Skip to main content

School District Unintentionally Proves Elie Wiesel Quote’s Point by Banning It

Holocaust survivor and Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel attends a press conference after Interfaith Leaders delegation meeting at the United Nations.

Recently, Pennsylvania’s Central Bucks County school district banned a local librarian from using a certain Elie Wiesel quote. Elie Wiesel, being a survivor of the Holocaust, wrote prolifically on the subject, touching on the spirit of survival and resistance and creating some of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of modern literature to date. The quote in question was in response to his Nobel Peace Prize win. Why did CBSD ban this quote? Let’s see if we can figure it out.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” What Wiesel is saying is quite simple: In times of great turmoil and violence, you cannot claim to be beneficially neutral, because there is no such thing. By attempting to be “neutral,” you are only benefitting your own sense of comfort and wellbeing, to the detriment of those on the receiving end of oppression. I feel like this isn’t that difficult to grasp, even if it may make some people uncomfortable.

For a school district of all things to come out swinging and say that this is a hot take? During the week of Holocaust Remembrance Day? To be so oblivious either directly implies that the board has more sympathy for fascists than literal survivors of the Holocaust, or that they’re ignorant enough that they shouldn’t be running anything remotely related to a school. What an absolute disgrace, and shame on them for invoking the name of such a brilliant man in such a ridiculous way.

Even worse, the district’s reasoning is that the quote violates their policies because it’s not “fair & balanced”—the exact mentality the quote is criticizing. This attempt to sanitize the educational environment, which we’ve been seeing a lot of lately, is just one more ill-advised attempt at neutrality that won’t do anything except help preserve a status quo where oppressors are protected.

I read Elie Wiesel in 7th grade at a goddamn catholic school, of all places. It was one of the most impactful books that school made me read, one of the only ones worth remembering. We went to a Holocaust Museum afterwards where we were further educated on the subject. I lost nothing and gained everything worth taking away from the experience.

Kids need to know these things. They need to learn while they’re still young and starting to form their own opinions of the world. They need to know who people like Wiesel were, what they suffered, and what they want future generations to learn, in order to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

And honestly, without meaning to sound glib? These kids have more to worry about than issues of supposed “moral purity.” School districts, get your priorities straight.

(featured image: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. Her prior experiences with media have taken her down many different roads, from local history podcasts to music coverage & production. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.