Human Strength: The Flame Flickers, But It Won’t Die

In Night, by Elie Wiesel, there was a certain scene that remained in my mind, long after I finished the book. It was the execution of Reichsfuhrer Himmler, a young man who was condemned for stealing during an air raid in the concentration camp. As he approached the gallows, his imminent death, he did not tremble and his eyes were calm. He even turned down the blindfold. Then, during his last few moments of life, he was still able to shout, “Long live liberty! My curse on Germany! My curse! …”

What it must have taken not to beg and plead for another chance to live. What it must have taken to look his executioner in the eye, knowing that within seconds, his own eyes will see no more. Through this scene, Wiesel illustrated the strength that a single man is capable of. Himmler stood at the gallows, in front of his fellow inmates and his death sentence, yet he was still able to maintain his dignity. He showed everyone there that even though their physical freedom and liberty seemed to have been taken away, no one could remove from their minds their fiery anger, their hatred for Germany, and their longing for freedom. Wiesel used Himmler to argue that all is never lost, because human strength can always maintain that glimmer of hope; it can endure more than you think.

This principle seems to be timeless, because it is as true today as it was during the Holocaust. Even though the situations that I experience on a daily basis are not as extreme as that of the concentration camps, I am always hearing incredible stories of people accomplishing amazing feats. People survive devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. Recently, some women who were kidnapped actually managed to escape their captors. To be able to do these things must have required an abundance of not only physical, but mental and emotional power. Yet these people were able to do it. That just goes to show that whether it is concentration camps, natural disasters, or any other terrible situation, it is possible to find the strength to get through it. When you get knocked down, if you can just find the strength to stand again, you are going to be all right.

– Karen

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