New York Times and The Washington Post, doubtless media throughout the world, reported yesterday’s death of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Holocaust surviving victim of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Unlike TWP’s article, the NYT author did not hide behind the word Nazi, instead speaking of history’s most unspeakable horror as German.
And yet Mr. Wiesel once, when asked about forgiveness, remarked that, not believing in collective guilt, how could he believe in collective forgiveness.
As to collective guilt, first person singular victim and witness of the German atrocity, Wiesel is unchallengeable. But remembering, and watching with awful fascination newsreels from my childhood showing the hypnotically frenzied complicity of the entire deutsche Volk, I have seen, and see, not only a terrible if suppressed national trait that remains, continues, re-emerges - and for me irredeemably shames my ethnic heritage - but also shows the demonic capability of humanity: To Kill A Mockingbird, the rest of us are not free and clear. Reptilian at core, wishing instead to have been fools knowing not that we know not, one is ashamed to be human, with our nature, propensity and guilt that mythically originates in paradise. Why are we what we are and not what in godly image we might have been? Not Original Sin. And surely we are not The Image.