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If I were writing a letter to tell Elie Wiesel how his biography Night has impacted me, I would have to explain several reactions to his story.
First, I am thankful that he wrote his story. It could not have been easy, which is why he waited so long after the experience to write it; however, it is a story about something most of us were not witnesses to, so it is important that those who did witness it in any form tell their story.
For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.
We (the world) may not all learn the lessons we should learn from it, but some will and there is hope in that. If he had not written, I would not know.
Second, he reminds me to forgive. As we read, we know that he has so many more reasons to hate than to love.
One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live.
We see so much unwarranted (unjustified) hatred toward innocents in this story, and that hatred is demonstrated in such horrific ways that I could begin to feel hatred myself. However, it is clear that Elie has forgiven--though not forgotten--those nearly unforgivable things. Anyone who is able to learn how to forgive in the midst of that has something I need and want to emulate.
Third, I admire his honesty. We do not doubt his love for his father; nevertheless, we understand how he must have wanted to leave him behind many times and how he began to feel nothing when his father was being mistreated. It is not something of which he is proud, yet it is the truth. We do not doubt his will to live, yet we understand his readiness to give up when things got too hard. We do not doubt his faith in God, nor do we condemn him for losing his faith for a time. When someone says that he has more faith in Hitler than in God because Hitler has kept every promise he ever made to the Jews, it is heartbreaking to think that this is how it must have felt.
Fourth, I feel sorrow that no one was able to stop this horrible thing--at least not soon enough. When I read this story and realize that even the Jews who were in imminent danger did not realize the horrors ahead of them, I do not feel guilty. I do, however, mourn with him the loss of so many and so much.
Finally, I would promise Elie Wiesel that he has made such an impression on me that I will never forget. That is his truth, as he so eloquently writes in his "never shall I forget" passage in the story, and it has become my truth, as well. Though we remember different things, we both remember; for
[t]o forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.
This is an impactful story because it causes readers to respond to the best and worst parts of human nature--our own and others. Some are moved to tears of compassion, some are stirred to righteous anger because of the injustice, but all are moved to feel something, it seems to me. It would be easy just to say that this is a story about something that happened to other people a long time ago; however, Elie reminds us that
[h]uman suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.
This story is a warning and reminder about the evil that lurks in the heart of man which, when it is unchecked, will destroy whatever it hates.
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