I have been very inspired? humbled? awoken? by Elie Wiesel. I ordered his book Night and started and finished it in 24 hours. It is a quick book in that way, but I cannot say it is easy. To hear a story of a Holocaust survivor is horror but often followed by triumph. Night does not allow triumph. Or maybe my now realist heart does not have room for triumph.
Mr. Wiesel states the following in the forward of his book regarding why he decided to write:
“I knew that I must bear witness.”
“And yet, having lived through this experience, one could not keep silent no matter how difficult, if not impossible, it as to speak.”
“Those who kept silent yesterday, will remain silent tomorrow.”
“He (the survivor) has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous, but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
“He does not want his past to become their future.”
Do you see that Mr. Wiesel is writing to us? He is telling us so we don’t do it again. So we do not become complacent and vulnerable. So we remember that human beings truly are capable of the very worst.
And if you cant take history’s word for it, look around at today… Syria. Sudan. Somalia. And i just picked one letter. Genocide happens. It is happening. And we are only a plane ride away. This is not another world. This is not something that doesn’t impact America. This is humanity. Our humanity. And where we have been seen as a place of refugee, our people will now be seeking refugee.
I can see people rolling their eyes at me. “Sarah can be a bit dramatic you know” is what you say in your mind. Less that 50 years ago, people did not believe that Jews were being corralled, stripped of rights, dehumanized and killed. But they were. And Elie Wiesel, and many others, lived. And they took their life story, their story of horror, to show what can happen. We know it is possible and we know that every action or words we shrug off as no big deal, more people are being forgotten. More people become vulnerable.
The president elect speaks of registering muslims. Trevor Noah says we will register with them. I say we have to stop this before that decision even needs to be made. Elie Weisel speaks of a Jewish man in his community that was transported out sooner that the rest of the community and survived a mass execution. He came back to tell the tale and Elie states: “But people not only refused to believe his tales, the refused to listen”. Are we listening America?
Elie talks of his father who thought the war would end before Hitler could do anything to the Jews in his community. His father says: “The Yellow Star, so what? It’s not lethal…” to which Elie responds: “Poor father, of what then did you die!”.
We need to hear and to listen. Elie’s life’s work cannot be in vain. Let him bear witness. Let us listen. Let us remember. Let us act.