Walt Disney won France’s Legion d’Honneur in 1935. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who survived World War II concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald, received the same honor in 1984.
As a journalist at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953, Wiesel interviewed Disney. Four years later, per a column written by Wiesel in Yiddish for The Forverts (The Forward) that was unearthed by Tablet magazine contributing editor Menachem Butler, Wiesel visited Disneyland. The Anaheim, Calif. pit stop was part of a six-week cross-country road trip taken by Wiesel with his local editor-boss at Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot and the editor’s wife:
Several times in the article, Wiesel reflects on his appreciation of Walt Disney – “the person who created this land, this universe, must be a genius, a rare genius” – and then shares the anecdote that he was told of how Walt Disney often walks around Disneyland in disguise.
Wiesel understands why: “If one wants to calm his nerves and forget the bitter realities of daily life, there is no better-suited place to do so than Disneyland. In Disneyland, the land of children’s dreams, everything is simple, beautiful, good. There, no one screams at his fellow, no one is exploited by his fellow, no one’s fortune derives from his fellow’s misfortune. If children had the right to vote, they would vote Disney their president. And the whole world would look different.”
Butler was able to locate hard copies of Wiesel’s old The Forverts columns at New York’s Center for Jewish History. Over the course of a year, he perused all of Wiesel’s The Forverts contributions, suggesting a book may also be in the offing.
The best part of Butler’s look at Wiesel’s “A Visit to the Wonderful Disneyland” piece is how he is able to resurrect the way Wiesel ties in some comments made by Disney at that aforementioned Cannes Film Festival in 1953. Read those words, and the rest of Butler’s Tablet magazine piece, here.
Photo via: disney.com