New York, NY – Calling accused swindler Bernard Madoff a “crook, a thief, a scoundrel,” Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel said today he could never forgive the man he says stole all of his foundation’s money.
Wiesel said he twice met Madoff, a once-respected Wall Street trader who authorities say preyed on the Jewish elite of North America and Europe in what grew to be an estimated $50 billion fraud. They discussed ethics and education, not finances.
“Could I forgive him? No,” Wiesel said during a discussion, “Madoff and the Meltdown,” hosted by Conde Nast Portfolio magazine. “First of all, it would mean he would come on his knees and ask for forgiveness. He wouldn’t do that.”
He said the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity had $15.2 million under management with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, substantially all of its assets. Wiesel said he and his wife also lost personal investments, but he did not disclose the amount.
Asked about so-called affinity frauds and whether Madoff’s being Jewish had any relevance, Wiesel said Madoff “is simply a crook, a thief, a scoundrel. It is not the Jewishness in him, it is the inhumanity in this man.
“What he has done to people breaks my heart.”
Wiesel, who survived Nazi Germany’s concentration camps in World War II and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, said he was introduced to Madoff through a friend. He said the unidentified friend lost $50 million in the purported fraud.
The 80-year-old Wiesel, on a panel with former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt and veteran short seller James Chanos, suggested a government bailout for the charities.
“I would like, just as they bailed out the banks, to bail out all of the charitable institutions,” Wiesel said. “I think it would be a great demonstration that the Obama administration showed that they really think of those who are helpless.”