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Elie Wiesel. Why do we read Night?.

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Elie Wiesel

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Elie wiesel

Elie Wiesel

Why do we read night

Why do we read Night?

“No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions. And yet, I sense their presence. I always do - and at this moment more than ever. The presence of my parents, that of my little sister. The presence of my teachers, my friends, my companions...This honor belongs to all the survivors and their children and, through us to the Jewish people with whose destiny I have always identified.

I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of Night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed. I remember he asked his father: "Can this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

And now the boy is turning to me. "Tell me," he asks, "what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?" And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.”

Excerpt from Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1986:http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/nobelprizespeech.aspx

Author background

Author Background:

  • Born: 1928, Sighet, Transylvania (now Romania)

  • Only son, three sisters

  • Before Holocaust, studious and religious, focused on study of sacred Jewish texts

  • 1944, age 15, deported by Nazis (first in Auschwitz), family broken apart.

  • Elie and father stay together, but mother and younger sister died in Auschwitz, liberated in April, 1945.

  • Older sisters survive Holocaust.

  • http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/eliewiesel.aspx

Sighet transylvania romania

Sighet, Transylvania (Romania)

Elie wiesel

  • After war, Elie studied in Paris, journalist.

  • Wrote and published work, but initially refused to write about Holocaust until he began work on Night ten years after liberation

  • Moved to US in 1956, married fellow Holocaust survivor in 1969

  • Teacher at Boston University, Humanities

  • President of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, combats indifference, intolerance and injustice.

  • Nobel Peace Prize, 1986- activism

Historical background brief

Historical Background: (brief!)

  • WWII 1939-1945, started with German aggression

  • Born out of conflicts after WWI—Germany “broken” government, economy, military, transportation system, etc.

  • Nazi (National Socialist German Workers Party)—originated late 1920s, led by Adolf Hitler after WWI.

  • Hitler was anti-Semitic (hated Jews), called them an inferior race (Jewish is not a race).

  • Promised to restore Germany, mainly blamed Jewish people (and others—Gypsies, people with handicaps, mental illness, homosexuals) for this broken state, asserting they were not true Germans.

Historical background

Historical Background:

  • Elected German Chancellor in 1933, first concentration camp opened soon after.

  • Employed Gestapo (secret police) in years leading to war to imprison Jews. Many began to flee the country.

  • 1941, Germany invaded Russia, first big push of war began. Need for supplies=concentration work camps.

  • Invasion, control, ghetto, deportation to concentration camps (cattle cars)

  • 1942: Hitler and allies developed “Final Solution” policy=extermination of Jews

Adolf hitler

Adolf Hitler:

Propaganda anti semitic

Propaganda: Anti-Semitic











  • Once the prisoners arrived, they were “selected” to stay in the work camp or were exterminated.

  • Dr. Mengele

  • http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007060

Entrance to auschwitz work makes one free

Entrance to Auschwitz: “Work makes one free”





Shoes of victims of the holocaust

Shoes of victims of the Holocaust:

Locations of concentration death camps during wwii

Locations of Concentration/Death Camps during WWII:

By the end of wwii it is estimated that

By the end of WWII, it is estimated that:

  • 11 million people killed under Hitler’s leadership and the quest for the eradication of those who were not “Aryan”

  • Approximately 6 million of the victims were Jewish

  • Other groups were persecuted for their genetic “impurity” or due to cultural background, or killed for “undesirable” religious or political practices/beliefs.

    • Gypsies

    • Homosexuals

    • Those with mental illness or disability

    • Polish and other Slavs

    • Jehovah’s Witnesses

    • Dissenting clergy

    • Communists

    • Socialists

    • Political “enemies”

**Other concentration camps existed in the Pacific Rim (Japanese).

Less historical attention is paid to these victims, nearly 1 million died (POW, civilians)


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