Buchenwald concentration camp, photo taken April 16, 1945, five days after liberation of the camp. Wiesel is in the second row from the bottom, seventh from the left, next to the bunk post.
This may seem a rather radical viewpoint but hear me out:
What brought these thoughts on was the death at 87 yesterday of Elie Weisel, the Nobel prize winner, Holocaust survivor and, in some respects. most important chronicler of the Holocaust.
I often get questions about whether being Jewish refers to religious beliefs, being a Zionist or just some other, vaguely cultural, factors.
And though I consider myself Jewish, I have not, for all my life, believed at all in any god and this was true of both my parents even if both my maternal grandparents were devout. And I've never been a Zionist nor have I ever been to Israel. Although it is true that much of my family was wiped out in the Holocaust some did find a refuge in Palestine-Israel.
But I did go to Hebrew School and had a Bar-Mitzvah. When asked by the Hebrew School principal if I wanted to become a rabbi, my mother firmly answered no!
No, I think modern Jewish identity was largely shaped by the Holocaust!!
When the Nazis came to power they found a handy scapegoat, mostly but not entirely, in the Jews and, besides murdering countless numbers of Jewish men, women and children, banned the outputs of Jewish writers, composers, and other artists. Even composers, for example, who converted in order to have careers such as Mahler or whose families earlier converted like Felix Mendelssohn's, were banned. (Carl Orff famously refused to replace Felix Mendelssohn's music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream".) And if you doubt Felix himself resented this forced conversion, you don't know enough about him including his correspondence with his sister Fanny as well as his setting of Goethe's "Die erste Walpurgisnacht"
In short, for better or for worst, the definition of modern Jewish identity would agree with Uncle Adolph's as anyone who was born Jewish or who had any Jewish ancestors!