There is something about a shared life experience. Instead of small talking and playing the “getting to know you” game, there is an immediate understanding and shorthand between those who share said experiences.
In 2019, journalist Howard Reich published his memoir about his friendship with the late Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel. It is entitled The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel. Reich, whose parents both survived the Holocaust, sat down with Wiesel for what was supposed to be a standard interview. Instead of it being a one-and-done experience, Reich and Wiesel became friends and were in frequent contact with each other during the latter’s last four years of life.
This book is excellent. Though Reich and Wiesel have an innate grasp of each other, it is not so exclusive the reader cannot feel like they are part of the conversation. What I liked about the memoir is that one does not have to be a 2G or 3G (the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors) to understand that trauma can be transferred to younger generations. What is important is that the story is told and spoken of in such a manner that shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The late Elie Wiesel once said the following about the millions murdered in The Holocaust.
“If we forget, the dead will be killed a second time,” Wiesel says, “and then they are today’s victims.”
In New York City alone, approximately 25,000 people have been killed by Covid-19. Today’s episode of The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC paid tribute to some of those who are no longer with us due to the virus. Similar to the names read every September 11th, 400+ listeners read from a list of over 1000 souls who only exist in the memories of those who knew and loved them.
Behind every name was a human being. They had lives, families, and futures that were taken from them. Saying their names aloud cannot bring them back. What it allows us to do is mourn and remember them for who they were, not for the statistic they have become.
In the language of my faith, may the memories of everyone killed by Covid-19 be a blessing. Though they are gone physically, they will live in our hearts forever.
When you learn from a master, the lessons learned often transcend the academic world. The lessons we learn from this person stay with us long after we have left the classroom.
The late Elie Wiesel was one of the most remarkable men of our time. He was more than a Holocaust survivor, successful author and a teacher. He spoke to our common humanity in a way that few people are able to do. Ariel Burger was one of the fortunate few who knew Professor Wiesel on a personal level; first has his student, then his teaching assistant.
Last year, Dr. Burger published a memoir about his time with Professor Wiesel entitled Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom. They met when Dr. Burger was a teenager. Years later, he was offered a position of Professor Wiesel’s teaching assistant. For Dr. Burger, this relationship was more than the typical student/teacher or teaching assistant/Professor relationship. Professor Wiesel was a mentor and guided his teaching assistant as he dealt with life’s challenges.
I loved this book. I loved it because I felt like I was sitting in Professor Wiesel’s classroom, learning with his students. I also loved it because it speaks to the legacy of love and learning that only someone like Elie Wiesel could leave to the world.
While I live in the safety and security of The United States, sometimes I need a reminder how quickly democracy and freedom can spiral into prejudice and murder.
Yesterday, I finished reading The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jew. Co-written by child survivor Rena Margulies Chernoff and her son Alan Chernoff, the book is a memoir based on the memories of Mrs. Chernoff’s all too brief childhood and the horrors she went through during the Holocaust.
The reason I re-read the book can best be described by the late Elie Wiesel:
“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
The youngest of the survivors are in their 80’s and 90’s. Soon, only their words and memories, shared through others will keep the their murdered kin alive.
I re-read The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jews so that the dead will never be forgotten.
Today, the world lostElie Wiesel. He was a human rights activist, Holocaust child survivor and author.
Born in what was then Romania in 1928, Elie Wiesel’s parents and younger sister were killed in the Holocaust. Only he and his older sisters survived. In 1960, he published Night, a novel based on his time at Auschwitz.
Mr. Wiesel was more than the face of Holocaust survivors. He was the face of everyone who has faced prejudice and extermination in the modern age simply because of who they are.
I had the pleasure of seeing him speak when I was in college. While I do not remember the specifics of the lecture, it was a thrill just the same.
In Judaism, when a loved one passes away, we say of blessed memory when we refer to them. Elie Wiesel is of blessed memory, not just to those who knew him on a personal level, but to those whose life he influenced, but never had the chance to meet in person.