Le Gai Savoir


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Friedrich Nietzsche

The father’s name, Shlomo, is only mentioned once in the book. This may be a reference to the anonymity of the Holocaust, wherein people were stripped of their identities and humanity and became corpses with tattoos.

The narrative follows the progression of Eliezer’s father from one who was an honored member of his community, respected and admired by Eliezer for his wisdom and strength, to someone who cowered and cried for water, and begged his son to protect and feed him.

The Holocaust is a description of a general reversal of roles: Murderers became heroes; those who should have been protected were slaughtered; innocence became condemnation; and, most significantly, sons protected (or should have protected) fathers. It was in this father-son reversal that the progress of the Holocaust occurs. The memoir starts with Eliezer’s father telling Eliezer what to do. Eliezer, at the beginning of the tale, looked up to his father and followed his every dictum. Respect and honor of one’s father was paramount. Eliezer was relieved that his father, too, was selected to the left. At least they were together. At least he had his father as succor. Toward the end, we see Eliezer swearing that he would never desert his father, come what may. In the end, he was forced to. The father’s pleas had become too unreasonable. The fate of Eliezer’s father may be one of the most significant motifs of the Holocaust and is, therefore, a major strand of the book.

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