Nobody wants to read such a morbid book as Night. There isn't anybody (other than the Nazis and Neo-Nazis) who enjoys reading about things like the tortures, the starvation, and the beatings that people went through in the concentration camps. Night is a horrible tale of murder and of man's inhumanity towards man. We must, however, read these kinds of books regardless. It is an indefinitely depressing subject, but because of its truthfulness and genuine historic value, it is a story that we must learn, simply because it is important never to forget. As Robert McAfee Brown states in the preface of the memoir "the world has had to hear a story it would have preferred not to hear- the story of how a cultured people turned to genocide, and how the rest of the world, also composed of cultured people, remained silent in the face of genocide." Elie Wiesel has paid much attention to an inner desire and need to serve humanity by illuminating the hate-darkened past.
Night is a horrifying account of a Nazi death camp that turns Elie Wiesel from a young Jewish boy into a distressed and grief-stricken witness to the death of his family, the death of his friends, even the death of his own innocence and his faith in G-d. He saw his family, friends and fellow Jews first severely degraded and then sadistically murdered. He enters the camp a child and leaves a man. At the book's end, Elie bears little resemblance to the teenage boy who left Sighet almost a year earlier.
Night is a memoir exquisitely written. Wiesel's eloquence makes his descriptions seem terrifyingly real and repulsive. It is a book about what the Holocaust did, not just to the Jews, but to humanity. People all over the world found themselves affected by this atrocious act. Even today, there are a number of survivors who are tormented by their experience every day of their lives.
The Wiesel's have, throughout the novel, several opportunities to escape Sighet as well as the camp itself, but they are stubborn in their beliefs and refuse to listen to the warnings. Moshe the Beadle, Elie's mentor at the beginning of the novel, while Elie is still a deeply religious young man, manages to escape the Gestapo in Poland. He returns to Sighet to deliver his message and to try to warn people of the pending situation. The villagers, however, believe Moshe has lost his mind, finding his stories too outrageous to believe. Thus, they all ignore his frenzied warning. Berkovitz is another villager who returns from Budapest and reports that Fascists are terrorizing Hungarian Jews. This warning too, goes unnoticed. Even when they are already in the Ghetto, they are naive enough to consider the Germans to be polite, especially after one of them buys Madame Kahn, one of the neighbors, a box of chocolates. Before it is too late, Maria, the Wiesel's Christian servant pleads with them to leave the unguarded Ghetto and seek refuge in her home. Elie's father refuses. Finally, on the morning of deportation, an empathetic Hungarian police officer, tries knocking on one of the windows of the Wiesel's home that faced the outside of the Ghetto to inform them that danger was approaching and to offer help. By then, however, everyone is too scared to open the window and this warning again goes by unnoticed. Already on the train to Auschwitz, Madame SchÃÂ¤chter cries hysterically about a "Fire! A terrible fire!" referring, of course, to the crematory ovens, but everyone simply tries to quiet her down, believing she is delirious and that there is no such thing. Even at the camp itself, Elie has an opportunity to save himself along with his father. He does not, however, know this at the time. Elie had been taken to the SS hospital to relieve the pus-filled swelling in the sole of his foot. The doctor told Elie that he needed to stay at the infirmary to rest for a fortnight. Just a couple of days afterward though, the Germans, seeing the Russian army too close to the camp, decide that they would have to evacuate Buna the very next day. Elie could barely walk, and because of his friendship with the doctor, he had the opportunity to bring his father into the hospital. The sick Jew next to Elie recommended that he go, because those who stay at the hospital would very likely become the camp's last batch of Jews to enter the crematory. Although he could barely walk without his foot hurting and bleeding, Elie decided to evacuate, only to find out later that those who had stayed behind in the hospital were liberated by the Russian army just two days afterward.
When the future becomes such an enigma, and the stories that people hear sound so absurd, it is easy not to listen to the warnings and to escape to safety. Most Jews never even began to imagine that they would end up where they did or else they would have emigrated before any of this ever took place. We find it easy to judge when we are looking back in time, with a historical perspective, but we cannot judge their decisions because we were blessed and were not forced live their lives or to have to make their choices.
