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Monday, August 01, 2016

Elie Wiesel, 1928 - 2016


In 1993, at a very difficult point in my life, I was rooming with some people of "cultural consequence," including a music composer and several artists.  What I remember the most from that short period of exposure to the eccentricities of the artistic mind (I was the philistine of the house) was the composer always bragging that he had contacted Elie Wiesel about turning "Night" into an opera.  He received a hand-written letter from Wiesel (which he would hold up as a badge of honor) thanking him for the effort but declining and asking, in quite forceful words, that he did not continue with the project.  I hadn't read "Night" at that point but I was quick to pick it shortly thereafter.  I can truly say it was one of those books that changed my life.  Years later, while teaching high school English, the opportunity came my way to teach "Night," as part of an AP English course.  I was quickly shot down because the school offered a "Holocaust" literature course and it was deemed impolite to appropriate the book from the other instructor.  Thus are the politics of academia, really.

Aside from reading "Night," and reading the hand-written note to my house mate, I didn't have a close connection to any of Wiesel's other works.  I remember being at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and reading the quote, "Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God."  It was probably the most difficult moment of that tour of the museum.  It left the same imprint that Wiesel intended--I shall never forget it.  

Elie Wiesel was an Auschwitz survivor, relentless activist, and the author of some 57 books.  In 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.  Throughout his life, Wiesel was a messenger to mankind; his message was one of peace, atonement and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a living testament kept alive by his personal experience and how he shared it in his works.  How a man's work, his life and words remain behind him after his passing is the very reason why one must never lose hope for humanity.  As long as Wiesel's words remain with us, we shall always remember.

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