Romanian-born Jewish-American Writer, Political Activist, Professor, Novelist and Holocaust Survivor, Awarded Nobel Peace Prize, Author of 57 books including "Night," a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps
"What does mysticism really mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It’s too close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically."
"How is one to explain that neither Hitler nor Himmler was ever excommunicated by the church?"
"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil. The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference."
"Think about it. God decided for the first and last time... to reveal himself... You would expect God to give you a lecture on theology at least. After all it’s his domain... Instead... He gave you all kind of command about human relations: Thou shall not kill; Thou shall not lie;... Why did He do that? It was so simple. But this was the lesson: God can take care of Himself. What He had to give man was the dignity of man."
"Some religious people abolish hatred because they’re religious. Others are fanatical, and they invoke hatred because they are religious. I believe that religion could be a marvelous way of humanizing society. Others believe that religion is here to serve fanatics, to punish, to chastise, to torture, to torment."
"Even if only one free individual is left, he is proof that the dictator is powerless against freedom. But a free man is never alone; the dictator is alone. The free man is the one who, even in prison, gives to the other prisoners their thirst for, their memory of, freedom."
"That day I encountered the first American soldiers in the Buchenwald concentration camp. I remember them well. Bewildered, disbelieving, they walked around the place, hell on earth, where our destiny had been played out. They looked at us, just liberated, and did not know what to do or say. Survivors snatched from the dark throes of death, we were empty of all hope— too weak, too emaciated to hug them or even speak to them. Like lost children, the American soldiers wept and wept with rage and sadness. And we received their tears as if they were heartrending offerings from a wounded and generous humanity."
"A destruction only man can provoke, only man can prevent. Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures, it is our gift to each other."
"After the war we reassured ourselves that it would be enough to relate a single night in Treblinka, to tell of the cruelty, the senselessness of murder, and the outrage born of indifference: it would be enough to find the right word and the propitious moment to say it, to shake humanity out of its indifference and keep the torturer from torturing ever again."
"An immoral society betrays humanity because it betrays the basis for humanity, which is memory. An immoral society deals with memory as some politicians deal with politics. A moral society is committed to memory: I believe in memory. The Greek word alethia means Truth, Things that cannot be forgotten. I believe in those things that cannot be forgotten and because of that so much in my work deals with memory... What do all my books have in common? A commitment to memory."
"A recollection. The time: After the war. The place: Paris. A young man struggles to readjust to life. His mother, his father, his small sister are gone. He is alone. On the verge of despair. And yet he does not give up. On the contrary, he strives to find a place among the living. He acquires a new language. He makes a few friends who, like himself, believe that the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil; that the memory of death will serve as a shield against death."
"And I, the former mystic, was thinking: Yes, man is stronger, greater than God. When Adam and Eve deceived You, You chased them from paradise. When You were displeased by Noah’s generation, You brought down the Flood. When Sodom lost Your favour, You caused the heavens to rain down fire and damnation. But look at these men whom You have betrayed, allowing them to be tortured, slaughtered, gassed, and burned, what do they do? They pray before You! They praise Your name!"
"And why do you pray, Moshe? I asked him. I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions."
"And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must--at that moment--become the center of the universe."
"As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame."
"And now the boy is turning to me. Tell me, he asks, what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life? And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices."
"As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs."
"Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair. I remember the killers, I remember the victims, even as I struggle to invent a thousand and one reasons to hope."
"Better than one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling, if it means that a thousand other hearts need not be broken at all."
"But because of his telling, many who did not believe have come to believe, and some who did not care have come to care. He tells the story, out of infinite pain, partly to honor the dead, but also to warn the living - to warn the living that it could happen again and that it must never happen again. Better than one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling, he has decided, if it means that a thousand other hearts need not be broken at all."
"But I had no more tears. And, in the depths of my being, in the recesses of my weakened conscience, could I have searched it, I might perhaps have found something like-free at last!"
"Blessed be God's name? Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because he kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?"
"But where shall I start? The world is so vast, I shall start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large, I had better start with my town. But my town, too, is large. I had best start with my street. No, my home. No, my family. Never mind, I shall start with myself."
"Close your eyes and listen. Listen to the silent screams of terrified mothers, the prayers of anguished old men and women. Listen to the tears of children. Jewish children, a beautiful little girl among them, with golden hair, whose vulnerable tenderness has never left me. Look and listen as they walk towards dark flames so gigantic that the planet itself seemed in danger."
"Bread, soup - these were my whole life. I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach. The stomach alone was aware of the passage of time."
"Did I write it so as not to go mad or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness?"
"Do you see that chimney over there? See it? Do you see those flames? (Yes, we did see the flames.) Over there-that's where you're going to be taken. That's your grave, over there."
"Everybody around us was weeping. Someone began to recite Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I don't know whether, during the history of the Jewish people, men have ever before recited Kaddish for themselves."
"Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight simple, short words. Yet that was the moment when I left my mother. There was no time to think, and I already I felt my father's hand press against mine: we were alone. In a fraction of a second I could see my mother, my sisters, move to the right. Tzipora was holding Mother's hand. I saw them walking farther and farther away; Mother was stroking my sister's blond hair, as if to protect her. And I walked on with my father, with the men. I didn’t know that this was the moment in time and the place where I was leaving my mother and Tzipora forever. I kept walking, my father holding my hand."
"For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile."
"For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences."
"For one who is indifferent, life itself is a prison. Any sense of community is external or, even worse, nonexistent. Thus, indifference means solitude. Those who are indifferent do not see others. They feel nothing for others and are unconcerned with what might happen to them. They are surrounded by a great emptiness. Filled by it, in fact. They are devoid of all hope as well as imagination. In other words, devoid of any future."
"For us, forgetting was never an option. Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered."
"For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time."
"From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me."
"Friendship marks a life even more deeply rhan love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing."
"Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o'er fraught heart, and bids it break. ... Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty."