Luck is on Wiesel’s Side”I am too old, my son,” he answered. “Too old to start a new life. Too old to start from scratch in some distant land…” (9)This scene where Elie’s father rejects his son’s request to liquidate everything and flee from the place where the extermination of Jews may occur, reminds me of a vivid conversation I once engaged in, with my two former North Korean grandparents.
The Korean War (1950-53) and the Holocaust (1938-45) are in most aspects different, however, there is a heartbreaking similarity existing between the two incidents. That is, the pain of the victims gained from the separation of the family.
While reading this novel Night, for several times we questioned the reason why the Jews , despite hearing the Nazi plans of annihilating the entire population dispersed throughout nations, didn’t take chance to flee from the town. As we discussed in class, primarily, the Jews were skeptical that such inhumane incident would take place in the world, until they underwent the incredible agonies both physically and mentally. Secondly, the Jews simply were unable to find some place to leave for. Sure enough, they were unwilling to become homeless even under adverse conditions of life under the hands of the SS officers. (which they didn’t expect to be the holocaust)The first reason pointed above also applies to the families during the Korean War. Subsequent to the outbreak of war, young, strong men were forced to join the army in North Korea.
This meant to my North Korean grandfather in his 30s, fighting against the South Koreans was a patriotic obligation. However, he refused to fight, or support the government, and along the group of crowd he realized that the only way of escaping from the ordeal was to abandon his home and flee to the South. Of course, he strongly urged his parents to come along with him. Nevertheless, they responded him by emphasizing him of their old age and their strong will to ensure the safety of the house until the war ends. In spite of my grandfather’s further persuasion, they remained stubborn, and he could do nothing but to leave his parents behind and depart to a distant land.
In the novel, I was indeed glad when the Wiesel family encounters their former maid Maria in Uncle Mendel’s house, Elie refuses her offer of safe shelter in her village. Sure enough, if Elie and his brother went off with her, they might have avoided the terrifying labor camps where their livelihoods were jeopardized. However, I feel that wouldn’t be worse than the guilt of deserting one’s own blood and flesh. Although we must take in consideration of Wiesel witnessing his father’s death, he is aware that keeping silence is the optimal choice that wouldn’t exacerbate the situation, whereas my grandparents made the decision by themselves, to abandon their parents and friends with their own two feet. (though they weren’t aware that North and South would be completely divided)My grandparents have always regretted the decision they’ve made. They felt deep remorse in leaving their parents for their own good. My grandfather, for years, took alcohol as a catharsis to his mental pains, and my grandmother would frequently break into tears by the tragic separation and the gnawing guilt at her premature decision.
For the several decades of their life, they have been hoping to see their loved ones again through the many channels of communication including telephone, letters, the media or family visits that existed in the recent years. Unfortunately, they never reached in contact with them. Bearing in mind the threatens of the authority of its propaganda, the government in Pyongyang is preventing personal exchanges as much as it can, for they are unwilling to permit individuals from the estranged parts of the country to meet in person. For fifty years, they lived a life without hearing from their parents and relatives. My grandfather unfortunately passed away two years ago due to cancer, and his cemetery is located in the closest area to the border between North and South Korea.
Luck is on Wiesel’s side for he can stay with his father in the labor camps, which definitely gives him a meaning to his life and thus he gains the hope, support and the reason to survive. If I were put in his shoes at the start of the novel, and had to make a choice between labor camps and abandoning parents, I would have chosen the former categorically.