Memoir: Night

Author: Elie Wiesel, 1960
Genre: Autobiography, Memoir
Format: Ebook, 109 pages

It’s hard to find a piece of literature more moving and dark than Night. I had read it for the first time in high school for one of my English classes, and even though I never considered myself an admirer of war literature, I immediately fell in love with this book. It is extremely short and easy to read, as I find the language stripped of any embellishments, but the book leaves a long-lasting impact that last indefinitely. I knew I had to come back to it eventually. Night is a story about a deeply religious Jewish boy who is deported to the concentration camp of Auschwitz, where he realizes the terrifying nature of mankind and looses his beliefs in God forever. There are too many reviews and thoughts expressed about the book for me to write something new or significant. Instead I just want to mention a several of the paragraphs that truly touched me. For example, after his arrival to the camp Elie witnesses the burning of children and cannot sleep (p.25):

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.

Here, Elie is forced to watch a boy with “a face of an angel” being executed in suspicion of aiding the rebellion (p.44)

Behind me, I heard the same man asking: Where is God now?

And I heard a voice within me answer him: Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”

Unable to bring himself to pray on New Year’s Eve, Elie contemplates his beliefs. Rather than denying the existence of God, however, it looks like Elie accuses Him of turning away from those who need Him the most (p.45):

Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His pits? Because He kept six crematories working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed art Thou, Eternal, Master of the Universe, who chose us among the races to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the crematory? Raised be Thy Holy Name, thou Who hast chosen us to be butchered on Thine alter?

Through the book, the reader witnesses people turning into animals in order to survive, prisoners fighting for a crumb of bread and killing their own parents for food, lives being thrown away and exterminated in horrible tortures, families separated not to be seen again. Every page is a nightmare that you’re hoping to be a work of fiction, only to be reminded that such horrors really happened. It is unbelievable how cruel and monstrous a human mind can be. Read it, learn it, and do all you can in your powers to prevent these events from repeating ever again.

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