Nobel laureate Wiesel says he cannot forgive Madoff

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Calling accused swindler  Bernard Madoff a “crook, a thief, a scoundrel,” Holocaust  survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel said yesterday he could never forgive the man he says stole all of  his foundation’s money.   
 

Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel

Wiesel said he twice met Madoff, a once-respected Wall  Street trader who authorities say preyed on the Jewish elite of  North America and Europe in what grew to be an estimated $50  billion fraud. They discussed ethics and education, not  finances.     
 
“Could I forgive him? No,” Wiesel said during a discussion,  “Madoff and the Meltdown,” hosted by Conde Nast Portfolio  magazine. “First of all, it would mean he would come on his  knees and ask for forgiveness. He wouldn’t do that.”     

He said the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity had $15.2  million under management with Bernard L. Madoff Investment  Securities, substantially all of its assets. Wiesel said he and  his wife also lost personal investments, but he did not  disclose the amount.   
 
Madoff, 70, is under house arrest in his luxury Manhattan  apartment after being arrested and charged with securities  fraud in December. He has not appeared in court to formally  answer the charge as several government agencies investigate.
     
Asked about so-called affinity frauds and whether Madoff’s  being Jewish had any relevance, Wiesel said Madoff “is simply a  crook, a thief, a scoundrel. It is not the Jewishness in him,  it is the inhumanity in this man.     
“What he has done to people breaks my heart.”     

Charitable foundations serving the poor and needy,  universities, hospitals and thousands of individual investors  have said they were victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, one in  which early investors are paid off with the money of new  clients.   
 
Wiesel, who survived Nazi Germany’s concentration camps in  World War II and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, said he was  introduced to Madoff through a friend. He said the unidentified  friend lost $50 million in the purported fraud.   
 
The 80-year-old Wiesel, on a panel with former U.S.  Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt and  veteran short seller James Chanos, suggested a government  bailout for the charities.     

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