Monday, February 13, 2006

The Only Men on Earth

Last Tuesday I finished two books: The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien and Night by Elie Wiesel. One book is a tale of fantasy, the other of the horrors of genocide.

While Frodo and company have captivated me and awakened my creativity, it is not an important story. It is less than nothing compared with the terror that awaited the Jews inside German concentration camps. I remember reading in the Ring how the hobbits felt they were beset on all sides by peril. It can only be a meager illustration of that peril that beset the thousands Jews that ran from Buna to Gleiwitz in the snow. By Wiesel's own account, anyone that slowed or stopped was shot immediately. To fall meant to die. These immaciated, anemic men ran for their lives as the Red Army pushed the Nazi forces, and thus the Jews, from their positions at the camps. Where their strength came from, God only knows. This quote by Wiesel, written about this moment, has taken me.
We were masters of nature, masters of the world. We had forgotten everything - death, fatigue, our natural needs. Stronger than cold or hunger, stronger than the shots and the desire to die, condemned and wandering, mere numbers, we were the only men on earth.

There is a horror that we do not know. It is the horror of severe, unrelenting, brutal, even beastial persecution. We do not know it, but it is known. It is known in Darfur. It is known to the Anuaks of Ethiopia. We say we have learned, yet we go pleasantly about our lives while it takes place across the globe.

Read books like Wiesel's Night. Watch movies like Hotel Rwanda. These are important things. Important because we cannot be ignorant, nor do we have an excuse to be. I would imagine that there are far more people in the U.S. talking about the adventures of a little hobbit than about the atrocities across the earth. And this, in a way, is it's own silent genocide.


Jonathan Henson said...

I read it and was thrown in to a fit of melancoly for over a month. Books like that are the reason I have to read books by tolkien, In wiesel's world there was no hope. At least in middle-earth I can catch a glimmer. While, I definitely recognize the need to show people horror for it to be learned from and prevented, this world would be quite a dark place without something to show the hope of the Gospel --including the Lord of The Rings--

Anonymous said...

Remind me to tell you about the mass grave I saw this summer where the Nazis buried thousands of Jews and Ukranians.