Saturday, 3 July 2010

Night, Elie Wiesel


When I taught Grade 12 English I had the good fortune to be introduced
to the works of the author Elie Wiesel. Night is Wiesel's memories of Auschwitz and later another concentration camp, Buchenwald. He entered the Auschwitz at age 12. He and his father were immediately separated from his mother and sisters. Before the war was over his father became ill and died. He watched fellow prisoners tortured and killed. His faith in God and humanity was challenged when he was
imprisoned in the camps. 
Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his championing of human rights around the world. In the fall I saw him on Oprah. It was a two-part show. In the first part, he returned to Auschwitz for the first time since the war and showed the camp to Oprah. In the second show, he and Oprah were in Chicago. There he and Oprah talked to students from all over the country who had entered essays into a contest the show was holding. Their essays had to be about difficulties they had faced because of their religions and/or race. Many of the students were refugees who had incredible stories to tell.

Elie Weisel's book, Night, is a very interesting and important read. His memories of his experiences are touching and thought-provoking. Every once in awhile someone will say they have read enough stories about WWII, or they have seen enough movies. I don't know if I have. I don't know if there are enough stories, especially not the true ones. These are the ones that are the most important ones. These are the ones that need to be seen and heard, the ones that need to be remembered. Time is passing and the survivors are getting older. Memories are fading, there are children and unfortunately adults who do not even know what the holocaust was. It is so important to know what really happened, and for each generation that comes to know as well. And for all of us to know of similar crimes on humanity so that somehow we may begin to make certain that they never occur again.

The attached video is Elie Weisel giving a speech "The World is Not Learning Anything" presented by the Nobelprize.org.

2 comments:

  1. Do you believe this is one of the most inspirational books about WWII and the Holocaust? If so, why?

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  2. I think that this is just one of many inspirational books about WWII and the Holocaust. I think that for me what makes it more inspiring is that I've seen Mr. Weisel interviewed. I remember a number of years ago meeting a man who had survived Aushwitz. He lives in Canada and was travelling the country speaking to high school children about his experience. He wore a replica of the prison uniform he's had to wear in the camp. He referred to himself as Prisoner 99, the number he had received when he arrived.

    He spoke of the guilt he felt, as a Polish prisoner. His treatment in the camp slightly better than that of the Jewish prisoners. He saw so many people die, it haunted him. There was a documentary and his children also talked about how he didn't share a lot of that history. He didn't want them to know such horror. I remember how moved the teens were as they listened. I remember those who even thought it had never happened...that it couldn't have happened, listening with horror, becoming more aware...seeing them move from being self-centred and all about themselves to a spot that included empathy and awareness.

    We will likely soon lose living survivors, and for that I am sad. I feel that they are the most inspirational.

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