Elie Wiesel, the man, the Jew, the writer who “believed in God against God”

A great witness of the 20th century and of its barbarism has died. Nazi insanity considered fifteen-year old Elie Wiesel a Stück, a piece. Nothing more. Once the vicious extermination ideology had been vanquished he became its living, thriving memory, contributing with his personal accounts, articles, speeches, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1986 and much more: a proclaimer of Shalom

The night is waning and Light makes its way through for A-7713, deported from his home town of Sighet in the Carpathians to Auschwitz, where he arrived May 6 1944: “I will never forget those flames that forever consumed my faith.” Buna and Buchenwald followed. For Nazi insanity the fifteen-year-old Jew Elie Wiesel was a Stück, a piece. Nothing more. When the heinous Nazi ideology had been vanquished he became living , thriving memory, contributing with his personal accounts, articles, speeches, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1986 and much more: a proclaimer of Shalom.
The announcement of the conclusion of his peregrination throughout history could but be made by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem: the centre for the remembrance of the Shoah, of its horrific devastation – “those who have not experienced death there will never understand what we, the survivors, have suffered from morning to night, beneath a silent blue sky” – as well as of the uncontainable rebirth of the people of Israel.

What was burned into that adolescent’s skin and life turned into inexhaustible propelling force:

 “For me, as a Jew, the Holocaust was a human tragedy. And more than that it was a theological scandal. For me, it is as impossible to accept Auschwitz with God as without God. But then how is one to understand His silence?”

God became his interlocutor: the One who was always at his side, within himself, in his thoughts, with him throughout the rest of his life. In his writings, marked by contained emotion and ardent passion in its dynamic, clear-cut prose, he wrote: “And the world remained silent”, in Yiddish, then in French with a foreword by F. Mauriac under the title “The night.” All publishing doors were closed against him. Those were the times of the climate described in “The labyrinth of silence”.  Was anguish being removed? Only in 1958 a small, brave publishing house, Editions de Minuit, ventured to promote it. But it was a flop: it sold almost zero copies. But it gradually turned into a crescendo, worthy of the masterpiece renowned worldwide: 400, 000 copies a year at the end of the 1990s, reaching a 10 million peak. Daniel Vogelmann realized its greatness and his publishing house La Giuntina was the first to print it in Italian in 1980.

The religious scandal, the human suffering, the constant vexations and violence in all corners of the world became Elie Wiesel’s reasons for living,

According to the Jewish tenet that reverberated inside him: “And you shall choose life”, “The Torah teaches us to choose life. I believe in humanity against humanity. I believe in God against God.” Brave and pugnacious to the extent of reminding President Reagan during his official visit that his place was not at the SS German cemetery but at the memorial of the victims. Serious surgery, described in his book “Open heart”, took him by surprise and in a different state: “There I wasn’t alone… Here, I was alone in this condition.” History still needed his witness: “So many things still to be accomplished … so many challenges yet to face. So many prayers yet to compose. So many words to find, so many silences to be sung.” Once his physical and psychological emergency was overcome, his confrontation with God continued: “I admit doubting God, but I never denied His existence. I make mine Jeremiah’s Lamentations, evoking the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem: “You have killed [ Your children] without mercy!” “You have assassinated [Your people] without compassion!” However, E. Wiesel adds his cry: “What? God, assassin? True some of us protested against the divine silence. But none of us had the audacity to call God ‘assassin’!” His narration continues with the account of when Elijah, his favourite grandchild, tells him: “Grandpa, you know that I love you, and I see you are in pain. Tell me: if I loved you more would you be in less pain?” The suffered, contemplated reaction of the writer reveals mind and spirit: “I am convinced God at that moment is smiling as He contemplates His Creation.” Now, with God and in God, also Elie Wiesel is smiling on us. May his memory be a blessing.

Altri articoli in Mondo

Mondo