Tag Archives: Elie Wiesel

The Power of “Night”

Recently, as I was working on the book regarding the story of my Uncle Bram’s violin, I came to the conclusion that there was one book that could help me at the very least, try to get some sort of grasp on what Bram went through as a teenager transported to Auschwitz with his father. The book I am referring to is “Night”, by Elie Wiesel. While the impact of reading it was profound, it was nevertheless different than I anticipated, and one might argue even more important.

In September of 1943, 22 days shy of his 19th birthday, my Uncle Bram was murdered in Auschwitz. As I work on giving him the legacy he deserves, through having his memory be remembered in a way that not only gives respect to his memory but also inspires others, reading “Night” seemed logical, albeit difficult. While the impact it had in regard to my work was powerful, it was not what I expected.

When I wrote “Jew Face”, I often successfully tried to feel like I was with my parents as young adults going through the trial and tribulations of evading murder by the Nazis. But trying to do this with someone who was in Auschwitz is an exercise in futility. Probably a fortuitous one. The pure horror described by Elie Wiesel in his book, and the countless accounts and images provided over the years show the devastation as best it can, but the generations that follow are inevitably limited in what they can feel.

In his preface Wiesel writes:

“Only those who experienced Auschwitz know what it was. Others will never know.

But would they at least understand?

Could men and women who consider it normal to assist the weak, to heal the sick, to protect small children, and to respect the wisdom of their elders understand what happened there? Would they be able to comprehend how, within that cursed universe, the masters tortured the weak and massacred the children, the sick, and the old?”

I am not quite sure what it means to understand the unimaginable. I am not sure how to comprehend an army’s mission to dehumanize an entire group of people. Millions of people. I thought that maybe reading the book I could somehow feel like I was there. At least enough to help me write more about what it must have been like for my lost Uncle and millions of others, including so many others in both my mother’s and father’s families. I will not go as far as saying I reached anywhere close to that point, or if I ever will. I do know however that in finishing it something else, maybe even more important happened. I felt an increased sense of responsibility. A responsibility to do more than just read, or even write a book. A responsibility to do something significantly more important than relating to the horrors. My responsibility is to consistently tell the story. To make sure continuing generations know what happened. To let them know that those places that still stand where events leading to the murder of 6 million Jews or where monuments of remembrance have been placed are so much more than tourist attractions. They are the representation of the very soul of those we remember. They have the sanctity of a cemetery, and they give life to the souls of those taken from us by vicious murderers.

I sat down to read “Night” hoping something important would happen to me. While it was not what I expected, I came away with something far more important than I anticipated. An increased determination to make sure the world knows what happened and never forgets. To let it be otherwise would be more than tragic than I could imagine, and substantially more dangerous.

Like what you see? Feel free to share!

Also learn more at

 http://bramsviolin.com

and

 http://kennethsarch.com


One Person of Integrity can make a Difference

Elie_Wiesel_2012_Shankbone

“One person of integrity can make a difference” is a quote from the late Elie Wiesel who departed this world yesterday at the age of 87.  This is a man who had every right to say these words, because in his strength, survival and life, it is nearly impossible to find anyone who made such an enormous difference with strength and integrity of enormous proportions.

We all know the story of the plight of the Jewish people during Hitler’s rule.  6 million Jews were killed in numerous concentration and death camps set up primarily to solve what the Nazis saw as the Jewish problem.  The most notorious of all the camps, the camp that symbolized the horrors committed during this time was Auschwitz.  One estimate is that 1.1 million of Jewish victims of the Holocaust were  murdered in Auschwitz.  Although most people who ended up there never left, there was a small percentage that did survive, and although for many the horror was too great to relive, there were those who would tell their story.  No one did so with greater skill, honor and integrity than Elie Wiesel.

Ever since his death I have thought a lot about what it was that made Elie Wiesel great. People are often thrust into difficult even horrific circumstances.  To survive as a functioning decent member of society is, in itself heroic, but to tell the story and make it a cause is taking that heroism to another level.  In 1944 at the age of 15, Wiesel was taken by the Nazis from his home in Romania with his family and deported to the camps in Poland. His mother and a sister were killed in Auschwitz and his father was murdered in Buchenwald a few weeks before its liberation.  To be there when that happened, to lose one’s parents and a younger sister in so short of a time would already be enough to destroy anyone’s spirit, not to mention the countless horrors he witnessed during his stay in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  Rather than let his spirit be crushed, Wiesel came out of this horror of all horrors with a resolve and strength of character unparalleled.

 “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
Elie Wiesel, Night

It is my contention that not only do Jews everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Elie Wiesel, but so do good and decent people of all faiths.  History books tell the story of the Holocaust, but nothing can ever do so with the power and purpose of someone who was there, experienced humanity in its darkest moments, and in their survival remained committed to letting the world know, all in the hope that somehow it could prevent humanity from ever doing anything like that again. Elie Wiesel did all of that, and he did so with a dignity unfathomable.   This man who was almost killed as a teenage boy, went on to live a life that will keep his spirit alive forever.

“For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.”
Elie Wiesel, Night

I found an ironic symmetry yesterday as Elie Wiesel passed away at 87 just hours before sunset and the beginning of the day on the Jewish calendar commemorating the day in which my father, also a Holocaust survivor also passed away at the age of 87.  The education I received from both my parents, both survivors, always made me aware and knowledgeable of what took place during that time that everyone would hope to forget but are obligated to remember.  With that in mind I leave you with this one last quote from the great Elie Wiesel of Blessed Memory.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Rest in Peace Mr. Wiesel and thank you. I will try to never be indifferent.

 

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A Jewish Leader Tells the Whole World…NEVER AGAIN

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I started this piece numerous times and when all was said and done I decided to just sit back and write it entirely from the heart.  After just listening to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress I am so overcome by emotion that I want to hold on to this moment, even if only for myself.

Part of what makes us who we are is our history.  Having just finished listening to the speech I can’t help but think of my family’s history.  It was 60 years ago when the reign of Hitler’s Nazi party ended.  60 million people died in WWII and 6 million Jewish souls were lost.  Among those murdered by the Nazis was an estimated 104,000 Dutch Jews, 75% of Holland’s Jewish population in 1940. Included in that number were 3 of my 4 grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and numerous other relatives I would never know.  My parents went through life with pain I can’t even imagine having lived through one of the darkest times in the world’s history.

As far back as I can remember I have heard the words “Never Again”.  Today I watched Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who suffered in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, receive a standing ovation in the United States Congress.  Today the leader of the Jewish state of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, stood up in front of the nation and the entire world and basically said NEVER AGAIN with the words “The days in which the Jewish people stay passive in the face of genocidal enemies; those days are over”.

This is only about politics to those making it about politics.  What this is ultimately about is the survival of not only the Jewish people but the survival of our modern-day civilization.  Today a Jewish leader stood up in front of the world and told the world that the Jewish people will never again be led to slaughter.  For that reason, as the son of Holocaust survivors, as a Jew, and as an American, I found myself moved to tears and say thank you to the State of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

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