Typography 02, Project 4
Creating a print and motion interpretation of an important speech from the 20th Century.
Speech Chosen: The Perils of Indifference by Elie Wiesel
_ Who is speaking?
_ Why was/is the speech important to society?
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, gave this impassioned speech in the East Room of the White House on April 12, 1999, as part of the Millennium Lecture series, hosted by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the summer of 1944, as a teenager in Hungary, Elie Wiesel, along with his father, mother and sisters, were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz extermination camp in occupied Poland. Upon arrival there, Wiesel and his father were selected by SS Dr. Josef Mengele for slave labor and wound up at the nearby Buna rubber factory.
Daily life included starvation rations of soup and bread, brutal discipline, and a constant struggle against overwhelming despair. At one point, young Wiesel received 25 lashes of the whip for a minor infraction.
In January 1945, as the Russian Army drew near, Wiesel and his father were hurriedly evacuated from Auschwitz by a forced march to Gleiwitz and then via an open train car to Buchenwald in Germany, where his father, mother, and a younger sister eventually died.
Wiesel was liberated by American troops in April 1945. After the war, he moved to Paris and became a journalist then later settled in New York. Since 1976, he has been Andrew Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. He has received numerous awards and honors including the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was also the Founding Chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial. Wiesel has written over 40 books including Night, a harrowing chronicle of his Holocaust experience, first published in 1960.
At the White House lecture, Wiesel was introduced by Hillary Clinton who stated, "It was more than a year ago that I asked Elie if he would be willing to participate in these Millennium Lectures...I never could have imagined that when the time finally came for him to stand in this spot and to reflect on the past century and the future to come, that we would be seeing children in Kosovo crowded into trains, separated from families, separated from their homes, robbed of their childhoods, their memories, their humanity."
_ Why do you feel in is important or interesting?
Indifference and global apathy is something that has marked our modern society in the past and in the present. Global indifference during WWII contributed to the carnage of the Holocaust, what other events are being ignored today that we will look back on in the future with great shame? Indifference is a punishment far greater than hate or anger, it is diminishing a human being to nothingness, for to not care, to not rise up against persecution and hate is to ignore the freedoms that all humans fundamentally share. I think this is important because oftentimes indifference is comfortable, it is inconvenient after all to take a stand, to make a statement, to show pity and empathy. Of all of the videos and speeches I could find, this is was the one that made me stop, and think. Think about my actions. My motives. My beliefs. And Wiesel's ability to make me question myself is powerful, and makes me want to do this project for that reason.
_ What is the emotion, mood, tone, personality, feeling of the speech?
There is deep sorrow and fear for what has happened in the past, but nevertheless, there is hope that our society has the ability and leadership to change our ways and cure our global disease of indifference. There is something haunting about Elie Wiesel's voice, since I have read Night, and the stark memory of that book cover with its hanging bodies is something as familiar to me as the day that I first read it, I immediately got goosebumps when I heard his voice. This speech is grave, it is thoughtful, it has remarkable credibility because of Wiesel's experiences during the Holocaust, and he honestly acts like a speakerphone for the voices lost because of global indifference.
_ What is intonation, emphasis, what is loud, stressed, or soft. Where are there pauses...
There was a lot of pauses, just grew emphasis in Wiesel's voice. He starts off so strong, and sounds so much younger than he really is, and as he continues to talk, he becomes more human I guess, as he recounts his experiences and the events occurring in the world during that time, the deaths in Rwanda, in Kosovo, in Ireland.
_ What do you FEEL should be loud or soft, long pause or rushed?
I feel that his recounts of his past should be soft, slower, because the impact of the words themselves are so haunting that his memories are truly the essence and the proof of his statements against indifference.
_ Is there a call to action? When listening to it what are key/emphasized words?
This is a call to action for the global eradication of indifference, the eradication of the apathetic disregard for what is happening not only in the world, but also in our country. His words applies to ever person, to every situation.
"Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment."
"We felt that to be abandoned by God was worse than to be punished by Him. Better an unjust God than an indifferent one. For us to be ignored by God was harsher punishment than to be a victim of His anger. Man can live far from God—not outside God."
"Over there, behind the black gates of Auschwitz, the most tragic of all prisoners were the "Muselmanner," as they were called. Wrapped in their torn blankets, they would sit or lie on the ground, staring vacantly into space, unaware of who or where they were -- strangers to their surroundings. They no longer felt pain, hunger, thirst. They feared nothing. They felt nothing. They were dead and did not know it."
"Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction."
"Of course, indifference can be tempting -- more than that, seductive."
"But this time, the world was not silent. This time, we do respond. This time, we intervene."
_ How does it make you feel?
Ashamed by past mistakes, ashamed of my own indifference, hopeful than we can rise above this.
_ How do imagine that the audience felt?
I imagine that Wiesel's words were extremely powerful within the context of the situation, his comments about the children being persecuted in Kosovo was certainly applicable due to the events occurring at that time, and probably influenced others to have a more sympathetic opinion about the world events at that time.
_ Could there be another interpretation of the speech?
He does make a few negative comments about FDR and I could see that having different consequences, and I wonder if placing the Holocaust of the greatest crime against humanity could turn some people away from his overall message.
_ Write/find a short bio, of the person giving the speech.
From his first book, Night, which records his experience at Auschwitz:
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.