Elie Wiesel says he escaped kidnap attempt in U.S. hotel
Police suspect member of a Holocaust denial group behind incident at San Francisco peace conference.
Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel told Haaretz on Thursday he escaped a kidnap attempt in a San Francisco hotel last week.
Wiesel, 78, whose novels deal with his experience as a Holocaust survivor, said he was grabbed by a stranger in an elevator at the hotel he was staying at for a peace conference and ordered to follow at the risk of violence.
In response, Wiesel called for help and the man fled.
Police asked Wiesel to keep the event under wraps until progress was made in the investigation.
According to San Francisco Police Sgt. Neville Gittens, a man approached Wiesel in an elevator and requested an interview with the author on the evening of February 1 at the Argent Hotel.
When Wiesel consented to talk in the hotel's lobby, the man insisted it be done in a hotel room and dragged the 78-year-old off the elevator on the sixth floor, Gittens said. The assailant fled after Wiesel began to scream, and Wiesel went to the lobby and called police.
Gittens said police are investigating the incident as a crime. Wiesel could not be immediately reached for comment at Boston University, where he teaches, or through his institute in New York.
A driver's license in the name of Harry Hunt, a member of a Holocaust denial group, was found in a car parked near the hotel. Hunt has not been located since the event.
A posting on a virulent anti-Semitic Web site Tuesday by a person identifying himself as Eric Hunt claimed responsibility.
"I had planned to bring Wiesel to my hotel room, where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, 'Night,' is almost entirely fictitious," Hunt wrote on the site. The poster also said "I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks and had hoped to get Wiesel into my custody, with a cornered Wiesel finally forced to state the truth on videotape."
Gittens said investigators were aware of the posting and declined to comment further on the investigation.
The anti-Semitic Web site was disabled late Friday. It is registered to Andrew Winkler in North Sydney, Australia.