Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ron Ruthfield
Boone, N.C. 

Weisel, bestower of the memory of the Holocaust to the world


The moment I finished reading “Night” many years ago, I knew that I had just experienced my personal Holocaust despite being safely tucked into, and protected by, my American way of life. The Holocaust was now mine to hang onto. Elie Wiesel gave it to me with his printed words that have left me beleaguered to this very day. Never would I have let it belong to someone else. It would have been like stealing my own soul and giving it to a stranger. It was too profound a moment in my personal psyche. No longer would my heart be the same. 

“Night” solidified my memories of what was. The tattoos. The electrified barbed wire fences that enclosed all of humanity, even those who were so inhumane. Those who were trapped inside their own evil. Those who knew that the world was broken into pieces of flesh and bone and hate and a rancid stench from the filthy chimneys built and stoked by barbarians.  

That day in Dachau in 1971 brought to me a mixture of anger, sadness, tears and unanswerable questions. The one that was left dangling was simple: Why? Why did all of this happen? Why does the furnace in the crematorium still feel like it was just used? Why did G-d create this horror? Why did G-d allow countless of innocents to be tormented? And why did He allow the tormentors to torment?

Not even Elie Wisesel could answer Why.

Years later, as I sat in temple one night, I could finally see and listen to that man who possessed the haunting experiences that left him appearing as gaunt as someone who just missed death, and who had the daunting task of purging himself of hatred. It was like listening to someone who finally had the ear of G-d, pleading with Him to let all mankind bring some sense of justice and triumph to those who had been reduced to living images of corpses, and those who were now mere ashes from the ovens or buried beneath the scorched earth in mass graves. 

Looking at that man, with his shock of gray hair whose strands seemed to take every direction that the wind blew, I could not help but feel blessed by the Almighty for granting me the one chance I had to sit and listen to the still-sad but poetically paradoxical voice of bringing the message of peace and hope to the entire globe.

Elie Wiesel’s spirit belonged, and still belongs, to me. But I also realize that he bestowed the memory of the Holocaust directly into the heart of the world, which now needs that spirit more than ever.


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