Never forget, that's what the world was told. We can never forget the lessons taught in hate, discrimination, and repression. We can never standby and watch as our brothers and sisters are targeted and demonized. We must never allow ourselves to turn on those we once called friends and neighbors. This is the message of Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel.
"There are victories of the soul and the spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win." When you come to the edge of humanity, when you fear dawn will never come, there is a lesson to be taken. Wiesel stared into the face of the abyss. In the darkness and despair he resolved to never allow hatred to overpower reason ever again.
Like so many others who first interacted with the message of Wiesel in a high school literature class, the message of his writing still resonates in me today. Night is the ultimate testimony to the triumph of the human spirit over all that would tear it down. It is a true account of the soul's will to continue, to live. For many, it is the first look into the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. When the Jews of Europe were being striped of their lives and religion, Elie vowed to never turn his back on his people's history.
I am sitting here at my rabbi's house this evening, pouring over his collection of Wiesel writing. He, a student at BU during Weisel's tenure, had the privilege of learning from the voice of the voiceless. As we talk, so many memories surface — reviewing a Beggar in Jerusalem as an assignment for Prof. Wiesel, driving back together from a speech that Elie had given in New Jersey, remembering the passion of the man who had shaped his learning. I was told that Wiesel had a certain intensity to his attentiveness that made you feel as if the whole world waited on your every breath.
"The hardest and most beautiful thing we can do as survivors," Wiesel said, "is to remember." One can only imagine attempting to recall evil when everything in you wants to bury the past. It took some time for Mr. Wiesel to be able to come to terms with the haunting memory of the Holocaust.
It would be six years until Elie would be able to conquer his demons and put to paper the memories that enlightened millions to the horrors of Nazi persecution. Elie went from being voiceless himself to becoming one of the world's foremost activists, paving the way for so many others who would later speak out against injustice.
Of all the countless honors bestowed upon his name, perhaps the most prestigious was the Nobel Peace Prize that he won in 1986 for speaking out against racism, violence, and repression. So central to his memory and his legacy is his advocacy and outspoken nature in the fight against genocide and discrimination everywhere.
Wiesel became one of the leading figures in the promotion of information about the atrocities in Darfur, Rwanda, and Bosnia. He shed light into the darkest reaches of our world and stood in solidarity with those who were persecuted. Never forget, never.
In a time when the number of survivors are dwindling, while Holocaust deniers and virulent antisemitism is on the rise, we cannot forget the lesson that Wiesel wanted all of us to learn. What happens when good people standby, when indifference allows us to become complacent. As Weisel taught, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” If we are not up-standers we are collaborators. When we allow our neighbors to be tormented we permit love to fall into failure. Be the change.