Disney circa 1960. (Photo: Orange County Archives/CC BY 2.0)

In 1957, Elie Wiesel, the writer most famous for his book Night, which told of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, was working as journalist in New York. When his Israel-based editor came to visit the United States, they went on a six-week road trip, which ended in California, where they visited Disneyland. For Tablet, Menachem Butler found the account that Wiesel wrote of that visit to “the Wonderful Disneyland.” He loved it.

Wiesel wrote:

I don’t know if a Garden of Eden awaits adults in the hereafter. I do know, though, that there is a Garden of Eden for children here in this life. I know because I myself visited this paradise.”

Much of the article, Butler explains, is dedicated to the basic facts of Disneyland history and the Disneyland experience. Wiesel was impressed, for instance, by the House of the Future:

“Futuristic man will live such a wonderful life! Everything will come to him so, so easily! If someone knocks at the door, you won’t have to go to see who it is: He will appear on the screen of your television. If the telephone rings, you’ll be able to see the person you’re speaking with and not just hear his voice. And a thousand other such conveniences will turn your house into a royal palace and transform you yourself into a lazy, fat, lonely king.”

He seemed to be enchanted by the whole place, and wrote that, just as Walt Disney intended, he had been reminded of his own childhood. For the people visiting Disneyland, Wiesel wrote:

Speaking of God, it’s not yet clear to me whether we must thank Him for creating the world and mankind, but I am certain that all children who visit Walt Disney’s paradise will thank Him endlessly for having built Disneyland.

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