By Katie Wells and Laura Klumpp
Albuquerque High School, New Mexico, and
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York
Teacher Mike Loughrey and his students at Albuquerque High School, New Mexico conducted an online discussion with students at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, as they all read Elie Wiesel's autobiography, Night. Here is a sample of one e-mail exchange where students discussed a sentence or two from the text that "moved" them:
Dear Christopher Saavedra,
This is a quote that I chose from Night by Elie Wiesel:
"The stars were only sparks of fire which devoured us. Should the fire die out one day there would be nothing left but dead stars, dead eyes." (18)
This quote stuck out to me because it made me think about dreams. I like to dream and wish on lucky stars. I lift my feet when I go over the railroad tracks. I like to have faith in the stars. I believe that the they will fulfill my wishes. I never doubted the stars until I read this quote. Sure, we all wish on stars, but what meaning do they have? They are nothing but lights in the sky millions of miles away that somehow hold hope. To Elie, all of his dreams were ripped apart. Those fateful stars that may mean the world to us, had absolutely no meaning to him. Elie was jolted into reality by the news that he would have to leave his comforting home. All those wasted wishes on stars; what little good they did for him. He was being torn away from his life, and we are busy wasting our time on petty wishes. For Elie, the only way to survive was to hope and have faith and feeling. To survive, one had to be an individual.
I cannot even imagine what it was like for the Jews in the Holocaust. I sit here in my quiet and protected home in preppy Lloyd Harbor and I'm reading this book about despair and fear. All I have to worry about is getting a good grade on the test and what I'm going to wear to school tomorrow. I think my fears are so insignificant compared to the fear the Jews had.
Dear Katie Wells,
I am sorry to say that Christopher Saavedra is no longer in our class. I will be writing to you in his absence. My name is Laura Klumpp. I am an eighteen year old senior at Albuquerque High School.
I must admit, your reaction to Elie Weisel's quote really touched me. As I read the quote both in the book and in your letter, I never really thought about how often I, too, have sat out on my balcony wishing on the stars that my boyfriend would come visit me, or my friends in New Jersey would call me. Also in response to your letter, I have to ask whether or not you believe the Jews at any point in time did lose their faith and their hope? By reading your letter, I was under the assumption that you felt the only reason they survived was because of their everlasting faith, but don't you think that if you were stuck in the same position as most of the Jews in Europe that you might have lost your faith and maybe even in your hope of survival? I know if I was under those same circumstances, I would have given up all hope and faith and everything else positive in my life. There would have seemed no need to be optimistic when everything around me was Hell.
Like you said, "we all wish on lucky stars", but in Elie's quote, he says that "The stars were only sparks of fire which devoured us." In my mind, I believe Elie no longer wished upon stars for happiness and survival. My quote for you is this:
"Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never." (32)
Reading this brought tears to my eyes. In nothing more than a moment, Elie had lost everything that had held any meaning in his life. Without reason he had to give up his home, his friends, his family, and most important, his faith. The Jews literally had to sit back and live life day by day, not knowing if they would even survive to see tomorrow.
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