July 6, 2021

"...IN SPITE OF MAN":

Remembering Elie Wiesel on his 5th Yahrzeit (Caroline Stoessinger, 7/02/21, The Forward)

Elie Wiesel made a commandment of memory. Whenever my students ask why they should study history, I always respond with a quote from Elie, who lived the answer: "Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future."

Elie constantly reminded us of the power of memory. "If there is a single theme," he wrote, "that dominates all my writings, all my obsessions, it is that of memory because I fear forgetfulness as much as hatred and death. For if we forget, we are accomplices."

For fifty years, I saw firsthand his authenticity and his sterling character as an author, humanist and teacher. I remember when, a few years into our friendship, the young husband of a friend died suddenly. The distraught widow asked me to invite Elie to speak at his funeral, but I was hesitant. Although she had met the Wiesels briefly at my home, I was unsure if Elie had had a chance to speak with her husband. With a prelude of apologies, I posed the question. Elie immediately answered "Of course, I will speak. A life has been lost."

Many have wondered how Elie could have had such a compassionate and generous personality after Auschwitz. Despite all he suffered, Elie never deviated from the traditions of his ancestors. He ended his last public speech expressing gratitude to the audience and said "we have so many prayers of gratitude; before I open my eyes in the morning, I must say a prayer of gratitude." He believed in memory as the road we must travel if our species is to survive. So long as he had breath Elie kept hope alive, saying "I still believe in man in spite of man."

Posted by at July 6, 2021 12:00 AM

  

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