In the book Night by Elie Weisel, why did the citizens resisit the truth, even when it was in front of them?
The Jews of Sighet were well aware of some of the atrocities being committed by the Nazis against their community in different regions. However, this awareness was dulled down by their false sense of security and blind optimism. In addition, news from their radios filled them with hope that the opposing army will rescue them.
And so we, the Jews of Sighet, waited for better days that surely were soon to come.
"The Red Army is advancing with giant strides…Hitler will not be able to harm us, even if he wants to…"
The Jews were comfortable in Sighet, and they were not willing to relinquish what they had worked hard for over the years, to start over again in a foreign land. The option to relocate to Palestine was not really an option for most of them.
"I am too old, my son," he answered. "Too old to start a new life. Too old to start from scratch in some distant land…"
They cited geographical and strategic reasons that would prevent the Nazis from reaching Sighet. When the Gestapo arrived in Sighet, the people remained optimistic that they would only be exposed to lighter effects of war such as labor camps. They did not realize that this was not an ordinary war, and Hitler was bent on carrying out the “final solution” regardless of the negative sentiments. For the Jews of Sighet, the war would pass, and they would go back to living their lives, but this was not to be.
Yes, we even doubted his resolve to exterminate us.
Annihilate an entire people? Wipe out a population dispersed throughout so many nations? So many millions of people! By what means? In the middle of the twentieth century!
It can be said that one of the overarching themes of the novel Night is this refusal to accept the truth even when it is so blatantly put before the characters. When Moshe the Beadle returns to Sighet after having been deported with the other foreigners of the village, he brings with him the truth. The citizens of Sighet, however, cannot accept Moshe's story. They have always thought him to be somewhat eccentric and they use this to turn his character into a madman in their perceptions. Even Elie who once loved to hear Moshe sing and discuss Kabbalah is left in doubt of his mental state. The story he tells is too horrendous to be believed. It may be difficult to understand why so many people chose to turn blind eyes to the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, but for those victim to these atrocities, it really was an unthinkable consequence. How could they have ever suspected their government would allow their entire village to be exterminated? How could the world allow such a thing? We look for a logical reason behind the behavior of people and societies, but in this case, there is none. Denial was the last refuge of the people of Sighet because the alternative, actually believing Moshe the Beadle, would have been admitting something awful about the world.