Another Great Performance by Elie Wiesel

On December 8, 2014 WXXI-TV’s Great Performances presented the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman and the renowned cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot in a musical exploration of liturgical and traditional works for both chamber orchestra and klezmer settings. To fortify its Jewish character the program included a short discussion between Itzhak Perlman and Elie Wiesel, arguably the foremost proponent of the current Holocaust narrative.

Wiesel told the incredulous Perlman that as a boy he too had studied violin. Moreover he claimed that he took his violin to Auschwitz in June 1944; his father suggested that since Elie was already there he might as well try out for the Auschwitz Orchestra in hopes of earning an extra ration of bread. But alas Elie could only play classical music, like Beethoven, and not those evil Nazi marches, so during his interview with the head of the Auschwitz Orchestra a vicious kapo grabbed his violin and smashed it under foot.

As a Jew, I was proud of Perlman’s gracious restraint in not calling Wiesel’s remarks utter nonsense. He did not even stoop to ask Elie how such a tall story could have been omitted from Night, his best-selling novel, which is force fed to American students as a must-be-believed memoir.

But I am tormented. Is it not shameful of The Great Weasel to mention the existence of an Auschwitz Orchestra? An orchestra in an extermination camp? What next? A swimming pool? Oy, what a shanda fur di goyim.

And if we are to accept an inmate orchestra at Auschwitz might we not envision a Klezmer band at Ketziot, Israel’s largest concentration camp for Palestinians in the Negev Desert; it could be called the Ketziot Klezmer Klub and give new meaning to the otherwise odious acronym KKK.

But wait; you must not mention an Israeli concentration camp. Forget Ketziot. Do not compare the plight of Jews with the plight of Palestinians; such a comparison according to Elie Wiesel is “unworthy.” Just sit back and enjoy his “great performance.”

Daniel McGowan is a Professor Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Because of admonishment by the administration, it is hereby stated that the above remarks are solely those of the author. Hobart and William Smith Colleges neither condone nor condemn these opinions. Furthermore, the author has been instructed to use his personal email address of and not his college email at for those wishing to contact him with comments or criticisms. Read other articles by Daniel, or visit Daniel's website.