Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. In just over 100 pages of sparse and fragmented narrative, Wiesel writes about the death of God.
Wiesel recognized that he was incapable of hate on his first visit back to Germany shortly after World War II. He also explained to an interviewer n 1974, "You must transpose hate into something creative. As a writer you transpose hate into something you write, a novel. You express what you feel, and the hate become something else. But do not hate."
Both Levi and Wiesel have absorbed since birth one foundational ethical text: the Torah. I am utilizing the Ten Commandments as chapter headings of this book because, whether unconsciously as for Levi who clearly distinguished right from wrong without often citing them or consciously as fro Wiesel who studies Torah daily, they served as influential, molding moral standards.
The interpretation of the Holocaust as a religious-theological event is not a tendentious imposition on Night but rather a careful reading of the work. In the description of the first night Eliezer spends in the concentration camp, silence signals the turn from the immediate terrors to a larger cosmic drama, from stunned realism to theology.. In the felt absence of divine justice or compassion, silence become the agency of an immense, murderous power that permanently transforms the narrator.
Night, though, is its purest, most powerful expression, as a work and in the literature that has arisen around it. The theme of silence, in its theological, existential, and linguistic dimensions, dominates the commentary on Night (this commentary cannot be called criticism, in the usual sense) : the mystery of God's silence in the face of evil; the muteness of the dead; and the incommensurability of language and the events of the Holocaust- the naming of these enormities, in other words, as unnameable, unsayable. To these one might ass a fourth silence, the proper awed stance of the reader and spectator in the face of Holocaust testimony. The only thing more predictable than this injunction to silence is the regularity with which it is broken. And even this has been said before.
Elie is a deeply religious boy whose favorite activities are studying the Talmud and spending time at the Temple with his spiritual mentor, Moshe the Beadle. At an early age, Elie has a naïve, yet strong faith in God.
Elie remains faithful in his religion and in God throughout the book. He does not understand why God would allow the mass amount of deaths to happen, but he remains hopeful and faithful and does not give up throughout his struggle. Some may attribute this trait of Elie to be one of the most beneficial, or even why he ends up surviving.
Described as a typical SS officer (a cruel face, but not devoid of intelligence, and wearing a monocle), he uses a baton during the selection process. He decides who lives to work another day and who is sent to their deaths at the crematory. Cold, unaffected, and authoritative, he is the prototypical Nazi officer.
The story is told from the first-person view of Elie Wiesel who writes and reflects on his experiences as a 15 and 16-year-old during World War II. Though written around ten years after his liberation from a concentration camp, Elie Wiesel’s narrative generally sticks to the time period he is describing. When relevant, occasionally he provides an anecdote from many years after the action of the book. For example, when we hear about the French girl that Eliezer worked beside at the Buna factory, he tells us that many years later he met her again on a train. Since Wiesel wrote the book so many years after he was freed from the concentration camp, you can’t help but wonder how the book might be different if written immediately after his liberation, or if written more than 10 years after. For example, would there be more or less anger against his oppressors? Would his faith in God be stronger or weaker than presented in the book? Would the facts be slightly different depending on the amount of time since liberation? The fact that this entire book is told through memory brings up some interesting questions about truth and memory, and how maturity and personal growth over time influences the tone of one’s memories of personal experiences.
Eliezer is shocked that human beings can be so cruel. The first section of the narrative portrays the entire city of Sighet in denial. When foreign Jews are deported, the town insists all is well. When Moshe the Beadle returns and reports Nazi atrocities, the town insists all is well. When the Fascists take over in Hungary, the town insists all is well. When the SS begin patrolling the streets, the town insists all is well. When Eliezer suggests they move to Palestine, his father refuses. When Martha the former servant offers them refuge, even after most of the town had been expelled, they remain. Those in Sighet cannot comprehend that other human beings can be so evil.
As Eliezer and his family exit the train at Auschwitz, they are shocked at its existence, causing one of the prisoners to insult them, in disbelief that it was 1944 and they had never heard of Auschwitz. They weren't alone. How many otherwise good humans were aware of the existence of concentration camps but chose to remain silent? It is silence which allows the Nazi takeover in Europe. Another silence Wiesel emphasizes is the silence of God to allow such atrocities to occur. Wiesel counsels his readers to not be silent witnesses to hate.
A theme that Wiesel includes in his book is silence and how vital one person speaking up can be. During the Holocaust, silence of the world allowed the war to continue. If more people spoke up, less innocent people would have died. Silence is a common trait of night, which is why night was a fearful time for Wiesel.
Despite warnings about German intentions towards Jews, Eliezer’s family and the other Jews in the small Transylvanian town of Sighet (now in modern-day Romania) fail to flee the country when they have a chance. As a result, the entire Jewish population is sent to concentration camps. There, in a camp called Auschwitz, Eliezer is separated from his mother and younger sister, but remains with his father. As Eliezer struggles to survive against starvation and abuse, he also grapples with the destruction of his faith in God’s justice and battles with the darker sides of himself. Forced into a desperate situation, Eliezer feels a conflict between supporting his ever weakening father and giving himself the best chance of survival. Over the course of the book, Eliezer and his father are sent from Auschwitz to a new concentration camp called Buna and then, as the Allies (the British and American troops) approach, deeper into Germany, to Buchenwald. A few months before the concentration camps are liberated by Allied soldiers, Eliezer’s father dies. Though Eliezer survives the concentration camps, he leaves behind his own innocence and is haunted by the death and violence he has witnessed.