What Really Makes Us Free by Elie Wiesel

Tags: Holocaust, Memory, Jewish Identity, Elie Wiesel

From “What Really Makes Us Free” by Elie Wiesel

The Jews who lived in the ghettos under the Nazi occupation
showed their independence by leading an organized clandestine life.
The teacher who taught the starving children was a free man.
The nurse who secretly cared for the wounded, the ill and the dying was a free woman.
The rabbi who prayed,
the disciple who studied,
the father who gave his bread to his children,
the children who risked their lives by leaving the ghetto at night
in order to bring back to their parents a piece of bread
or a few potatoes,
the man who consoled his orphaned friend,
the orphan who wept with a stranger for a stranger --
these were human beings filled with an unquenchable thirst for freedom and dignity.
The young people who dreamed of armed insurrection,
the lovers who, a moment before they were separated,
talked about their bright future together,
the insane who wrote poems,
the chroniclers who wrote down the day’s events,
by the light of their flickering candles --
all of them were free in the noblest sense of the word,
though their prison walls seemed impassable
and their executioners invincible…

Even in a climate of oppression,
men are capable of inventing their own freedom,
of creating their own ideal of sovereignty
What if they are a minority?
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.


How did Jews retain their identity during the Holocaust, when everything - their homes, possessions and even families were stolen from them?

Today we live in freedom and relative comfort but we often feel trapped by our life circumstances. What can we learn from Elie Wiesel’s words and how can this help us handle our daily challenges?


Explore the connection between Holocaust, Hope and Israel in our effort to remember and make meaning out of our history as a people.

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Tags: Holocaust, Memory, Jewish Identity, Elie Wiesel