My favorite class this semester has been Spiritual Autobiography with Dr. Yolanda Pierce. Stories are our means of processing our lives and relating to one another; stories make up what it means to be human, and as such I believe that every story, no matter how ‘secular,’ is also deeply sacred. I recently read a quote by Mary Pellauer which I found thought-provoking; she writes, “If there’s anything worth calling theology, it is listening to people’s stories – listening to them and honoring them and cherishing them, and asking them to become even more brightly beautiful than they already are.” Listening to others’ stories may be the best way to broaden our understanding of the Spirit’s work in the world. Stories are never just stories; they are a gift of God to which we should listen with reverent attention.
In this brief paper, written for my Spiritual Autobiography class, I explore the ways in which Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, uses memory to reclaim humanity, specifically in his autobiography Night. Building off the irony of an SS officer’s command to “remember it always,” I argue that Wiesel does this in three ways: first, by telling stories, he validates a crucial part of the identity of the Jewish people. Second, Wiesel makes an effort to memorialize the dead – as he writes, “To forget them would be akin to killing them a second time.” I focus on four specific passages which are a eulogy of sorts. Third and finally, Wiesel uses memory as a form of resistance against God, death, oppression, and trauma.
Writing this paper was a deeply moving experience for me, and I did a lot of sitting in reverent silence before I could even begin to put pen to paper. In the future, if I ever have a spare moment, I would love to expand on this paper, incorporating Dr. Pierce’s questions about the women in Wiesel’s life, and exploring Wiesel’s other works and more secondary sources. Until then, here’s the short version.