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22
May

10 Top Quotes from Elie Wiesel's Memoirs

Posted on May 22nd, 2013

I finished Elie Wiesel’s memoirs last night. He is a Nobel Peace Laureate who lived through the horror of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. I find his writing a sharp, challenging contrast to the kind of sanitized spirituality found in most Christian leadership bookstores.

  1. We had an inexplicable confidence in German culture and humanism…We kept telling ourselves that this was, after all, a civilized people, that we must not give credence to exaggerated rumors about an army’s behavior. (27)
  2. Moshe the beadle… madness in his eyes. He talked on and on about the brutality of the killers. “Listen to me!” he would shout. “I’m telling the truth. On my life, I swear it!” But the people were deaf to his pleas. I liked him and could not bring myself to believe him. (29)
  3. Yet we practiced religion in a death camp. I said my prayers every day. On Saturday I hummed Shabbat songs at work. I was determined to remain a Jew even in the accursed kingdom. (82)
  4. Sometimes we must accept the pain of faith so as not to lose it. And if that makes the tragedy of the believer more devastating than the nonbeliever, so be it. To proclaim one’s faith within the barbed wire of Auschwitz may well represent a double tragedy. (84)
  5. I will never cease to rebel against those who committed or permitted Auschwitz, including God. (85)
  6. I could spend the rest of my days…testifying to those who died in the storm of ashes. Wait. One must not say too much. The secret of truth lies in silence.” And that is the dilemma. To be silent is impossible, to speak forbidden.  (89)
  7. The barbed-wire kingdom will remain an immense question mark on the scale of both humanity and its Creator. Faced with unprecedented suffering and agony, He should have intervened, or at least expressed Himself. Which side was He on? It is in this capacity that He shatters our shell and moves us. How can we fail to pity a father who witnesses the massacre of his children by his other children? Is there a suffering more devastating, a remorse more bitter? (105)
  8. The truth must be stated and restated. The suffering of the survivors did not end with the war, society wanted no part of them. Instead of greeting them with flowers, instead of hailing their survival, begging for forgiveness for their indifference or rancor. “What you’re back? Auschwitz must not have been so terrible after all.” (145)
  9. Tens of thousands of men and women eked out an existence in the same camps, in a German environment, under German eyes, because America and Canada, France and Britain, were unwilling to help them rebuild homes and futures. (146)
  10. Asceticism warns us that language is sacred, that words must never be uttered lightly…We talked of the relation between suffering and truth, suffering and redemption, suffering and spiritual purity, suffering as a gateway to the sacred, the prophetic, rabbinical, mystical point of view.  (150).
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