Obama and Wiesel: Potential Co-Authors

Photograph by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

President Barack Obama and Buchenwald concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel visit the Little Camp memorial at the former Buchenwald concentration camp on June 5, 2009 near Weimar, Germany.

Conversations with Barack and Elie?

President Barack Obama and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, may be teaming up to co-write a book based on their friendship and talks the two have shared over the last several years.

Wiesel in an interview with Bloomberg today said he raised the idea of such a project with Obama months ago. He said it was important to share their conversations about history and philosophy because of their distinctly different pasts. No timeline for any project has been set, and Wiesel said it may be something they revisit after Obama finishes his second term.

“These conversations are so good, why not actually give them more exposure, so to speak,” Wiesel said. “One day we’ll do it but not now. It’s not one of my priorities, not his.”

A person familiar with those discussions said that while Obama reveres Wiesel and was intrigued and agreeable in principle to the project, there’s no final agreement. There are many details that would need to be worked out with lawyers and agents, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“We come from such different backgrounds really,” Wiesel said. “He’s in politics. I have nothing to do with politics. I’m a teacher of philosophy and literature.”

Their friendship began in June 2009 when Obama toured with Wiesel the former Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald in Germany. Wiesel had been an inmate there.

During that trip, Obama asked Wiesel if he remembered the first time they had met. Wiesel said yes — when Obama was an Illinois senator and Wiesel and his wife dropped by his senate office.

Obama said they had met many years before that.

“Twenty-odd years ago, you came to give a speech in California at a small college and I was there,” Wiesel recounted Obama telling him. “And I remember the speech. And that was Occidental College.”

Obama was a college student at Occidental in Los Angeles before he transferred to Columbia University in New York City.

“He just said the speech remains with me,” Wiesel said.

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