Sunday, June 24, 2007

Night by Elie Wiesel

This post will serve as another reminder that my high school literature experience was less than exceptional. Along with a number of books that I should have read by now, I have experienced Night by Elie Wiesel for the first time.

The book has sat on my shelf for over two years. I think it sat for a reason. I passed it up for a little fiction or melodramatic memoir because like people, books come into your life at exactly the right moment.

I returned from the United States Holocaust Museum for the first time wanting to know more and understand more about this tragic time in our world history. I have never been one to avoid the indescribable sadness of the Holocaust in movies or books, but I had yet to feel compelled to know more. More or less, I would watch a movie, think about it a little, discuss it a little, and move on to something else.

That is sort of sick, I know. How does a person not become completely affected by these stories? I realized only after my visit to the Holocaust Museum that it was because all of the movies and books that I had seen did not show the horror in all of its horror. It wasn't until I walked through exhibit after exhibit that I came to comprehend the complexity of the Holocaust. Before my visit, I did not realize the events that led up to the concentration camps. The 6 million lives lost.

When I returned home, I found myself remembering parts of the museum experience. The shoes. All of the shoes that belonged to those who died. I remembered Elie Wiesel's quotes on the walls. I knew the book was somewhere on my bookshelf. I dug it out. It sat on my bed stand for two nights. I finally opened it and started to read it.

Like the museum, it was vivid. It held only truths. It was so ugly and it was also so beautiful. The ugliness of hate in the treatment of the Jewish people and the beauty of love that the Jewish people had for one another. Fathers and sons. It usually takes me weeks to finish a book. It took me two days to read Night by Elie Wiesel.


rachelzana said...

I have read so, so many holocaust books since I first heard of the holocaust at age eleven. I never seem to tire of them because they always strike a new cord in me and help me to understand new things about humanity. This was my favorite book to teach when I was teaching English. It was amazing to see the impact it had on my students, and many told me that it was the most important book they'd ever read.

Dree said...

"Night" is our book club's pick for this month. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard it's a haunting story.

Carm said...

We were teaching it to sophomores at my school but some eighth grade teachers wanted it available to them so tough luck for us.

One book I read a few years ago that I really enjoyed was "After Long Silence" by Helen Fremont--a memoir about her parents' experience.

And recently one student of mine just finished a fiction book by Jane Yolen called "Briar Rose"... the student enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who was interested in the holocaust.