Eight Words

December 30, 2009 @ 10:38 am | Filed under: , ,

An SS noncommissioned officer came to meet us, a truncheon in his hand. He gave the order:

“Men to the left! Women to the right!”

Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight short, simple words. Yet that was the moment when I parted from my mother. I had not had time to think, but already I felt the pressure of my father’s hand: we were alone. For a part of a second I glimpsed my mother and my sisters moving away to the right. Tzipora held Mother’s hand. I saw them disappear into the distance: my mother was stroking my sister’s fair hair, as though to protect her, while I walked on with my father and the other men. And I did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever. I went on walking. My father held onto my hand.

—from Night by Elie Wiesel, on his family’s arrival at Auschwitz in 1944

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5 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Penny in VT says:

    Thank you for sharing. Powerful stuff.

  2. laura frantz says:

    As I get older, as my children get older, these stories of separation become more and more heart-wrenching, the imagined, empathetic pain almost unbearable. But if we don’t read, then it’s as if we’re ignoring the truth of what they endured. Though difficult to read, is it not our duty to honor their sacrifice via the knowing of it? I say to myself…

  3. Amy C. says:

    A haunting book . . .
    Well said, Laura. Night, The Wall, The Sunflower . . . these are books that must be read, stories that we must allow to change us.

    Lissa, thanks for the reminder.

  4. Emily says:

    One of my favorite books. Haunting. I first read it in eighth grade, during our Holocaust unit, and this, along with the book’s last line, chilled me.

  5. Pam says:

    Oh, I’ve been reading excerpts from his work this week and it is the most chillingly, humbling words I have ever read.

    “Man’s inhumanity to man” is just too big and too awful for me to comprehend and when I get a glimpse and do comprehend (or think I do) I can’t cope.