Form and Content (Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series)
On March 19, 1944, German Schutzstaffeln (SS) troops under Adolf Eichmann entered Hungary for the express purpose of rounding up the Jews of that country for extermination. Even as German armies elsewhere were retreating under pounding Russian advances, Adolf Hitler’s so-called final solution was extended to Hungarian Jews—who had mistakenly thought themselves safe from German danger. A few days after the invasion, SS troops appeared in the Transylvanian town of Sighet and began the brutal process that would send almost all Sighet’s fifteen thousand Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz in Poland. Among those Jews who lives were totally uprooted was a devout fourteen-year-old student of the Talmud, Eliezer Wiesel.
Wiesel’s experiences from that point to eventual liberation at Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, made up an eight-hundred-page Yiddish manuscript, written after the completion of a self-imposed ten-year period of silence, study, and reflection concerning the Holocaust. Night, outlined within weeks after his liberation (and only one-seventh of the Yiddish original), is Wiesel’s only book devoted completely to the Holocaust, although his experiences of life in Auschwitz and the loss of the six million dictate almost all Wiesel’s thought and writing.
The book’s nine chapters demarcate key events for Wiesel, detailing the gradual loss of the illusion of hope as the grim realities become paramount. Two interrelated concerns are woven throughout the narrative: Wiesel’s agonizing loss of faith in the God of his childhood and his excruciating relationship with his weakening father. The latter is marked by filial love and concern, but also by his own devastating...
(The entire section is 698 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Sighet (SEE-get). Transylvanian village in which the novel’s opening section is set. Scenes in Sighet provide an introduction to life in the Jewish community by focusing on Wiesel’s introduction to his Jewish heritage and religion. The invading Nazi troops establish two ghettoes into which the village’s Jews are herded after being forced to give up all but what they can carry with them.
*Birkenau. Polish town that is the site of the first concentration camp in which the Wiesel family is imprisoned. Following their stay in the ghetto, the family, along with their neighbors, are put onto trains and sent to concentration camps. Their first stop is Birkenau, where they are introduced to the horrors that follow. There they see families separated, mothers and children going in one direction and fathers and working-age sons in another. Wiesel’s mother and sister are taken from him and, as he learns later, murdered. At Birkenau young Wiesel witnesses people giving up on life and willing themselves to die. In fact, Wiesel himself contemplates suicide, but the religious teachings he receives at home and the dogged determination of his father keep him from killing himself.
*Auschwitz. Polish city that is the site of another concentration camp to which Wiesel, his father, and numerous workers from their first camp are later sent. There, Wiesel is briefly...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001.
Cargas, Harry James. Conversations with Elie Wiesel. South Bend, Ind.: Justice Books, 1992. A collection of interviews with the author that cover his life, politics, and literary works. Wiesel speaks frankly and extensively about his childhood in Sighet and of his time in the concentration camps—events that formed the basis for Night.
Estess, Ted L. Elie Wiesel. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. An analysis of Wiesel’s key literary works, including Night, Dawn, and The Accident....
(The entire section is 264 words.)