Communicate Your Memories, Your Doubts

Sage Words from Elie Wiesel (1928-2016).

A powerful excerpt I read today from one of his memoirs, All Rivers Run to the Sea:

“In truth, my major concern has always been the survivors. It was for them that my first works were meant. Did I strive to speak for them, in their name? I strove to make them speak.

For they have lived in isolation for a long time, locked away, remaining aloof so as not to wound those close to them. Whenever there was talk of the war years, they would clench their teeth and change the subject. It was impossible to get them to let go, to touch wounds that would never heal. They had reasons to be suspicious, to think that no one was interested in what they had to say, and that in any case they would not be understood. With my book and articles I tried to convince them of the need to testify: “Do as I do,” I told them. “Tell your stories, even if you have to invent a language. Communicate your memories, your doubts, even if no one wants to hear them.” I shared with them my conviction that it is incumbent upon the survivors not only to remember every detail but to record it, even the silence. I urged them to celebrate the memory of silence, but to reject the silence of memory.

At first it was difficult, but eventually my efforts met with success. I began to receive manuscripts: memoirs, narratives, private diaries. I wrote countless prefaces and commentaries, mobilized acquaintances and relations, yet I probably didn’t do enough.

For me survivors constitute a family like no other, an endangered species. We understand one another intuitively. We are haunted by the same past, the same problems concern us, the same mission moves us. We often have the same friends and always the same enemies.”

All Rivers Run to the Sea, Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), Rest in Peace