Anti-Semitic fliers have been posted at the University of Cincinnati and nearby Xavier University, targeting Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, who is speaking at Xavier on Sunday, May 6.
On April 4, about 30 fliers were posted at the University of Cincinnati on and around the Hillel Jewish Student Center, and a couple were found by the student union, said Judith Wertheim, 20, a resident of University Heights and a junior at the university. The fliers were posted a day after Hillel began advertising Wiesel’s speech, which is being presented by The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, an independent nonprofit in Cincinnati.
The fliers, which call Wiesel a liar and a fraud, among other scurrilous charges, were also spotted on the campus at Xavier University, a Jesuit institution that is co-sponsoring his appearance.
In response, the University of Cincinnati’s Undergraduate Student Senate passed a resolution supporting a letter drafted by Rabbi Elana Dellal, executive director of its Hillel, and submitted to the senate by Stephen Lamb, a student intern at Hillel. The letter criticized the fliers’ message, said Wertheim, a senator from the College of Allied Health Sciences.
“We, the student body of the University of Cincinnati, will not stand by as intolerance occurs on our campus,” Dellal wrote in the letter titled “We Will Not Be Silent.”
“We, students and supporters of the University of Cincinnati, understand that denying that the Holocaust happened is anti-Semitic,” the letter continued. “There is no place on our campus for intolerance of any kind, be it religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.”
Jewish students active at Hillel, who plan to attend Wiesel’s speech, also decided that doing more than writing the letter and alerting the student government to the fliers was “giving too much power to this person posting them,” said Wertheim. “This wasn’t a threat of violence. But we don’t condone hate speech, which is why we brought it to the student government to get more backing.”
When informed of the fliers, university officials said they would “keep an eye out,” said Wertheim. “It was very clear the university is very supportive of Hillel.”
The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education is presenting Wiesel, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor and author, with financial support from the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. Wiesel’s first book “Night,” the 1956 memoir of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz, has sold millions of copies.
The author of the flier identifies himself as Robert Ransdell, coordinator of Cincinnati’s unit of the National Alliance, a white supremacist group that has dwindled in support in recent years and only has about a dozen active participants, said David Schneider, an Anti-Defamation League investigative researcher based in Chicago.
“Elie Wiesel, because of his prominence and his status, attracts the attention of Holocaust deniers and white supremacists,” said Schneider.
Wiesel has not spoken in Cincinnati in a decade, said Sarah Weiss, executive director of The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. Many schools in the area include “Night” in their reading lists, and there are already 4,000 reservations for the event, including 2,000 students, she said.
“While it is unfortunate that individuals who hate and want to deny history are present and visible and active, it’s a small minority of people,” said Weiss. “We should use this to energize and galvanize efforts around Holocaust education. Maybe, in a small way, it’s an opportunity for us.”
Publicizing hate-mongering activities requires walking a fine line, said Nina Sundell, area director of the Anti-Defamation League, whose region covers Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.
“The purpose of distributing the fliers is to bring more attention to a hateful activity,” she said. “There’s a downside to publicizing that as more people hear their message. However, one of the best ways to fight hateful rhetoric and speech is through other speech, the reverse type. It’s always a judgment call” whether or not to make these activities public.
Sundell has not decided if she should become involved in the Cincinnati incident. “Would it assist them in putting forth a positive message or spread the hateful message further?” she asked. “We feel it is the ADL’s role to bring these issues to light, but we need to examine this situation further to decide if we take any action.”