From the beatings, cruelty, starvation and all the other physical and emotional tortures the survivors of the Holocaust endured, they would never be the same. Night is an intriguing novel set in the time period of the Holocaust bringing awareness about antisemitism. It is a memoir written from the perspective of the author Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, as he looks back at his experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. It is the first novel in The Night Trilogy, followed by Dawn and Day, written during the 1960s. Night is a powerful novel portraying the horrendous events faced by Elie, when he was only fifteen years old but forced to state that he was eighteen. The novel evolves around many grim themes including inhumanity, guilt, violence and most prominently, death and suffering. Religion also plays a major part in Night and is carefully woven through the plot. Elie’s experiences during the Holocaust gradually alter his faith in God as a result of the numerous deaths he witnesses.
In the novel Night, Elie Wiesel uses the symbolism of death to show that in desperate times, people can act inhumane. In war, many people have to kill and injure other people in order for themselves to survive, such was how it was in Night. “How could they burn children?”, Elie had said as the huge trucks, full of wailing babies, dumbed the babies into the blazing pit of fire. The question of who gets to live and who dies in the novel relies on a system of unjust rules. SS officers, the Schutzstaffel, such as Dr. Mengele, play God and decide who will live and who will go to the crematorium to be left in death’s hands. “Selection” is based on perceivable ability to work, so the young, old, and sickly are immediately killed, as well as those who fail to work hard enough in the eyes of the SS officers. This leads to Eliezer lying about his age and stating that he’s 18 years old when he’s 15. This saves him from the crematorium when he first arrives at Birkenau. But despite this system of selection in Night, death and survival are often also based on chance. In this novel, one of the prisoners, a young boy like Elie, kills his own father for a small ration of bread. If people give up on humanity, what reason do they have any longer to show mercy, kindness or compassion.
Death and violence play a massive part in Night. The entire novel filled with suffering revolves around these dark themes. Elie has witnessed countless deaths throughout his time from Birkenau to Buchenwald, his father’s being one of them. in January 1945, his father, Chlomo, manages to say Elie’s name as they both go to sleep, and when Elie wakes up, his father had been taken away to the crematorium. Death had become so common for Elie that even the death of his own father had no effect on him. When Elie realised his father had died, he was sad that he couldn’t weep at the thought of his own father’s death. Franek, one of the SS guards, wanted Elie’s golden crown on his tooth. However, Elie refused to give it to him and in return Franek blackmails Elie by beating his father. This act of the guard’s willingness to beat a poor, weak, old man for a small amount of gold proves that the guards are selfish and merciless against the prisoners. All the prisoners at the concentration camps were brutally abused and treated like animals by the officials in charge. Every death that Elie suffers to witness causes him to feel depressed and scared.
“Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my Faith forever”, Elie said. The “nocturnal silence” that Elie hears from God caused him to lose confidence in God. Throughout this novel, alongside the cruelty, Elie sets on a journey about whether God is real and even if He is, should he be faithful to Him. It is evident that during the beginning of the novel Elie was devoted to God and fascinated Jewish mysticism such as the Kabbalah. The novel begins in 1941, when Elie was 12, before the German army arrived at their district to take all the Jews to the camps, Elie “believed profoundly” in God and “during the day he studied the Talmud and at night he ran to the synagogue”. This commitment to God that Elie had, slowly started to fade away as he began questioning God’s presence since the German army vehicles arrived, in May 1944. During the time, everyone else in the village had the perception that “Germany would be defeated with no doubt… Hitler will not be able to harm them, even if he wants to…” They were wrong and the Jews were immediately evacuated and transferred to concentration camps. Later in the novel, when he’s in the concentration camp in Buchenwald, he declares “I had ceased to pray… I did not deny god’s existence, but I doubted his absolute justice.”
Overall, it is evident that there are many themes present in Night although the majority of them are dark. Elie had lost a great deal through the war that he had faced and it changed him drastically. The evil and brutality he had witnessed during the Holocaust haunted him throughout his life, right till the day he died. Through experiencing the horrors of Auschwitz and the evils of the Germans, Elie lost his profound faith in God and “the child that he was, had been consumed in flames”. This meaningful novel was written and published to remind the future generations of this heart-breaking event, in order to prevent a catastrophe such as this one from ever happening again. “The war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory”-Elie Wiesel.


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