The Books at the Center of the Program


We have selected two books for reading and discussion in the "Confronting Evil in Our Time" project: (In Israel "Ani Adam") Night, by Elie Wiesel, which is available in both Hebrew and English and The Sunflower, by Simon Wiesenthal, which is only available in English.

About Night -
Elie Wiesel, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was born in Transylvania and survived the horrors of the Holocaust as a youth. His complex struggle to survive, and his stay in the camps with his father, raised questions of identity, morals and faith in his mind, as well as existential questions about the essence of the human being and his/her belonging to a nation and a place.

Night was originally written in Yiddish and contained 800 pages. In a painful process of separation from important events, cherished people and places, the book was refined to the short, significant and precise version We know today.
Wiesel described the process as follows:
"… I am writing a first draft, writing under pressure.
I write, and write and write…
When you write a book you have twenty subjects, and each subject comes to you and asks to be corrected.
If you are a good writer, you get rid of nine and keep one.
For every subject you have ten venues and ten dramatic situations.
You banish nine and leave one.
And then the characters come to you, and each character asks that you take it under your wing.
Give me identity! Each character beseeches. Make corrections in me!
[…]
At night, when you are trying to sleep, the venues, situations, characters that you insulted come and cry.
That is why I sleep very little."
(taken from Ha'aretz newspaper,1/2/ 1987)
The book was first translated into French and published in France. The French author, Fran?ois Mauriac wrote the foreword. Night is also available as the first book the trilogy With the Dawn. The two other books in the trilogy, Dawn and The Accident are concerned with the return to life and rehabilitation process of a Holocaust survivor, as can be inferred from their titles.

About The Sunflower -
Simon Wiesenthal is known throughout the world as a person who after the war devoted his life to hunting down Nazi war criminals and bringing them to trial. Wiesenthal, a native of Lvov, was a young architect when the war broke out. He views his surroundings and describes his experiences through the eyes of an artist. Material light and shade become metaphors in his story. The wonderful sight of the sunflowers connects in his soul and book to his situation and status as a person during the Holocaust.

The most significant episode for him takes place when he is a prisoner in Janowska camp, adjacent to the Lvov ghetto. Wiesenthal is marching along in the ranks of camp prisoners through the streets he knew from his childhood. At the city's technical college, in the dean's office, where his future as an architect was confirmed in the pre-war world, he encounters the German soldier lying on his deathbed and asking for forgiveness of his crimes against the Jews. The question with regard to the "limits of forgiveness" of the Germans forces us to examine the implications of the Holocaust on our attitude towards the Germans, our present enemies and the other nations of the world, as well as the Holocaust's influence on our cultural and moral world.