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What might be the reasons for the town's widespread denial of the evidence in front of...

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marvin28110 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 30, 2011 at 9:08 AM via web

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What might be the reasons for the town's widespread denial of the evidence in front of them in Elie Wiesel's novel Night?

in the book night

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted May 30, 2011 at 10:28 AM (Answer #2)

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"Widespread denial of the evidence in front of them" was a recurring theme in Nazi Germany, and the rest of Europe after Adolf Hitler came to power.  One can speculate that there were several psychological mechanisms at work.  The most obvious is that people tend to deny that which they cannot process; it is a coping mechanism to deal with a situation or information that is simply overwhelming to their reality.  The well-entrenched European racism toward Jews that we often forget about when studying the Holocaust might have had something to do with it as well.  Denial was probably also a form of self-protection; by keeping one's mouth shut and going along with the status quo, one could perhaps be seen as loyal, a non-threat to Hitler's government, and therefore avoid unpleasant (at best) and deadly (at worst) interactions with the Gestapo.  "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," usually a lighthearted statement, but in the case of Nazi Germany, what many saw as the difference between life and death. 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 2, 2011 at 12:14 AM (Answer #3)

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I think that people simply could not comprehend what was going on.  No one would really have expected that something like that could happen.  We human beings tend to have a hard time believing that things that are very out of the ordinary can happen.  I would have a hard time, for example, believing it if I saw evidence that my next door neighbor was a mass murderer.  I would probably look for any other explanation for the evidence that I could imagine.  So I think it's just human nature to deny that something totally horrendous can actually be happening.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 2, 2011 at 12:15 AM (Answer #4)

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I think that people simply could not comprehend what was going on.  No one would really have expected that something like that could happen.  We human beings tend to have a hard time believing that things that are very out of the ordinary can happen.  I would have a hard time, for example, believing it if I saw evidence that my next door neighbor was a mass murderer.  I would probably look for any other explanation for the evidence that I could imagine.  So I think it's just human nature to deny that something totally horrendous can actually be happening.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 2, 2011 at 7:43 AM (Answer #5)

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I agree with pohnpei that the people would have never been able to even guess what was coming. One can create a worst-case scenario in one's head but it is a very different matter to "speak of the devil and see him come".

The magnitude of the harm that was caused, and the malice that was planned upon this people, had no precedence. Therefore, who would have imagined the level of evil and disgusting things that were coming their way when they had done nothing to deserve it.  It is a hard pill to swallow, and something that seems fetched straight out of a horror story. It is indeed, unimaginable.

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hilahmarca | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted September 3, 2011 at 4:50 AM (Answer #6)

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This denial is especially evident when the unthinkable thing might have something to do with you.  One can always rationalize that terrible things happened long time ago or that on the other side of the world atrocities are occuring, but it's harder to believe it when the reality comes to your own home.  Rather than face the impending trauma, it's easier for them to deny its existence and hope it blows over.  Obviously, in retrospect is seemed foolish, but packing up your whole life and heading to Israel on the premise of Moche's stories or some news reports is easier said than done.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:34 PM (Answer #7)

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Moishe the Beadle returned and told everyone what was happening, but no one listened.  Whenever my class reads this book I always remind them that it is human nature to hope for the best, and to be blinded from reality by hope and complacence.  It is easy to judge, knowing what we know, but we would have acted the same way.

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