Elie Wiesel dies at 87 years

Activist and writer Elie Wiesel, the Second World War death camp survivor who won a Nobel Peace Prize for becoming the lifelong voice of millions of Holocaust victims, has died, Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem said on Saturday. He was 87.

Wiesel was also a philosopher, speaker, playwright and professor who also campaigned for the tyrannized and forgotten around the world. The Romanian-born Wiesel lived by the credo expressed in Night, his landmark story of the Holocaust: “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

After the war Wiesel made his way to France, studied at the Sorbonne and by 19 had become a journalist. He pondered suicide and never wrote of or discussed his Holocaust experience until 10 years after the war as a part of a vow to himself. He was 27 in 1955 when Night was published in Yiddish and Wiesel would later rewrite it for a world audience.

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed …” Wiesel wrote. “Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.”

Asked by an interviewer in 2000 why he did not go insane, Wiesel said: “To this day that is a mystery to me.”

By 2008, the New York Times said Night had sold an estimated 10 million copies, including 3 million after talk-show host Oprah Winfrey made it a spotlight selection for her book club in 2006.

I have read a few of Elie Wiesel’s books, and have found them at once despairing and hopeful, brilliant and tragic, prophetic and contemporary. As a Holocaust survivor, he fulfilled his purpose by being a spokeperson for the six million who perished, and a witness to the world, reminding everyone of the horrors of the Shoah.  May the life, legacy and memory of Elie Wiesel continue to be a blessing. May God grant him shalom-eternal.

Read more here.

Elie Wiesel on forgiveness

Elie Wiesel on Forgiveness, just before his 80th birthday at a Jewish Values Network Fundraiser on 10/05/2008 at the Steinhardt Estate in NY.

Elie Wiesel is one of the 3 most important people in the world today, along with Nelson Mandela, and Dalai Lama, according to Rabbi Shumuley Boteach.

I always appreciate the message of Elie Wiesel; he is a person of exceptional depth and authenticity. Here are a few brief notes I jotted down while watching this video.

We ask God to forgive us. But God needs some of us to forgive him. I believe in questions more than answers. As a child he was never asked by his mother: “Did you have a good answer in school today?” Rather, she asked me, “Did you have a good question today in school?” In our tradition, what we try to show is a question, and questing. A philosopher once said: “Always seek truth, but beware of the one who found it.” Death is the question of everything—why did God create everything so it will die? Why create us humans because we shall die? Even though we die, we have to live, and therefore we need to do something with our lives.

Charity saves you from dying while you are alive. Charity is compassion for those who need you—they have no basic necessities, of even no hope. Our purpose is to give them these things; otherwise we’re not fully human.

Importance of asking for forgiveness from the person that one has hurt/sinned against. How long do we go back? Should we Jews have to forgive the Egyptians for the pyramids we built? Children of assassins and not assassins of children—problem of collective guilt, Wiesel does not believe in collective guilt. Each person must forgive the person who sinned against them directly; no one else can do that.

Jewish values, concepts, philosophies: Mine is the more Jewish is a Jew, the more universal one is. I cannot believe the Jewish person, or Jewish religion is superior to any other person or religion. I don’t like fanatics who tell me I don’t have the right to believe what I believe.

The Dalai Lama asked Wiesel to teach him the art of survival because the former said his people will need to learn it as it will likely be some time before they gain any kind of independence or autonomy for their homeland of Tibet and the exiles shall be safe to return. We can teach the non-Jew, the Muslim, Christian, and others if we live authentic Jewish lives.

Question time: I believe in memory. I don’t believe in hatred, anger yes. Memory, learn from it, say: “I don’t want my past to become someone else’s future.”

Question: Is Wiesel optimistic about the Jewish future? Yes, he said. Memory transcends future. Never before now have there been so many courses, books, etc., on the Holocaust. So I am optimistic about our people, that we shall survive.

Question of Jewish view of forgiveness, when do you forgive? Jewish law requires an individual to forgive their perpetrator, only if the latter asks for it. Wiesel told the story of a German government leader—I think it was Chancellor Kohl—who, after listening to Wiesel’s view on forgiveness, travelled to Israel and publicly in the Knesset asked for forgiveness from the Jewish people.

May God continue to grant health and blessings to his faithful servant, Elie Wiesel.

 

Dr. Viktor Frankl and incredible human being

Dr. Viktor Frankl an incredible human being

The psychiatrist, whom I respect by far more than any others, is Dr. Viktor Frankl. Readers may remember him as a Holocaust survivor, and father of a type of psychotherapy called logotherapy, and author of books such as Man’s Search for Meaning. Over against other psychiatrists and psychologists who said that the will to power and the pursuit of pleasure are what ultimately motivate human beings; Dr. Frankl believed that the will to meaning is what ultimately motivates human beings. His logotherapy was born out of his own existential experiences in the World War II concentration camps. He said that according to logotherapy, meaning can be discovered by three ways: “(1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.” Even though Dr. Frankl didn’t publicly declare himself to be an adherent of any religion (he was an Austrian Jew, though I’m not aware that he attended synagogue, his wife apparently was a Catholic) nonetheless, he said that religion is concerned with ultimate meaning, or supermeaning and self-transcendence. For me, this has parallels with the Lutheran theology of the cross; which, of course, originates with Jesus himself, when he taught and lived for others and made the ultimate self sacrifice for humankind.

 

Readers may be interested in the following links to explore further the life and teachings of Dr. Viktor Frankl: You Tube has several interviews here. Readers can also check out the Viktor Frankl Institute here, where there are also some interviews. What shines through for me is the deep insights into the human condition and the profound authenticity of Dr. Frankl. He obviously practiced what he preached, even though his suffering during the Holocaust must have been horrific, he still lived to the ripe old age of 92 years.