Tonight, a small and select group is discussing “Night” by Elie Wiesel. MC is our guest leader. The refreshments are Hannukah food: latkes, apple cake, applesauce, sparkling grape juice, and tea.
Waiting for latecomers, J is catching people up on next year’s selections, and what’s in the packet.
MC is going over the list of suggested titles that she brought. Books for teens are a great way to get an intro to a subject. MC is asking what people thought of the book. LS couldn’t read it all at once, had to stop and take a break from the intensity. Someone is mentioning the Holocaust memorial in Boston, and how emotional it is.
Comparing the preface to the newer edition to the memoir, MC is asking if anyone thinks Wiesel’s perspective has shifted. His life’s mission is to be sure that the story is never forgotten. J is most moved by the point in the book where Wiesel says he’s done with God.
Wiesel’s story of how his father dies is moving to many in the group. They’re impressed by his courage to tell this, how he watched his father die and did nothing to stop it. In the preface, he asks about being judged. MC is mentioning “choiceless choices”, where both choices are bad and tortured. Wiesel was 16 when his father died, and has never forgiven the world for creating this situation. When does a person reach their limit? When is enough enough?
There is a second insult when Wiesel mentions the after effect, seeing the criminals walking around alive and well. Also, when the camps are moved and the Jews are walked through the towns and the people did nothing.
MC is relating an interview with Elie Wiesel that she read on the website of the Holocaust Museum. He mentions the legacy of the Nazis, how the children are not to blame. The memoir does not come through as angry, but more as matter-of-fact, a straight relating of the story. He humanizes the people in the book, and gives everyone a name. This is in reaction to the Nazi’s dehumanization.
No-one believes Moishe the Beadle, because it was so horrible that it was unbelievable. In Transylvania, they were so removed from the German front that it was all distant. Does the Internet and today’s communication make it harder to disbelieve a story like that? Some think that we are still complacent about horror, maybe due to saturation and overload. Maybe due to the “Me Generation” being self-centered. The “greatest generation” and the Baby Boomers were more involved and challenged. The current generations are cushioned and spoiled. Life now is fast, and women feel that their families are most important. ML says we can be aware and effect things on a small scale. By just being informed, we can make choices that help with change. How we live our lives can make a difference.
BM has been to Auschwitz, and Dachau, and is telling us about her impressions. She’s also been to the Holocaust Museum, and is describing the feeling of claustrophobia that she got experiencing some of the exhibits.
Wiesel doesn’t express any “survivor’s guilt”, no “Why me?”. Maybe it comes out in his work. Making sure the story is never forgotten means that it is fresh in his mind always. Sometimes it’s easier not to know about something that is objectionable.
How were he and his father able to stay sane? Maybe because they had each other. He could see the different sides of things, and didn’t let the situation overtake him.
What was the place that meant the most to people? Some felt it was the scene when everyone was running, feet bleeding, tired, just basic survival.
Why was the ghetto not sufficient? In the camps, there were no witnesses. And there is more of a tendency to rebel in a familiar setting.
His memoir could have been a platform for hate or revenge. He abused himself. He used knowledge to strengthen himself. His childhood died the day the Nazis came to town. How would he have been different if this had never happened? He says he would have lived an unremarkable life. Why was this new edition translated from French by his wife, when he can clearly speak excellent English?
Why no revenge? Revenge is not their’s to seek. Seeking revenge makes it worse for the one doing the seeking. There can be no healing in revenge. Some may have looked for revenge.
MC has done an excellent job!! See you next month, January 31, for “The Dark Tide”, about the molasses flood of 1919.