A few days ago, I was working from the local library, as I tend to do a few times a week to switch up the monotony of working from home. It was there that I picked up Elie Wiesel’s famed book, Night.
Lately, I’ve been interested in reading history. For years, I’ve survived strictly on business books. Since calibrating my beliefs and redefining my values over the last year, I’ve gotten away from relying strictly on consuming business data to give me significance to reading to cultivate my own, and appreciate others’, humanity. I guess the short version of that little speech is I’m more interested in understanding people than understanding business these days.
Why I Chose to Read Night
I am, in no wise, interested in sad stories. I don’t like horrors, I’m picky about the dramas I watch, and I skip shows like Empire, Scandal, and Power because of the violence and negative imagery. I mean, real life is tough enough with celebrating the depravity of fictional characters. I’m not on a soapbox here. I’ve watched the shows – all three thrilling. But I can find something better to do with my limited time and finite attention. Besides, Tommy has more integrity than Ghost anyway, so…
I chose to read Night because of its historical significance. I was nervous about reading it. I didn’t know if it would be graphic; I didn’t know what to expect.
If you’re unfamiliar with his story, author, activist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Eliezer Wiesel survived the Holocaust, moving from concentration camp to concentration camp during the last year of the Hitler’s rape of Europe. Wiesel, along with his mother, father, and three sisters were herded from their home in Romania and moved, along with tens of thousands of other Jews, through two German-controlled ghettoes before being sent to Auschwitz. At the time, Wiesel was just 15 years old. Wiesel died at 87 years old July of this year.
Night was… sobering. It was a quick read – only two or three hours – and it was captivating, as it quickly reminded me we never truly know the depth of another person’s capacity for evil. All I kept thinking about was my kids. My toddler and baby probably would have been burned alive and my daughters and I would have been used as sex slaves and laborers. And that’s all I kept thinking as I read.
Atrocities considered, I think the most startling and troubling part of the book was the beginning – before the Germans even moved into Wiesel’s neighborhood. Throughout Jewish communities there was an ongoing sense of optimism, this idea that civilization was too advanced for such barbarism. No one really thought nations or the “good people of the world” would allow Hitler to “exterminate” Jews. How can we tolerate that level of oppression in the middle of the 20th century?
Now it’s the 21st century, and from the comfort of a condo just outside of Atlanta, there are atrocities happening all over the world of which I am well aware and I don’t know what I can do to truly help. A hashtag isn’t going to do it. A donation to a charity to combat human trafficking would make me feel better…. but what does that do for the girls who disappear right from our neighborhood every single month?
So what do I do? What happens to my daughters if I march out of this house to support a cause and I don’t make it back home? Who will kiss my princess’s feet? Or say yes when she wants her hair styled like Minnie Mouse? Or say, “Absolutely not” when my high schooler thinks she’s about to wear a “formal” crop top to homecoming?
I suppose I read the book to challenge myself. In due time, I believe we will all have the opportunity to stand for something, or someone. And we can only hope that when the tables are turned, someone will stand up for us.
Elie Wiesel authored more than a dozen books. Night was his first book. If you can grab it from your local library, I would recommend it. Or, add it to your library like I did.