The day Elie arrived at the camp, he was immediately separated from his mother and three sisters. He remained only with his father, with whom he struggled to remain close to throughout his time in the camps. When he first arrived and saw all the walking skeletons, he was very skeptical. He found it very hard to believe that that was real. He arrived at Auschwitz a spoiled child, and despite his hunger, he refused his first ration of the thick soup because he found it too disgusting. It is until the next day that he realizes that the soup and a little bit of bread are all he was going to get, and if he failed to eat, he would soon die of starvation. Wiesel then began to face the reality of "life" at the camps. Day in and day out he witnessed the malnourishment, the beatings of innocent people, and the tortures. As the days went by, there were frequent selections, and in an instant, only one man had the last word on who would live and who would die that day. To the right you lived, to the left you died. It is then that this man, in some way, assumed a part of G-d's role. As Wiesel watched the evil that man is capable of doing, his belief in the existence of G-d deteriorated. Wiesel asked, "Where is my G-d? Where is He?" (page 61).
One of the best examples of the inhumane treatment by the SS is when Elie and the rest of the camp of Buna are were forced to transfer to Gleiweitz. Elie decided to join the march and not stay at the infirmary in Buna. Elie, forced to make a hasty decision, decided to leave Buna with the rest of them. This transfer was a long, arduous and tiring journey for all who are involved. The weather was painfully cold, and snow was falling heavily. The men were forced to run for most of the forty-two miles on foot simply to arrive and board roofless cattle cars for a long, ten-day journey to Buchenwald. These were days spent without food or water. Some survived by taking some of the snow off the backs of other prisoners and eating it, in order to provide their bodies with water. Within the huge mass of running people, if one collapsed, was injured, or simply had run out of strength to carry on and bear the pain, they were shot or trampled without pity. An image that has secured itself in Elie's memory is that of Rabbi Eliahou's son who left the Rabbi behind in order to save his own skin. The father and son were running together when the father grew tired, and the son ran on, pretending not to see what was happening to his father. This spectacle caused Elie to think of what he would do if his father ever became as weak as the Rabbi did. He then promised to himself that he would rather die with his father than leave him behind.
Wiesel continued to witness intense inhumane treatment throughout his days at the camps. One day when Wiesel came back from a day's work, he saw three gallows being assembled. The whole camp was being forced to witness these hangings. Among the three people who would die that day was a young child. Wiesel wondered what that poor innocent boy had done to deserve to die in this manner. Wiesel watched the boy struggling between life and death for what seemed like an eternity. The death itself was a slow agony. At this point Wiesel lost all faith in the existence of God. "Where is God now? Where is He? Here is- He is hanging here on this gallows..."(page 62). After this incident Wiesel could no longer believe in God. He felt that no one could believe in God when one saw innocent children die such terrible deaths.
In the beginning of the novel, Elie is a deeply religious boy who fervently believes in G-d and the Talmud. Throughout the book, however, we see clearly the manner in which the SS manage to break his spirits. The effect of the spiritual beating by the Germans was, at all times, worse than the physical beating. Elie clearly shows us how those at the camps gradually became numb to the situation around them. By the end, Elie says he was not even thinking of the death of his father or of the rest of his family. At times, he only dreamed of an extra ration of the thick soup, or a little piece of bread. It is during this period in his life that Elie Wiesel becomes torn between being a devout Jew or an agnostic existentialist.
At the end of the war, Elie looks into the mirror, and says he saw "a corpse" (page 109). This "corpse" was Elie's body, but it had not only lost so many pounds to make him look like a walking skeleton, but he had been robbed of its soul as well. This is similar to the loss suffered by people all over the world. Although several survivors are still alive physically, their mind and spirit have long been dead, or at least a large part of it. Recovering his spirit, his personality, even his faith, is, when he is released, is the most difficult obstacle for Elie to overcome.
Night tells the story of innocent victims. It is the story of people who were destroyed simply because they were Jews. These people had done nothing and yet were tortured, degraded and liquidated for no other reason other than their faith in the Jewish religion and their semitic "racial inferiority". Wiesel is a witness to all the horrible things, and by reading his memoir we too, become witnesses. He is a spokesperson for all those who cannot bear to speak and to pass the message on to us, the next generation. We are the ones who are obliged to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. We must take advantage of his eloquence and its importance, which is never to forget, in order never to let this happen again.