“I still believe in man in spite of man. I believe in language even though it has been wounded, deformed, and perverted by the enemies of mankind. And I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.”
― Elie Wiesel, Open Heart
As most of you know by now, Elie Weisel passed away this past weekend. A Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1986, he was an Auschwitz survivor with a gift for words – and a willingness to use them in a pursuit of peace by understanding the past. As a post-war baby boomer, the shadow of the Holocaust was as much a part of my life as the ever-present threat of nuclear obliteration and the Cold War. Wiesel’s writing, like Victor Frankls’, was an important part of understanding that story for me. It was an piece of the foundation that left me believing in the power of education. In the need to not forget the lessons of the past. And in the power of words. And to not remain silent: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
In it’s obituary, the New York Times noted that the citation from the Nobel committee stated: “His message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief.” And he dedicated his entire life to that cause. Which calls to mind these words of WWII heroine, Hannah Szenes:
“There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”
The world lost one of those lights on July 2nd when Elie Wiesel passed away.
Image of Elie Wiesel borrowed from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/07/02/166184644/elie-wiesel-holocaust-survivor-and-nobel-laureate-dies-at-87