senesino wrote:"We cannot make sweeping statements about accents without more detailed knowledge and the opinions of people qualified to judge. "
As an Englishmen I have been well used to judging accents for the whole of my life as there are so many different accents here, This without any professional opinion. I can tell the difference between different areas of London, Liverpool, Essex, Norfolk, Devon, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Hull, West Midlands, East Midlands, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Sunderland, Cardiff, Swansea, North Wales, South Wales and many others. So it is not very difficult for me to tell the difference between the accent of one foreign country and another. In addition, Hungarian comes from a completely different language family to any other European language except Finnish. I know Hungarian quite well as I have spent a lot of time in Budapest.
There is one video on the internet called "Elie Wiesel Comes Home" in which a Hungarian from his supposed home town of Sighet, Romania talks to him and "Elie Wiesel" makes very short interruptions in Hungarian, never saying more than a few words. Hungarians on the website confirm he is not talking Hungarian properly as he does not use the right inflections, they say that he talks like someone reading out of a phrase book.
It seems strange that Carolyn Yeager says that she wants to find out who "Elie Wiesel" is, yet she has not asked a language expert to confirm what accent he has. She seems obsessed about his tattoo or lack of it. Living in France would not alter "Elie Wiesel"'s accent in speaking English. If I lived in France I would still speak Russian with an English accent, not a French one. This is because your "accent" is actually the sounds that you learned as a child when you learned your first language, and these can never be changed when you are older.
Wiesel's own language was not Yiddish. We have this from the testimony of Miklos Gruner, who said that when he first met "Elie Wiesel" he could not speak Jewish (by which he meant Yiddish). If "Elie Wiesel" had really been brought up in Sighet, Romania, this was a Hungarian speaking town and so his first language would have been Hungarian. The fact he does not speak Hungarian shows that he is not the real Lazar Wiesel.
It does not seem as if "Elie Wiesel" ever made any attempt to change his Serbian accent. Probably this was because in the pre-internet days the media was very tightly controlled and so even if someone questioned his accent, nobody would get to hear about this, so it was not necessary for him to go to this trouble.
I don't want to get involved with the wide variety of accents within the British Isles. I am quite familiar with them as is borjastick as we are both English. I would agree that a Hungarian accent is different from a Slavic one, but not always distinctively so. Only last week I was sitting in England with two Hungarians and we were served by a waitress who was clearly East European and she turned out to be Hungarian, though none of us had realised this. That Hungarian is a non-Indo-European language is not relevant. Accents and language don't have a perfect fit: most Indian accents are remarkably similar despite the large number of languages and two distinct families. Accents can and do change up to late teens, and if a Northerner, like me , you move south as an adult the accent can mellow.
I am also fairly familiar with the Hungarian accent. I know a number of Hungarians and have been learning Hungarian. I do agree that Wiesel did not have an accent I would call Hungarian, but I have pointed to the large number of other influences. Hungarians speaking English have a generally flat accent whereas Wiesel's is almost histrionically sing-song, but that could just be his personality or influence from French. I don't agree that living in France would not affect Wiesel's accent in English, which he presumably learned later. It does not conform to my experience (A German told me my German had a French accent), but there's no point in arguing about it. Some foreign accents are quite distinctive in English: French, German, Italian, Indian (generically, covering a wide range of languages both Indo-European and Dravidian), but Hungarian is not one. This said, I agree that Wiesel does not sound Hungarian to me. I'm not very familiar with the Serbian accent.
I think a more profitable line of enquiry is the other point you raised of Hungarians attempting to speak Hungarian to him. We have Grüner's word that Wiesel could not speak Yiddish, but this alone is not conclusive: one person's word and not a disinterested party. The video you referred to sounds interesting. I will look it up. Bear in mind though that if he left Sziget in his early teens his Hungarian would be pretty rusty, especially if he never used it again, though we are entitled to wonder why he shunned contact with Hungarian speakers. It is quite possible that he was schooled in Romanian rather than Hungarian, since the territory was taken over by Romania in 1918 or thereabouts.
Is there really no information to be found anywhere on whether Wiesel spoke Hungarian, Yiddish or Romanian? Or two or all three?