Elie Wiesel’s gripping account of his time spent in a Nazi concentration camp is both deeply horrifying and also deeply insightful. Like Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”, Wiesel addresses existentialism in the most terrifying and soul-depleting circumstances possible.
And yet, Wiesel has managed to survive this trauma and to use his witness as a powerful challenge for peace. In 1986, Night was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I am struck by the strength of character in Wiesel’s acceptance speech. After the persecution that Wiesel has been through, he has managed to lift himself to a place of prominence in speaking out for those that cannot be heard. Consider Wiesel’s words in his Nobel acceptance speech:
- “…I swore never to be silent whenever and 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. Whenever 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.”
- “This is what I say to the young Jewish boy wondering what I have done with his years. It is in his name that I speak to you and that I express to you my deepest gratitude as one who has emerged from the Kingdom of Night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering, not to share them would mean to betray them.”
- “Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.”
Wiesel’s sense of Lent Time is especially stirring, especially in light of the Night that he has shared with us.
May this powerful story be a witness to our collective humanity.