When Elie Wiesel would have been liberated from the Nazi concentration camps, the last of his third one, he would have started life with a renewed hope.
It probably would have restored his faith in humanity and in hope, though it never restored his faith completely in God. At least not in the way it was before.
There is surely a lot to read about the Shoah or the Holocaust, but nothing equals the viewpoint of a sensitive soul that has lived through the living hell of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Not everyone believes his words, which is why he ensured that other than Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., remains an undeniable evidence backing them.
Still nowhere near reflecting the human suffering.
What is the material evidence of that?
The pain and suffering endured by Elie Wiesel, resulted in the creation of the play “The Trial of God“, which was a brilliant, iconoclastic idea for a people with a theistic tradition, and to someone who saw God as an important part of his life.
But can you blame him to dare to rebel? In his own words, he could never forget the flames of the body, which consumed his faith forever. The moments which murdered his God and turned his dreams to dust.
In his own words, he was there when God was put on trial in Auschwitz.
While it is easier for some people with full, partial, distant or spiritual relation to the Jewish culture to relate with the pain of the Holocaust, it is important to accentuate its importance in a global, more humanist manner. It is important not to simply reduce it to references about the deliverance of the Jewish people, such as referring to it as the “birth pangs of the Messiah.” I am not sure if Elie Wiesel himself would be thrilled by the thought.
Elie Wiesel would rather focus on the sheer absurdity of creation and the unacceptability of the nightmare that the Jewish people and many more such as the Romani and the homosexuals went through during the reign of the Third Reich. It was simply something that was not supposed to be.
In any case, it is important to explicitly establish the Holocaust as a burden on the conscience of humanity, instead of tying it as an accident exclusive to the Jewish identity. It is important because gentiles, who are particularly anti-Israel politically, find it easier to dismiss this human atrocity as something that happened to the Jews. And the antisemites and anti-Zionists who are kind enough not to dismiss the Holocaust widely believe that it was something that the “Jews deserved” and something that they “deserve to go through again.”
While there are scholars like Norman Finkelstein who believe that the Holocaust has been exploited to further the Zionist cause, the fact remains that in our world, the Holocaust is trivialized more than anything else. Something perhaps more horrific than Holocaust denial. This is not to condemn Holocaust jokes because that attains nothing, but everyday approach people take to the atrocity in political discourse. Probably because so many genocides have been committed since then, without getting nearly as much attention.
Perhaps this was why Elie Wiesel feared indifference more than hate. Hate, in his words, you could fight.
Imagining the horrors of the Holocaust, how thrillingly secure it feels to be able to witness such a living hell and having the comfort that you are completely safe from it. How reassuring is this feeling that such a threat could possibly not threaten your life.
Let’s just stop. You can’t even imagine. But the relics, the documentation and the haunting photographs from the not so distant past do leave you shaken.
But I wonder how many times Elie Wiesel and thousands of other Holocaust survivors and their children would have woken up in the middle of the night, not being able to shake away the horrors of the death camps, the ovens, the gas chambers. Checking if they are still not on those horrible bunk beds by the corpses, still not required to shower together every morning.
Because believe it or not, any day it could happen again.
I could not help marvel at the irony that Elie Wiesel is leaving the world with antisemitism alive and well, but not without considerably retreating him. It is shocking how vulnerable Jewish people still are, despite “controlling the world” in some people’s view.
I feel disgusted when I have to lecture someone on the basic morality of it. But I guess that is what his good fight was all about. A fight that all of us must fight. It’s the least we can do.
Elie Wiesel is not just important as a literary figure, but because he left the empathy in the world for the Holocaust, its victims and its survivors.
This day is important in history, because the most enduring living symbol of human resistance to inhumanity, to the Holocaust, is alive no more.
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