (Maxmilian Grünfeld's)  A-4406 tattoo is barely legible (photo by Joseph Victor Stefanchik/The Washington Post):

There is photographic evidence that Elie Wiesel had exactly this kind of a faint tattoo. Yeager even gathered some of it in the article "How Wiesel’s “tattoo” looks from where I’m sitting", in which she grudgingly acknowledged that some kind of a tattoo can be seen.

It is sufficient to post just two of those photos, or, to be more precise, the closeups of the tattoo from those photos.

One photo is from 1945:


The other one is a 2006 photo for Haaretz by Eyal Toueg:


It's faint, but it's there.

Yeager then sort of moves the goalposts, complaining about how the number is not readable, but this doesn't change the fact that the original argument has been debunked: deniers can't show that Wiesel didn't have the tattoo he claimed to have and should have had as the survivor A-7713. The denier arguments about videos and photos "not showing" the tattoo were bunk from the start.

The Documents

Now we come to the interesting part. Neither Grüner, nor the deniers are lying when they say that authentic wartime documents exist that show the prisoner A-7713's date of birth as 04.09.1913 (not 30.09.1928, Wiesel's official DOB, or 04.10.1928, his DOB in some of the post-liberation documents) and A-7712's name as Abram (and not Shlomo).

The Holocaust denier Carlo Mattogno summed up some of them in "Elie Wiesel: New Documents" at the Inconvenient History blog. The most prominent one is Lazar Wiesel's personal card from Buchenwald:


This doesn't automatically mean, however, that Wiesel's claims about his identity are somehow false. For some reason the deniers have refused to seriously entertain the possibility that that is merely a series of clerical mistakes (where there is one, there could be more...).

Mattogno, for example, claims:
In conclusion, we can say that Elie Wiesel can be neither Lazar Wiesel, nor Lázár Wiesel, nor Lazar Vizel and that the ID number A-7713 was not assigned to him but to Lazar Wiesel, while ID A-7712 was not assigned to his father but to Abram (or Abraham) Viesel (or Wiesel).

The charge of identity theft raised against Elie Wiesel by Miklos Grüner does not concern Lazar Wiesel only, but Lázár Wiesel as well: from the former, he took the Auschwitz ID number (A-7713), from the latter the stay at Buchenwald and the later transfer to Paris.
Elsewhere he claims that Elie Wiesel was "never interned at Birkenau, nor at Auschwtz, nor at Monowitz, nor at Buchenwald". And in "The Riddle of Lazar-Lázár-Eliezer-Elie Wiesel":
Elie Wiesel may have known Lazar Wiesel and built his own story on the latter’s account, embellished where needed. Here, however, we are moving into the region of conjecture, even though it is likely that the truth will have to be looked for in this direction. 
The other possibility – that Elie Wiesel is himself Lazar Wiesel – must be excluded for obvious reasons of chronology: he would now be 97 years of age! On the other hand, why “change” the date of his birth once again, to 30 September 1928, after having “falsified” it to 4 October 1928?
Mattogno, Yeager and others have tied themselves into a Gordian knot inventing more and more of various separate Wiesels/Viezels/Vizels/... whereas the most parsimonious solution is so simple: Eliezer (Lazar, Elie) Wiesel is one person and the contradictory information in the documents stems from mere clerical mistakes.

That documents can be mistaken on such details is a given. An example of the Polish aviator Janina Lewandowska comes to mind. She was the daughter of Jozef Dowbor-Musnicki, born on 22.4.1908 and was one of the Katyn victims. She figures in a 1940 NKVD transport list as Janina Lewandowska, daughter of Marian, born in 1914. It would be plain idiotic to claim on such a basis that there were two different Janina Lewandowska's in Katyn.

As a whole, the documents used by Grüner and the deniers so far actually fit Elie Wiesel's identity with the notable exception of the above-mentioned two contradictions: there was a Lazar Wiesel (from Sighet) A-7713 in Auschwitz whose parents were Solomon Wiesel and Serena Wiesel née Feig (cf. the Buchenwald card for prisoner 123565). This fits with Elie Wiesel's official birth certificate. Contrary to Mattogno there is no evidence that it was issued on the basis of a self-declaration rather than official Sighet records - indeed, we even know the date on which the birth (30.09.1928) was entered into the civil registry (06.10.1928) and even the civil registry number (511); comparing an official state civil registry with the Yad Vashem database is asinine, but typically Mattognesque. Elie Wiesel's father was Solomon Vizel, his mother was Sura (i.e. Sarah) Vizel née Feig (Sarah and Serena are used interchangeably on rare occassions) This also fits with the A.E.F. D.P. Registration Record published by the International Tracing Service after Wiesel's death. His parents are specified as Salomon Wiesel and Szerena Feig there.

