Night By Elie WieselNight, By Elie Wiesel is a devastatingly true story about one man’s witness tothe genocide of his own people. Living through the horrifying experiences in theGerman concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Elie sees his family,friends and fellow Jews starved, degraded, and murdered.
In this essay I willaddress three important topics expressed throughout the course of the book. First, I will discuss the struggle and eventual loss of religious faith by Eliein his battle to maintain humanity in this de-humanizing environment, and whatultimately enabled him to survive. Second, I will show the establishedrelationship between Elie and his father, and the impact life in the camp hadupon it. And finally, give my personal opinion on why Elie Wiesel wrote thisbook. One of the main topics in this book is how Elie, a boy of strong religiousfaith, as well as many Jews lose their faith in God because of the atrocitiesthat take place in the concentration camps. Elie Wiesel lived his earlychildhood in the town of Transylvania, in Hungary, during the early 1940’s.
Ata young age Elie took a strong interest in Jewish religion as he spent most ofhis time studying the Talmud. Eventually he comes across Moshe the Beadle, whowould take him under his wing and instruct him more in depth of the ways of theTalmud and cabbala. Through Moshe’s instruction, he is taught to question Godfor answers. Later Moshe is sent away to a camp and upon his return to Sighetpresents the reader with a foreshadowing of what will soon come in the book.
Elie recalls, “Moshe had changed. . . . He no longer talked to me of God or thecabbala, but only of what he had seen.
“(4) Thus right away the reader isexposed a loss of religious faith in Moshe, the same loss that will soon plagueElie. When Elie arrives at Birkenau, the reader sees the first evidence of hisloss of faith as he questions God during the selection process. Amid theselection many Jews are separated from their loved ones who are immediately sentto the crematory or burned in large fire pits. Although unaware to him at thetime, this is the last Elie will ever see of his mother and sister.
For thisreason, many Jews are grieving and begin to recite the Kaddish, a Jewish prayerfor the dead. Here Elie questions, ” Why should I bless his name? The Eternal,Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I tothank Him for?”(31) Shortly after, as he marches toward the barracks, Eliewitnesses a load of children being dumped into a pit of flames which he labelsthe “Angel of Death”. At this point the reader sees the diminishing effectsthe first night of camp life is already having on Elie as he vows, “Nevershall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. .
. Never shall Iforget these moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams todust. . . .
Never. “(32) Each day at the German concentration camp further andfurther deteriorates Elie’s belief in God. The final moment, where herenounces all belief in the existence of God comes at the funeral of threeJewish males who were hung the day before, one of which was merely a child solight in weight that he hung struggling for nearly an hour before he died. Eliestates, “This day I ceased to plead. . .
. My eyes were open and I wasalone-terribly alone in a world without God and without man. . .
. I ceased to beanything but ashes, yet I felt myself to be more powerful than the Almighty, towhom my life had been tied to for so long. “(65) Here the reader can sense theimmense loss that Elie is overcome by having spent most of his childhood seekingsalvation only to conclude it was all a waste of time. With the loss of hisreligion, Elie’s only will to survive lies solely in the love for his fatherand hope, a hope that some day he will see an end to the nightmare ofconcentration camp life forever.
Before forced evacuation into the concentrationcamps, Elie and his father were not very close emotionally. In fact, his fatherrarely showed emotion or concern toward family matters at all. Elie’s fatherwas one of the leading men that the community held in great esteem. Yet Elie’sfather did not approve of him wasting time with religion and readings of thecabbala, which formidably created a barrier of separation between father andson. The only bond between the two when they reach the camp is the desire tostay with each other,” family”. After witnessing the horror of the firstnight at the camp and the separation of his family and families of others, thebond between Elie and his father seems to grow stronger.
Because of his old age,Elie’s father is constantly struggling with the militant style of camp life. When he is beaten for not being able to march properly in rank, Elie spends timeinside the blocks teaching him how to properly march in place. Unlike many ofthe other Jews who criticize Elie, he does not abandon his father to fend forhimself. Instead he is constantly by his father’s side looking out for him anddoing what he can to keep his father out of trouble. Eventually concentrationcamp life frustration takes its toll on Elie as he begins to feel less and lessremorse for his father.
One day as he and his father are loading diesel enginesinto a train, one of the guards strikes out at his father. “You lazy olddevil”, the guard shouts out as he beats Elie’s father to the point ofcollapse. Elie’s response to this beating is very much different though. Hefelt that it was his father’s own fault.
He states, “Any anger I felt at themoment was directed, not against the Kapo, but against my father. I was angrywith him. For no knowing how to avoid Idek’s outbreak. “(64) The only reasonleft to live after he has given up all faith in god is for his father. Hisfather needed him. He questions,” What would he do without me? I was his onlysupport” and so throughout the last winter there Elie’s ongoing struggle tosurvive was met by his struggle to keep his father alive.
Eventually when hisfather is stricken with Illness he grows weary of constantly taking care of him. While Elie’s father grew weaker so did he. At one point when he was in searchof his father he thought, “Don’t let me find him! If only I could get rid ofthis dead weight, so that I could use all my strength to struggle for my ownsurvival, and only worry about myself. “(101) When his father eventually diddie, it was due to a blow on the head by an officer and the last words were thatof Elie’s name as he called him for water. Ashamed forever, this is whatconcentration camp life had done to Elie. I believe that Elie Wiesel wrote thisbook as a living testament, being one of the few survivors of the Holocaust.
Hefelt it was his duty to justify how so many of his people could be allowed todie while the world remained silent. He and his people did not create theHolocaust, but rather the Holocaust created them. As a survivor, Elie has nochoice but to tell all who will listen what the silenced victims would tell ifthey could speak for themselves today. Having lost his entire family to theaftermath of the Holocaust, one can only hope that the world can learn from theJewish people’s suffering and prevent history from repeating itself.