Elie Wiesel would have become a man in the Jewish religion at age 13, if he’d had a bar mitzvah. He certainly became a man by age 15 after surviving the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. He was stripped of everything. No child or adult should ever have to experience the loss of family members, friendships, work and community and love—everything necessary to live life to its fullest.
Despite our modern technology, most peoples’ views of the world are from afar and we live detached with only the briefest of visual images and sound bites of daily events, here and abroad. When tragedy does strike, we offer rationales for causes. Often we minimize, deny or avoid the real truth of what we see. Our responses often reveal more questions than answers.
How does a young man recover from trauma such as the Holocaust to become a student, a teacher, a writer, a Nobel laureate and finally a statesman and conscience for the world who spoke and wrote about the evils mankind continues to inflict upon itself? How does a grown man, who acknowledges being an agnostic, find within himself the faith to continue sounding the clarion call that we must never give in to the base instincts within us that allow thoughts to be spoken and behaviors to be perpetrated against racial, ethnic and religious minorities?
I don’t know if Elie Wiesel believed God chose him to carry the torchlight into the darkness, but history certainly chose him, and he rose to that grave responsibility. This man carried the flame of memory and justice high and spoke truth to power to the end. I pray that torch continues to light the way and that his soul finds peace.
E. G. Singer lives in Santa Rosa.
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