This is not a review; this is an almost stream-of-consciousness pouring out of emotion that I wrote immediately after reading Night.
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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 Night replaced his day, never to be wholly withdrawn.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.