Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed....Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.
For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.
His cold eyes stared at me. At last, he said wearily: "I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.
They are committing the greatest indignity human beings can inflict on one another: telling people who have suffered excruciating pain and loss that their pain and loss were illusions. (v).
There's a long road of suffering ahead of you. But don't lose courage. You've already escaped the gravest danger: selection. So now, muster your strength, and don't lose heart. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity. And now, a prayer - or rather, a piece of advice: let there be comradeship among you. We are all brothers, and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.
He explained to me with great insistence that every question posessed a power that did not lie in the answer.
One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.
I told him that I did not believe that they could burn people in our age, that humanity would never tolerate it….
...I believe it important to emphasize how strongly I feel that books, just like people, have a destiny. Some invite sorrow, others joy, some both.
I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.
In the beginning there was faith - which is childish; trust - which is vain; and illusion - which is dangerous.
It was pitch dark. I could hear only the violin, and it was as though Juliek's soul were the bow. He was playing his life. The whole of his life was gliding on the strings--his last hopes, his charred past, his extinguished future. He played as he would never play again...When I awoke, in the daylight, I could see Juliek, opposite me, slumped over, dead. Near him lay his violin, smashed, trampled, a strange overwhelming little corpse.
Did I write it so as not to go mad or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness?.
I am not so naïve as to believe that this slim volume will change the course of history or shake the conscience of the world. Books no longer have the power they once did. Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.
But because of his telling, many who did not believe have come to believe, and some who did not care have come to care. He tells the story, out of infinite pain, partly to honor the dead, but also to warn the living - to warn the living that it could happen again and that it must never happen again. Better than one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling, he has decided, if it means that a thousand other hearts need not be broken at all. (vi).
We cannot indefinitely avoid depressing subject matter, particularly it it is true, and in the subsequent quarter century the world has had to hear a story it would have preferred not to hear - the story of how a cultured people turned to genocide, and how the rest of the world, also composed of cultured people, remained silent in the face of genocide. (v).
[Moishe] explained to me, with great emphasis, that every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer.... And why do you pray, Moishe?' I asked him. I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions.
Bread, soup - these were my whole life. I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach. The stomach alone was aware of the passage of time.
We were masters of nature, masters of the world. We had forgotten everything--death, fatigue, our natural needs. Stronger than cold or hunger, stronger than the shots and the desire to die, condemned and wandering, mere numbers, we were the only men on earth.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
And I, the former mystic, was thinking: Yes, man is stronger, greater than God. When Adam and Eve deceived You, You chased them from paradise. When You were displeased by Noah’s generation, You brought down the Flood. When Sodom lost Your favour, You caused the heavens to rain down fire and damnation. But look at these men whom You have betrayed, allowing them to be tortured, slaughtered, gassed, and burned, what do they do? They pray before You! They praise Your name!.
Everybody around us was weeping. Someone began to recite Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I don't know whether, during the history of the Jewish people, men have ever before recited Kaddish for themselves.
It is obvious that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory.
The stars were only sparks of the fire which devoured us. Should that fire die out one day, there would be nothing left in the sky but dead stars, dead eyes.
Listen to me, kid. Don't forget that you are in a concentration camp. In this place, it is every many for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even you father. In this place, there is no such thing as father, brother, friend. Each of us lives and dies alone. Let me give you good advice: stop giving your ration of bread and soup to your old father. You cannot help him anymore. And you are hurting yourself. In fact, you should be getting his rations...
We are all brothers and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive. (pg. 39).
And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
This day I ceased to plead. I was no longer capable of lamentation. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused.
We believed in God, trusted in man, and lived with the illusion that every one of us has been entrusted with a sacred spark.
It was like a page torn from a history book, from some historical novel about the captivity of babylon or Spanish Inquisition.
In my lifetime I was to write only one book, this would be the one. Just as the past Lingers in the present, all my writings after night, including those that deal with biblical, Talmudic, or Hasidic themes, profoundly bear it's stamp, and cannot be understood if one has not read this very first of my works. Why did I write it? Did I write it so as not to go mad or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of the madness, the immense, terrifying madness that had erupted in history and in the conscience of mankind?.
Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.