Everyday I teach the holocaust to bored, sleepy undergraduates. During a weekly seminar, postgraduates dispassionately debate the theological and psychological implications of the Shoah in the life and faith of the Jewish people.
In my early years of teaching I'd walk away from each class bitter. Bitter that the trauma and horror of it never penetrated.
Yet later, when trauma entered my office, I told her she deserved to fail.
She arrived unannounced, her eyes moist and red, rubbed raw at the edges. A newly-bought book under her arm. She placed it on my desk. Elie Wiesel's Night, a paperback copy, Oprah's Book Club edition.
"I can't read it. I just can't," she said, sobbing.
I handed her the box of Kleenex from my desk drawer.
She explained. "It's too much, too invasive. Horrific."
"Holocaust Theology is one of the most popular freshman courses on campus," I said. "Hundreds of students who apply are turned away. You're lucky to be here."
She was listening. I was getting through.
"In eleven years of this course running, you're the first to complain. The book report is fifty per cent of your grade. If you don't read it, I'll have to fail you."
She nodded softly, submissive.
She stood, leaving the book on my desk, and left the office.