Not a book to read if you are struggling in your faith with humanity. But like a rubbernecker craning to see the aftermath of a car wreck, I was transfixed by Wiesel’s story while also being disgusted with the atrocities humans can inflict on another. I believe a new word should be created that combines three elements; eyewitness, victim and survivor, as a single word cannot come close to defining such an individual.
A 15-year-old boy living in Hungary in 1944 is a devout Jew wishing to study the Cabbala. He finds a mentor to help in his studies, but the man disappears and returns later with stories of horror no one is willing to believe. Without heeding these warnings, the Jewish townspeople are eventually installed in a Ghetto and then deported to Auschwitz where the young boy is separated from his mother and three sisters, but somehow manages to stay by his father’s side.
The monstrosities within the prison are deplorable and the devastating toll it takes on those prisoners who somehow manage to survive are heartbreaking. Living seems to be the ultimate punishment.
Eliezer, the young boy sent to Aushcwitz represents Elie Wiesel. A devout and happy young man, he loses his faith in both God and man when he is sent to various concentration camps. His relationship with his father is what keeps him going and after witnessing another prisoner abandon his own father, he vows to have the strength not to do the same. He witnesses the brutality of the guards as well as other prisoners who inflict cruel and inhumane acts on men, women and children with equal disregard. Eliezer is one of the few who is eventually liberated, but his freedom comes with exorbitant costs.
The mentor, Moche the Beadle, enjoys religious and philosophic discussions with Eliezer. They spend much of their time discussing the Cabbala. When Moche returns after being deported, he wants only to warn everyone of the horrors being done by the Nazis. He is ridiculed by the townspeople and considered a crazed man. Sadly, even Eliezer doubts his tales. If only someone had taken him seriously.
Madame Schachter, en route to Aushchwitz in a train car begins screaming about fire. Thinking she is hysterical, she is urged to keep quiet so no trouble will come. As the train keeps moving, however, she gets even more distraught and screams louder about fire and furnaces and the other prisoners beat her and tape her mouth shut. Her hysteria is soon realized to be prophecy when the train doors open at Auschwitz and the crematoriums are seen with smoke whirling and the smell of burning human flesh in the air.
Words don’t seem adequate to address Mr. Wiesel and ‘I’m sorry’ just doesn’t seem like the right thing to say. Perhaps we could work on creating the new word to define those who were not murdered. Perhaps we could just sit outside and say nothing. Perhaps I could hold his hand and not ask a thing.
My rating for Night is a 10 out of 10.
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