Dead man walking: Elie Wiesel and Night


This is not a review; this is an almost stream-of-consciousness pouring out of emotion that I wrote immediately after reading Night.

. . .
. . .

I just finished reading Night, by Elie Wiesel. It was, as Goethe says, like an axe to a frozen lake.

Not that I’ve never read about the Holocaust before. Quite the opposite.

But this simple, almost impersonal story written with the detachment of a boy/man who has seen too much, experienced too much, lived too long, and died too much, shredded my soul like a million tiny bullets.

We understand things in relation to ourselves, I think, and I often thought of my sons and my wife and daughter as I read the book. Would I give my life for my son? Would I put my body between his and the whips of the civilized savages?

But most of all I wept as I relived with Elie, as Elie, his first 15 years. The magic of the written word: I was Elie as I read each page of his words. The first years, the joy, the innocence, the almost untasted sweetness of life at home when young in a family of love!

All that was taken from him, ripped from him in the most cruel and vicious and unimaginably horrific way. Night replaced his day, never to be wholly withdrawn. Wasn’t it Rudyard Kipling who said that not all the love in the world could completely heal the heart of a child who has drunk too deeply the bitterness of hatred and rejection?

The worst parts, for me, were the death of the children, the toddlers and young ones burnt in the fiery ditches of Auschwitz: earthy temples of Molech aching for the blood of babes. And the hanging death of the child who helped the benevolent Dutch kapo who fought the Germans – the death that lasted 30 agonizing minutes since the boy was so light that his weight did not immediately cut of the flow of air to his lungs.

And the worst part of the worst parts was the terrible guillotine that sundered Wiesel from his God as he witnessed things too terrible to tell. It’s the question of evil in its starkest form: either God is good but powerless, or He is not good. My heart aches to tell the 15-year old skeleton in a German death camp that the dichotomy is false … but how can mere words counter the horrible evidence of his eyes?

This is a book that everyone needs to read. As Elie said later in his life, “to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.” And,

Let us remember, let us remember the heroes of Warsaw, the martyrs of Treblinka, the children of Auschwitz. They fought alone, they suffered alone, they lived alone, but they did not die alone, for something in all of us died with them.

Some things died in me too as I read. But to die is not the worst that can happen to a man.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This false dichotomy seems to be the major stumbling block in our time.

    Even as I show love to those around me as a witness, it seems most people still need an intellectually/emotionally-satisfying answer for why God allows evil and suffering.

    I know, as you do, that Christ’s death was worse than the holocaust – the infinitely holy God being put to death by the sinful. But that answer tends to be satisfying only to those who already know and love him (and usually only partially satisfying).

    What are the good answers for our society that is in the dark?

  • Good comment!

    Remember that little song – you may have sung it in elementary school – “this little light of mine?”

    That’s what people in the dark need: light. And not just any light, but the Light of the world.

  • I am uncertain as to why Christians NEED to believe the dichotomy is false. I am uncertain as to why Christians NEED to believe there is anything beyond this mortal life.

    I once asked a Christian friend why does there HAVE TO BE something after this. The “deer in the headlights” stare answered perfectly. Christians need to believe that there is “salvation beyond” in order to reconcile the harshness and evil in the world and in their own hearts. The world would be far better off if the these people would accept there is NOTHING after, and do their best to make the “living” world and themselves better.

  • Re: Robert’s comments…
    >>The world would be far better off if the these people would accept there is NOTHING after, and do their best to make the “living� world and themselves better.>>

    Why would the world be better off if we believed in no afterlife? Furthermore, just as you are so sure this is not one, I am quite hopeful that there IS one!

    Personally I find hope more rewarding than despair (or some final termination). Regardless, one cannot separate the resurrection from the Christian faith no matter how hard he try. Christianity IS about resurrection. Christianity IS about new life (both here and later).

    [ note: I edited this comment since the Jase put my name in the Re: … comments above. An simple mistake, I think, so I’ve put Robert’s name there. John Koetsier ]

  • Robert,

    I don’t think there’s a need to believe there is something after this life. I simply believe that there is.

    I think God is a witness in every human heart – it’s called conscience, among other things – that He exists, and that He has certain plans and wishes for our lives.

    I also think that, if any person honestly and sincerely seeks for God, he or she will find God. In fact, God promises that in the Bible: “seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened unto you.”