The prisoner no. 123565 was also registered in block 66 which was a children's block, not a block for 31-year-old men. In the American Buchenwald questionnaire the same prisoner figures under no. 123165 ("1" instead of "5" is a proven clerical error since this is actually Pavel Kun's number). This prisoner was born in 1928 in Sighet, was in Auschwitz, and could name Samuel Jakobovits as one of his references. Samuel Jakobovits in turn also names Lazar Wiesel as one of his references. Thus they knew each other. And Jakobovits was about the same age as Lazar-1928, from the same town and actually arrived in Auschwitz in the same transport as Lazar-1913. So the identity of Lazar-1913 and Lazar-1928 is rather obvious. And Lazar-1928 was transferred from Buchenwald to Paris. Again, this fits the Elie Wiesel life story. It should be noted that Jakobovits was moved to France with the same transport and kept in touch with Elie Wiesel and his family. There is simply no "opening" in this chain of events in which an impostor could insert himself.

It is true that Nikolaus Grüner claimed to have known brothers Lazar and Abraham Wiesel (A-7713 and A-7712) since his stay in Monowitz (p. 49) but his own book undercuts his credibility on this issue. Remember: he claimed not to have recognized Elie Wiesel as his old Lazar Wiesel during a meeting in 1986 (pp. 31-33). And yet on 05.01.2000 he wrote a letter to Elie Wiesel (fig. 14 and 14.1 in his book):
Ever since you regained your freedom from the eternal threat of the gas chambers in Auschwitz, you have shown great courage and furthermore displayed a huge sacrifice so as to save mankind from yet another Holocaust to come. For this action, in respect, you have also received the Nobel Prize for Peace. 
Honourable Chairman and Participator A-7713, I would like to ask you kindly to study my plea for correction (given below) to the Swedish 'Living History Project' which contains erroneous information and which proposes further measures to protect the world against another Holocaust in the future. 
[...] 
Honourable Chairman! I have reached the point of confidence when I would like you to remember the day when we were liberated, when our joint weight was less than 55 kg. Today, however, fifty five years later and both of us in our seventies, despite all the tremendous work, time, money, effort and energy invested in the teaching of the history of the Holocaust, we are yet again being accused of being a serious threat to the average man's economy and thus are probably facing in the future yet another Holocaust to come. 
[...] 
With this in mind I enclose with this letter a proposition to set up an organisation whose aim is the 'Worldwide Memorial Protection of the Holocaust and all the other Genocides'.
In this text he doesn't doubt Wiesel's age (Lazar-1913 wouldn't have been in his seventies), his camp number and their shared experiences.

It would seem then that it is only after Wiesel ignored Grüner's letter that the whole "I knew the real Lazar Wiesel" story was concocted. (I'm thankful to the user "uberjude" at the AHF for this observation).

So far we have examined only the published documents and have seen how weak the denier arguments are. But now is the time to cut right through this Gordian knot.

Dr. Kenneth Waltzer has kindly supplied me with the documents from the International Tracing Service about the prisoners A-7712 and A-7713 (see Appendix 1).

Of them the most important documents concerning the prisoner A-7712 are the following:
  • A personal card from Buchenwald given to Abram Viezel, Buchenwald number 123488, death on 02.02.1945, official reason: collapse from general body weakness. Born in Sighet on 10.10.1900, wife: Serena Viezel née Feik.
  • Another card (Nummernkarte) about the same prisoner, new details: his father was Lazar Viezel, mother - Betty Viezel née Bosch. Wife is Serena Viezel née Faik. Most importantly there is Viezel's signature and it reads: "Viezel Salomon". His occupation is given as "Schlosser" (locksmith).
  • The personal effects card for the same prisoner. With his personal signature, which, again, reads "Viezel Salomon". Someone struck out "Salomon" and wrote in "Abram" instead.
We see therefore how the Nazi bureaucracy functioned in this case: Shlomo Wiesel wrote his own name as "Salomon" and apparently some functionary corrected it to the official "Abram", because that's what the other documents said. It was useless to protest. Ordnung muss sein.


