Brand : Elie Wiesel


Arlene sanders |

Some thoughts about night -- today

The risk inherent in writing about the holocaust is that today's readers have a hard time believing it. those of us who did not experience the horrors of living in a nazi death camp cannot begin to understand what it was like. battered women and severely abused children living today, trapped in circumstances they cannot escape, may come close. but most of us have no frame of reference. nothing in our experience even remotely compares. this "i can't believe it" mentality was also common among non-jewish civilians who lived in germany during the third reich--when adolf hitler was in power (1933-1945). even as "night" descended on wiesel's little town--sighet, transylvania (hungary)--the jewish people could not believe what was happening. moishe the beadle was "deported" by the hungarian police, crammed into a cattle car and taken to a forest in poland to be executed with other jews. incredibly, moishe escaped and returned to sighet with his story: "the train had stopped. the jews were ordered to get off and onto waiting trucks. the trucks headed toward a forest. there everybody was ordered to get out. they were forced to dig huge trenches. when they had finished their work, the men from the gestapo began theirs. without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who were forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks. . . ." moishe's escape was a miracle. he was wounded in the leg and left for dead. in sighet, he went from house to house, telling his story, but the people refused to listen. even the young elie wiesel did not believe him. the denial continued. in jewish families about to be transported to auschwitz, "the women were boiling eggs, roasting meat, preparing cakes, sewing backpacks." wiesel does not challenge us to comprehend the gas chamber deaths of his mother and little sister tzipora. instead, he writes what we can grasp: "tzipora was holding mother's hand. i saw them walking farther and farther away; mother was stroking my sister's blond hair as if to protect her. and i walked on with my father, with the men. i didn't know that this was the moment in time and the place where i was leaving my mother and tzipora forever." wiesel describes with remarkable restraint a vicious beating he receives from a kapo: i felt the sweat running down my back. "a-7713!" i stepped forward. "a crate!" he ordered. they brought a crate. "lie down on it! on your belly!" i obeyed. i no longer felt anything except the lashes of the whip. "one!. . . two!. . ." he was counting. he took his time between lashes. only the first really hurt. i heard him count. "ten. . .eleven!. . ." his voice was calm and reached me as through a thick wall. "twenty-three. . ." two more, i thought, half unconscious. the kapo was waiting. "twenty-four. . .twenty five!" it was over. . . . "listen to me, you son of a swine!" said idek coldly. "so much for your curiosity. you shall receive five times more if you dare tell anyone what you saw! understood?" i nodded, once, ten times, endlessly. as if my head had decided to say yes for all eternity. elie wiesel's magnificent night bridges that enormous gulf between "i can't believe it" and the mind-numbing, horrific sinking in of the realization of "oh, dear god, this really happened." his account is straightforward, almost matter-of-fact, with a minimum of frenzy, inordinate dwelling on flames of infernos, prolonged death throes, or metaphysical discourses about evil. he does talk about his relationship with god throughout the ordeal. and of course about his father, who was with him in auschwitz and buchenwald. why did wiesel write this book? he tells us: "there are those who tell me that i survived in order to write this text. i am not convinced. i don't know how i survived; i was weak, rather shy; i did nothing to save myself. a miracle? certainly not. if heaven could or would perform a miracle for me, why not for others more deserving than myself? it was nothing more than chance. however, having survived, i needed to give some meaning to my survival. . . . "in retrospect i must confess that i do not know, or no longer know, what i wanted to achieve with my words. i only know that without this testimony, my life as a writer--or my life, period--would not have become what it is: that of a witness who believes he has a moral obligation to try to prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory. . . ." i am grateful for this book and for marion wiesel's excellent and sensitive translation of her husband's memoir. some great literature has come out of the holocaust. in my opinion, elie wiesel's night is the best book, and certainly one of the most deeply moving among these works. arlene sanders

Nick m. |

Life changing

I have avoided this book for many years. i started reading it two days and have finally finished it with years in my eyes.

Kristy farris |

Must read by all.

I thought this book was very well written. it was so raw and detailed, which made it difficult at times to read, but necessary to get his story across of the atrocities he lived through. i would like to hear how his faith was restored after completely being taken away.