Thursday, January 26, 2006


The link above goes to "The Grand Retort" It is Sanger's essay on "Night" by Elie Wiesel. I read this book back in high school and remember how different my reaction was than that of my classmates. Some didn't care or get it, but most were so full of sympathy. I was angry. I didn't talk about it much, it was high school and I didn't want to push the fact that my opinion was different. The nuns chalked it up to the fact that I couldn't "grasp" it. That made some sense. I grew up in a very homegenous enviroment. There was nothing easier than growing up Irish Catholic in Boston in the 60s and 70s. I did not experience anything close to discrimination in my childhood. I was surrounded by people determined that I understand other people and cultures in the context that I was the luckiest of all. My parents provided a comfortable, loving childhood in the land of the free. So how could I judge Jews in Germany? Where did I get off thinking they should have fought to the death? But that was what I felt. Now that I am much older (how it pains me to say that!) and have read and heard and lived so much more than in high school, I still feel this. It's still a comfortable life in safe place so I'll keep my voice down.


billt said...

It's still a comfortable life in safe place so I'll keep my voice down.

Ah, Maggie, but that's the lesson of Night...

The thoughtful ones who kept their voices down did so because they were afraid of being noticed and sent to the camps with the Jews.

It didn't help. They just got there a little later, is all.

BostonMaggie said...

No Bill, the lesson of "Night" is to speak up about present dangers or injustice. I am talking about Monday-Morning-Quarterbacking the actions of European Jews just before and during the war. The Holocaust is something to remember. People like me should not criticize people in whose shoes we have never walked.

BillT said...


Read a bit deeper.

It's true that Wiesel's tenet is that you should not remain silent when evil walks, whether from fear or denial ("It can't happen here. It isn't happening here. It won't happen to me").

But the *lesson* is that those who could have stopped it in time--but didn't, due to fear or denial--suffered the same fate, because by the time they *did* speak out, it was far too late. The other voices that might have joined theirs had been silenced.

BostonMaggie said...

We are having parrallel conversations. I am in complete agreement with your description of the *point* of the book. Certainly more people should have spoken up at the time. My point is that I should not criticize Holocaust victims inaction *now*, 65 years later. What purpose would that serve? Who am I to level that criticism?