Faith, it is what some people grasp on to in the time of despair. For Elie Wiesel faith was a hard thing to keep a hold of. Elie was in some situations that made him lose his faith in God. After the experiences Elie lived through will he ever regain his faith for God?
In a recent interview Elie said, “I come from a small city somewhere in Eastern Europe. I come from a place where every Jew was drunk with God, those whose faith was burning as was burning the vision of the first Jew in history”. As a young child Elie was eager to learn of religion, starting with the studies of the Cabbala, which his father thought he was too young to learn. Elie’s father was also a religious man and many people in the community looked up to him. With a combination of home and school, Elie learned from an early age to have a belief in God.
“We had to go to school, so we went to school too, but I received the main impact from my religious schools as a child. We studied the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch) and then, again, Talmud and Hasidic stories. At home we didn’t study the prophets
that much. My ambition really was, even as a child, to be a writer, a commentator, and a teacher, but a teacher of Talmud” (interview).
Elie had a strong belief in God. What Elie is about to experience in the next few months of his life may change his whole belief in God?
The town of Sighet was a normal Jewish community, the business men doing business, the student’s buried in their books, children playing in the streets, and Elie studying the Talmud. But everyone’s life was about to be changed; the Gestapo entered their town. The Gestapo was common designation of the terrorist political police of the Nazi regime in Germany. The Gestapo divided the town of Sighet into two ghettos. This didn’t have a significant difference in Elie’s life because he was still with his family. “Very often I think of my father and my mother. At any important moment in my life, they are there thinking, “What an injustice”(interview). A short time later the entire town was taken from their homes and only permitted to bring one bag of luggage. Elie still has a hold of his faith in God he “wanted time to pray” (16). “I spent most of my time talking to God more than to people. He was my partner, my friend, my teacher, my king, my sovereign,
and I was so crazily religious that nothing else mattered” (interview). The Jews were than crammed into boxcars on a train. Having no light, food, or water. “I have seen children, hundreds of Jewish children, who suffered more than Jesus did on his cross…”(interview). This was the beginning of Elie’s disbelief in God. Never being exposed to such harsh conditions the people and Elie thought that God could have devised no torment in hell worse that that of sitting there among the bundles, in the middle of the road, beneath a blazing sun.
Being taken from his home into a Nazi death camp made Elie emotionally unstable. It happened at such a young age and had more of an impact on him. “I was 15 when I entered the camp, I was 16 when I left it…”(interview). At such an influential age Elie felt confusion and at times he would feel revolt “ Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for” (31)? Everything that happened from the time he arrived at the death camps such as losing half his family and seeing his father being beaten; gave him no reason to believe in God. The situations Elie were in were a tough struggle, not only physically but also emotionally. The
experiences Elie went through affected his life. Everything Elie believed in was shattered. He questioned religion and at his age these types of situations can have extreme effects on a person, such as how they perceive God when they get older.
After the Holocaust was over and Elie grew older, with age he can look back at what he went through during his childhood. “My childhood, really, was a childhood blessed with love and hope and faith and prayer”(interview). After the war, he did not speak; he wasn’t a witness, for ten years. “Of course it had an overwhelming affect. It affected me a lot. I cannot talk about myself. I like to talk about other people, not about myself” (interview). He being able to talk about the Holocaust through other people is Elie’s way of helping people understand. It took Elie ten years to finally regain the courage and rebuild his faith to discuss the story of the Nazi death camps.
After the ten years of silence, a Jew called Mendès-France influenced Elie to speak. Mendès-France was a Catholic writer who was honest, had a sense of integrity, and he was in love with Jesus. He spoke only of Jesus.
“He, of course, had a lasting influence on me. And here I am. I’m a writer, for want of a better word, and I’m a teacher. I don’t teach the same things. I don’t write about the same things — although I do write commentaries on the Bible, and on the Prophets, and the Talmud, and Hasidic Masters. But still, I am a writer and a teacher”(interview).
Faith, Elie did anything but lose his faith after everything he went through. The Holocaust and all of the pain and suffering made his faith for God stronger. “During the war I think of the killer and I lose all faith. But then I think of the victim and I am inundated with compassion”(interview). Elie Wiesel is an example of true faith.