Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist

When Elie Wiesel Healed a Rwandan Genocide Victim

Elie Wiesel & Rwandan Genocide Victims

Victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda remember meeting Elie Wiesel after he confronted the Holocaust denial of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN’s Durban II racism conference, in April 2009. My friend Jeanine Munyeshuli Barbé sent me the following tribute.

A great man has left this world. Elie Wiesel touched my heart. It was in 2009, in broad daylight, at the UN, president Ahmadinejad quietly called to have Israel wiped out of the map.

We were all locked in the Assembly hall. Only diplomats were allowed to leave the room. I almost fainted. I was with my dear friend Kayitesi Berthe who had just opened the session with her testimony, telling how it was to survive the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Berthe was a teenager in 1994, and in her testimony she insisted on the fact that for her comrades at school and the rest of the world, it was life as usual while in Rwanda a million of Tutsi were killed, in broad daylight.

15 years after the genocide, we’re locked in that room and Berthe was hyperventilating. It was a nightmare.

Some people in the room applauded Ahmadinejad. We were suffocating. It took us ages to get out of the assembly hall. I don’t remember how we managed to get out there only to stumble upon Elie WieseI.

I do remember how comforting it felt. I was deeply touched by his warmth. That day at the UN, he took the time to take Berthe’s two frozen hands in his warm hands. He touched her cheeks. She was crying.

He was rushed by people around him but he took the time. He hugged her. He did the same with Esther Mujawayo [(who devotes her life to Rwandan victims of the genocide) and myself. Said a few words in French.

I remember his warmth, his eyes, his humanity. The shelter he offered us.. Just by his touch.

Thank you Elie Wiesel.

This is the speech he gave afterwards at Yom Hashoah.

My sweet Berthe left us a year ago. We would be calling/skyping each other right now … I miss her dearly.

I am joining all the people who loved Elie Wiesel in praying for his good soul to transition peacefully.

About the Author
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland. An international lawyer, Neuer has been described by the Tribune de Genève as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper ranked Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” Hillel Neuer is a renowned speaker who has published widely, testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, and appeared on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution declaring “Hillel Neuer Day” in recognition of his work as “one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates.” In June 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, citing his work as “an innovator” in “creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice."