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Book Essay On Night By Elie Wiesel

Analysis of Elie Wiesel's Night Essay

1672 Words7 Pages

The Holocaust changed the lives of many. Those that survived have many terrifying stories to tell. Many survivors are too horrified to tell their story because their experiences are too shocking to express in words. Eli Wiesel overcomes this fear by publicly relaying his survival of the Holocaust. "Night", his powerful and moving story, touches the hearts of many and teaches his readers a great lesson. He teaches that in a short span of time, the ways of the world can change for the worst. He wants to make sure that if the world didn't learn anything from hearing about the atrocities of the Holocaust, maybe they'll be able to learn something from Elie's own personal experience. Usually, a person can internalize a situation better…show more content…

Eliezer was taught that God is supposed to be filled with good, yet as he goes through the Holocaust, he thinks that maybe God doesn't exist at all . As he and his father are walking through Auschwitz, he sees the Nazi's burning babies in a large pit. While his father began whispering to himself the prayer for the dead, reciting "may his name be blessed and magnified...," Eliezer asks himself, thinking that he would be burned as well, "Why should I bless his name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe...was silent. What had I to thank him for?"(Page 31) This is the beginning of his lack of faith in god. As Eliezer and his father were together in Buna, an occasional public hanging would take place. Hangings were executed not only for those that committed a crime, but also for the prisoners of the camp, in order to learn a lesson from the accused. In Buna, one of three prisoners who were hung was a little boy, who was a servant of a member of the resistance group in the camp. Once the boy was publicly hung, the boy was still alive, just hanging there on the noose for about half an hour. As the prisoners in the camp were forced to watch the hanging, they began to cry. Eliezer said that even though there were so many hangings, this was the first time everyone was crying. At that moment, a prisoner asked out loud "Where is God now?"(Page 62) and Eliezer answered to himself "Where is he?

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Book Summary (back to top)

Elizer (Elie) Wiesel’s autobiography Night begins in 1941 when he is twelve years old. He is the only son in an extremely strict and traditional orthodox Jewish family; he has two older sisters, Hilda and Bea, and a younger sister Tzipora. Together they live in Sighet, Transylvania. Wiesel, against his father’s wishes, takes up the study of Cabbala and Talmud. He is tutored by Moshe the Beadle, a handyman at the synagogue, who one day is arrested with other foreign Jews by the Hungarian police. Several months later Moshe returns, having escaped his captors, and tells of how they were taken away in cattle cars and handed over to the German secret police (Gestapo).

Moshe goes door to door and person to person to warn them of what is to come. But, Wiesel and the others from the community take him to be a lunatic.

By the spring of 1944 German army cars fill the streets of Sighet. In no time Jewish leaders are arrested, Jewish valuables are confiscated and all Jews are to wear the yellow Star of David. The law restricts them to their homes after 6pm and they must cover all their windows. All the Sighet Jews are confined in two small ghettos surrounded by barbed-wire fences. Four days later the Wiesels and the last of the deportees board a railway cattle car bound for Auschwitz.

After two days of traveling, packed eighty to each cattle car with intense heat, no air to breathe, no room to sit and unbearable hunger and thirst, they arrive at the Czechoslovakian border. There, a German officer takes over and threatens to shoot any Jew who refuses to hand over valuables or tries to escape. By midnight, they have reached Birkenau concentration camp, the processing center for the arrivals in Auschwitz, where the foul odor of burning flesh is agonizing.

At Birkenau the weak and less valuable are weeded out and killed. The women go to the right and the men go to the left. This is the last time Wiesel sees his mother and youngest sister Tzipora. He and his father remain together. They watch as babies are thrown into a fiery pit. Wiesel has begun to lose his faith and considers taking his own life. He hesitates and the opportunity is lost. He and his father are marched to Block 17 in Auschwitz. Three weeks later they are moved to Buna.

At Buna Wiesel’s father falls victim to Idek, the crazed Kapo who has violent rage. At this point, Wiesel reveals how much the concentration camp has gotten to him and how much he has changed.

After this more attacks occur. Wiesel begins to feel angry with his father for his inability to dodge Idek’s fury and becomes concerned only for his own survival. A week later, Nazis publicly hang prisoners. When asked by a man how God could be present in a world with such cruelty, Wiesel replies that God has been murdered as well as the prisoners.

