Night By Elie Wiesel Night, By Elie Wiesel is a devastatingly true story about one mans witness to the genocide of his own people. Living through the horrifying experiences in the German concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Elie sees his family, friends and fellow Jews starved, degraded, and murdered. In this essay I will address three important topics expressed throughout the course of the book. First, I will discuss the struggle and eventual loss of religious faith by Elie in his battle to maintain humanity in this de-humanizing environment, and what ultimately enabled him to survive. Second, I will show the established relationship between Elie and his father, and the impact life in the camp had upon it.
And finally, give my personal opinion on why Elie Wiesel wrote this book. One of the main topics in this book is how Elie, a boy of strong religious faith, as well as many Jews lose their faith in God because of the atrocities that take place in the concentration camps. Elie Wiesel lived his early childhood in the town of Transylvania, in Hungary, during the early 1940s. At a young age Elie took a strong interest in Jewish religion as he spent most of his time studying the Talmud. Eventually he comes across Moshe the Beadle, who would take him under his wing and instruct him more in depth of the ways of the Talmud and cabbala. Through Moshes instruction, he is taught to question God for answers.
Later Moshe is sent away to a camp and upon his return to Sighet presents 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 the cabbala, but only of what he had seen.”(4) Thus right away the reader is exposed a loss of religious faith in Moshe, the same loss that will soon plague Elie. When Elie arrives at Birkenau, the reader sees the first evidence of his loss of faith as he questions God during the selection process. Amid the selection many Jews are separated from their loved ones who are immediately sent to the crematory or burned in large fire pits. Although unaware to him at the time, this is the last Elie will ever see of his mother and sister. For this reason, many Jews are grieving and begin to recite the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer for 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 to thank Him for?”(31) Shortly after, as he marches toward the barracks, Elie witnesses a load of children being dumped into a pit of flames which he labels the “Angel of Death”. At this point the reader sees the diminishing effects the first night of camp life is already having on Elie as he vows, “Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.. Never shall I forget these moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust…Never.”(32) Each day at the German concentration camp further and further deteriorates Elies belief in God. The final moment, where he renounces all belief in the existence of God comes at the funeral of three Jewish males who were hung the day before, one of which was merely a child so light in weight that he hung struggling for nearly an hour before he died.
Elie states, “This day I ceased to plead…My eyes were open and I was alone-terribly alone in a world without God and without man…I ceased to be anything but ashes, yet I felt myself to be more powerful than the Almighty, to whom my life had been tied to for so long.”(65) Here the reader can sense the immense loss that Elie is overcome by having spent most of his childhood seeking salvation only to conclude it was all a waste of time. With the loss of his religion, Elies only will to survive lies solely in the love for his father and hope, a hope that some day he will see an end to the nightmare of concentration camp life forever. Before forced evacuation into the concentration camps, Elie and his father were not very close emotionally. In fact, his father rarely showed emotion or concern toward family matters at all. Elies father was one of the leading men that the community held in great esteem.
Yet Elies father did not approve of him wasting time with religion and readings of the cabbala, which formidably created a barrier of separation between father and son. The only bond between the two when they reach the camp is the desire to stay with each other,” family”. After witnessing the horror of the first night at the camp and the separation of his family and families of others, the bond between Elie and his father seems to grow stronger. Because of his old age, Elies 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 time inside the blocks teaching him how to properly march in place.
Unlike many of the other Jews who criticize Elie, he does not abandon his father to fend for himself. Instead he is constantly by his fathers side looking out for him and doing what he can to keep his father out of trouble. Eventually concentration camp life frustration takes its toll on Elie as he begins to feel less and less remorse for his father. One day as he and his father are loading diesel engines into a train, one of the guards strikes out at his father. “You lazy old devil”, the guard shouts out as he beats Elies father to the point of collapse. Elies response to this beating is very much different though.
He felt that it was his fathers own fault. He states, “Any anger I felt at the moment was directed, not against the Kapo, but against my father. I was angry with him. For no knowing how to avoid Ideks outbreak.”(64) The only reason left to live after he has given up all faith in god is for his father. His father needed him.
He questions,” What would he do without me? I was his only support” and so throughout the last winter there Elies ongoing struggle to survive was met by his struggle to keep his father alive. Eventually when his father is stricken with Illness he grows weary of constantly taking care of him. While Elies father grew weaker so did he. At one point when he was in search of his father he thought, “Dont let me find him! If only I could get rid of this dead weight, so that I could use all my strength to struggle for my own survival, and only worry about myself.”(101) When his father eventually did die, it was due to a blow on the head by an officer and the last words were that of Elies name as he called him for water. Ashamed forever, this is what concentration camp life had done to Elie. I believe that Elie Wiesel wrote this book as a living testament, being one of the few survivors of the Holocaust. He felt it was his duty to justify how so many of his people could be allowed to die while the world remained silent.
He and his people did not create the Holocaust, but rather the Holocaust created them. As a survivor, Elie has no choice but to tell all who will listen what the silenced victims would tell if they could speak for themselves today. Having lost his entire family to the aftermath of the Holocaust, one can only hope that the world can learn from the Jewish people’s suffering and prevent history from repeating itself.