Book Review of
~* Summary *~
“Where is God now? (A man behind me asked)…He is hanging here on this gallows…” This is where the Holocaust left young Elie. It left him with a feeling that there is no God, or if there is, he is not as wonderful as everyone has been proclaiming that he is.
The story begins in the small town of Sighet near Transylvania were Elie lived with his parents and two little sisters. Elie studied the Talmud during the day and spent his evenings in Synagogue praying. His life revolved around his undying faith and love for God. He loved God and the Jewish faith so much that he often cried while he was praying. He and his family lived without fear and in happiness until some of the people of Sighet were deported. One of them, Moche the Beadle, returned with stories of Jews being slaughtered and babies being tortured and used as firing practice. The stories were dismissed as crazy and they told themselves that they were all safe. They believed they were in the peaceful hands of God.
Unfortunately, in 1944 German troops moved into their town. They set up ghettos and controlled their lives with fear. The people of Sighet were forced to leave their homes. They were packed into cattle wagon trains and given buckets of water and bread to eat. They stayed in the train for many days and were not allowed to get out to go to the bathroom so they were condemned to live amidst filth. Some people started going crazy. One old woman screamed almost the entire time about flames and burning flesh. Little did everyone know that what she was yelling about was the fate of everyone in her company. When they finally arrived in Birkenau, they exited the train to the smell of burning flesh and the sight of smoke and flames.
When they got into the camp Elie and his father were separated from his mother and two little sisters. They did not realize immediately that they would never see them again. After they were separated they were told to march in a line that was heading directly toward a tremendous hole in the ground in which the charred remains of Jewish corpses could be seen.
It is then that Elie begins to wonder why it is that he has been blessing God. The people around him had begun to say a prayer for the dead and for themselves. He wonders why he should bother? No God that he knows would let such evil go on, therefore there must be no God. People around him were asking the same questions. Others told them that God was testing their faith and if they kept themselves strong and survived for as long as they could, God would be pleased and they would be blessed.
They continued marching straight up to the edge of the ditch with faith in their hearts and were suddenly told to turn left into barracks. Elie and his father were given tips by men that had been in the camp longer about how the Germans were working and how to survive. They were told what you had to say and how you had to act in order to stay alive longer. All Elie cared about was not being separated from his father.
For over a year they were forced to live and work in extreme conditions. They were made to walk miles on little sleep and even less food for continuous hours and days at a time. Men were beaten and killed for their hunger, fear, sickness and exhaustion. They had to endure the stress of selection where they were briefly examined and were selected to be killed because their weakness was a drain on the camp.
Elie’s father grew very sick and became very weak. One day while he was calling for Elie to help and comfort him guards at their camp beat him. When Elie woke up the next morning his father was gone from his bed, inevitably taken to a crematory. A few weeks after he and many other Jews were set free.
~* Review *~
Night is an amazingly thought provoking and touching story. The descriptions of the horrors that Elie faced grab you and make you understand completely what kind of pain he and everyone else faced. This book was written to show how exactly horrendous the Holocaust was. It also shows you how evil can destroy persons belief in something that they hold dear, no matter how precious the belief is to them. I think the book clarifies how much hatred there is in the world. I think that people look simply at what is right in front of their face and take it for its value, forgetting that somewhere else, the hatred is intolerable. I don’t think that until many years after the Holocaust, did people start to realize what had happened. I don’t understand how powerful nations with common sense in their brains could have let such attrocities take place, especially when one single, solitary man is the cause of all of it.
We have all herd stories of the terrible acts that were committed during the Holocaust but I think it is hard to imagine how horrible it really was until you read a novel such as this one. I wold have never thought that people would fight for their lives and their beliefs in such a way. To let themselves go through so much for so long because of their unlimited faith in God is unfathomable. To hear of their hardships and their undying strength gives me a feeling of hope and pride. People should not let their lives be judged by ignorant people. They should fight for as long and hard as they can for what they think is right.
An example of this need to live, to keep going as if to see how much one can endure is in chapter six. Here Elie describes the forty-two mile march from Buna to Gleiwitz in the blinding snow. There were thousands of men running as fast as they could, with scarcely any meat left on their bodies or clothes on their backs. If they fell out of ranks or slowed the pace they were shot dead on the spot. “They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not depriver themselves of this pleasure.”
I think that this work is very important to the study of culture and society. You begin to understand that the holocaust was an extreme example of the damage that ignorance can lead to. I think that Mr. Wiesel has thoroughly covered and expressed how necessary it is to know about the horrors of the holocaust. He carefully writes the novel with the greatest of detail to stress exactly how terrible their situation was. With his descriptions you are able to picture everything vividly and nearly smell the burning flesh right along with him.
Everyday we hear of hate crimes against people of color or varying sexuality. All of this hate is formed in ignorance. Fortunately, I don’t believe that in these modern times, any of us will ever see anything as horrible as the holocaust, which is why I think it is important for everyone to read this novel. It helps keep the words and memory of the victims alive in our minds and it may reach someone who has hate in their heart, it may make them realize the extent of pain that hate can cause.
Word Count: 1280