Sunday, January 30, 2011

„Night” by Elie Wiesel

It is a book that, just after I started reading, made me quickly to relinquish it. And I had real difficulty to return ...

Written by famous Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel prize winner, „Night” is very realistic account on the tragic fate of Jews during Shoah. But the realism it is written with is almost unbearable.

Don't take me wrong, though. I do not mean I could not read it or that it is bad book. But to apply a typical slogan „Great Book” or „Nice reading” is in fact an act of betraying the author ...

In short, it describes the events since the beginning of the war that happened in Sighet, through the liquidation of Ghetto in that Romanian town. We are taken on a journey to Auschwitz, Buna (Monowice —Auschwitz III) and to Buchenwald. Despite the fact that the fate saved the narrator of the book, he lost his faith in G-d, in humanity and in himself. As more about the book can be found in the good Wikipedia article, I will not elaborate on it more...

In fact, when I finished it I was in a kind of trauma for several hours...

See the ending of it:

„At six a clock that afternoon the first American tank stood at the gate of Buchenwald. Our first act as free men was to through ourselves onto the provisions. That's all we thought about. No thought of revenge or parents, only of bread. And even we were no longer hungry, not one of us thought of revenge.
One day when I was able to get up I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the Ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as it gazed at me, has never left me...”

Paris, January 30, 2011


  1. Anonymous2:51 AM

    Mirek - I understand your reaction to this book. For several years I taught this book in my high school Language Arts Class.

    A well written book allows the reader to become 'present" to the action it describes. No one wishes to be incarcerated in a German Concentration Canp.

    The success of his novel is that one does experience the holocaust first hand. Yet this success is also its overwhelming horror from which it is our natural reaction to seek escape. So we close the book for a while, we rebalance ourselves, and we begin to read once again. We read until the horror of what actually happened becomes once again unbearable.

    One sentence has lodged itself in my memory for years:

    "Infants were tossed into the air and used as targets for the machine guns."

    We need to know what happened within the walls of the camps. But when we find out, we can not conceive that human beings could act in such an evil manner.

    Instead of losing faith in the reality of a Divine Consciousness that would allow such atrocities to occur, I have been led to believe that only human beings who have completely lost their consciousness of divinity could be capable of such evil acts.

    Raymond Harrison

  2. Raymond, yes I do remember that sentence and it also got stuck in my memory ...

    Unfortunately for humankind, it is more than certain that such atrocities could happen.

    Living in Poland, on the soil where most of these things happened gave me many occasions to know such facts, related to both Auschwitz and other camps.

    Unfortunately I'm less prone to believe, that being religious could refrain people from doing such things. It is maybe hard to believe from your perspective, but the most anti-semitic circles in today's Poland are in fact closely bound to hard-line catholic circles... This is the fact we face almost every day. And so was in the past.

    In the recent hot discussion about latest Jan Gross, book „The golden harvest” he describes how ordinary church-goers from villages near concentration camps had no problems and no remorse to dig in the sail for gold left by murdered Jews...

    Unfortunately, many deep studies show that the justification for big crimes as that committed by Germans, but also the small crimes committed by other nations were deeply rotted in ages old religious preaching about the inferiority of Jews (and also Gypses) ...

    I recently stumbled on the book written by some priest in 1933 about Judaism in general and Talmud in particular.
    Believe me, it was clear call for elimination of that religion and the people who were in it...

    Of course we always can discuss if all these believes and practices and preaching has anything to do with true consciousness of divinity... but ...

    I just start reading "Grey Eminence" by Aldous Huxley. Seems there are some thoughts about the connection of deep religiousness and the crime...

  3. Anonymous2:15 PM

    Mirek - I completely understand your perspective that often it is the most religious who perpetrate the most evil crimes against humanity.

    Many Americans today have framed current world politics as a war against Islam. Although we profess freedom of religion as one of our founding principles, there remains tremendous tension between religions.

    Even though we profess the US as a country of religious freedoms, many Americans characterize our nation as a "Christian" nation.

    Many of the students I taught at my school were Christians whose families were persecuted in their homelands (Turkey, India), and so they emigrated to the US for greater freedom to practice their Christianity.

    I taught several students who were Palestinian and their families had also come to the US to avoid the tensions in their homeland.

    Unfortunately missionary zeal often functions as the operating principle of a religion that characterizes itself as the one "true" faith.

    The purpose of religion should be compassion not conversion. Religions must avoid the imperialistic tendencies of governments. But often, they do not.

    Unfortunately I believe that many contemporary religious institutions have forgotten the words of their own scriptures in an attempt to convert the entire world into what they believe is the one true faith.

    My model for religious toleration is the Dalai Lama. He continuously calls for respect among the world's religions and he continuously promotes the similarities rather than the differences among different faiths.

    The original intent of religion was to create pathways toward the consciousness of divinity. Messianic monotheism has instead intended to create pathways toward conversion and hegemony.

    One's relationship with divine consciousness is an experience and not a belief. For too long, religious institutions have demanded secondhand belief rather than providing direct experience.

    Raymond Harrison

  4. Yes Reymond, I agree.

    We see so many examples of hatred induced by individuals and entire groups in the name of their so-called "truth" that it is sometimes hard to believe that there is any spark of divinity in their practices. And, unfortunately, faithful of almost all major religions have committed such sins.

    Yes, I also think that enforced conversions, direct or indirect, open or undercover - are the source of evil. Proselytism is something I always have been opposing and I have natural inclination to religions that did not practice it.

    I must say that I also keep Dalai Lama in high esteem. Even though my views are different, I admire his infinite tolerance and wisdom. And his love for Tibet, his homeland, that has some universal aspect ...

    One of my friends knows him personally and he told me of an incredible light in his face; yet he behaves so naturally, without any pose or exaltation.

    Now, my personal experience of American religiousness is very good. I once spent several days in Chautauqua Institution, and I dream that we have such place here in Europe.

    I believe that the very existence of such places is the essence of hope for the world ...

    And there, in the commonality and normality of the life style of people from so many religions — I found true Divine Consciousness ...

    BTW, I mentioned Talmud in my comment to your post. I was today on the public meeting with Jewish-Croatian-Polish-American Rabbi Sacha Pecaric, who recently undertook the task of translation of Talmud to Polish.

    The true sign of time, the sign of Divine Care for the people....

  5. NIGHT by Elie Wiesel is a piercing account of the horrors of concentration camp, which impressed an incredible toll both internally and externally on his being. As a young adolescent, he is ripped from his home, plummeted to the depths of suffering, and driven to the edge of his own humanity. Mr. Wiesel openly shares with readers the tremendous weight of these experiences etched within his soul. His courage in doing so should be lauded.