Gettysburg College grad wins Elie Wiesel ethics essay award

A Gettysburg College graduate was a winner in the Elie Wiesel Prize In Ethics Essay Contest for 2009.

Alexander Englert graduated in May with a major in philosophy. His essay, written while he was a student, is "a sensitive and beautifully written reflection prompted by his visit to Buchenwald during the year he studied in Germany," wrote his faculty sponsor, philosophy Prof. Kerry Walters.

The essay recounts Englert's weekly visits with a retired philosophy professor and former German soldier who was in a nursing home. The close bond that resulted led Englert to probe the nature of personal responsibility within history.

"The man I spoke with was the same person who had been a young boy in the ‘Hitler Youth,'" Englert wrote. "During the last years of the war, he was forced to served in the Luftwaffehilferdienst. Therefore, Peter was a Nazi, but is he guilty and/or responsible? Will I one day curse about the Bush administration as Peter often cursed Hitler for having put Germany in such a predicament? The young generations ask ‘Why did you let that happen?' The older generation asks ‘How did that happen?'"

"It is only through asserting one's presence that the individual can influence the static net of history," Englert wrote. "Yet, the times can play the role of nemesis when the moment comes in which the individual must act."

Thousands of college and university students from across the United States have taken part in the contest,  established in 1989 by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. "Whatever the answer to essential questions of society and individual human beings may be, education is surely its major component," Wiesel wrote on the foundation's website. "But what would education be without its ethical dimension? Many of us believe them to be inseparable."

Englert's essay won the third prize of $1,500. An awards ceremony took place Oct. 8 in New York City.

Englert's award is an example of how students can benefit from Gettysburg College's commitment to helping them seek fellowships and scholarships. Englert earned two DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarships that permitted him to study in Heidelberg. In addition, he earned a Dwight D. Eisenhower/Conrad N. Hilton Scholarship for Study Abroad, which is a grant of up to $10,000 awarded annually to a Gettysburg College student.

Englert, who majored in German and writing along with philosophy, graduated with highest honors and was elected to the campus chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Wiesel is a renowned human rights activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner, author, and Holocaust survivor. The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity's mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.

Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences. With a student body of approximately 2,500, it is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The college was founded in 1832.

Contact: Jim Hale, online content editor

Posted Oct. 16, 2009

Posted: Fri, 16 Oct 2009




Related Stories


Get all the latest news delivered to your inbox or RSS reader:

  • News - profiles, event coverage, campus updates
  • Athletics - scores and highlights
  • In the Media - faculty, alumni and students featured in the media
  • Photo of the Day - images from campus and the community

Submit a story idea

The Office of Communications and Marketing is looking for stories about Gettysburgians doing great work.

Send your suggestions to