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Elie Wiesel's Nobel Prize Speech

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Prize is an internationally recognized award that is delivered to an individual or organization that has accomplished an ameliorative effort for mankind. In the year 1986 the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was a man named Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor and humanitarian. A day after receiving the award, Elie gave a Nobel lecture entitled ‘Hope, Despair and Memory’, with the speech focusing on the importance of remembering. Elie provides a dichotomy: recognize the truth from the past to provide the foundation for a better world, or choose ignorance and allow for the irreverence of human rights.

The audience was composed of people who could make a difference, for the audience was the Nobel committee, intellectuals, people of influence, and people with an interest in the improvement of humanity. This composition of audience allowed Elie to take a more aggressive stance. Elie directly told the people, with a tone of fury, begging, and most greatly disappointment, that now was the time to remember.

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The factoids of Elie’s life that cause people to connect to his suffering establish his credibility as a speaker on suffering. According to Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee in ‘Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students’ ethos is, “the character or reputation of a rhetoric”. Elie’s speech then continues to tell of his severe human abuse, and in the recounting of his severe human abuse. Elie says about these memories that, “For us ‘Holocaust survivors’, forgetting was never an option” (Wiesel). Moments that caused compassion and sorrow such as, “the little girl who, hugging her grandmother whispered: ‘Don’t be afraid, don’t be sorry to die… I’m not’. She was seven, that little girl who went to her death without fear, without regret” (Wiesel). It was their job to keep these memories alive, for these were the memories that effectively conveyed the cruel absurdity during moments of the Holocaust, and recalling them could hopefully bring about a change in man’s attitude.

Elie says how an historian, Shimon Dubov, propagated this belief in the concentration camps that remembering the Holocaust could bring about a change in man’s attitude. Elie says how when him and others started to speak, “the people around us refused to listen; and even those who listened refused to believe; and even those who believed could not comprehend. Of course they could not. Nobody could. The experience of the camps defies comprehension”. This quote is a successful use of pathos for the audience is capable of understanding the feelings Elie and others must have had.

Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his humanitarian efforts, and for never opting for man to regress. Words however are not enough to describe what Elie has done, for words that can be comprehended are not capable of aptly describing this man’s life and mission. Elie is a man who experienced mental and physical torture, and from this torture found the will to believe that there could be a world where man would never torture again. Elie discovered along the path of bringing this world to manifestation however that people choose to forget suffering rather than remember it, live in a world of dishonest peace than acknowledge oppression. Elie’s speech utilized rhetorical devices to make these tributes and his point that when mankind chooses to remember he chooses to progress, poignant and keenly felt, and therefore Elie’s speech was successful. However, it is when Elie’s speech and message go from just being successful, to being a creed people live by, that humans will create the reality that so many great people dedicated their lives to achieving: a reality where there is no more suffering. A reality where no one forgets.

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Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize Speech. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize Speech.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize Speech. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize Speech [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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