A collection of final timeless reflections from Elie Wiesel (1928-2016).
Chicago Tribune veteran Reich (Portraits in Jazz: 80 Profiles of Jazz Legends, Renegades and Revolutionaries, 2014, etc.), whose parents were survivors of the Holocaust, looks back on his greatest opportunity as a writer and journalist: numerous conversations with the Nobel laureate. This brief but moving work artfully intertwines Wiesel’s words of wisdom with Reich’s quest to further understand his own family’s untold story. The author recalls a youth colored by his parents’ trauma and yet lived in silence, as their experiences during the Holocaust were utterly unspoken topics. Only later in life, when Reich’s father was dead and his mother was struggling with the delusional effects of PTSD, was he able to fully understand their stories. His fortuitous friendship with Wiesel helped him in this quest. In many ways, Reich’s book is a reflection on the lives of the children of Holocaust survivors rather than the survivors themselves. This generation, raised in the shadow of the Holocaust but often without a clear picture of what it really meant for their parents, carries its own particular burden. It is a burden Reich feels keenly and which Wiesel fully appreciated. Beyond calling on the children to do away with feelings of guilt, Wiesel embraces their worth: “To be a child of survivors is to be miraculous. What had to be done for a child to be born! For the survivors to overcome fear.” In their conversations, Reich and Wiesel cover many topics, including anti-Semitism, Israel, forgiveness, and faith. Wiesel’s mindset is almost universally positive, and he never judges the conclusions of other survivors, consistently choosing a path of hope and compassion. Reich does an admirable job of complementing his subject’s sage words with his own perspective without in any way detracting or distracting from it—no easy task yet one the author accomplishes with aplomb.
Irreplaceable thoughts from a vanishing generation.