I first began reading Elie Wiesel at a very young age, just after I took on the task of reading every Nobel Peace Prize winner of Literature I could get my hands on. From there, my fascination for history and my need to understand how people could make art from something so vicious melded. Yet my understanding could only travel so far, caught between the pages of the books I so loved and respected. I knew then that I did not know enough, and waited patiently for a time in which I could send myself overseas to see those lives unbeknownst to me.
After traveling through Germany in 2013, and having the opportunity to visit Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg (the first concentration camp in WWII), my inspiration for writing shifted ever so slightly. There was a hollowness there, not unlike the one I had felt when I visited Ogdensburg, NY late last year. And we all felt it; the land was exhausted.
Yet the people and places I visited gifted me with a new worldly perspective, one I had never known traveling only through the United States. Thus I found that I could, indeed, find it in myself to create something from those times in my life in which I felt and knew nothing.
Upon the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz yesterday, I felt another awakening to my work. I poured over my bookshelf and reread excerpts from Bernhard Schlink, Edith Velmans, Art Spiegelman and Corrie ten Boom. Below are a few passages that moved me the most, and helped me to understand the fact that I cannot understand what these brave men and women went through. But there is much learning to be done, and there are many words to be said. And though we may not know entirely, we remember. For, as Elie Wiesel said, “To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
“What is to give light must endure burning.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
-Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)
Other locations to learn about The Holocaust that I highly recommend:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, MI
The Mazal Holocaust Library in San Antonio, TX
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany (even the story of this memorial is incredible, and is very much worth the research)