At the end of the summer in 1944 the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur arrive. The Jews of Buna come together to celebrate; Wiesel rebels and cannot find any reason to bless God in the midst of such suffering.

He feels alone with his denial of faith while the others celebrate.

After being chased in the snow for about forty miles in freezing conditions, the SS pushed a hundred men into a cattle car. Wiesel’s father becomes fatally sick on the way to Buchenwald. Wiesel feels extreme guilt because he thinks he would be better off if he abandoned his father and kept his food for himself to preserve his strength. When his father dies a week later, shamefully, Wiesel feels relief. About three months later, American armies arrive and free the prisoners. Three days after liberation Wiesel becomes very ill and is hospitalized. For the first time since Sighet he looks in a mirror and sees a living corpse gazing back at him.


It is 1945 and Elie Wiesel is now a teenager who has just been liberated from Auschwitz by the American Third Army. As part of a group of Jewish children orphaned by the Holocaust he is sent to France. There he learns that his two older sisters have also survived. In France he masters the French language and is given the choice to study secular studies or religious studies. Despite his bitterness for God turning his back on him in his most desperate time of need he chooses religious studies.

After several years at the preparatory school Wiesel is sent to Paris where he studies philosophy at the Sorbonne. He supports himself as a choir master, a translator, a teacher of Hebrew, and a journalist for a small French newspaper.

For ten years Wiesel writes nothing of his experiences in the concentration camps until he meets French Catholic writer Francois Mauriac. Mauriac persuades Wiesel to put his memories and feelings down on paper. The result is Night. An internationally acclaimed memoir that has since been translated into 30 languages and has sold more than five million copies; the income from which goes to support a yeshiva in Israel established by Wiesel in memory of his father.[5] Wiesel first wrote Night in Yiddish, titled Un die welt hot geshvign (And the world kept silent). It was 900 pages of unforgettable memories of his life in the concentration camps. He then compressed his work into a 127 page French adaptation La Nuit, or Night, which was published in 1958. [1] Wiesel has written 40 other award-winning books including novels, essays and plays of fiction and non-fiction. Wiesel also travels incessantly to speak for human rights wherever they are threatened. And, according to the eliewieselfoundation.org, he is the Founding President of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures and the chairman of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity which he and his wife created to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice. [5]

In 1978 American President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. Along with this came the creation, by the Congress, of a national day of remembrance and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). In 1980 Wiesel became the founding Chairman of the USHMM. [1] These were not the only ways in which Wiesel was honored for his efforts to defend human rights and peace throughout the world. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Congressional Gold Medal, the Medal of Livery Award and the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor. On top of his more than one hundred honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning, in 1986 Elie Wiesel earned the Nobel Peace Prize. [3]

According to Nobelprize.org, Wiesel earned the Nobel Peace Prize for becoming a messenger to mankind from the abyss of the death camps— not with a message of hate and revenge, but with one of brotherhood and atonement. He has become a powerful spokesman for the view of humankind and the unlimited humanity which is, at all times, the basis of a lasting peace. The Nobel committee believes it is vital to have such guides at a time with so much terror, discrimination and repression. [3].

Elie Wiesel has also been a distinguished Professor of Juadiac Studies. From 1972-1976 he taught at the City University of New York. Then from 1982-1983 he taught as the Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University. Since 1976 he has occupied the Mellon Chair in the Humanities at Boston University. He now resides in New York City with his wife and their son, Elisha. He gained American citizenship in 1963; it is the first passport he had ever had. [6]

Despite all the recognition of Wiesel’s work he has also been widely criticized. According to Irving Halperin, reviewers judge Night as a defective book because it employs rhetoric and overstatement.

These reviewers feel that the horrors of the Holocaust are made endurable by literary deception. Controversial to this, Halperin feels writers who keep their "cool" are rather satisfactory next to Wiesel. His book is not only powerful and painful but it takes a much riskier approach. To admit the loss of faith in a young man imprisoned within the absolute hell of Auschwitz is much more difficult than dispassionate writing on the sadistic, unfeeling temperament of Nazis. [4] In Wiesel’s own words, everyone writes for different reasons. His are not to create but to recreate. He writes to surprise, not to inform. To Wiesel, the purpose of writing literature is to correct injustice and to use as much interrogation as possible. [2]

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