After Elie Wiesel lost more than $7 million of his personal fortune in the Bernard Madoff scandal, and his foundation took a $15.2 million hit, the Nobel Prize winner roundly cursed the Ponzi scheme artist, but he has now discovered a redeeming aspect to the financial blow.
Wiesel first disclosed the extent of his loss on Feb. 26 at a Conde Nast Portfolio panel discussion, but the business magazine’s web site has now weighed in with a follow-up.
During the last months, small and large donations, totaling $400,000, have flowed into The Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Some of the money was given directly to Wiesel and his wife Marion, but the couple turned everything over to the foundation.
“At any moment it would have been an amazing outpouring of generosity,” Marion Wiesel told Portfolio.com, “but specifically in these times it’s so amazing, and it continues.”
Among the donors are two alumni of Boston University, where Wiesel has taught for more than 30 years, who launched an e-mail campaign to encourage one million people to each donate $6, in remembrance of the six million Holocaust victims.
Donations to the Wiesel Foundation, which supports after-school centers in Israel, international conferences and various humanitarian awards and prizes, have ranged from $5 to $100,000.
Many small contributions came from “people we don’t know, in places we’ve never been to,” Marion Wiesel said.
At the earlier panel discussion, Wiesel said of Madoff, “We gave him everything; we thought he was God, we trusted everything in his hands.”
Wiesel added at the time that he could never forgive Madoff, who is now in jail awaiting sentencing. “I would like him to be in a solitary cell with a screen, and on that screen, for at least five years of his life, every day and every night there should be pictures of his victims,” Wiesel said.