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Posts Tagged ‘Elie Wiesel’

Today a great teacher, writer and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel has died. He was 87 years old  and will be remembered as a beacon of peace by leaders all over the world. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 he said,

“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides…Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”         http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36696420

Silence and indifference is the constant evil for every culture. Remember this if you are thinking of not voting in November – and remember what a certain GOP candidate had to say about John McCain, being captured, in another war.

I didn’t know Wiesel was just 15 when his family was torn from their home in Romania (now Hungary) and shipped to Auschwitz. But after our Danube tour, I must confess I was torn between the Baroque beauty of the countries we visited, and the underlying horror of WWII. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/travel/tracing-jewish-heritage-along-the-danube.html?_r=0

As we walked over the pebbled courtyard into the majestic Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria, I thought about the Jewish people being herded through this very same entryway in transit to death camps. I thought how my children would have been treated, my husband, my family. Me. The sound of our 21st Century shoes crunching on the stones made me close my eyes to the blinding sun.

We began our tour with Sixty Shoes in Budapest, and we ended in the beautiful city of Prague. But at Melk, we learned that the abbey was saved under Emperor Joseph II in the 1700s because it was a flourishing school. A student of the Enlightenment, Joseph tried to limit the influence of the church over the state, shuttering and demolishing many mansions and abbeys, and ushered in an era of peace where all religions were accepted: “Joseph’s reforms included abolishing serfdom, ending press censorship and limiting the power of the Catholic Church. And with his Edict of Toleration, Joseph gave minority religions, such as Protestants, Greek Orthodox and Jews, the ability to live and worship more freely. “

Imagine that, an Era of Enlightenment (1685-1815) was happening in Europe while our new country was evolving, grappling with its native inhabitants, a constitution and slavery.

Today students are still studying at the Abbey amid majestic artwork and architecture. But we must never forget what Elie Wiesel has taught us, and his words from his first book, “Night.”

“Never shall I forget that night that first night in camp that turned my life into one long night. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever, those moments that murdered my god and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never.”  

This is the second largest synagogue in the world, and it is in Budapest.

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