In a symposium published in Judaism (March 26, 1967), Wiesel declared, “In the beginning there was the Holocaust. We must therefore start over again.” Most commentators would agree with Graham Walker’s description, in his book Elie Wiesel: A Challenge to Theology (1987), of the Holocaust as an event of “ontological status which has disrupted both human history and the life story of God.” Night is one of only a few books whose authors attempt to understand the Holocaust. Wiesel’s international status as the winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, as a formidable literary figure, and as one of the leading voices speaking for the Holocaust survivors as well as the victims makes this work all the more compelling. His decision to focus on the Holocaust’s significance for altering the human understanding of man’s relationship to God indicates that Wiesel’s views, as expressed in Night and in virtually every work of his since, reflect the central difficulties involved in the painful theological revisions that have occurred in both Jewish and Christian realms since 1945.
It is important to realize, however, that Night is not an example of the “death of God theology.” At the Brandeis-Bardin Institute (January 22, 1978), Wiesel claimed that “the Covenant was broken. I had to tell God of my anger. I still do so.” God is not dead for Wiesel; in fact, it is the recognition of a God that permits the monologue recorded in Night. Wiesel can protest vehemently to God about the state of the creation precisely because God the Creator exists.
Paradoxically, Wiesel also employs silence within this monologue. While Wiesel believes that to remain silent about the Holocaust is to betray its victims, he also knows that presuming to talk about the experience of the Holocaust is a betrayal of another kind. His words are thus chosen with extreme care, but also with a great regard for the silence between the words. In an interview with Harry James Cargas in U.S. Catholic (September, 1971), Wiesel observed that “there are certain silences between word and word. . . . This is the silence that I have tried to put in my work.”
Although Wiesel’s words and silences are intended for all readers, Jewish and non-Jewish, Hasidic Judaism and culture shaped and still influence the man. Writing in Jewish Heritage (1972), Wiesel attests:I myself love Hasidism because I grew up in a Hasidic milieu. Whenever I want to write something good, I go back to my childhood. The soul of every writer is his childhood, and mine was a Hasidic one. I love Hasidism because of its tales, because of the intrinsic fervor that makes them Hasidic tales. I love Hasidism for something else too: it contains all the themes that haunt my work.
Although Wiesel’s Judaism is deeply ingrained, Night does not offer an uncritical view of the behavior of Jews in the face of murderous Nazi intentions. Illusion reigns for Jews in Hungary and Sighet, even with SS soldiers in their midst. No one can think the unthinkable; even the eyewitness account of a Jew who escaped from a death camp is discounted as the ravings of a madman. A woman driven to insanity while on the train heading to Auschwitz (and death) is silenced; her visions of flames and terror are ridiculed—until the sights of the death camp’s huge chimneys loom near. A pie waits to be baked in the ghetto, sudden deportation having removed the family that hoped to enjoy it. Wiesel’s father advises his loved ones not to fear wearing the Star of David as ordered by the SS; it cannot kill you, he argues. Wiesel asks rhetorically, retrospectively, “Poor Father! Of what then did you die?”
Nevertheless, Wiesel believes that a defining mark of Judaism has been its willingness to question. Robert McAfee Brown notes that at the center of Wiesel’s work has been the urgent question of how mankind should “respond to monstrous moral evil.” In Night, Wiesel asks why he should honor the name of the God who has done nothing about the existence of the death camp Auschwitz and relates this question of theodicy to the suffering experienced by the Jews. Concerned primarily with the “defiance of suffering,” Wiesel points out in the Cargas interview that “suffering as a virtue is alien to Judaism” because “suffering is impure.” Ultimately, suffering is not to be experienced as an end or as a means to some transcendent value.
The absence of transcendent affirmation in Night involves the creation of a new kind of protagonist—not the tragic hero of past literatures but the survivor, the sufferer. As Terrence Des Pres argues in The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (1976), the survivor chooses life, even on the unbearable terms of the persecutor, rather than death, which might redeem or ennoble him in the eyes of his audience. For Wiesel, survival, even with its terrible burden of guilt, denies the perpetrators a victory and allows the survivor’s testimony to be handed on to posterity.
Show MoreElie Wiesel's Night Elie Wiesel’s Night is about what the Holocaust did, not just to the Jews, but, by extension, to humanity. The disturbing disregard for human beings, or the human body itself, still to this day, exacerbates fear in the hearts of men and women. The animalistic acts by the Nazis has scarred mankind eternally with abhorrence and discrimination.
It seems impossible that the examination of one’s health, by a doctor, can result in the death of a human being if he appears unhealthy. Elie, his father, and millions of other Jews go through this formidable selection. It’s a process that is dreaded and feared by all Jews. Nobody knows who will be "selected," and how he will die, as they all line up and wait to see…show more content…
They are placed in these various categories because of their clothing, attitude, intelligence, nationality, and athletic ability. There are the preps, the freaks, the gangsters, the skaters, the jocks, the nerds, the Americans, the Portuguese, the Africans, the Cambodians, the Hispanics, the Puerto Ricans, the Japanese, and the Chinese. Everyone in the world is a part of some selection, whether it’s for political views, wealth, or lack thereof.
The brutality of the Holocaust drives many to abandon a family member or loved one. For example, when the son of Rabbi Eliahou sees his father losing ground, limping, and falling to the rear of the column, he continues to run on, growing distant from his father. The son feels as if his father can no longer go on anymore. Elie’s feelings are mutual, for his father is taking him for granted. He is like a metal weight attached to Elie’s foot by a rope. Sooner or later, Elie must cut himself free, or else he won’t survive either.
Nowadays, we see this abandonment in pregnant teenagers who are not ready for a child just yet. A girl throws her baby in a dumpster because she knows she can’t support a child right now, for that child will just weigh her down as Elie’s father did to him. The girl won’t be able to enjoy the rest of her childhood, or the baby might even prevent her from finishing her schooling. The teenager abandons her baby, so she can survive, as does