“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere” (Wiesel 119). This statement rings so true to my ears. Although it is a statement found in Elie Wiesel’s acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, I first read it in the book called Night where this Jewish man’s terrifying testimony of his teen years spent in a concentration camp in Auschwitz and Buchenwald is found. .
Night awakens us to the horrifying indifference to the existence of human oppression in our world as it existed in past history, and unfortunately, that still remains today. It is a heart-wrenching story of survival through unspeakable human anguish resulting from the evil acts of human oppressors. The story reveals acts suffered that were designed to instill fear and strip the victims of any self esteem, morality, ethics, or hope for the future. The victims suffered humiliation, degradation, torture, starvation, and death surrounded them and stared them in their faces.
Elie Wiesel tells the account of himself, a Jewish boy who was born into and lived in a village in Romania until the Jewish deportation when he was age fifteen. He lived what we might call a “normal” life, having a mother, father, a sibling, and friends who loved him and taught him how to love. He had warm memories of his childhood, watching his father manage and work his own business in their village, his grandfather visiting to celebrate holidays with them, and he himself immersed in studying the Talmud, and pursuing to discover the essence of divinity with a man he admired called Moishe the Beadle. Elie had dreams for his future, and imagined his life would be good.
Elie was born in freedom and a loving environment that included grace and forgiveness, and was taught to live his life with trust, morals and ethics, and to treat others with human dignity. His freedom and dignity as well as his character was stripped from him little by little – beginning with the edicts in the ghettos that were first formed when the Germans came into their village, then the Hungarian police bursting into their homes, taking their valuables and putting edicts in place, and next, the horrible journey on the cattle cars to an unknown destiny, followed by the humiliation and terror of the concentration camps. It is interesting that although chaos and fear ensued when the ghettos were first formed and the Jews were first fenced in, they soon accepted this life as “normal.” Elie says that the ghettos were not ruled by the Germans or the Jews, but by delusion (Wiesel 12). The warnings and signs that came to the village at Sighet were ignored by the Jewish adults until it was too late resulting in Elie being forced against his will on a journey that led to hell on earth until the day he was finally freed. Wiesel’s testimony of life in the camps is a loud message that we must never allow this horror to happen again. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It will change your life.
After finishing Night, I began to think about my life today and the freedom I have had the opportunity to live and grow in. I am so thankful I have never had to experience such horror. Yet, although the comparison may not be an equal one, I realized that many freedoms have been slowly disappearing from the citizens of our country. Have we become complacent, ignoring the signs of where our leaders are taking us? I pray that we as Americans will pray to stay alert to the warning signs and take the necessary actions needed to protect ourselves against unjust measures others may take and their attempts to instill fear in us so that they can control our lives. May we not become complacent; and may God help us to remain alert and give us wisdom today and in the days set before us.