To mark the passing of a good man…


I don’t remember how old I was when I read the short book, “Night.” I may have been 13, but I do remember being inordinately moved by the haunting passages, by the sheer pain in Mr. Wiesel’s words and by the notion that you can present the entire world in a sentence, if it is precisely the right sentence.

I’m not sure how old I was, but I know “Night” sent me on a summer-long exploration of books about the Holocaust, and some of Wiesel’s 56 other books, which led me to Isaac Bashevis Singer (maybe my favorite storyteller, ever), which lead me to a whole world of writing I hadn’t known existed.

Years later, I got to interview Mr. Wiesel for my newspaper. I don’t remember why and I don’t remember the story and I”m afraid to look it up for fear it stunk. I know my voice quavered as I asked my mundane questions  (it was what we used to call a phoner, over the phone) and when I hung up, I put my head on my desk because you don’t talk to a legend without marking it in some way.

After the story-not-worth-remembering ran, Mr. Wiesel, who was teaching in Boston at the time, sent me a short thank you note. In fact, that’s what the note said:

“Simply: Thank you.”

Reader, I framed the thing. It’s hanging in my office at work and if it’s even remotely appropriate, I always direct visitors to it. I don’t pretend we were close, but I have a piece of paper that great man touched. The ink (I believe he wrote the note with a fountain pen) is fading, but I will hang onto the little framed note until the day I die, and if it’s possible, I will take it with me.

By now I’m sure you’ve read or heard that Elie Wiesel died over the weekend. He was 87. I happen to think he will live forever, as he should.


2 responses to “To mark the passing of a good man…

  1. “Where is God now?”
    That’s what I remember from Night. It stuck with me because that’s what my father said his response was when he entered Buchenwald (Langenstein) in 1945.

    Wiesel was a great man. A courageous man. No tribute really seems adequate for all the work he’s done. I suppose the best way to honor him would be to honor history. And never forget.

    • Where is God now. Good Lord. Your father liberated a camp. I can’t begin to imagine. The response that God was hanging, right there in front of them, made me cry. My interpretation at the time was that the atrocities killed God. I think they did, for some.

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