Night is a book by Elie Wiesel about his experience in the German extermination camps of Auschwitz, Buma, and Buchenwald. The English version of the memoir was published in 1960 after the liberation of the concentration camps. Eliezer, a Jewish teenager, who is a clear representation of Wiesel, narrates the story beginning from Sighet, Hungary, in the start of the war to the liberation of the camp by American forces in 1945. The book is also one of the most accurate depictions of the Holocaust with the timeline of events coinciding with scholars accounts of the events of the second world war. A review of the book by Wiesel reveals several details about life, society, and politics at the time.
The book shows that religion had a strong influence on the life of the Jewish community. In the opening passages of the text, the author says," In the beginning, there was faith," (Wiesel 13). The Jews believed in the benevolent nature of God. They thought that his presence was everywhere and nothing would happen without his intervention. More so, they believed that every single object was a reflection of his divine nature. However, the German concentration camps had a way to shake even the strongest of faiths as evidenced by Eliezer's experience. Their experience in the concentration camps shook their belief in their God. They wondered whether the evil they saw in the extermination camps was a reflection of his divine nature. They also questioned his presence because he was letting them suffer in German hands.
The book also says a lot about the mortality rate of the camps. In the book, Wiesel says, "the thousands of people who died daily in Auschwitz and Birkenau, in the crematoria, no longer troubled me, "(pg.87). The prisoners had gotten to the point that they no longer cared about the death that was happening around them. There was so much death that it became normal to see a dead body. The book also shows that there was a low life expectancy at the time. In the camp, the life expectancy dropped even further as the older generation could not withstand the hard conditions of the camp. Eliezer's father is one of the people that perished in the camp. The writer also describes a son turning against his father because of a breadcrumb (Wiesel 126).
Before the transportation to the concentration camps, the author describes a thriving community. In Romania, the home of Eliezer, the Jewish owned and operated various businesses which placed them ahead of the rest of the population. It is the presence of Jews in commerce that was among the primary motivation for German Nazis. According to the author, the German wanted to build a society without in which there would be no room for Jews (Wiesel 11). Based on the author's words it seemed that the Nazis didn't intend to exterminate the Jews. All they wanted to do is ensure the Jews are at the bottom of the food chain - however, all that changed during the end of the war when the Nazis saw the possibility of losing the war. They wanted to erase Jewish memory from history.
The book also reveals some of the practices of Jewish society. In the book, the reader comes across a passage that says:
Freed of normal constraints, some of the young let go of their inhibitions and, under cover of darkness, caressed one another, without any thought of others, alone in the world. The others pretended not to notice (Wiesel 48).
That passage describes a scenario where the young were engaging in acts of romance while inside the trains heading to German camps. The author uses the word "inhibition" which refers to the societal prohibition of such actions. As per the Jewish society, such acts were not allowed in public especially among the unmarried couple. There is no doubt that the young were trying to seek solace in each other at the time of turmoil. The presence of other people did not deter them from their activities either, and the other people didn't seem to mind what they were doing. It appeared the Jewish laws only applied when the times were good. At the moment, they had more significant problems to worry about.
The Jewish preferred the council type of leadership. In the book, the Eliezer says," A small Jewish rep u b l ic...A Jewish Council was appointed, as well as a Jewish police force," (Wiesel 11-12). The quote describes a scenario where the Nazis had confined the Jews to a small slum where they were not allowed to leave. The Jewish people chose to appoint a council to take care of their affairs.
Towards the end of the book, the author takes time to address some of the other political injustices that were happening around the world in the 20th century. The author places the issues of apartheid in the same category as anti-semitism. According to him, when a person becomes persecuted because of their race, political views or religion, that place must become the center of the universe (Wiesel 118). That last part gives a good understanding of the political situation all around the world at the time. Racism was still a thing in the world, and the apartheid regime was in power in South Africa. That last section shows the reader that the world is far from perfect. In general, the book shows that the 20th century was a period of discrimination and one that needed to be addressed.
Wiesel, Eliezer. Night. New York: Hill & Wang, 1960. Print.
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