The Fifth Son

by Elie Wiesel

Book, 1985



Call number




New York : Summit Books, c1985.


Reuven Tamiroff, a Holocaust survivor, has never been able to speak about his past to his son, a young man who yearns to understand his father's silence. As campuses burn amidst the unrest of the Sixties and his own generation rebels, the son is drawn to his father's circle of wartime friends in search of clues to the past. Finally discovering that his brooding father has been haunted for years by his role in the murder of a brutal SS officer just after the war, young Tamiroff learns that the Nazi is still alive. Haunting, poetic, and very contemporary, The Fifth Son builds to an unforgettable climax as the son sets out to complete his father's act of revenge.

User reviews

LibraryThing member raizel
The title refers to the Four Sons of the Passover Haggadah: "There is, of course, a fifth son, but he does not appear in the tale because he is gone. Thus, the duty of a Jewish father is to the living. When will you finally understand, Reuven, that the dead are not part of the Haggadah?" [p.
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Right before this quote is a very long sentence that I liked. It seems to refer to a Midrash that when Moses, Miriam and the children of Israel celebrate after crossing the sea of reeds, in which the Egyptian soldiers died, the angels also begin to sing until God chastises them, saying that His children are drowning:
Passover eve we are recounting, chanting, the ancient tale of our ancestors' departure, a wild, exhilarating race, I am looking for Moses and Moses is looking for us and the Egyptian soldiers are hounding us,driving us into the sea and they are following us into the sea and it is victory and like the angels I love to sing and like the angels I am reprimanded by God one does not sing in the presence of death one does not sing of death and I say to God thank you thank you Lord for having killed our enemies thank you for having killed them yourself thank you for having spared us that task and God answers one does not say thank you in the presence of death one does not say thank you to death.
But then, Father, when does one say thank you? And to whom? [p. 34]
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Original publication date

1985 translation


0671523317 / 9780671523312

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