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Wiesel offers a few important perspectives on childhood. First, on account of the brutality of the experiences, he says that people lost their childhood. There were no more children, no more innocence. It was all shattered. In one part of the memoir, Wiesel writes:
They passed me by, one after the other, my teachers, my friends, the others, some of whom I had once feared, some of whom I had found ridiculous, all those whose lives I had shared for years. There they went, defeated, their bundles, their lives in tow, having left behind their homes, their childhood. They passed me by, like beaten dogs, with never a glance in my direction. They must have envied me.
Another important perspective is that children were not exempt from the horrors. They went through all the pain and suffering that the adults experienced.
This, then, was what I probably told this journalist. And when I said, with a sigh, "I have thought of these children so many times!" he told me, "I was one of them." He was one of them! He had seen his mother, a beloved little sister, and most of his family, except his father and two other sisters, disappear in a furnace fueled by living creatures.
Arguably one of the most harrowing parts of the work is when Wiesel describes the hanging of an emaciated boy who was too light to die on the gallows. He writes:
Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing...
And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"For God's sake, where is God?"
In the end, there was no childhood; it was forcibly snatched away.
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