The Élie Wiesel affair: in Hungary, the real meaning of Miklos Grüner’s lawsuit against rabbi Shlomo Köves

Contrary to what may have been said here and there, the fact that the Hungarian Jew Miklos Grüner has, both in first instance and on appeal, lost his defamation case in Budapest against rabbi Shlomo Köves does not mean that Mr Grüner lied with regard either to Élie Wiesel or to the rabbi. I found the article below online in Hungarian and asked my friend Jürgen Graf for an English translation, and he quickly set to work; I thank him for his helpfulness and speed.

The article shows that the Budapest court of appeal has refused to rule on whether Élie Wiesel, as stated many years by the former Auschwitz inmate Miklos Grüner, is an impostor who, in particular, has usurped the registration number A-7713 of a certain Lazar Wiesel and appropriated the latter’s account of his time at Auschwitz. Indeed, in November 2012 the court held that the matter was one for historians or other competent authorities but not for judges, and that the rabbi, who had accused Grüner of falsifying history, had stayed within the bounds tolerated by the law on freedom of expression.

Mr Grüner, understandably, was deeply disappointed by that ruling. For a quarter of a century he has been trying to bring into the open what he claims is the truth about Élie Wiesel’s imposture.

As is known, the Auschwitz State Museum has recently acknowledged that the number A-7713 was indeed that of Lazar Wiesel. Thus Mr Grüner, at least on this point – one of considerable importance – has been telling the truth. Thanks are owed to Jean Robin, who is an anti-revisionist and of Jewish origin, and to Alain Soral, who had prompted him to look into the Wiesel/Grüner affair in order to judge the revisionists on actual evidence and not in line with media-inspired prejudice.

It would be interesting if the current heads of archives at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, along with the officials at the International Tracing Service (ITS) of Arolsen-Waldeck, let it be known whether their records included any documents relating to Élie Wiesel and his father, mother and three sisters – two of whom, like him, survived.

In 1986 I published an article entitled A Prominent false witness: Élie Wiesel. During the award ceremony in Oslo for É. Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize that year I, with the help of Pierre Guillaume and Serge Thion, distributed the text as a leaflet. I remember personally handing a copy to Mrs Danielle Mitterrand. “Philosopher” Bernard-Henri Lévy was frothing at the mouth.

In the United States, Mrs Carolyn Yeager tirelessly publishes interesting documents or writings on her website Elie Wiesel Cons the World (eliewieseltattoo.com). I myself have held É. Wiesel to be a con-man for quite some time but, just as “they only lend to the rich”, I fear that some may, now and then, go a bit too far with this type of accusation. Is it the case with Mr Grüner at times? The Hungarian judges have left the question to historians and specialists.

February 8, 2013


Népszabadság online, November 29, 2012

Holocaust survivor disappointed by Court

The court of appeal of the [Hungarian] capital has dismissed the claim of Holocaust survivor Miklos Grüner against Shlomo Köves, whom Grüner had sued for libel after Köves accused him of falsifying history. A lower court’s decision is thus upheld. The plaintiff had wanted to prove that the man known to the world as Élie Wiesel was living under a false identity. Miklos Grüner is disappointed with the ruling; in his opinion, the court has shirked its duty to render a truthful judgment.

On Thursday the court upheld a lower court ruling that had rejected Miklos Grüner’s claim against rabbi Slomo Köves for libel in an article in which Köves had accused Grüner of falsifying history. That decision, which now stands, held that in the context of a libel suit a court could not take a stand on questions that were a matter for historians or other competent authorities.

However, that was exactly what Miklos Grüner had wished to obtain: he had wanted the case to focus on Nobel prize winner and writer Élie Wiesel. According to Grüner’s claim, the man known to the world today as Élie Wiesel had stolen the identity of [a certain] Lazar Wiesel, who had been lodged in the same barracks at Auschwitz as himself. Grüner had hoped the court would rule that everything he [Grüner] had been saying about Wiesel for 25 years matched the truth.

In his libel suit Grüner had attacked Köves, head rabbi of the united Israelite community, asking that he be held liable for tarnishing his good reputation as Köves had, in an internet article appearing in 2009 on the occasion of Élie Wiesel’s visit to Hungary, branded Grüner a falsifier of history. In the trial court the plaintiff had presented evidence that he considered conclusive. According to his assertion, all trace of Lazar Wiesel, who at Auschwitz had been registered under number A-7713, vanished in the mid nineteen-fifties. Grüner held that the book connected with Lazar [Élie?] Wiesel’s name, entitled Night, was the work of another person. With a view to the royalties, Grüner suspects, Lazar [Élie?] Wiesel first rewrote the Yiddish language autobiography in literary style; thereupon Élie Wiesel assumed Lazar Wiesel’s identity.

In the lower court the plaintiff, who had produced several pieces of evidence, attached particular value to documents he had obtained from the archives of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, which showed that the prisoner Lazar Wiesel, registered under number A-7713, was born on September 4, 1913. Miklos Grüner claimed that Élie Wiesel’s assertion that his father Salomon Wiesel had been assigned number A-7712 at the death camp was untenable. According to the documents presented by the plaintiff, the prisoner with number A-7712 was Abraham Wiesel who, born on October 10, 1900, could not possibly have been the father of Lazar Wiesel, born in 1913.

In their respective rulings neither the court of appeal nor the lower court dwelt upon Grüner’s documents; in the words of the appeal court ruling, such judgments were for science or for other competent authorities to make. Indeed, the high court took a stand only on the question whether Mate (Slomo) Köves had damaged the good reputation of the plaintiff in an article dating from 2009, holding as follows: “In his evaluation of Miklos Grüner’s historical activities, the rabbi did not exceed the limits of free speech. In the opinion of the high court Köves had indeed used strong language, but his formulations were neither hateful nor offensive nor abasing”.

After hearing the decision, Miklos Grüner answered our questions saying he was very disappointed and felt that the court had shirked its duty to render a truthful judgment, thus leaving open the question he had raised a quarter of a century ago. He added: “For a pious Jew there can hardly be a greater insult than being called a falsifier of history by a rabbi, and seeing everything to which he has devoted the last 25 years of his life called into doubt.”