Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Barbie Trial -- Day 15 -- Elie Wiesel testifies

Film | Accession Number: 2005.516.1 | RG Number: RG-60.1622 | Film ID: 3985

13:47 President Cerdini calls the session to order; asks that the accused present himself; Barbie refuses to appear; Cerdini calls on the bailiff to compel the accused to appear

13:47 The bailiff reads the names of the witnesses scheduled to give testimony in the session

13:49 Cerdini suspends the session while the bailiff goes to Barbie to compel him to appear

14:12 Cerdini calls the session to order; the bailiff reads Barbie's statement that he refuses to appear

14:15 Prosecutor Bermann asks to add two names to the list of civil parties set to testify on the day of June 5

14:16 Cerdini calls witness Elie Wiesel to the stand; the witness presents himself to the court and is sworn in

14:19 The witness comments on his path to understanding his own experience of the Holocaust, and why he has not written and spoken more on the subject; he explains that he knows, on some level, that someone who has not lived through what he has will never truly understand; he says that, 'it is because of our faith in Man that we for so long were not able to see the signs and receive the signals of danger'; he describes the challenge of trying to decide where to begin to explain his ordeal; he describes his childhood teachers, his friends, and his grandmother; he explains that he will not speak about his mother or siblings for fear of crying in public, saying 'this is why I write, and why I write others than myself'; he explains that it is the duty of the witness to keep the memory alive, which is why he finds himself testifying as a witness for the first time; he touches on his inability to recount much of what he saw, explaining, 'How do I describe to you the woman who was stopped on the street with her two children, watched them both shot by German officers, held them close to her chest, and then danced? I don't know.'; he discusses the high level of education and appreciation of culture in Germany before 1939, asking, 'How can a college-educated man kill children and then go home and admire a canvas?'; he explains, 'I hope that by writing, I will understand.'; he explains that the fault of the first death of those lost in the Holocaust lies with the Nazis, but that their second death-- the death of their memory-- is ours to keep at bay

14:35 Prosecutor Jakubowicz reads for the court a letter written to him by Mr. Wiesel; the letter describes Wiesel's life prior to the German invasion of Hungary in 1944, and the subsequent systematic decimation of more and more rights for Jews; he asks himself the question of how the Holocaust was possible, and writes, 'we can understand Auschwitz neither with God, nor without Him.'; he discusses the onus of remembering those who are dead, and the difficulty of finding the words to do so; he explains, 'Can one die more than once? Yes, one can. The survivor dies each time that he returns, in his thoughts, to that nocturnal train which he never really left.' He describes the difficulty of surviving the Holocaust when family members have perished, and explains that testifying can bring justification for survival, and that this trial of Barbie must bring honor to the memory of those lost

14:53 Prosecutor Jakubowicz asks Mr. Wiesel to explain his reasons for writing the letter, and why he allowed the letter to be read aloud; the witness explains that as a writer, he finds it easier to think on paper than in a room full of strangers, and he preferred to find the 'right words' to express what he wanted to say over the course of several days; Mr. Wiesel discusses his relationship with Judaism and his childhood spent dreaming of Jerusalem in his mind and in books; he describes the premature adulthood foisted upon children who lived through the Holocaust, and the difficulty of returning to life outside the camps; he discusses the beauty of the solidarity of victims, and gives his opinion of the definition of a crime against humanity

15:08 End of tape

Event:  1987 June 02
Lyon, France
Accessed at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Institut National de L'Audiovisuel
Record last modified: 2020-08-04 09:20:14
This page: