Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God himself.
- from the forward by Francois Mauriac
Wow. This book. It is beautifully written even though it is about some of the worst real-life horrors the world has ever known. I started reading this book because my daughter was reading it for her 8th grade English class. I was intrigued. I have an interest in books about the holocaust, especially those written for our society's younger members. I don't know if you would consider this a young adult book, but I feel it was completely appropriate for my 13-year old daughter. It is so hard to explain to young people what happened during the holocaust. But it is very important to keep those memories alive. Not only because it was so awful, but because it helps demonstrate that we should not stand by silently and allow horrific things to happen to others. Just because it might not affect us, doesn't mean we should be silent. I also believe books are a great way to encourage empathy (without being preachy). :)
Ok, enough about my daughter. This book is amazing. If you haven't read it, you really should. I read it in 2 hours. I didn't intend to, but I just couldn't put it down. This book had me angry, it had me sad, it even had me in tears. I was annoyed and sad at the complacency of people; some refusing to believe what was going on until it was too late. I guess it's understandable. People don't like to think that bad things will happen to them. And such evil is really almost impossible to comprehend.
I will say that this book is difficult to read and heart breaking. It is almost unbearable, but still important.
Someone trying to warn the Jewish people in the town:
You cannot understand. I was saved miraculously. I succeeded in coming back. Where did I get my strength? I wanted to return to Sighet to describe to you my death so that you might ready yourselves while there is still time. Life? I no longer care to live. I am alone. But I wanted to come back to warn you. Only no one is listening to me..."
Some important quotes:
From that moment on, everything happened very quickly. The race toward death had begun.
The yellow star? So what? It's not lethal... (Poor Father! Of what then did you die?)
The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion.
They were the first faces of hell and death.
"Men to the left! Women to the right!" Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight simple, short words. Yet that was the moment when I left my mother. There was no time to think, and I already felt my father's hand press against mine: we were alone.
How was it possible that men, women, and children were being burned and that the world kept silent?
I too had become a different person. The student of the Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. My soul had been invaded -- and devoured -- by a black flame.
At that moment in time, all that mattered to me was my daily bowl of soup, my crust of stale bread. The bread, the soup -- those were my entire life.
Our minds numb with indifference. Here or elsewhere, what did it matter? Die today or tomorrow, or later? The night was growing longer, never-ending.
From the Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
And then I explain to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides.
Anyone who can bear to read it. :)