Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was unaware until a visit to California last week that his photograph was being used in an animal rights campaign that compares livestock awaiting slaughter to victims of Nazi concentration camps in World War II.
During an interview before a speech last week, the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner was asked by a reporter to review a portion of the campaign, which has been labeled "The Holocaust on Your Plate."
In the advertisement, which Wiesel had not seen before, he recognized himself.
"They even have my picture here," Wiesel said as he looked at the ad. "They shouldn't do that."
The photo was of emaciated Jewish men on bunks in the Nazi death camp Buchenwald, where Wiesel and his father were taken and where Wiesel's father died before the camp was liberated in 1945 by allied troops. Wiesel, now 74, pointed to the upper right corner of the photo, to the recognizable dark eyebrows, to confirm it was him.
That image is juxtaposed with a picture of chickens in cages in the national campaign launched this month by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. The ads are part of a touring display of 8-foot panels, and also appear on the home page of PETA's Internet site at www.peta.org and www.masskilling.com.
The point PETA is trying to make in the ads, as stated on the Internet site, is "the common roots of victimization and violence and how . . . (people) can help fight these injustices through decisions that they make every time they eat."
Matt Prescott, youth outreach coordinator for PETA, said the organization was not aware that Wiesel was in the photo when it launched the campaign.
Wiesel said that the PETA campaign exemplifies perhaps his greatest disappointment in life.
"I am not afraid of forgetfulness," he said. "I am afraid of banalization, of trivialization and this is part of it."