We create connections where there are none, Elie Wiesel’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1978, was in the winter months and fell on the same day as my birthday. Night is a slim volume, able to be read in one sitting. But it is a holy book, and in these increasingly dark times, it asks the hard question of what happens when. I dreamed my elder brother stood by my bed and mouthed words of warning. Ghosts speak and what our replies will be will be determined by who we are and what we become. Too often we leave all humanity behind. Birkenau, Auschwitz, Buchenwald barbed wire and millions dead, Elie Wiesel has come back from the dead to tell us what he seen and the choices we make that make cowards of us all.
‘Oh God, Master of the Universe, give me strength never to do what Rabbi Eiahu’s son has done.’
But there are different voices, one’s that are contemporary and familiar in what they are saying. Listen to the advice of the older and wiser Kapo to the sixteen-year old Wiesel, nearing the end of his strength and his father, and so many others, starving, dying of dysentery.
‘Listen to me, kid. Don’t forget that you are in a concentration camp. In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even your father. In this place there is no such thing as father, brother, friend. Each of us lives and dies alone.’
Pity is for those that can afford it. Wiesel warns the reader in the preface. And in this digital, interconnected, age resonate even more. ‘Books no longer have the power they once did. Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.’
‘I was afraid,’ as we all are and fear calls forth fear.
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget the smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the will to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God himself.
And yet, like any prophet, he has moments of vision, when a child with an angelic face is hanged in front of them, his body too light to break the fall to death and who is slowly strangled by his weight.
‘For God’s sake where is God?
And from within me I heard a voice answer:
‘Where He is? This is where – hanging from this gallows.’