‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel is his personal account of his experiences in Nazi controlled concentration camps. The memoir begins towards the end of 1941 and records his experiences of the inconceivable horrors committed by the Nazi’s during World War II. The war had been raging for two years and was about to enter Sighet. The Germans believed in the Aryan race and attempted to commit genocide on the ‘lesser’ races, particularly Jews. Through the brutality witnessed, acts of selfishness, the death of his father and the loss of his faith Elie changed. The innocent, deeply religious child had become a young man with a strong sense of morality. By the end of the war Elie could barely recognise himself, the corpse in the mirror, because of what he had become in order to survive life in the camps.
The Nazi’s were ruthless executioners. The moment the Germans entered Sighet they tormented the Jews. They forced them from their homes into Ghettos and took all their possessions. When Elie first observes the Germans he learns to hate them. Their merciless attacks on children, women and the elderly fuel his anger. “I began to hate them.” When Elie arrives at Auschwitz he sees the evil in the Nazi’s. Traumatised, Elie watches as truckloads of children are dumped into the flames. The horror of Auschwitz is etched into Elie’s mind and has a dramatic effect on him. “How could they burn children?” The Germans murdering many innocent and defenceless Jews was an unforgettable experience that haunts Elie. “Never shall I forget.” The Germans had systematic means for torturing Elie. They took away his identity and he became A-7713. During the selection process Elie is forced to run naked in the shivering cold, like an animal. Yet Elie’s ‘nightmare’ continues as he accidentally catches Idek sleeping with a woman and is punished for it. Elie is brutally tortured as an example by Idek. “I had fainted.” Elie also is again brutally attacked by Idek in the warehouse when Idek has a fit of rage. Elie suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazi’s. The events an innocent Elie witnessed exposed him to the dark side of mankind.
Elie came from a deeply religious Jewish community. As a young boy he was a very devout Jew and interested in Jewish mysticism. Elie had lived a sheltered life always praying and reflecting on his profound faith. He was one of ‘God’s elect’ and he had lived only for God. Elie believed in God unconditionally. His religious faith evolves, but is never extinguished during his time in concentration camps. Elie believed that his faith would provide him with the answers.
At Auschwitz, Elie sees the notorious Nazi’s at work and questions God. ‘Why should I bless his name?’ The ‘nocturnal silence’ that Elie hears from God causes him to lose confidence in God. Elie begins to rebel against God. When Elie sees the brutal hanging of the Pipel, he again turns against his beliefs. Elie’s faith falters under the horrors he sees. Yet he returns back to his faith. He prayed to God to give him the strength ‘never to do what Rabbi Eliahou’s son had done’ and thanked God for creating mud to keep his shoes.
Elie’s nature had changed. As he entered his manhood he was no longer the ‘spoiled child’, no longer the innocent boy but a young man exposed to the evils of war. He lost his innocence and learned the ability to lie and commit acts of selfishness. When Elie sees Stein he lies about his family to give him hope. Elie also acts selfish “I had lost nothing for my crown.” Elie’s previous reality had diminished. Near the end of the Jewish New Year Elie accuses God again. ‘Why do you still trouble their sick minds?’ Elie believed that his God would protect his people, but attack’s his people for their inability to realise the truth of the situation. Elie comes to understand man makes his own decision. Elie never suggest that God didn’t exist; rather he rebels against God for not helping him. “I did not deny God’s existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.” Elie’s anger is targeted at God’s absolute justice. Though Elie survived the ordeal he had changed losing his profound faith.
Elie and Chlomo’s relationship had changed when they entered the concentration camps. Elie’s father was ‘cultured rather unsentimental man’. He never displayed emotion, but was devoted to his family ‘always acting in a business like manner’. Chlomo is depicted as conservative individual well respected in the community and among his family.
When Elie and Chlomo are taken to concentration camps in Czechoslovakia and Germany, they are separated from their family forever. Elie and Chlomo manage to remain close during their entire stay in concentration camps. Throughout their time in the camps, Elie and Chlomo depend on each other for survival. ‘What would I do without him? As their relationship develops Elie comes to realise how much he cares for his father. When the two arrive at Birkenau, Elie clings to his father so ‘not to lose him.’ Throughout their camp life the bond between the two is strong. Chlomo’s paramount concern is his sons’ well being. When Chlomo is picked in selection he gives Elie his ‘inheritance’. Chlomo believed he has about to be killed yet he still trying to protect Elie. When Elie is required to give up his golden crown to Franek the foreman, it is Chlomo who suffers trying to help Elie keep it. However as sons are abandoning their fathers in selfish acts we see Elie begin to support Chlomo. Elie fights to save his father because Chlomo is all he has. Elie was entering manhood, from a dependent child to a responsible man. Yet when Chlomo dies we see Elie grieve deeply for his father. Elie begins to lose his fight for life. “no more reason to live.” The death of Chlomo had changed Elie and scarred him for life. “Had I changed so much?” A once spirited Elie had no become dejected because of his father’s death.
Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ accounts his experience in the Nazi death camps. Set during World War II the autobiographical account deals with the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s. The Germans had invaded all of Europe and Hitler had commenced his “Final Solution” and tried to commit genocide against the lesser races. Elie experiences in Nazi’s camps changed him deeply. Elie had lost a great deal through the war and this changed him dramatically. The evil and brutality he witnessed had negative psychological that haunted him throughout his life. Through experiencing the horrors of Auschwitz and the evils of the Germans Elie lost his profound faith. The death of Elie’s father had another dramatic effect on Elie. From being a joyous child Elie had become a sullen young man. The most important change in Elie was the value system that he developed during the ordeal. Though Elie lost his profound faith he managed to keep his morals and values “The child that I was had been consumed in the flames.”