Roger Wagner Blog

Elie Wiesel

Added 5 yearss ago

 One of the pieces of paper I most regret losing was a postcard from Elie Wiesel who died last week.

In the early nineteen nineties I read his memoir Night while I was painting my picture Menorah. Describing his time in Auschwitz Wiesel recounts how coming back from work one day they saw ‘three gallows set up in the assembly place, three black crows’. Three prisoners were executed, two adults and a child ‘a sad eyed angel’. As their heads were placed in the nooses the two adults cried ‘long live liberty’ and died at once. The child was silent and because he was so light took half an hour to die. The prisoners were made to march past the three gallows. As they passed the boy Wiesel heard a man behind him asking ‘where is God now?’ and heard a voice within him answer ‘Where is he? He is here hanging on the gallows’.

The picture had already formed in my mind before I read the book, but this story haunted me as I was painting it. Sometime during this period my mother was invited to a conference in Paris organised by the Wiesel Foundation. At the conference she told Elie Wiesel about the picture, which she had seen in my studio, and he expressed an interest in seeing it.

 I was more than a little hesitant about showing it to him and expressed some of that feeling in a letter I sent with a photo of one of the studies for the painting.

 I need not have worried.

The card I received from him thanked me for sending the image which seemed to him ‘a very striking interpretation of an event which happened during the era of Night’. He went on to ask whether I was aware of the Christological implications of my image.

I was.