Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’: Holocaust memoir a must-read along with Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’

Elie Wiesel Night

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 that the world must never forget what happened because “if we forget, we are all guilty, we are accomplices.” His memoir, Night, is a must-read for anyone who understands — as he did — that “we must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Perhaps one of the most important take-aways from the book is just how averse humans are to acknowledging evil — real evil — when it is in their midst.

Mr. Wiesel’s account of how his hometown in Transylvania reacted to the Nazi threat is surreal. It is hard to imagine just how far men while go to deny the truth when the truth may require a call to arms.

The author wrote:

“The Germans were already in our town, the Fascists were already in power, the verdict was already out — and the Jews of Sighet were smiling.

‘The yellow star? So what? It’s not lethal…’

(Poor Father! Of what then did you die?) …

Little by little life returned to ‘normal.’ The barbed wire that encircled us like a wall did not fill us with fear. In fact, we felt this was not a bad thing; were were entirely among ourselves. A small Jewish republic … A Jewish Council was appointed, as well as a Jewish police force, a welfare agency, a labor committee, a health agency — a whole government apparatus.

People thought this was a good thing.” (Elie Wiesel. Night. Hill and Wang. 10-12.)

The one man in town who tried to warn everyone was treated like a madman, which ironically took him to the edge of sanity. It was not long afterward that Mr. Wiesel would be shipped off to Auschwitz and then Buchenwald.

The horrors that Mr. Wiesel endured are too numerous to list in a single blog post, but it is imperative to note why Nazi torture was a special kind of evil: It took root in the souls of its victims, who then turned on one another.

“In the wagon where the bread had landed, a battle had ensued. Men were hurling themselves against each other, trampling, tearing at and mauling each other. Beasts of prey unleashed, animal hate in their eyes. An extraordinary vitality possessed them, sharpening their teeth and nails.

A crowd of workmen and curious passersby had formed all along the train. They had undoubtedly never seen a train with this kind of cargo. Soon, pieces of bread were falling into the wagons from all sides. And the spectators observed these emaciated creatures ready to kill for a crust of bread.” (101.)

Night is a powerful book that understandably simmers with rage and anger, hate and sorrow. It is a book that everyone should read, but it should not be completed without also making time for Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Mr. Wiesel’s memoir shows his self-described “rebellion” against God, while Mr. Frankl chronicles how spiritual growth is possible — even in an Auschwitz death camp.

“When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

Long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naive query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value. For us, the meaning of life embraced the wider cycles of life and death, of suffering and of dying. …

We had realized [suffering’s] hidden opportunities for achievement, the opportunities which caused the poet Rilke to write, ‘Wie viel ist aufzuleiden!’ (How much suffering there is to get through!) Rilke spoke of ‘getting through’ suffering as others would talk of ‘getting through work.’ …

There was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Only very few realized that.”  (Victor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, 2006. 77, 78.)

In short, both books are essential reading for the man or woman who loves freedom, abhors tyranny, and understands the importance of history. The memoirs can be purchased for $10 or less, which is an unbeatable bargain given the wisdom each contains.

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Captain America exists — and his real name is William Kyle Carpenter

Marine.Medal.of.Honor

Remember the scene in the first Captain America — the one where Cap throws himself on what he thinks is a real grenade to protect his fellow soldiers?

It's incredibly honorable to sacrifce oneself for the protection of others. There are few better ways to die. The fact that Marvel's Captain America depicts such a scene is a good sign for American moviegoers.

Yeah. Well, that guy really exists.

Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, who was severely wounded during a 2010 grenade attack, is set to become the third Medal of Honor recipient from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The medically retired Marine Corps veteran will be commended for shielding Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio from a live grenade in Afghanistan on Nov. 21, 2010, the Army Times reported.

“We knew the area we were moving into was one of the rougher areas. … The grenade hit … and our Marines do what they do best — they took care of us and they kept us alive,” he told the Army Times.

Cpl. Carpenter, 24, suffered the loss of his right eye, a blown-out eardrum, a “pretty much blown off” lower jaw and various other broken bones. Damage to the soldier’s frontal lobe also left him unable to speak until just recently. …

“I’m still here and kicking and I have all my limbs, so you’ll never hear me complain,” he said.

If you get a chance, read up on his full story. It’s amazing.

“I just wanted to give a little shout out to all the people that not necessarily doubted, but who didn’t think 15 months ago that I’d be running 10K marathons and doing more pull-ups than I at one point thought I could do. I guess this is a message and a constant reminder for me and everybody out there that thinks they have obstacles to accomplish and overcome.”

The guy was in many respects blown to bits, he couldn’t talk for an extended amount of time because of injuries sustained to his brain, and yet he finds the drive and determination to get back into the kind of shape it takes to run marathons and knock out pull-ups.

Imagine what the world would look like if everyone had William Kyle Carpenter’s attitude. I feel confident saying that it would be a much better place.