Bernard Madoff was, in a perverted sense, deeply religious. He served Mammon, the money god, and in the course of his priestly devotion caused thousands of investors who flocked to him and solicited his investment services to be fleeced in a fiscal holocaust on the altar of that material god. Mr. Madoff's intense degree of abject service to that deity was no lukewarm faith: It was, you might say, all-consuming.
Among his investors was a certain Elie Wiesel, himself a member in high standing within the priestly caste of the Holocaust cult, who invested both the $15-million seed money of his Holocaust remembrance foundation and his own not inconsiderable private fortune with Mr Madoff; quite eagerly, no doubt, anticipating the double-digit returns, ranging from 10 to 40 percent annually.
Elie Wiesel, who in the memoir, Legends of Our Time, admonished his co-religionists to set aside a "zone of hate" for what "the German personifies" is now entangled in a personification drama of his own. For Bernard Madoff, if anything, personifies a state of limitless, unabashed, criminal greed. Financially speaking, Mr Wiesel had for years ridden on the coat-tails of Mr Madoff's alleged investment prowess and business acumen in order to reap those huge returns; and got burned, of course, along with Mr Madoff's 13,500 other investors.
"What Hitler didn't finish, he did!" screams the headline introducing a section of an essay entitled "Madoff's World" by one Mark Seal in the April 2009 issue of Vanity Fair. It recalls the profound distress and bitterness the Madoff affair has engendered among those Jews who had mistakenly trusted Mr. Madoff with their money and of the "ugly wave of anti-Semitism" that swept the community in Palm Beach, Florida, in the wake of the Madoff scandal. Click on:
Mr. Wiesel surely cannot be pleased that, in his very own way, he had made this unpleasant denouement happen. We know he is very displeased with Mr. Madoff, since he is on the record saying he would like to see the fraudster occupy a cell wall-papered with the photos of his victims. Prison cells are usually small; for Mr. Wiesel's wish to come true, Mr Madoff would have to occupy a cell the size of an NBA basketball gym.
Bernard Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison; now 71, he will die behind bars. Were there, I wonder, one or more of the thousands who invested with him moved to to do so on the strength of the knowledge that Elie Wiesel and his foundation had put all their investment eggs in Mr Madoff's basket. I keep picturing Eugene, a fictional retiree on a fixed income, telling his skeptical wife Mona that he has a chance to get shoe-horned in with a large group of investors of average means angling to hand over the entirety of their amassed funds to Bernard Madoff, to be deployed by his speculative investment genius:
"Would so great a moral authority as Elie Wiesel, a Nobel laureate and a Holocaust survivor, risk all of his money with Bernard Madoff if Mr Madoff was anything but above board? Well? Think if it, you big silly! And put your anxiety away!"