The most important ITS documents concerning the prisoner A-7713:
  • A personal card from Buchenwald, which has already been published (and mentioned above), given to Lazar Wiesel, number 123565. Born in Sighet on 04.09.1913, not married. Father: Szalamo Wiesel (with the comment that he is also in Buchenwald), mother: Serena Wiesel née Feig (in Auschwitz). Profession: "Schlosserlehrling" (locksmith's apprentice). Bears Lazar Wiesel's signature.
  • Another card (Nummernkarte) about the same prisoner, also bears Wiesel's signature.
The signatures on these two cards of the prisoner A-7713/123565 correspond to the signature on the questionnaire of the Military Government of Germany mentioned above (mistakenly ascribed to prisoner 123165), in which Lazar Wiesel says he was born on 04.10.1928. This confirms that the previously specified date of birth in 1913 was a clerical mistake. This also confirms the identity of Lazar Wiesel born in 1928 with the Auschwitz prisoner A-7713.


Moreover, we can clearly see that contrary to Nikolaus Grüner's claim A-7712 and A-7713 were not brothers and A-7712's real name was Salomon, not Abraham.

These documents also confirm Elie Wiesel's claim that A-7712 was his father Shlomo (Solomon, Salomon):
  • A-7712 was Salomon Viezel, the husband of Serena Viezel née Faik/Feik.
  • A-7713 was a son of Szalamo Wiesel and Serena Wiesel née Feig.
  • Therefore A-7713 was A-7712's son, just as Elie Wiesel claimed. 
As mentioned before, this also corresponds to the data in Elie Wiesel's birth certificate and the A.E.F. D.P. card. (And this further buttresses the fact that "1913" was a clerical mistake, since Lazar Wiesel's father was registered as having been born in 1900.)

True, there are still some minor contradictions. For example the date of Shlomo Wiesel's death -  was it Jan. 27, as Elie Wiesel claimed in his Yad Vashem submission for his father, or was it the night between Jan. 28 and 29, as he wrote in Night, or was it Feb. 2, as the camp documents state?  Wiesel could have been very easily misremembering the date, plus generally we shouldn't rely on memoirists' memory-based chronologies. But we should also not assume that Feb. 2 was the exact date of death either, rather than, say, the day when Wiesel's death was officially registered. There could be a confluence of mistakes at play here again, and again it simply doesn't matter for the issue at hand: at worst it's a case of bad memory.

Then there is the matter of Elie Wiesel's date of birth, given as 04.10.1928 in the 1940s (with the exception of the DP card, where it is given as 04.05.1928; the card was filled out in May so that may explain the mistake) and as 30.09.1928 in the official birth certificate. However the teenager who, according to transport lists, traveled to a children's home in France and whom we know to be Elie Wiesel (from numerous photos, from other Buchenwald Boys' memoirs, from the reminiscences of the educators, etc. - it's not like these things happened in a vacuum) also had the same October date of birth listed, so whatever the reason for the discrepancy, it doesn't matter as far as Elie Wiesel's identity is concerned.

The convergence of the documentary information that we do have proves that Elie Wiesel was what he claimed to be, some inevitable mistakes and minor contradictions notwithstanding. I summed up the most relevant sources in two tables in Appendix 2.

So in the end we know that Nikolaus Grüner lied about Elie Wiesel being an impostor. It's not plausible to suggest that it's a mere false memory, because aside from the details of Grüner's testimony being based on the clerical mistakes discussed above he also invented a story about his imaginary grown up "Lazar Wiesel" having been allowed into the children's block - he had to, in order to mask the contradiction caused by real Wiesel's documented registration in this block.

And the deniers - especially the ever laughable neo-Nazi Carolyn Yeager and the bumbling and mendacious pseudoresearcher Carlo Mattogno, who have been exposed so many times by us, - have shown their true faces once again, latching onto Grüner's tall tale, jumping to conclusions not warranted by the documents they had at their disposal, not applying Occam's razor and not trying to do a better research. These frauds have been discredited - once again.

Appendix 1: The ITS documents.



Appendix 2: Collation of information from sources relevant to Elie and Shlomo Wiesel's stay in the camps.


4 comments:

Sergey Romanov said...

One interesting thing that I didn't want to use in the article but which is worth posting as a comment: at https://www.geni.com/people/Nissel-Wiesel/6000000028517456585 Nis[s]el Wiesel's second name is given as Betty: "Nissel Betty Wiesel (Basch)". If this information is correct, then the info by Fishkovitz and the data from the Nummernkarte of A-7712 nicely complement each other.

I haven't been able to ascertain the source of the geni info, but it does seem to be based on some "hard" sources, given all the exact dates given on the page.

J Kelly said...

Not only is this a Carolyn Yeager favorite but it's also a favorite of Gen Baugher of Furtherglory fame.

Jonathan Harrison said...

As I've said before, the chimps' playbook is not much more than "Wiesel and Diesel" knee-jerks.

Sergey Romanov said...

> "Wiesel and Diesel"

That's a good one! :)