Elie Wiesel was just a young Romanian teenager when the Holocaust unfolded in Europe. His family was cruelly taken from home in the year 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Upon arrival, Elie and his father were separated from the rest of their family. It is impossible to imagine the horrors that the two went through in less than just one year. This first-person recollection of the fearsome events of Wiesel’s life serves as a primary source of evidence to the experiences of the Jews in the hands of the evil Nazis.
Right before the end of the book, Wiesel and his father were transferred to the Buchenwald camp. The new arrivals were to wait out in the snow until it was their turn for the showers. Depleted of all his strength, Shlomo begged his son to let him lie down in the snow. But Elie knew that this was a direct plea for death, and was not ready to lose his father. In his own words: “I could have screamed in anger. To have lived and endured so much; was I going to let my father die now? Now that we would be able to take a hot shower and lie down?” (Wiesel 105). At this point in the story, it’s obvious that Elie cares deeply for his dad.
Yet just seven pages later, when his father had disappeared from his cot, it appears that the tables have turned. Elie quickly understands that his dad must have been sent to the crematorium, and in response, says to himself, “I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep. But I was out of tears. And deep inside me, if I could have searched the recesses of my feeble conscience, I might have found something like: Free at last!…” (Wiesel 112). Now, of course he loves his father to the greatest extent; and of course he would do whatever he could to save him. But at the mere thought that with his father gone, life would be easier, Elie could not help but relish just a tiny bit.
That is the significance of the Holocaust. It has the power to change a person and all of his values; to send him into wild dreams which oppose morality and what it stands for. For me, this specific scene, in itself, is enough to depict the severity of the Holocaust. It strikes the reader with a realization that’s been dreaded throughout the whole book. The fact that a son—of the Jewish faith!—exhibits indifference towards his own father’s demise is beyond our conception. What else could stand out with ever more meaning? What else could more effectively portray the disgusting inhumanity let forth in such a civilized land?
The answer is nothing. Nothing in the world is worse than a young boy losing interest in the very man who brought him into the world. And with that conclusion, it’s fair to say that the Holocaust gave rise to the worst atrocities that could ever occur on this earth. It may be forgiven, but surely never forgotten. As Elie Wiesel so perfectly put it in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”