Review of “Night”
In 1944 Europe, Elie Weisel and his family are forced into a concentration camp because they are Jewish. When they arrive, Elie and his father are separated from his mother and sisters. As this is happening, he sees Jews that were gassed being thrown into burning mass graves. A Jew's daily ration was a small bowl of thin soup and a small piece of bread. The Jews are forced to run from camp to camp naked; being shot if they stop or slow down. Elie's father gets sick and Elie shares his ration to keep his father alive. Will Elie ever see his mother and sisters again? Will Elie get out alive? The author engages the reader by making them feel like Elie or ...view middle of the document...
Why then would one want to read such accounts as these? Wiesel was silent for many years, until he was brought into speech and writing as a witness to the events. Wiesel proclaims that there is in the world now a new commandment - 'Thou shalt not stand idly by' - when such things are happening, one must act. One must remember the past in all its personal aspects to both honour those who suffered and to forestall such things happening again (which, given the the depressing repetitive nature of history, is a difficult task).
Young Eliezier Wiesel found himself transported from Sighet and then torn from his mother and sisters when they arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the time, he did not realize that he was seeing his mother and little sister for the last time, as they were immediately sent to the gas chamber. Eli struggled to remain with his father throughout the rest of their time in the various concentration camps. As they are transferred from Birkenau to Monowitz and eventually Buchenwald, Eli speaks of the forced labor camps, the execution of children, older men and the sick, and his efforts to maintain his father's and his own life.
One episode at Auschwitz stands out as a climax of inhumanity: the hanging of a young boy who had been an assistant to an Oberkampo, a prisoner who was in charge of other prisoners. The boy refused to speak about allegations against his Oberkampo, so the Germans sentenced him to death. Wiesel recounts the lilence throughout the camp as the hild was hung. "Where is God? Where is He?" The question rung out behind Wiesel as he watched the events. Then, as the prisoners were all forced to march by the hanging prisoners, including the yong boy who was still hanging alive in the last momets of life (too light to have his neck break immediately upon hanging). "where is God now?" the question again is asked. It is impossible for questions like that to ring in our minds. Wiesel continues his reflection on these horrors, and upon God. This turned him to anger: "What does Your greatness mean, Lord of the Universe, in the face of all this weakness, this decomposition, and this decay?" (73-74). God becomes the accused, but along with this comes a great void. It is that void that rings throughout the whole work.
While not easy to read, this Holocaust memoir is essential reading. It is important that we remember. We must acknowledge the depths to which our inhumanity can go. We live in a world of suffering and death, and to picture it with rose colored glasses doesn't make it go away. Instead, acknowledging and living in the suffering of others gives us a chance to begin walking along side them. It's also a reminder that easy answers won't suffice. That isn't to say that the void Wiesel speaks of and evidences are the true state of affairs in our world, but that they are important experiences into which God's truth must be spoken, even if haltingly and imperfectly.
This is the longest short book I've ever read. It is...