Claire S's Reviews > Elie Wiesel: Bearing Witness

Elie Wiesel by Michael Pariser
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Looks like a pretty good introduction to the Shoah (Holocaust) and the life of Elie Wiesel for a child, of use for a report or something. It covers (in a very basic form) the hateful ideology of the Nazis, that their genocidal actions were kept secret to a great extent for a long time.

How one Jewish man who'd been taken away from Elie's village came back, describing how he'd pretended to be dead after everyone had been shot. Elie's Jewish community refused to believe him, calling him a madman. (Elie was 13 or 14 at that point).

Then not long after, they also were taken to Auschwitz. It mentions how someone whispered to Elie and his father to lie about their age - to remain within the viable age range. It mentions Dr. Joseph Mengele, 'a cruel man who did inhuman experiments'.

It mentioned babies being thrown into the air to be used for target practice by the Nazis, and at Auschwitz that all the children and babies were thrown alive into a burning ditch to burn to death.
(So, some limiting factors of this book to consider for any given child).

It mentions that tattoo'ing of prisoners - Elie's number was A-7713. It describes in simplest terms the High Holidays, and how Elie's father told the prisoners they couldn't give up even a shred of bread for Yom Kippur, as that could cause their death (as close as they always were to starvation).

Elie had to have an operation on his foot in 1944 - no pain medication, luckily he fainted finally after an hour. Soon after, before his foot had healed at all, the prisoners were taken on to the death march. He wrapped his foot in rags and walked/ran through the snow like all the other survivors. They ran for over 40 miles - it says Elie thinks he actually slept while running for a short time due to extreme exhaustion and pain.

20,000 prisoners left on the death march, less than 6,000 were still alive at the end of it ten days later, in Buchenwald. Elie's father died shortly after that point.

It mentions also that, as the war was ending in April, 1945, the Germans were determined to kill every Jew possible while they still could. They stopped feeding the prisoners on April 6, Elie and others ate nothing but grass and food from the garbage till the American troops arrived. (The Germans were also taking groups of prisoners out and shooting them during that period, and were making their way to the barracks where Elie was when the troops arrived.)

There is a picture of troops leading surviving prisoners (children, broadly defined) out of the camp, with an arrow pointing to Elie.

This book finishes by describing how Elie started writing, how he married and created a family and a life.

And Elie Wiesel's overall belief about the Shoah, which is that it was a uniquely Jewish experience, yet it contained lessons that were universal. Some situations that Elie tried to help with as a result including South Africa and Cambodia.

When Elie received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, he spoke about the fact that the world did know about the concentration camps to an extent, and that he had promised himself to never be silent about human suffering and humiliation.

At the dedication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC in 1993, Elie made some comments about how to possibly understand the inhumanity of human beings, and that goodness exists still in individuals even in such times.
'"What have we learned?" he asked. And he answered, "We have learned that we are all responsible, and indifference is a sin. We have learned that when people suffer we can not remain indifferent."'

There are dramatic photos - one with Hitler in all his rabid intensity - looks like he's about to bite someone. Also of a beautifully illustrated Torah page. One of Jews loaded into a train car (P.S. 'Paperclips' is an excellent film). Another picture is of the portal into Auschwitz, the the words above 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work Makes You Free).

There is also a very short reference list.
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