Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"the first human words"

Today we remember the liberation of prisoners from Auschwitz 70 years ago. Here is an excerpt from Night by Elie Wiesel.

Observe some moments of silence after reading this, please.


                The march lasted half an hour. Looking around me, I noticed that the barbed wires were behind us. We had left the camp.
                It was a beautiful day in May. The fragrance of spring was in the air. The sun was setting in the west.
                But we had been marching for only a few moments when we saw the barbed wire of another camp. An iron door with this inscription over it:
                “Work is liberty!”

First impression: this was better than Birkenau. There were two-storied buildings of concrete instead of wooden barracks. There were little gardens here and there. We were led to one of these prison blocks. Seated on the ground by the entrance, we began another session of waiting. Every now and then, someone was made to go in. These were the showers, a compulsory formality at the entrance to all these camps. Even if you were simply passing from one to the other several times a day, you still had to go through the baths every time.
                After coming out from the hot water, we stayed shivering in the night air. Our clothes had been left behind in the other block, and we had been promised other outfits.
                Toward midnight, we were told to run.
                “Faster,” shouted our guards. “The faster you run, the sooner you can go to bed.”
                After a few minutes of this mad race we arrived in front of another block. The prisoner in charge was waiting for us. He was a young Pole, who smiled at us. He began to talk to us, and, despite our weariness, we listened patiently.
                “Comrades, you’re in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. 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. Enough said. You’re tired. Listen. You’re in Block 17. I am responsible for keeping order here. Anyone with a complaint against anyone else can come and see me. That’s all. You can go to bed. Two people to a bunk. Good night.” The first human words.

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