I'd almost say hope isn't what it used to be. It's very difficult today to be a teacher. I speak to children. And tell them, look, no matter what, you must have hope. You must. When I invoke Camus, who said when there is no hope, you must invent hope. . .hope is something that is not what God gives us. It's like peace. It's a gift that one can give to one another. Only another person can push me to despair. And only another person can push me to hope. Its my choice.
I don't speak about my pain. My pain is something that doesn't need to be purged. I want to prevent people from suffering. I don't speak about my suffering. Suffering is something personal and discreet. Also, I know it will never leave me. I don't want it to leave me. It would be a betrayal.
This is the duty of our generation as we enter the twenty-first century - solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanizing meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others.
For one who is indifferent, life itself is a prison. Any sense of community is external or, even worse, nonexistent. Thus, indifference means solitude. Those who are indifferent do not see others. They feel nothing for others and are unconcerned with what might happen to them. They are surrounded by a great emptiness. Filled by it, in fact. They are devoid of all hope as well as imagination. In other words, devoid of any future.
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I make a difference between genocide and Holocaust. Holocaust was mainly Jewish, that was the only people, to the last Jew, sentenced to die for one reason, for being Jewish, that's all. Genocide is something else. Genocide has been actually codified by the United Nations. It's the intent of killing, the intent of killing people, a community in this culture so forth, but no other people has been really interested.
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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.
In the beginning was belief, foolish belief, and faith, empty faith, and illusion, the terrible illusion. ... We believed in God, had faith in man, and lived with the illusion that in each one of us is a sacred spark from the fire of the shekinah, that each one carried in his eyes and in his soul the sign of God. This was the source""if not the cause""of all our misfortune.
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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.
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A disciple came to the celebrated Master of the Good Name with a question. 'Rabbi, how are we to distinguish between a true master and a fake?' And the master of the good name said, 'When you meet a person who poses as a master, ask him a question: whether he knows how to purify your thoughts. If he says that he knows, then he is a fake.
My faceless neighbor spoke up: 'Don't be deluded. Hitler has made it clear that he will annihilate all Jews before the clock strikes twelve.' I exploded: 'What do you care what he said? Would you want us to consider him a prophet? 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.
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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.
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Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. 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. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
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There are moments when I think it will never end, that it will last indefinitely. It's like the rain. Here the rain, like everything else, suggests permanence and eternity. I say to myself: it's raining today and it's going to rain tomorrow and the next day, the next week and the next century.
I still believe in man in spite of man. I believe in language even though it has been wounded, deformed, and perverted by the enemies of mankind. And I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.
Why do you pray?" he asked me, after a moment. Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe? "I don't know why, " I said, even more disturbed and ill at ease. "I don't know why." After that day I saw him often. He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer. "Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him, " he was fond of repeating. "That is the true dialogue. Man questions God and God answers. But we don't understand His answers. We can't understand them. Because they come from the depths of the soul, and they stay there until death. You will find the true answers, Eliezer, only within yourself!" "And why do you pray, Moshe?" I asked him. "I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.
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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.
I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them. Painfully aware of my limitations, I watched helplessly and language became an obstacle. It became clear that it would be necessary to invent a new language... I would pause at every sentence, and start over and over again. I would conjure up other verbs, other images, other silent cries. It still was not right. But what exactly was 'it'? 'It' was something elusive, darkly shrouded for fear of being usurped, profaned. All the dictionary had to offer seemed meager, pale, lifeless.
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But where shall I start? The world is so vast, I shall start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large, I had better start with my town. But my town, too, is large. I had best start with my street. No, my home. No, my family. Never mind, I shall start with myself.
In any case, he had bungled his life. Bad husband, bad father, bad lover: failure all along the line . . . All the springs were broken. No more light anywhere . . . Everything he had tried to build had fallen apart. The little good he had done had resulted in fiasco. Whose fault could it be other than his own? . . . And anyone will tell you that if God Himself cannot undo what happened, still less can man.
Every nation has its prestigious military academies - or so few of them - that reach not only the virtues of peace but also the art of attaining it? I mean attaining and protecting it by means other than weapons, the tools of war. Why are we surprised whenever war recedes and yields to peace?
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)
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