Discussion of the book "Night" by Elie Wiesel
The town Sighet, located in northern Romania, Transylvania, is the initial location of this story of one Holocaust survivor. This book, "Night" by Elie Wiesel, is an autobiography of this young Jewish male. To say that he is Jewish is not redundant because although the Jews were the biggest target of the Nazis and the major percentage of the population of these concentration camps were Jews, there were also many other religions and nationalities that shared these camps with the Jews.
Elie Wiesel very graphically describes the experience of the takeover of his town by the Nazis. This story is particularly unique, due to the fact that among all of the published stories regarding the Holocaust and the concentration camp, there are not many that focus on a town that actually had years of warning, prior to actually being brought into custody by the SS.
A man named Moche the Beadle had lived peacefully and was considered a likable man in the town of Sighet. This man was a foreign Jew. One day all of the foreign Jews were carted away like cattle. The Jewish townsfolk did not put an extreme amount of importance on this event and were completely ignorant as to what was actually happening to these Jews.
Miraculously, this same man who had been the main character's spiritual advisor and who also had been carted off in the trains, escaped and returned to Sighet to warn everyone there of what had happened. None of his foreign comrades had survived. He had only escaped because he was wounded and believed to be dead by the German Nazi soldiers who were using his friends and their babies as target practice.
Despite all of Moche the Beadle's warnings, the town did not believe what they did not want to believe. They continued to place their faith in God that nothing so horrible could be true. They most certainly were not willing to believe that such an event could possibly happen to them.
When the Nazis occupied their town and laws about when they were to leave their homes and what they were to wear began to be enforced under penalty of death, they still did not allow themselves to believe any of the old man's stories. Up until the moment when they were themselves herded out of town like cattle, they refused to acknowledge the possibility that a man they had previously trusted might be telling the truth.
Several points stand out to me when I read this book.
One of the things that is widely talked about regarding this book is this young man's loss of faith in his God. He was extremely devoted to his studies about God before the concentration camp. However, after he experienced the horrible atrocities that many to this day still refuse to believe ever actually happened, he became God's accuser, rather than His devotee.
I read another book review for this book, "Night," and was amazed by the attitude of that reviewer. They noted their disappointment in Elie Wiesel for focusing entirely on the atrocities and the loss of faith experienced. To this review I say, "Wow! How callous can you possibly be?" This is an autobiography. Should Mr. Wiesel have added some flowers and rainbows so that you can go to sleep resting comfortably in your belief that God is good and loving and omnipotent?
I believe that Elie Wiesel speaks specifically to this kind of apathetic ignorance when he talks about the attitudes of his very town full of people who did not want to admit or see the ugliness of the truth. Turn a blind eye to the evils so that you may have the fullest amount of faith in your God. That is the easier way to live. How dare Mr. Wiesel, who watched his entire family torn apart, who watched his father die, whose entire life was changed and his faith in God shattered, how dare he not bring forth a point of hope and a silver lining while describing how he watched a young child take 30 minutes to die with a rope around her neck, this being only one of the countless moments of repulsive inhumanity.
That he survived, should he be grateful to God? Should he be glad that God finally took to heaven his brethren in the faith? Should he be happier that when they died they were in a "better place?"
Which brings me to another point that for some reason particularly stood out to me when reading Mr. Wiesel's book. For whatever reason, I had never really concentrated on the fact that all of these concentration camp victims had such an amazing will to live that they continued to march and work and endure through the utmost of horrible conditions, when they could easily have just stepped out of line or fallen down and given up on life, rather than live for years under amazingly extreme duress.
How many have committed suicide through the years due to frustrations, fears and reasons just as simple as a lack of interest in life. This, therefore, brings the question up, Why were these Jews so committed to life?
Was it their unstoppable faith that this would eventually end, that God would come through in the end and that they had to continue to defeat the Evil One? Was it just for the belief in that silver lining? What kind of life did they believe they would have after this was all over? Did they think that they could live happily when all was said and done, simply glad to have survived? Was their faith in God so strong that they felt without a doubt that he would make it so?
To all of those concepts and possibilities, all I can say is, "Wow." Was it their faith that kept them in suffering in these concentration camps for these years being treated as worse than dogs are treated by abusive masters? Then, was their faith beneficial? What was gained by such faith?
So many thoughts are brought to the forefront of one's mind who reads and deliberates on this true story of a young man's struggle to survive during the Holocaust.