Elie Wiesel: Jewish, Literary, and Moral Perspectives

By Steven T. Katz; Alan Rosen | Go to book overview

21
TEACHING THROUGH WORDS, TEACHING
THROUGH SILENCE
EDUCATION AFTER (AND ABOUT) AUSCHWITZ

REINHOLD BOSCHKI

REMEMBRANCE AND EDUCATION are closely related concepts. In some sense they are synonymous. If people have learned something they remember what others have told them or what they have read. After a process of learning students remember facts and stories, recollections of former events, tales of the past and historical incidents. In short, students have learned at least some aspects of “tradition,” meaning teachings and tales that have been passed down for centuries or even longer. In an ideal world learners bring what they remember in close contact with their own life experience or make it part of their life-world and identity.

In this light Elie Wiesel’s words, work, and message devoted to memory have had a tremendous educational impact. The book Night1 is the cornerstone of an opus magnum that—like an ellipse—has two foci: (1) the remembrance of the Shoah and (2) humanistic values for today’s world and for the future. The scope of his work thus encompasses both past and future. These two dimensions are central for any education, because young people must learn things that come from earlier times (language, writings, literature, historical events, any form of tradition, art, music) in order to understand themselves and the world in the present and to be prepared for the future. In the remainder of this contribution I shall explore Wiesel’s writings in order to highlight aspects that are of educational relevance.


Education as the Author’s Obsession

The main argument for the educational relevance of Wiesel’s writings is the author’s self-interpretation. He identifies himself as a teacher.2 The motif of the teacher is omnipresent in his work—concerning himself as a witness, concerning figures in his novels, or the rabbis and rebbes in talmudic and hasidic tradition that he reinterprets in the

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