Elie Wiesel: First Person Singular Elie Wiesel: First Person Singular Elie Wiesel: First Person Singular
The Life and Work of WieselLife in Sighet, 1920-1939Annoted BibliographyNobel Peace PrizeTeaching GuideWiesel ResourcesProduction Team
Teaching Guide
Activity One: Listening
(adapted from Bearing Witness by Beth Aviv Greenbaum. Click here for a review.)

"In Jewish tradition, the word listen, listen, listen is frequently used. The Bible is full of the word listen, listen Israel, listen Moses, listen Abraham, listen. The Jew in me that says I must listen to others." — From Elie Wiesel: First Person Singular
1. Have students read Elie Wiesel's book, Night.

"For many students, Night is their first exposure to Auschwitz…Night grabs the attention of students and never lets go until the end. Like Catcher in the Rye, it is a coming of age story. Like Antigone or Oedipus, it forces students to grapple with universal questions of good and evil. Like 1984 and Brave New World, it asks what kind of society do we live in, what kind of social system have we devised? And above all else, Night asks us to consider what it means to be human." — From Bearing Witness by Beth Aviv Greenbaum
3. Have student keep a journal. Ask them to make entries after each chapter or several times throughout the book, when a phrase or passage moves them to write. Ask them to respond honestly — to describe what they observe, how what they read affects them, what they think about, what they question, what they associate. Suggest that they write about a quotation they find particularly effective or pick out a paragraph of prose and lineate it as a poem. These are all ways to make sure that they read the text carefully — to "listen" to what Wiesel is saying, to observe how he conveys his experience.

4. After students have completed the book, begin the discussion by inviting them to ask a question or comment on a passage. A single remark will provoke a string of responses: Why did nobody listen to Moshe the Beadle? Why didn't they fight back? I can't stop wondering what I would have done? How could he still believe in God?

5. Read the following statement aloud:

"I knew in 1945 that one day I would have to write and bear witness in writing, that I decided then, I made a vow to wait ten years, the ten years were almost over, so I began in '54 to write, to keep in certain perspective what I had gone through."
Discuss how Night might have been different if Wiesel had attempted to write it sooner. Based on what they saw in the film and read in the book, how do they think the passage of time and life experiences after the Holocaust affected Wiesel's writing?

Optional: Divide the class into small groups. Have each group select another source for learning about the Holocaust, find out what they can and report back to the class. Refer them to the student resources for links to bibliographies, particularly the one compiled by the University of South Florida.

After the reports have been presented, discuss the effectiveness of different ways of learning about and trying to understand the Holocaust — i.e., a personal memoir, a Hollywood film, a reference book. (See teacher resources and student resources to bibliographies and videographies.)

Suggested reading:
I Have Lived a Thousand Years, by Livia Bitton-Jackson. Jackson, who was thirteen years old when she and her family were arrested, is equally compelling for middle school and high school students.

Light One Candle: A Survivor's Tale from Lithuania to Jerusalem, by Solly Ganor, is a gripping story about coming of age during the Holocaust. Today, Ganor visits high schools in the United States, Germany and Japan, teaching tolerance and inspiring young people to remember the Holocaust and its survivors.

If This be a Man is an important memoir written by Primo Levi in 1946, right after he came out of Auschwitz. He was a trained chemist, and in his book he is like a scientist studying issues such as : What does it take to deprive man of his humanity? How does man retain his humanity in the face of unimaginable deprivation? What is man when he is "nothing."

>> Proceed to Activity Two: Bearing Witness and Questioning Faith

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