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Courage, devotion, and ‘what a voice’ among memories


Harry James Cargas, frequent NCR contributor and author of several works on Christianity and the Holocaust, was a close associate of Jewish writer, lecturer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Cargas died Aug. 18.

... And now Harry, too, is gone. And the world around us seems emptier. And impoverished.

We were scheduled to meet Aug. 25 in Chicago. At the airport. And continue our conversations that began more than 30 years ago in St. Louis.

I remember our first encounter. It resonates in me to this day. All the rest, all that came later was commentary.

The news of his passing reached me in Berlin, of all places. I had come to attend a conference on European culture. The phone call left me with a sense of frustration dominated by melancholy. I was too far away to come to the funeral, so I thought about him in Berlin. I thought about him more than about Europe and its culture.

I thought about his courageous stand in matters of morality and conscience. His compassion for victims. His devotion to Jewish memory. His deeply moving way of clinging to his faith. His literary, religious and socio-political writings. They will remain. But his voice -- where shall we find such a voice?

Harry was special in many ways. Everything he did was special. Our relationship, too, was special. We used to meet often. It was never enough. And now we were going to meet again Aug. 25.

This was the only time we missed our appointment.

But our conversations will continue.

Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born author of Night, teaches at Boston University. He won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.

National Catholic Reporter, September 4, 1998