A 72-year old Jewish man named Elie Wiesel was interviewed in a magazine. He suffered terrible things in Nazi concentration camps when he was a teenager. In 1945, when he saw his father die of disease and starvation in the camp, he decided that he no longer wanted to live. Yet somehow he did go on living, and was set free the same year. For 10 years he didn’t talk at all about his experiences. Then he wrote a book called, “Night,” where he finally spoke about the horrors.
The interviewer asked Elie questions about whether he hated those who hurt him. Surprisingly, Elie said, “No, I had anger but never hate. To hate would be to reduce myself.” What do you think Elie means that “hate . . would be to reduce himself?” Do you agree? Why or why not?
Elie also said, “I don’t believe in collective guilt. The children of killers are not killers, but children. And they deserve my affection, my efforts to make them human, to give them a world that is worthy of them.” Do you agree with his attitude towards the children of murderers and criminals? Why or why not?
Elie doesn’t think that we can compare one tragedy to another. He says, “Every tragedy is unique, just as every human is unique. When a person loses someone dear to her, who am I to say that my tragedy was greater? I have no right. For that person, her tragedy is the greatest in the world – and she is right in thinking so.”
What are some of the terrible events in the history of your native country or in the history of the world that you have learned about or experienced? Describe one or more to your conversation partners. Do you think it’s good or bad to compare one terrible event with another? How do you answer the question “why do these things happen?” How did these kinds of terrible events affect the history of your country, or the history of the human race, or your own life?
Many writers choose to write sad stories. Shakespeare wrote several tragedies as did some Greek writers more than 2000 years ago. What is the value of tragic literature? Have you read or seen a tragedy? Tell your partners about it. How did it affect you?
A common topic in the Bible is suffering and its meaning. A man named Joseph (read Genesis chapters 37-50) went through terrible things and was even sold as a slave by his own family but he saw that God brought good out of the evil. A man named Job suffered and never really understood why, but still trusted God. (See Job)
One poet gives this comment on evil activities:
“Lord, how great are the things you do! How wise your thoughts are! Here is something that a stupid man does not understand. A foolish person does not understand this. Those who are evil spring up like grass. Those who do wrong succeed. Yet they will be destroyed forever.” Psalm 92:5-7